INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (ESPNBoston.com) — The Boston Red Sox on Wednesday officially introduced Juan Nieves as the club’s next pitching coach.
During a conference call, Red Sox manager John Farrell said the decision to select Nieves, a former major league pitcher who has spent the past five seasons as the Chicago White Sox‘s bullpen coach, was based on the longstanding rapport the two have. He added that the organization believes it will be the perfect fit going forward.
It was believed that longtime pitching coach Rick Peterson was the favorite for the job — a baseball source last week told ESPNBoston.com that Farrell was “all in” on Peterson. Farrell said he was impressed with all four candidates who interviewed (Marlins pitching coach Randy St. Claire and Royals bullpen coach Steve Foster were the others) but Nieves got the job for a number of reasons.
“All four candidates that we sat and met with were strong candidates, but we felt with the ease of conversations with Juan, also looking at the pitchers he has helped in his time with the White Sox, there were a number of factors,” Farrell said.
“His ability, his communication and my understanding of Juan and what’s important to him as a person, as much as a pitching coach, those were all factored into the ease of communication, which is going to be a major component once we get into in-game input that he’ll have in the dugout. I feel with our rapport and existing knowledge of the guys on the pitching staff already, this is a very good fit and a very good tandem.”
Farrell expressed the importance of communication between the manager, the pitching coach and the entire pitching staff, and his confidence in Nieves’ ability in that area.
“The ease of our working relationship will really foster that,” Farrell said.
Another aspect to the decision to hire Nieves was his longstanding working relationship with White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper.
“He’s learned under a longtime pitching coach that has had a lot of success in his own right in Don Cooper and this is a very good fit for the Red Sox,” Farrell said.
“It’s an easy fit first of all because I’m only changing Sox,” he said. “It was a great fit knowing John from a long time in Puerto Rico and we actually played on the same team. We were able to talk a lot through the years.”
“His ability, his communication and my understanding of Juan and what’s important to him as a person, as much as a pitching coach, those were all factored into the ease of communication, which is going to be a major component once we get into in-game input that he’ll have in the dugout.” – John Farrell on Juan Nieves
Nieves has spent a total of 15 years working with Cooper and plans on bringing a lot of those philosophies to Boston.
“Establishing a structure for the guys and stay on that course,” Nieves said. “To create some stability for the guys is very important.”
Most of the current pitchers on the Red Sox staff have had four pitching coaches in the last three years, including Farrell, Curt Young, Bob McClure and Randy Niemann. Farrell is hoping to create some stability in that department.
“I have no question the program and the consistency of it will be present here,” Farrell said. “That will be in larger part what Juan brings here and there will certainly be a lot of input from my standpoint overseeing things. There’s no doubt stability is needed. If you look at any situation that has continuity to it, you have a greater chance for success.
“By being with pitchers for a number of years, not only myself or Juan, to know what a pitcher’s delivery is, to know the person and how he performs best in tight situations, knowing how he performs best by different ways of handling the individual pitcher, that continuity is extremely important and I hope that will be the case with the entire staff and not just on the pitching side.”
Nieves, 47, has New England roots and is a graduate of Avon Old Farms in Connecticut. He said there were many reasons why he felt this job with the Red Sox would be a good situation for both him and the team.
“I have a familiarity from being in the New England area, also the opportunity, of course, but most of all the way I felt with Farrell, (general manager) Ben (Cherington) and (assistant GM) Mike (Hazen) and everybody in the office, and knowing this staff it was a very soothing, very comfortable, very easy conversation,” he said. “It just flowed. It was great and of course the opportunity to be with these guys, this staff in Boston, I thought it was a great fit and a great opportunity.”
At baseball’s general manager meetings, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said all four candidates for the job were qualified.
“In the end we just felt Juan had the right combination of traits and there’s a comfort level with John,” Cherington said. “What we see is a real good pitching organization with the White Sox and he worked with a really good pitching coach the last several years. We felt he was the right guy.”
The skills, traits and philosophies Cherington was looking for in the new pitching coach were based on being able to incorporate the club’s idea of being more aggressive on the mound and attacking the strike zone more often.
“There are things that need to happen with a pitcher before you get that, as far as the delivery and mental approach,” Cherington said. “We thought Juan brought a good program to the table. We were also looking for someone with a strong voice and conviction and that’s the one thing John wanted, given his experience as a pitching coach. He wanted someone with a strong voice who would stand up to him. John wants to empower a pitching coach and not just have an assistant. That was important and that’s something we felt Juan could do.”
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said the Red Sox are getting a hard-working baseball man in Nieves and that his services will be missed in Chicago.
“He’s a real hard worker and upbeat,” Hahn said. “He’s creative and he deserves a fair amount of credit, along with Don Cooper and our other pitching coaches. But [Nieves] deserves a fair amount of credit for the young guys we had in the bullpen this past year and he was a nice, calm and stabilizing force for them.
“He’s also done a lot of work on the side with our guys and had some success with unleashing the talent in some of the guys that struggled elsewhere. Juan’s played a big role in that.”
Hahn described Nieves as being “creative,” citing his ability to handle each pitcher as an individual and work to that pitcher’s strengths.
“He never gives up on a guy,” Hahn said. “He’s willing to, if something’s not working, maybe try a different arm slot, arm angle or a different pitch. He’s tireless trying to get the best out of a guy.”