Torey Lovullo

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

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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.

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Red Sox West? Lovullo and Hazen have Diamondbacks among N.L.'s best

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Red Sox West? Lovullo and Hazen have Diamondbacks among N.L.'s best

BOSTON — Even as the Red Sox hit their stride with a five-game winning streak and Dustin Pedroia plays caroms with sorcery, the Sox have a worse record than the surprising Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Sox look better now than they have at any time this season. At 48-35, they’re three games up in the American League East. It’s an incredibly talented team.

But the D-backs (52-31) have been better. At .627, they’re one of three teams in the majors with a .600 or better winning percentage.

It’s amazing, considering the Diamondbacks won just 69 games a year ago. But it wouldn’t be the first time Mike Hazen and Torey Lovullo, who are in Year One running the show after leaving Boston, helped turn around a 69-win team. 

The 2012 Red Sox won that number of games ahead of winning the 2013 World Series.

Boston West is thriving. Amiel Sawdaye and Jared Porter, assistant GMs in Arizona, were previously front-office forces for the Sox as well. Porter had a stopover with the world champion Cubs first, and there are Indians and Pirates influences at play under Hazen too.

“That was the narrative early: how are you going to bring Boston west?” Lovullo said recently. “But what we really wanted to do... let’s take things that we know work, that we saw work inside of that environment in Boston and bring 'em here and do it, because that’s all we know. Watch it work, because that’s what we expect. And then perfect certain things that we want to put our own special touch on.”

Lovullo, the beloved bench coach in Boston from 2013-16 who was briefly the Sox’ manager when John Farrell was ill in 2015, did not see success coming quite this fast. No one reasonably could have.

“I had zero expectations coming in,” Lovullo said, which is not to say he had low expectations. “I knew that there was a group of guys that cared about one another and I just kept telling them that if we care about one another and rely on one another, something pretty powerful could happen.”

Lovullo went to great lengths to reach out to his players ahead of spring training. What he found was a group that had come up together and already had a bond, something that could be fostered.

But not everything has come easy for Hazen and Lovullo, nor could it have. 

Hazen spent 11 seasons with the Sox, from the Theo Epstein and Ben Cherington years to the start of the Dave Dombrowski era.

“It’s harder than I thought it was going to be,” Hazen said of being the top baseball operations executive for the first time. “Having the people that I worked for prepared me as probably as [well as could be] — I’m indebted to those guys forever. But it’s harder than that. 

“You take responsibility for everything that happens. You take responsibility for every decision that’s made. You’re responsible for the minor league system to the draft to everything else. And I think that is something that makes it more challenging. 

“At some point, you got to ride a bike without the training wheels. ... It’s every single day, it’s every single minute of every single day. But it’s fun. And being with Jared Porter and Amiel makes it awesome.”

Time management is key when so many different people need you. Lovullo will want to talk to a player sometimes, for example, but then something will come up with the medical staff and he has to play catch up the rest of the day.

Managing in the tougher National League, Lovullo wishes he pulled the trigger on some decisions quicker.

“It really is very unsettling, because you can’t let your guard down. I think I was prepared on a certain level, but managing in the National League took me a little while to get in the flow of it,” Lovullo said. “I made some mistakes, no doubt about it.

“Maybe the pitcher’s coming up, and I'm not quite sure enough what direction I want to go. And I got to send the pitcher up on deck, and I still haven’t made up my mind — I got to call him back last minute.”

Hazen and Lovullo didn’t clean house when they got to Arizona. Perhaps what’s most impressive about the regime is how they’ve been able to institute change without wiping out what was in place. 

The first year for new GMs is often an evaluation year and Hazen acknowledged there’s some accuracy to that. But he emphasizes listening to what was already working well. A straight replication of the Red Sox model just wouldn’t work.

“There are pieces to every organization that are really, really good. Every single organization,” Hazen said. “And we’ve tried to identify those things and tried to build on those. ... And then there have been parts of the process that we felt like, I think, some of the things we had learned in other places, we felt like may have been done better.”

Like?

“There are things that we brought into, say, the draft from an analytics standpoint,” Hazen said. “[Director of amateur scouting Deric Ladnier] was awesome. We have a lot of really good scouts...And those guys embrace that stuff.

“It never overrode the quality scouting, and I think that’s important because that’s how we did it in Boston too...We’re trying to bring more information into all of our decision-making models. And so that can be, that impacts medical, that impacts analytics, that impacts scouting process. That impacts everything. And so we’re trying to really build that up.”

That, of course, means the use of something like Carmine — the database system the Red Sox are now phasing out in place of something meaner and leaner, Beacon.

“We do [have one], from a systems standpoint,” Hazen said. “But again, that’s something that we’re continuously trying to build and improve and develop, so they already had a system that we’re using and we’re, I think all 30 clubs probably have that now. 

