John Farrell is no stranger to Red Sox fans after serving as the team's well-respected pitching coach from 2007-10. After leaving to manage the Blue Jays for two seasons, Farrell is back to serve in that role for Boston. The 46th manager in Red Sox history recently took time out of his busy schedule to discuss the upcoming season with MLB.com.
MLB.com: What are some of the things that excite you the most about this team?
Farrell: Just the overall approach of this group. There are a number of new faces that have come together. They share a common passion for the game, and it's reflected with the way our clubhouse has really started to take shape. So that's on one side of it. The way Spring Training has gone, pitching has been very consistent, and I think that's something that will allow us to weather the storm of some injuries that we've faced and that we're still dealing with.
MLB.com: Any manager has some anxiety heading into a season. What kind of keeps you awake as you get ready for Opening Day?
Farrell: Just again, not knowing how long two main parts -- two main members of our lineup -- are going to be delayed coming out of camp, talking about David [Ortiz's] situation and Stephen [Drew's] situation as well. Our feel is that it won't be too deep into the start of the season, but still, any games missed are critical for us.
MLB.com: What do you think it's going to be like for you, Yankee Stadium, Opening Day, running out to that base line when they announce you as Red Sox manager for the first time?
Farrell: No matter what role you're in or what stadium you're in, Opening Day has a special meaning and a special moment for everyone who has the ability to be involved in it. Certainly in this rivalry that has such a storied tradition, it probably takes on an even greater sense of being in that spot.
MLB.com: How much do you like it as a manager when you have a 1-2 combo like Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz who seem ready to take control at the top of the rotation?
Farrell: Every rotation is going to have guys that they look to, to lead it by their performance and by their work. It's been very encouraging to see how they've incorporated some changes to either their approach to the tempo of the game or some tweaks fundamentally with their deliveries. I look at them as guys who are pitching like they were a few years ago when they performed so well and so consistently.
MLB.com: There was a lot of talk even before camp started about the new environment the clubhouse should have this season. Are you already getting a sense of that?
Farrell: You do. You get a sense of it in the work sessions, in the drill work before games. It really starts to be felt even more so in the dugout before games, and just the way the guys talk, the way the guys will razz one another, but all in a good way. And yet they'll talk the game. We've had a couple of sit-down meetings, just from the hitting side of things. Just to hear the conversation back and forth, there's a real willingness to share their knowledge, to get to know one another more.
That's going to be important where they are in the lineup and how they'll work in and around one another with their places in the lineup. Their willingness to talk the game and have the game be the focal point, that was one of our main goals when we came into camp. Let's put the attention and the focus back on the game, in between the lines.
MLB.com: It seems like for the last decade, the Red Sox were always looked at as one of the top teams going into the season. There hasn't been that same buzz this year. Has that filtered into the clubhouse at all? And what impact do you think it has?
Farrell: No, it hasn't. Obviously what's taken place the last year-plus has been well documented. I think there's been a lot of change to the roster that naturally takes a lot of that added weight away with the new faces that never experienced that. At the same time, this is a group that has won individually and collectively before. Our goal and our expectations has not changed one bit inside the clubhouse, and that's to compete and contend for a division title.
MLB.com: Offensively, do you think the Red Sox are ready to get back to what they used to be -- a team known for being relentless with its approach?
Farrell: It was missing last year. When you look at the number of injuries we had, and all of a sudden you're into your depth players that don't have the track records or the reputations that other guys that they were replacing did, and that's not to know the guys that were finishing out last season. You look at a longer group, or a bigger group -- a deeper lineup of proven professional hitters. That grinding-out approach is important to us, and we feel like it will take hold once again.
MLB.com: How do you think the Red So will change running-wise? You mentioned in your first news conference that you prefer a more aggressive mindset on the bases.
Farrell: I think with the abilities that we have, we're going to play to the strengths of this roster. The running game may be more aggressive in terms of going first to third. We've got a couple of guys we know we can steal some bases with. We also have to look at our players realistically and do they have the ability to steal bases, outside of let's say Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino, Dustin Pedroia and Pedro Ciriaco. Those are our primary basestealers.
But we can look at trying to take an extra base when the opportunity presents itself. That's an ongoing point of emphasis with this group and it's something we continue to talk about, but hopefully that gives us a chance to score some runs and put us in a position to take advantage of those opportunities inside a game.
MLB.com: How much did you learn about managing in your two years in Toronto? And how much does that help you as you start this next chapter in your career?
Farrell: It's invaluable, having never been in a manager's seat before and being provided an opportunity to go to Toronto, which I'm grateful for that experience. I witnessed firsthand and experienced firsthand things I had never been asked to do and had never been in a position to make the number of decisions that occurred during each and every game. It's been an invaluable two years.
MLB.com: How much fun has it been to watch the future of the organization on display this spring, talking about Jackie Bradley Jr., Allen Webster, Xander Bogaerts and some others?
Farrell: I think the one thing we've seen clearly is that the health of the organization is strong with the names you just mentioned. I think in any camp, whether it was as a pitching coach before or being in Toronto previous to this position, young players that come into camp, they excite you with their abilities and their talents. You know that there's growing pains that are going to take place. But when you can see young, talented guys that are not just guys you can think of getting to the big leagues but guys that should be major contributors, that's a really good place to be.
MLB.com: Mike Napoli. What has stuck out about him watching him offensively and defensively this spring?
Farrell: His athleticism, without a doubt. Sometimes guys will play a position and they'll get somewhat labeled just by virtue of the position on the field that they play. What we've seen is very good athleticism, good hands, good range at first base. He's made the transition seamlessly. The work he's done with [infield instructor] Brian Butterfield has been outstanding. So from a defensive standpoint, it's his overall athleticism and smoothness in which he plays the game.
That also shows up in the box. We've seen him many, many times hit against us. When you see the power he can generate with those smooth actions, it's very impressive. From a personality standpoint, just a very even-keeled person that cares about his teammates and cares about the game.
MLB.com: Talking about Pedroia, how different is he from any other player you've been around?
Farrell: Just the constant energy. The motor runs 24/7. ... There's not a stronger competitor and one who cares about the Red Sox and what we represent on the field more than him.
MLB.com: You spoke earlier about Ortiz. How much more at ease will you be when you see him on the field again and feeling good about himself?
Farrell: That's going to happen in time, but what he means to this organization, this team and this city, it goes beyond the numbers that he puts up. I can tell you, with him in the three- or four-hole, it changes the whole complexity of our lineup. We're looking forward to getting him back on the field.
MLB.com: How right does it feel for you to have that Red Sox uniform on again, particularly in the position as manager?
Farrell: It does feel right. It's an honor to wear this uniform, regardless of the position or the role. But to be working every day and be in charge of what takes place in between the lines, it's a humbling experience, but one where I'm looking forward to the challenges ahead.