Improving pitchers' defense on agenda

Improving pitchers' defense on agenda

BOSTON -- Towards the end of each season, manager Terry Francona takes stock on areas the Red Sox can improve, and an obvious one is jumping to mind these days. Boston's pitching staff has committed a Major League-high 20 errors.

"We've had some throws to the bag on pickoffs that have been into the runner, which we need to do better," Francona said. "We've had some plays where comebackers have hit off players and they've gotten flat-footed trying to rush throws. In a couple of instances, not having [Kevin Youkilis] around has probably had something to do with it, too. Like we always do, at the end of the season and going into Spring Training, we'll always try to figure out how can we do things better."

While the Red Sox certainly put a lot of time into pitchers' fielding practice during Spring Training, Francona notes that it is a balancing act.

"That's the issue. I remember my first year as a manager, I wanted to do everything right and do everything better than everybody else and show everybody that we were outworking everybody," Francona said. "And half the staff had a sore arm the first week of camp. You walk that line."

But there are other ways to get reps in.

"One thing we have done in the past, and we'll probably try to continue to do more, is on their side days is take them out by themselves and have them do the live pickoffs and the PFP, because they're already loose," Francona said. "You certainly don't want to have guys throwing max effort all the time. It won't work. But once they are loose on days they have their sides, we could try to do a little bit more."

Having staff-wide PFP sessions during the season is simply not feasible.

"No, we try to limit it," Francona said. "It's too much throwing. With guys on their side days, there's a repetition they do of a step off, getting the signs, looking over to first. If you want to go out and do it on the field and you want to do it where it helps, you're going to ask guys to throw too much. I don't think you see very many teams do it."

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.