“It’s not something that I feel like we’re — I hate to say it, it’s so cliche, but reinventing the wheel here.”

Corner infielders Paul Goldschmidt and Jake Lamb have led the way offensively. But it’s the success of the D-backs rotation that’s been most notable. Zack Greinke has a 3.05 ERA and Robbie Ray 3.06. Hazen picked up Taijuan Walker from the Mariners as one of his first moves. He has a 3.30 ERA.

Hazen gave credit to the prior D-backs administration, to Dave Stewart, and to Tony LaRussa. The latter remains in the organization. 

“That’s the majority of the club that’s out there on the field,” Hazen said.

Both Lovullo and Hazen miss Boston. Arizona is a much different market, but Hazen isn’t necessarily enjoying being away from the fishbowl.

“I don’t feel differently in that regard,” Hazen said. “I can’t speak apples to apples because I wasn’t in the same position. But I think the pressure that you feel is, it’s an internal pressure...I mean, I personally don’t know if I could have felt worse about you know, some things [in Boston]."

The outlook for 2017 in Arizona has changed, Hazen said, because of how well the team has done. But the general plan is unaltered.

“One of the things we talk about more than anything else was ensuring that the process was going to remain a process no matter what,” Hazen said. “Torey and I have tough conversations. About things that have gone on during a game and I think what we’ve tried to, what we want to, establish is a commitment to really playing really good baseball every night. That’s going to take time. We’re a young team. That takes a lot of really good coaching.”

They’ve had that. There was certainly a contingency of fans in Boston that thought Lovullo should have taken over for Farrell. There’s a contingency that dislikes Farrell no matter what he does. 

Lovullo knows the criticism his former mentor faces.

“I just would like people to remember about the people that he’s touched and the branch of people that have fallen off of John Farrell,” Lovullo said, motioning in the dugout to Hazen, who was nearby. “This guy’s one of 'em right? He hired Mike Hazen. No one knew who Mike Hazen was. He’s also won a world championship and he’s won an AL East title in four years. He’s done some really special things, and I'm grateful for my relationships with him. I’m grateful for what he’s taught me. And I'm thankful for all that because I wouldn’t be here without him today.”

Here, today, the Diamondbacks have a better record than the Red Sox, a surprising and excellent way for Hazen, Lovullo, Sawdaye and Porter to begin their next chapters, no matter how the season finishes.
 

DiSarcina takes over Lovullo's role as Red Sox bench coach

DiSarcina takes over Lovullo's role as Red Sox bench coach

With the departure of Torey Lovullo to his own managerial gig with the Arizona Diamondbacks, so went the cloud hanging over John Farrell’s head manifested by fans and media. Or said cloud at least shrunk a bit.

Still, that also left a hole by Farrell’s side as his right hand man and bridge between him and the Red Sox players.

Enter Gary DiSarcina.

The Malden, Mass., native raised in Billerica, Mass., was the Lowell Spinners manager from 2007-2009 and with Pawtucket in 2013 -- the same year he was name the Minor League Manager of the Year by Baseball America. He then left Boston to rejoin the team he played for, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, to serve as Mike Scioscia’s third base coach.

In DiSarcina’s previous run with Boston, he was able to work with some of the players part of the Red Sox “youth movement” and witnessed their growth from the days he was their skipper.

“I can pinpoint Xander [Bogaerts] for example, [The Angels] played [the Red Sox] in 2014 and he had a rough -- I thought -- some rough actions out there, rough year out there,” DiSarcina said. “You could tell he was working on things and just wasn’t quite comfortable at shortstop. The next two years he’s just really taking off. He’s making plays now.”

DiSarcina mentioned how he spoke to 18-year MLB shortstop Alfredo Griffin -- now the first base coach for the Angels -- and he expressed how Bogaerts is making the “subtle plays”.

“Tough little hops you can take for granted,” DiSarcina said. “But you know as a former infielder that they were difficult hops and plays.”

DiSarcina spent parts of 12 seasons in the bigs, all with the Angels, so he hasn’t experienced being in the first base dugout at Fenway. However, he was a big Boston fan in his youth and even recalls heckling Roger Clemens -- when he was on the Red Sox.

“I understand that it’s a daily passion,” DiSarcina said. “From the writers, the papers, he talk shows and I think you have to embrace it. When players embrace it -- I think of Mike Napoli and Kevin Millar, those guys embraced the town, embraced the people -- [they] didn’t take it personally.

“You can’t take it personally. I think that helps me a little bit, as well as being in the major leagues a player and a coach for 15 years.”

And in case you’re wondering, though the two crossed paths in their playing careers, DiSarcina never told Clemens about the day he heckled him at Fenway Park.

Probably for the best.