John Farrell on Dale & Holley: Jackie Bradley Jr. showing 'gradually improved approach' at plate

May 14, 2014 - 1:02 pm
Red Sox manager John Farrell, in his weekly interview on WEEI's Dale & Holley show, further explained his decision to tweak the team's attack on the basepaths given the recent struggles with stolen base success. To listen to the interview, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page. Farrell's squad sits dead last in baseball with a 50 percent stolen base rate. Last season, the Red Sox led the majors with an 87 percent success rate, swiping 123 bases while only being gunned down 19 times. "As I probably described further with the players yesterday, there is a difference between our stolen base attempts and our aggressiveness going first to third and on dirt-ball reads and advancing 90 feet whenever it is possible," Farrell said. "We have given a number of outs away on the basepaths and I think we feel like that we needed to be a little more smart as the league adjusted to our style of the running game. And I think when the league adjusts, you have to readjust back to them, and that's what I meant with that." Given the recent struggles at the plate from young players such as Jackie Bradley, Will Middlebrooks and, to a lesser extent, Xander Bogaerts, Farrell talked about giving the trio of players opportunities to make adjustments at the major league level, emphasizing the ebbs and flows inherent with being a young player learning the intricacies of playing at the major league level. "The thing that we have that's in our control is to provide those opportunities, continue to support them in times where the results are not what they are looking for or what we feel they are capable of," Farrell said. "I think for the most part, in Jackie's case, we have a better understanding of what we are going to get day in and day out from him. He's going to impact the game defensively, and we're seeing a gradually improved approach with the way that pitchers are trying to attack him. "Overall, [Bradley]'s done a pretty good job with runners in scoring position with the number of RBIs that are there. But we also know, too, that sometimes that inexperience can be exploited, either with the emotion that they are dealing with or the tendency to expand the strike zone in certain cases, but this is part of providing that opportunity and riding the ups and downs of that opportunity. In addition to that, we know Will is still searching for that consistent swing and consistent approach at the plate. We saw it in spring training and at the beginning of the year, and then when he came back from the DL it was back again, but as of late some of those base hits have been hard to come by for him." Farrell believes that Jake Peavy's 4 1/3-inning, five-run performance against the Twins on Tuesday night was not representative of what the team has seen out of the righty so far this season. "Last night was the first night that Jake Peavy didn't give us what we expect, and that's to get into the sixth or seventh inning. He's given up two or three runs or less each time out, and last night it was about pitch execution where so many pitches ran back to the middle of the plate," Farrell said. "They capitalized on it. Jake has maybe not been to the dominance that [John] Lackey and [Jon] Lester have provided, but there is a level of dependability that we'll be in control and we'll find ourselves typically in a low-run game with Jake on the mound. Unfortunately, last night, that didn't happen." Progress continues to be made regarding the inconsistencies of both Clay Buchholz and Felix Doubront. "The inconsistencies of Felix and Clay are well documented, but at the same time, looking at Buchholz, the other night in Texas, he missed some pitches up over the plate with a number of base hits up over the middle. But I think he took a step forward after the Toronto game," Farrell said. "Against Oakland, he pitched an outstanding game. He's not to the level that we've come to expect from Clay, but he's moving in the right direction. With Felix, there is quality stuff there and what we're trying to do is address that in-game adjustments where sometimes it might be focus and concentration while other times it's release point and getting a certain pitch down or executing a pitch in key spots. But there is no denying the talent, and that's on us to get the most out of him." The decision to flip Doubront and Peavy had more to do with lining up the best matchups possible for the team's upcoming weekend series against the Tigers and the team's recent abundance of off days than any of the pitcher's recent performance, Farrell said. "If you look at what they've done against left handed starters, it's pretty darn impressive and I felt like it gave us the best chance," Farrell said. "We had a chance Monday with the off day to align things to match up and that was the reason for it. We talked to the starters here, and because of the amount of rest we've had with the off days recently, it wasn't a matter of bringing a guy back on short rest, it was a matter of who we felt gave us the best chance to go Sunday night against Detroit." Farrell discussed MLB's decision to overturn the official scorer's ruling in Texas on David Ortiz's hit that dropped between two Rangers defenders. At the time, Farrell was surprised that the ball was initially ruled an error. "At field level, when a player doesn't touch a ball, it doesn't deflect off a glove or it deflects off a glove in a play that is more than normal effort, you see a base hit awarded nearly every time," Farrell said. "When it wasn't, we all knew the situation. Yu Darvish was dominating us during the time that he was on the mound. The fact that it was towards the of [Mike] Napoli's at-bat before it was put up on the board, I think there was thought to see how the next at-bat unfolds. If Napoli gets a base hit, we'll award a base hit, but Napoli walks, the inning ends and the error was put up and it was sent for an appeal and it was overturned so David ends up with the two base hits that night. But at the time, I thought it was an easy decision, it was going to be a base hit, but that was not the case." With the news that Marlins pitching phenom Jose Fernandez likely will require Tommy John surgery on a significant tear on his right elbow, Farrell talked about the recent epidemic of elbow injuries that has affected many young pitchers in the game. "The number of pitches that are thrown that are in the 12-15-year-old age bracket I think has a lasting effect," Farrell said. "If a young kid is talented enough to pitch through high school and college into pro baseball, some of that early pitching before they physically develop takes a toll on them. With the guys that are now getting injured at the big league level, I think you're seeing so much arm strength and velocity. You've got a radar gun in every ballpark and there is so much emphasis on velocity, you start to create that arm speed, regardless of age and pitch count, I think you're starting to see force driven through that arm and I think it's starting to give way and that's the epidemic that we're in."