Red Sox

Craig Breslow talking to teams about non-playing role

Craig Breslow talking to teams about non-playing role

BOSTON — Craig Breslow, a key member of the 2013 world champion Red Sox and a pitcher who has long appeared a strong candidate for a second life in baseball when his playing days are over, is about to make the jump.

The lefty reliever, 38 years old with 12 big league seasons under his belt, is talking to teams about moving to a non-playing role and is weighing his options, Breslow told NBC Sports Boston. The Connecticut native has been in touch with the Red Sox, whom he spent more time with than any other club — a total of five seasons spanning two stints, one in 2006, and then again from 2012-15. But he may find a better fit at this point in time with another club.

A Yale alum who likely would be a doctor today had he not pursued baseball, Breslow has always stood out in the sport for his intelligence and affability. Combined with his success as a pitcher — he has a 3.45 ERA lifetime in 570 2/3 innings — he’s exactly the type of hire many teams seek these days as they try to modernize their coaching, player development and front office staffs in the age of analytics.

The exact path he’ll walk isn’t clear yet, which is kind of the point. Breslow likely could be a general manager if he wanted someday. He likely could be a field manager too. What he seeks in his first job is a means to contribute, as well as knowledge and experience from a wide swath of an operation.

“I'm not ruling anything out or in, aside from gaining broad exposure to become a better rounded student of the game,” Breslow said. “I want to address some of the deficiencies in knowledge I currently have and also provide some short-term value to an organization. Beyond that, I want to keep as many possibilities open for as long as possible while I'm still figuring out my longer term interests.”

For the first time since 2004, Breslow spent a full season in the minor leagues in 2018, pitching in the Blue Jays organization after last appearing in the majors in 2017, with the Indians. 

He didn’t perform up to his expectations in ‘18, but he did enjoy acting as a mentor to younger players, and had the realization he’s at the point now where he may be able to better impact a club in other ways besides pitching.

One organization that might be a natural fit for Breslow, besides the Red Sox: the retooling Orioles, now run by Breslow’s rotation-mate from college, Mike Elias.

Even back in 2013, Elias said he had joked with Breslow about Breslow’s seemingly inevitable post-playing career.

"I think as soon as he's finished playing, he's going to have options to do almost whatever he wants to do,” Elias said five years ago. “If he wants to work in the front office or some sort of scouting capacity, what have you, I imagine there will be multiple teams willing to give him that opportunity. He's extremely smart, he's not just smart for a baseball player. On top of that he's got all this experience.

"I would be surprised if after he finished playing he didn't end up remaining in major league baseball in some capacity. I hope it's something he pursues.”

Breslow five years ago was also thinking along those lines.

"I do think front office is potentially an interesting option," Breslow said. "Given the longer I'm attached to this game, the number of trends that I've been a part of and see, I do like to think about roster manipulation and what the thought process is behind transactions, turnovers. When I see contracts, I think about, 'If I had monopoly money and I was starting a team, would I make this commitment to a player, or what kind of things would I value?’

"I've had conversations with Billy [Beane] in Oakland, just kind of generally about running a baseball team ... 'What's your thinking behind that, or why do you think this other team is making this move?' Or if there are transactional things or baseball ops things that I don't understand, I've asked Ben [Cherington] about it or Mike Hazen about it — 'Why does this happen, why does every team put all of its players through waivers in August?’”

Breslow tried to reinvent himself as a pitcher in his later years, changing his arm angle. Now he’s about to reinvent himself again, and he figures to be a hot commodity as teams seek people in his mold.

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Daniel Bard's remarkable comeback story, summed up in one incredible number

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Daniel Bard's remarkable comeback story, summed up in one incredible number

Daniel Bard's comeback story for the ages took another improbable step on Tuesday night when he recorded his first save since 2011.

Summoned with two outs in the ninth and runners on the corners of a wild game vs. the Diamondbacks, Bard nailed down Colorado's 12th win by striking out Stephen Vogt looking with a backdoor slider that painted the black.

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The Rockies needed it, too, because Arizona had clawed back from an 8-2 deficit with five runs in the ninth before Bard replaced Jairo Diaz to record the biggest out of the game.

It continued a comeback tale that's almost impossible to believe. Until making Colorado's opening day roster, Bard hadn't thrown a pitch in the big leagues since 2013 with the Red Sox. He hadn't won a game since 2012, and he hadn't saved one since 2011.

