Red Sox

Ex-Red Sox coach Lovullo named N.L. Manager of Year

cp-diamondbacks-torey-lovullo-111517.jpg

Ex-Red Sox coach Lovullo named N.L. Manager of Year

Paul Molitor and Torey Lovullo both presided over turnaround seasons, guided their teams into the playoffs and won Manager of the Year awards by wide margins.

The paths they took, those were totally different.

Molitor needed a clubhouse talk to calm down the Minnesota Twins, his players angered by moves the front office at the July 31 trade deadline.

"I still believed," Molitor said Tuesday, recalling how he helped his team overcome "that speed bump."

No such distractions in the desert.

In his first full season as a skipper, Lovullo built a culture of communication with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He often referred to the "love" teammates had for each other - and Lovullo certainly loved the midseason deal that brought big-hitting J.D. Martinez to the D-backs.

"We are going to be one year better," he said, adding his club would be even "more united" in 2018.

Molitor won the American League Manager of the Year award after the Twins became the first team to make the playoffs following a 100-loss season.

Molitor drew 18 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Cleveland's Terry Francona was second and A.J. Hinch of the World Series champion Houston Astros finished third. Voting was completed before the start of the playoffs.

Lovullo got 18 first-place votes, too, in earning the National League prize. Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers was second and Colorado's Bud Black was third.

Roberts, Black, Milwaukee's Craig Counsell and Dusty Baker, since let go by Washington, also had first-place votes.

Molitor joined Frank Robinson as the only Hall of Fame players to win a manager of the year award, which was first presented in 1983.

"I was aware of some of the history," Molitor said.

The Twins went 85-77 this season and captured their first playoff spot since 2010 before losing to the Yankees in the AL wild-card game. Last year, the Twins led the majors with 103 losses.

Brian DozierJoe Mauer and their Minnesota teammates were in the midst of a 5-13 slide when the Twins traded closer Brandon Kintzler to Washington for a minor leaguer less than a month after he made the All-Star team. They also dealt away Jaime Garcia after he won his only start since they got him from Atlanta.

"A little bit of a wrinkle," Molitor said.

Molitor's message to the Twins at that point was "not magical," he said. Instead, it was fairly simple and straightforward: Believe in yourselves.

"I still had a lot of optimism," he said.

The 61-year-old Molitor was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota, and got the last of his 3,319 career hits with the Twins in 1998.

Shortly after the playoff loss, Molitor got a new three-year contract to continue managing the Twins.

The 52-year-old Lovullo guided the Diamondbacks to a 93-69 record and their first playoff spot since 2011, a year after they went 69-93.

Lovullo was Boston's bench coach when he ran the Red Sox for 48 games in 2015 while manager John Farrell underwent cancer treatment.

Powered by Paul GoldschmidtJake Lamb and Martinez, and led by pitchers Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray, the Diamondbacks made the playoffs this year. They beat Colorado in the NL wild-card game before getting swept by the Dodgers in the Division Series.

The Diamondbacks were swept in a three-game series at Minnesota in mid-August, outscored 27-8 at Target Field. Less than a week later, Arizona began a franchise-record 13-game winning streak.

Going into a new season, Lovullo's team has a new target.

"It didn't end the way we wanted. The Dodgers walked through us," he said.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Red Sox rotation hasn't even hit rock bottom, which portends disaster in 2020

Red Sox rotation hasn't even hit rock bottom, which portends disaster in 2020

BOSTON -- The Red Sox have devoted more than $400 million to the top three pitchers in their rotation.

Whoever takes over as GM this winter will be lucky to find $10 million for their replacements.

Tuesday highlighted what kind of challenge awaits the baseball operations department. Before an endless 7-6 loss to the Giants in 15 innings, manager Alex Cora revealed that left-hander David Price ($217 million) might need offseason surgery to address a cyst on his left wrist. He also noted that fellow southpaw Chris Sale ($145 million) remains in Fort Myers and isn't yet due for a follow-up with Dr. James Andrews to ascertain the state of his troublesome elbow, though he'll meet the team in Tampa this weekend.

Once the game started, right-hander Nathan Eovaldi ($68 million) allowed five runs on seven hits, including a pair of homers, in only four innings. His ERA rose to 6.19 and the best he could say was that he had made a memory for Mike Yastrzemski, serving up a mammoth homer to straightaway center for the grandson of Yaz.

It's hard to overstate just how dire an issue the rotation is setting up to be next season. The Red Sox are stuck in a position where their current starters are immovable from a salary standpoint and unreliable from a physical one. 

The team must count on them to deliver while also planning for the eventuality that anywhere from one to three of them probably won't.

To quote the great Dennis Eckersley: "Yuck."

When we talk about Dave Dombrowski leaving the Red Sox in a hole, what we're really talking about is the rotation. The offense will be stacked even if J.D. Martinez or Mookie Betts depart this winter. (Losing both would be a different story...) The starting rotation, however, is shaping up like one giant cinderblock that's about to drag down the entire roster.

So what can the Red Sox do? The prospect of replacing any one of the Big Three with an opener every five days is distasteful, and the Red Sox shouldn't subject their fans to it, not with one of the few legitimate big-market payrolls in the game. Leave the openers to the Tampas and Oaklands of the world (although they are playoff teams …). The Red Sox should be able to afford five serviceable starters.

