Red Sox

Red Sox pitching coach Dana LeVangie a local success story

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Red Sox pitching coach Dana LeVangie a local success story

BOSTON — Their pitching coach was under their nose the whole time.

The Red Sox announced on Nov. 2 that Dana LeVangie would reprise his role as bullpen coach in 2018 under new manager Alex Cora. Six days later, LeVangie — the bullpen coach for five years under former John Farrell — has been elevated to pitching coach, replacing Carl Willis.

The 48-year-old LeVangie drew interest from other organizations this winter and could wind up a bench coach and then a manager someday. So far, he’s only known one organization: the 2018 season will be his 28th with the Sox.

MORE: Cora plans to walk fine line between friendship and authority

Cora had no desire to let LeVangie go anywhere else, either.

"Very impressed with Dana since when I played here," Cora said Wednesday. "He understands the game. Seems like we talk the same language as far as the game. When everyone started talking about me being a manager, he was a guy I always considered would be part of my staff. He is well prepared and versatile enough that he can work with catchers and be a pitching coach."

Born in Brockton and currently an East Bridgewater resident, LeVangie has stayed in the area the whole time. He went to college first at Cape Cod Community before transferring to American International. 

The Sox drafted LeVangie in the 14th round in 1991. He played in the Sox system for six years, reaching as high as Triple-A. From 1997-2004 he was the Sox' major league bullpen catcher. Then he was a pro scout for a year, and a major league advance scout for seven, through 2012.

“I guess being a local kid, being a Red Sox fan growing up, having a not-so-successful high school career but [being] more successful in my college days, getting drafted by the Boston Red Sox, playing six years in the minor leagues, going into my 28th year — it’s been an incredible ride,” LeVangie said. “I’ve done a lot of things for the team. I’ve enjoyed every role I’ve served in. 

“This is something I didn't envision myself doing. But I think my experience throughout the game, experience dealing with the players has grown throughout my time and I guess more than anything my commitment to the players, my commitment to the pitchers just continues to drive me to be the best [person i can to put these pitchers and players in position to have success. It keeps going forward and I’m just happy for the opportunity.”

What makes LeVangie a rarity is his catching background. Most pitching coaches were, well, pitchers.

LeVangie might not have learned more at any other time in his career than when he was the bullpen catcher. 

“It allowed me to really lock in on mechanics, movement of the baseball, spin of the baseball, identifying specifics of a pitcher’s strengths and weaknesses,” LeVangie said. “And trying to identify what makes a pitcher have success and continued success. So, I think back in the day I started to learn that. I’ll continue to learn more as we go forward, but, you know, I’ve learned a lot from Jason [Varitek] throughout the days of my time here, communicating with him. But you know I think our, as baseball coaches as baseball people, we use our eyes. The eyes usually tell us a lot of the things we want to know and our eyes will tell us a lot of the information that’s out now: spin rates and movement and how we can make these guys successful. So I don’t think it’s going to be a big adjustment, but it’s something I’ve worked hard at: trying to identify things sooner rather than later. So it will be an easier adjustment for me.”

Cora said the Sox are considering internal and external candidates to fill the bullpen coach vacancy, the lone one remaining on the staff. 

Brian Bannister remains in the organization, but Cora did not specify whether Bannister will be in uniform again next year. Bannister's most recent title was dual: vice President of pitching development and assistant pitching coach. He's a pitch data expert as well as an ex-big leaguer.

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Projecting Red Sox's bullpen roles with relief pitchers finalized

Projecting Red Sox's bullpen roles with relief pitchers finalized

The Boston Red Sox's bullpen undoubtedly is the club's biggest question mark entering the 2019 season.

But at least we know who's part of the unit.

The Red Sox made five roster cuts Saturday, in the process finalizing the eight relief pitchers they'll carry into Opening Day. Here's the list in alphabetical order:

RHP Matt Barnes
RHP Ryan Brasier
RHP Colten Brewer
RHP Heath Hembree
LHP Brian Johnson
RHP Tyler Thornburg
RHP Hector Velázquez
RHP Brandon Workman

While it's not a particularly inspiring group on paper -- only Brasier had an ERA under 3.00 last season -- and it doesn't include All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel, manager Alex Cora doesn't seem concerned.

"People outside our world think we're short on pitching. We're not. We're fine," Cora said Saturday, via The Boston Globe's Pete Abraham.

But who will pitch in which roles with Kimbrel and setup man Joe Kelly both gone? Cora continues to play coy, so here's our best guess for each role:

Closer: Matt Barnes

Barnes hasn't always been effective, but he's put in the time, throwing at least 60 innings in each of the past three seasons for Boston. The 28-year-old has made steady improvements each year, too, dropping his ERA to a career-low 3.65 in 2018 with a 3.10 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His leash will be short, but Barnes at least should get first crack at the closer job in 2019.

Setup man: Ryan Brasier

You could make a case for Brasier as the closer after his stellar 2018 campaign (six earned runs allowed over 33.2 innings). But he still has fewer than 50 career innings under his belt, and an infected pinky toe halted his progress in spring training. The 31-year-old thrived in the seventh and eighth innings last year, so why not keep him there?

Bridge/situational relievers: Tyler Thornburg, Colten Brewer, Heath Hembree, Brandon Workman

The Red Sox have been waiting three years for Thornburg. If he somehow stays on the field and returns to his 2016 form (2.15 ERA over 67 innings with the Brewers), he could get bumped up to the setup man role. For now, we expect Thornburg, Brewer, Hembree and Workman to operate primarily in the sixth and seventh innings based on matchups to bridge the gap to Brasier and Barnes.

Long relievers: Brian Johnson, Hector Velazquez

Johnson is the only current left-hander in the 'pen, so he could be used situationally, too. Both he and Velazquez have starting experience, though, and should get the call if a starter gets into trouble early.

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Sam Kennedy hints Red Sox could host MLB All-Star Game within 5 years

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USA TODAY Sports

Sam Kennedy hints Red Sox could host MLB All-Star Game within 5 years

It's been 20 years since the MLB All-Star Game came to Fenway Park. According to Sam Kennedy, that drought may not reach 25.

The Red Sox president and CEO said Saturday he hopes the Midsummer Classic will come back to Boston within the next half-decade.

"I would hope that Fenway would have the opportunity to host an All-Star game in the next 3-5 years," Kennedy wrote in an email to MassLive.com's Chris Cotillo.

Kennedy apparently said the same thing at an event in Boston that same day.

The city of Boston has hosted four MLB All-Star Games -- three at Fenway Park and one at Braves Field -- the most recent a memorable 1999 Midsummer Classic that featured Red Sox legend Ted Williams being honored on the field and ace Pedro Martinez striking out five of the six batters he faced over two innings.

 

Fenway is MLB's oldest and arguably most iconic ballpark, so it would make sense for the All-Star Game to return there after 20-plus years. After this year, Fenway will join a list of six active MLB stadiums that haven't hosted an All-Star Game in two decades: Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium (1980), Oakland Coliseum (1987), Chicago's Wrigley Field (1990), Toronto's Rogers Centre (1991), Baltimore's Camden Yards (1993) and Colorado's Coors Field (1998).

Cleveland is hosting this year and Dodger Stadium will host the 2020 game, but the Midsummer Classic is up for grabs starting in 2021.

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