Juan Nieves

Ben Cherington and John Farrell on decision to fire pitching coach Juan Nieves: 'We needed to make a change'

John Tomase
May 07, 2015 - 11:14 am

Five weeks into a season that has seen the entire Red Sox pitching staff woefully underperform even its modest expectations, the club on Thursday fired pitching coach Juan Nieves in a move that general manager Ben Cherington described as necessary. "John (Farrell) and I simply got to the point where we felt that, in order to continue to push forward and make improvements, we needed to make a change and have a different voice in that particular position," Cherington said on a conference call. Nieves, 50, helped the team win a World Series in 2013 in his first year on Farrell's staff, but this year Red Sox pitchers have been a disaster. Their staff ERA of 4.89 ranks last in the American League, as does their abysmal starters ERA of 5.54. While both Cherington and Farrell acknowledged the problems run deeper than coaching, they also suggested that Nieves wasn't able to reach this rotation like past ones. "What it comes down to is focusing on the rotation, probably the most important -- not to overlook any other person on staff -- because the rotation pitches the bulk of the innings, quality required, stability needed, whether or not that same connection was made with the current group to bring about the consistency of performance," Farrell said. "As Ben stated, there's a number of things that go into this, but the ability to maintain the consistency or effect change when needed or adjustments that are required that's typical with any pitcher, that wasn't the same as we saw, that you referenced previously, two years ago." There's no word yet on possible replacements or if the Red Sox will have someone in place in time for Friday's game in Toronto. Cherington said it was more important to make the right choice than to rush to fill the position. "We have a very small list of people in mind, and beyond that I can't say," Cherington said. "That does include at least one internal and one external candidate. But beyond that, I can't say if there are more at this time." Farrell made it clear that firing Nieves won't magically fix a flawed rotation. "I think the situation we're in is because of overall performance," he said. "That's not to say that Juan is the sole reason for that. There's a number of things, as we've talked about on this call, that go into it. And yet we feel like the best way to change things going forward for the performance of our guys is to make a change in this role. "You're always finding ways to connect with individuals, and that changes based on the current performance of an individual. You're dealing with different mindsets, different points in time. When things are going well, is there more of a receptive mindset from a given pitcher than times when there's struggle, and how is that received? Again, it goes back to the group that pitches the greatest number of innings, the bulk innings, that'€™s the focal point of the pitching staff, and that'€™s the rotation."