The problem is they might need eight. That means scouring the non-tender wire and the shallow end of the free agency pool to find arms that can basically form a shadow rotation in support of the one that we can only trust with a giant leap of faith.

Any surgery Price might need sounds minor, but once that ball starts rolling...

"That's something we're going to talk about, if that's an option, if we need it," Cora said. "Obviously [the injury] has limited him as far as being able to compete and I think it actually kind of limited him when he was pitching, what he was able to do. We saw it with command and that's not him. He can get hit, that's part of it. But with command, he was way off. He didn't have that two-seamer in the whole season and that's a pitch that throughout his career, he always aced it. That's a pitch, a put-away pitch against right-handed hitters and he didn't have it. We'll talk about it. We'll see what we're going to do. Obviously, everything that can benefit from him will be great for the organization."

Eovaldi, meanwhile, remains an enigma. He routinely hit 98 mph on Tuesday, but the Giants knocked him around anyway because he spent too much time down in the strike zone. His ERA ranks in the bottom 15 in baseball and his inability to stay healthy feels like a problem will only intensify as he ages.

"When he's dominating, when he got here last year against the Twins, he was up [in the zone]," Cora said after the game. "Against the Yankees, the eight innings, it was up in the zone. Against the Dodgers, in the playoffs, it was up in the zone. We have to do that. We live in an era that if you pitch on plane, the guys are going to catch up regardless of whether you're throwing 100 or 91. There's a lot of foul balls, too. That's part of the mix.  There's nothing we can do with that. But we'll get it right, we'll finish on a positive note, and he'll be ready for the offseason to work on the things that he has to work, and he's a guy that is very important for us in the coming years."

As for Sale, we still don't know if he needs Tommy John surgery. What we do know is the longer the Red Sox wait to make a decision, the greater the likelihood that he'll miss two seasons instead of one if he goes under the knife.

That's a worst-case scenario, and the fact that Sale has felt well enough to play catch is encouraging, but let's be real: a bad shoulder effectively cost him the final three months of 2018, and a bad elbow shut him down this August.

Two years, two serious injuries. The Red Sox have no idea what to expect from Sale in 2020. The same can be said of Eovaldi. The same can be said of Price.

That's the heart and soul of your rotation. It's a massive percentage of your payroll. It's supposed to be the strength of your team.

That's a terrible place to be.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Highlights of the Red Sox' 7-6, 15-inning loss to the Giants

Highlights of the Red Sox' 7-6, 15-inning loss to the Giants

FINAL SCORE:  Giants 7, Red Sox 6 

IN BRIEF: Pinch-hitter Alex Dickerson's sacrifice fly in the 15th inning provided the winning run in the San Francisco Giants' 7-6 victory over the Red Sox in a nearly six-hour marathon where a major-league record 24 pitchers were used. Hours earlier, Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski's grandson, Giants left fielder Mike Yastrzemski, hit a home run in his Fenway Park debut. BOX SCORE

RED SOX RECORD: 79-71

HIGHLIGHTS

1st inning:
Belt homers off Eovaldi on a 0-0 pitch (1-0, SF).

2nd inning:
Holt walks, moves to second on Webb's wild pitch, Moreland walks, Vazquez walks to load the bases, Bradley Jr. singles to left (tied, 1-1).

3rd inning:
Yastrzemski walks, moves to second on Eovaldi's wild pitch, Longoria walks, Vogt doubles to right, Yastrzemski scores (2-1, SF).

Pillar grounds out to shortstop Bogaerts, Longoria scored. (3-1, SF).

Crawford singles to center, Vogt scores (4-1, SF). 

4th inning:
Yastrzemski homers to center off Eovaldi on a 3-1 pitch (5-1, SF).

5th inning:
Bradley Jr. homers to right off Webb on a 3-1 pitch (5-2, SF).

6th inning:
Travis, pinch-hitting for Martinez, triples to right (G.Hern√°ndez pinch-runs for Travis), (A. Suarez replaces Webb on the mound), Moreland doubles, scoring G. Hernandez (5-3, SF).

V√°zquez hits a ground-rule double to right, scoring Moreland (5-4, SF).

V√°zquez steals third, then scores on Vogt's passed ball (tied, 5-5).

8th inning:
BOGAERTS ROBS CRAWFORD:

10th inning:
MARCO HERNANDEZ WITH A RUN-SAVING PLAY:

12th inning
BRADLEY JR. CLIMBS THE WALL FOR ONE

13th inning:
(Cashner on the mound) Pillar singles to right, Crawford doubled to left, scoring Pillar, Crawford out at third (6-5, SF).

(Selman on the mound) M.Hern√°ndez singles to left, moves to second when Benintendi walks (B. Smith replaces Selman), Bogaerts singles to right, loading the bases (Barraclough replaces B. Smith),  Centeno, pinch-hitting for G.Hern√°ndez, walks, scoring M.Hern√°ndez (tied, 6-6).

15th inning:
(Trevor Kelley on the mound) Solano hits a ground-rule double to right, moves to third on Kelley's wild pitch,  Dickerson, pinch-hitting for Slater, hits a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Solano (SF, 7-6). 

UP NEXT:
Vs. Giants, Wednesday, 7:10 p.m., NESN
Vs. Giants, Thursday, 1:05 p.m., NESN
@Rays, Friday, 7:10 p.m., NESN
@Rays, Saturday, 6:10 p.m., NESN
@Rays, Sunday, 1:10 p.m., NESN

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.