He spent the intervening years trying to solve a case of the yips that had transformed him from fireballing future closer to broken and retired. He underwent surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome, pitched in Puerto Rico, attempted comebacks with the Rangers, Mets and Cardinals that saw him walk 46 batters in just 13 minor-league innings, and finally left the game to become a player mentor with the Diamondbacks in 2018 and 2019.

He never gave up on his dream of returning to baseball, however, and the Rockies gave him a shot this spring.

Now 35 years old, he has rewarded them with a 3.00 ERA in eight appearances. And here's his most astonishing statistic: in nine innings pitched, he has recorded 12 strikeouts and ZERO walks. From 46 walks against Single- and Double-A hitters to none in the big leagues. He's one of only three pitchers with at least nine innings pitched and no walks.

Baseball's best story of 2020 just keeps getting better.

Michael Chavis cares — Can we say the same about the rest of the Red Sox?

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Michael Chavis cares — Can we say the same about the rest of the Red Sox?

If there's one thing missing on the Red Sox right now, it's accountability.

J.D. Martinez complained so much about the lack of in-game video that manager Ron Roenicke basically issued him a cease-and-desist. Rafael Devers showed up to camp in subpar shape and is already injured. Andrew Benintendi is such a mess, his two hits on Tuesday raised his average above .100 for the first time since July.

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The Red Sox looked listless in an 8-2 loss to the Rays that tumbled them further into last place. The bullpen imploded after another solid start from Martin Perez, allowing six runs in the seventh and walking four. The offense stranded six men, grounded into two double plays, and had a runner erased on the bases.

"It's a crazy game," Perez said. "Just turn the page and come back tomorrow."

The problem, of course, is that Red Sox are very quickly running out of tomorrows. Sunday's walkoff win over the Blue Jays gave them their first momentum of this truncated season, with three wins in four games, and then they battled to the last out in an 8-7 loss to the Rays on Monday.

Tuesday's defeat was a special kind of awful, though, dropping them to 6-11, good for dead last in the American League, five games behind the Yankees and 3.5 behind the Rays.

One player seems to understand what's happening, however, and the Red Sox should follow his lead. Infielder Michael Chavis, in the midst of a hot streak after an awful start, was one of the few standouts in defeat. He went 2 for 4 with a triple and an RBI while playing second base, but all he wanted to talk about when it was over was a play he didn't make.

The Rays had already scored twice when Yandy Diaz grounded one up the middle with runners on the corners. Chavis's momentum carried him well past the bag as he turned and made the ill-advised decision to try to nail Mike Zunino at the plate with a jump throw instead of taking the safe out at first.

His throw sailed up the line and never had a chance, anyway. As soon as Chavis let it go, he grabbed his head in his hands. The Rays scored three more runs to open an insurmountable 8-1 lead.

On his Zoom call with the media, Chavis fell on his sword to an absurd degree.

"I thought about the play before it was happening," he said. "I decided if it was hit to my right or left, and it was hit decently hard on the barrel, I knew (Zunino's) not the quickest guy.

"I knew if I could get there quick enough and made a good throw, I could have had him. The ball bounced a little bit higher than I planned on or thought it would. When I had to jump for it, it just took my momentum and then I had to do a jump throw, which is where it got messed up. I should have decided to go to first base at that point. That's on me. Pretty much lost the game for us, honestly. That's pretty tough."

Wait a minute, lost the game? An 8-1 game? Even if Chavis makes that play, the Rays lead 5-1. The Red Sox weren't coming back from any deficit.

"It kind of just took the wind out of us," Chavis insisted. "I felt like it was kind of a kick in the nuts, honestly, plain and simple. I felt like we were battling, we were having good at-bats. I felt like the vibe in the dugout, in the clubhouse and everything was really good. After that, I just, it sucks. You could see, I felt like the air was kind of taken out of us. Something like that, they put up six in that inning. Whether I make that play, I get the out at first, whether those become unearned runs or earned runs, that's on me.

"At the end of the day, I've got to at least get an out," Chavis added. "I messed that up."

What stands out about Chavis's admission is how unexpected it was, because we haven't heard a lot of it from the Red Sox this year. Instead, we've heard about no video, and late arrival times, and terrible pitching forcing the offense to score too much. Those complaints fit the general malaise swallowing the club like the great molasses flood.

So when Chavis took ownership of a mental mistake — one day after appearing genuinely thrilled for teammate Jonathan Arauz recording his first hit — it was jarring. Accountability shouldn't be a pleasant surprise, and yet here we are.