"Well, you know, Bob has been in the game a long time. He's a real good baseball guy," said Valentine. "A very good person -- a very good guy. Obviously, coming into a new situation, there were adjustments that he and I were making as the year went on. I thought we were making them. At this time, with six weeks to go, we thought just maybe a little different voice in the clubhouse would make a little difference."
Niemann, who was a bullpen coach for Valentine for several years with the New York Mets, had been working as Boston's assistant pitching coach. But he also spent time as pitching coach earlier this season when McClure left for a personal reason, as well as some time as bullpen coach when Gary Tuck took a brief leave of absence.
What will Niemann add as the new leader of the pitching staff?
"We're going to try to do things a little more on schedule and try to make things a little easier for those guys to understand, maybe, and be able to focus and be able to do what they're capable of," Niemann said."We all know they're capable of doing a good job out there. It's just a matter of going out and executing it. That's what we're going to work towards."
After Boston's 5-3 loss to the Angels, Niemann was measured in the way he spoke. This wasn't a time for him to celebrate a promotion.
"It's been a very tough day, a tough time. Somebody that was a good friend of ours I had to take over for, which I'm happy to do, and mainly today, I just met with all the guys," said Niemann. "I told them we're going to go forward, we're going to work hard, we're going to do some things a little different with each and every one of them individually, but mainly I'm going to be here for them. I'm going to work my tail off to make them better, and hopefully we can turn this thing around down the stretch and have everybody doing what they're supposed to be doing out there."
The Red Sox are 11th in the American League in ERA.
"I think we're better than that, yes," Niemann said. "I think we're better than that. I think the guys think we're better than that. And we're going to work hard this last month and a half to address that and make it better. Are we going to get it down to leading the league? I don't think we have time to do that, but we're going to make it better and we're going to work hard to do that. Like I told the guys earlier, I'm here for them. I'm going to be here early and I'll be here late. Whatever they need to make this work the last month, I'll be here to do that."
Valentine thinks that Niemann will move seamlessly into his new role.
"Well, he just has the common-sense approach to things," Valentine said. "He's worked with all the guys on rehab this year -- he's been totally in charge of that. I think that they understand that he understands the throwing motion. You know, he's been in the bullpen for a couple of weeks when Gary wasn't here, so the relievers got to know him a little bit during game situations. He was in the dugout for a couple of weeks when Bob wasn't here. I think what he brings is what is needed -- a nice, stabilizing force."
Valentine also disputed the notion that McClure was not his choice as pitching coach -- and that general manager Ben Cherington forced him into the staff. McClure had been hired by Cherington as a scout a few weeks before Valentine was named manager.
"The first time I saw him, I met him in the hallway downstairs," Valentine said. "I was going into Ben's office after I was hired. He was hired as a scout at the time. About three days later, we were putting together a list [for pitching coach]. I don't think he was on the first list. After we narrowed down the first list, he got on the second list, and then he came in and he interviewed with everyone.
"I liked the interview. I continued to interview people. Then we were running out of time, and he was the best candidate out there, I felt. And Ben felt [the same way], and whoever else was interviewing, they [also] felt that way. If that means he was my choice, he was my choice, yeah. I didn't have someone I was going to take over him."
The move to Niemann will ultimately be judged on how Boston's pitchers perform the rest of the way.
"It's not like we have somebody brand new coming in right now," said Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz. "We'll finish out the season with our staff here, and hopefully we can do something and get us on a roll, and us as a pitching staff go out and do our jobs, and hopefully it becomes contagious for the offense."
"I know Bob worked hard, and he wanted the best for those guys. We all did," Niemann said. "That's basically, going forward, that's what I'm going to do. I just think maybe sometimes you can tweak things, do them a little differently, and hopefully that works for the guys. I know they will be focused, and they're going to be ready to go."