Red Sox

Valentine, Red Sox to assemble coaching staff

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Valentine, Red Sox to assemble coaching staff

Now that Bobby Valentine has agreed to become the Red Sox' next manager, there's plenty of work for him to do -- in short order.

The winter meetings begin Monday in Dallas and the free agent shopping season is underway. But even before Valentine and the front office gets to work on reshaping the roster and filling some obvious needs (starting pitching, closer, righthanded outfielder), they must first assemble a coaching staff.

That may not be as complicated as it seems, however.

Four coaches from Terry Francona's staff remain under contract with the Red Sox for 2012 and it's a safe bet that the club would like at least some of them to return since, either way, the Sox are responsible for their salaries.

In fact, one industry source suggested it was quite possible that all four of the coaches could be part of Valentine's staff, though some may have re-assigned roles.

Pitching coach Curt Young returned to the Oakland A's after one season with the Sox, and Ron Johnson, who's deal was up, was let go. Earlier this week, he was named manager of the Baltimore Orioles' Triple A affiliate in Norfolk, Va.

DeMarlo Hale, who had served as Francona's bench coach the last two seasons following the departure of Brad Mills, is weighing an offer to coach third base for the Baltimore Orioles, but would also be welcome back to the Sox.

Hale previously worked with Baltimore manager Buck Showalter when the two were in Texas and has worked before for new O's GM Dan Duquette, who was general manager of the Red Sox when Hale managed the team's Double A affiliate.

That leaves three holdovers: hitting instructor Dave Magadan; third base coach Tim Bogar and bullpen coachcatching instructor Gary Tuck.

Valentine would undoubtedly like to choose his own bench coach, but the Sox could easily have Hale return to third base coaching duties, with Bogar -- who has had some difficulty in the job -- shifting to first base, replacing Johnson.

Valentine could then hire someone with whom he's worked before as his bench coach.

Former Red Sox pitching coach Dave Wallace was one of Valentine's pitching coaches when Valentine managed the Mets from 1997-2002 and his name was mentioned as a possible candidate when Valentine went through his day-long interview last week.

Wallace is currently under contract with the Atlanta Braves as a minor league supervisor and lives in Massachusetts.

Rick Peterson, who has worked as the pitching coach for the Oakland A's, New York Mets (after Valentine's tenure) and Milwaukee Brewers, is available, but like Valentine, is a somewhat controversial figure. One industry source dismissed him as a poor fit for the Red Sox.

With hellacious slider, Chris Sale is actually getting better

With hellacious slider, Chris Sale is actually getting better

Chris Sale is on more than just a good run. The best pitcher in the American League has actually gotten better.

Sale’s ability to light up the radar gun has been noticeable. He hit triple digits once again in the All-Star Game — now a regular occurrence, although he maxed out at just 99 mph on Sunday. After his third straight Midsummer Classic start, Sale attributed the recent boost in velocity to multiple things, including the Red Sox strength and conditioning staff. As pitching coach Dana LeVangie has said at different points, Sale came into this year with a plan, and is executing it wonderfully.

What stands out beyond the velocity is the slider.

Per Statcast, 46 of the 99 pitches Sale threw on Sunday vs. the Tigers were sliders. He’s using his breaking ball more this year than he ever has in his career as a starter, for good reason. 

The big jump in usage came from 2016 to 2017. But in movement? This season has been tremendous. He’s getting about eight inches of movement on the pitch, up from about 5 inches in 2016 and 5 1/2 inches in 2017, per BrooksBaseball.net's measurements:

That was heading into Sunday. Peek at the Statcast numbers over at BaseballSavant.com, and what do you find: more and more spin on the slider as the years have gone on.

The slider in 2015: an average of 2,206 RPM. The next year, 2,251. In 2017, it was 2,395. This year, 2,478.

In the seven-start stretch leading into Sunday’s start, the number was 2,525. 

How? The Red Sox think part of it has to do with how square Sale’s hand is at the point of release. A better spin axis means more of the spin can translate to movement. Pitchers very often don't maximize their spin.

Sale's vertical release point is also lower overall in 2018: not to a huge degree, but as low it’s been basically since 2013. There's a belief  that finishing his delivery lower, towards his knee rather than his hip, may be helping the extra movement.

At the end of the day, Sale is a phenomenal athlete who thrives on rest that the Sox are fostering and an intense routine. He was already awesome, and with some help from the Red Sox coaches and staff, he’s only making himself better as he marches toward his first Cy Young award.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

The Baseball Show Podcast: Will the Red Sox make a trade before the deadline?

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The Baseball Show Podcast: Will the Red Sox make a trade before the deadline?

0:23 - Lou Merloni and Evan Drellich discuss Chris Sale's continued dominance as he shuts down the Tigers on Sunday afternoon. Sale now has an incredible 0.27 ERA in his last 5 starts.

4:24 - Will the Red Sox make a trade prior to the deadline? Do they have enough ammo to bring in an impact player? Merloni and Drellich talk about what positions the Red Sox should look to upgrade before July 31st.

9:05 - David Price started off the unofficial 2nd half of the season with 6.1 innings of shutout ball. Is he someone the Red Sox can rely on going forward? Lou and Evan break down what they expect to see from Price.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE