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Extra Innings with Theo Epstein:  Minor Details and More... How About Bullpencil?

Saturday afternoon, February 8, 2003:

Harry Hooper:

I was pleased to read the recent Edes column in the Globe discussed the compilation of a development manual and institution of the "Red Sox Way". He named yourself, Cherington, Shipley, Byrnes, and Aguayo as being involved in this effort.

First, is this an accurate report? Were other individuals involved (Lajoie, Little, Franchuk, Norman, Pesky, etc.)? Can you provide us with some details about the process of compiling the "Red Sox way"?

Second, what steps will be taken by Sox management to see to it that this new approach takes root. What mechanisms of accountability will be in place to (1) certify that instructors in the system are employing the "Red Sox way" in development work, and (2) assess the extent that the players are actually incorporating the desired instruction into how they play the game.

By the way, check out an overseas free agent named Cabin Mirror. I think he could help the club in 2003.

Theo Epstein:

Gordon's article about the "Red Sox Way" was pretty accurate. Clearly, Ben couldn't and didn't tell him everything, but Gordon did capture the essence of what we are trying to do.

Everyone on the baseball side -- including a lot of former Red Sox superstars -- had a chance to be heard before we shaped these policies. The organizational meetings were intense and very productive. (On a personal note, I'm very happy that so much of Ted Williams' hitting philosophies have been included in our hitting program.

As for compliance to the new approach, I won't bore you with the details, but there are lots of "checks and balance" mechanisms in our systems. Plus, the members of the field staff are proud of the Red Sox Way and are united in an effort to make it work.

As for player compliance, minor leaguers -- like the rest of us -- respond to positive reinforcement (i.e. promotions, bonuses, etc..) as well as negative reinforcement (demotions, benchings, etc..). We'll monitor every player closely. We don't want clones, but we do want to emphasize our core principles.

Diamond Don Aase:

Why did the Red Sox sign righthanded reliever Hector Almonte to a major-league contract while righthanded relievers Tom Davey, Justin Kaye, and Kris Foster-- all of whom can match Almonte's 95-m.p.h. fastball and have been more successful at the Triple-A level-- were signed to minor-league deals? I would like to believe that the Red Sox minor-league administration's familiarity with the Marlins' system offers them unique insight into the abilities of Almonte (and fellow former Fish flingers Hansel Izquierdo and Gustavo Lopez) but it seems just as likely that they want to build a failed Asian program around a Dominican Mystery Man of their own.

Theo Epstein:

There were three or four teams on Almonte so we stepped up with a 40-man spot to get him signed. We had two outstanding recent reports on him and we didn't want to lose him. If he pitches well, we'll be glad that we committed the spot. If he pitches poorly, he can be outrighted. No harm, no foul.

Good points about the other pitchers, though. Davey, when right, can dominate. Kaye has one of the better sliders you'll see and has serious upside if he can improve his command.


Ever thought of acquiring Oscar Robles who posted a 52bb/13k ratio in 221 abs? He played with Freddy Sanchez and Anton French, so maybe you saw.

Theo Epstein:

Nice catch on your part. We were all over Oscar Robles and at one point thought we had him signed to a reasonable minor league deal. We had decent reports on him and were willing to take a flyer on a guy with that kind of ungodly walk rate and K/BB ratio.

The A's stepped up and offered him an invite to major league camp (something we couldn't do based on our personnel) and he signed with them.

Carroll Hardy:

Could your clarify "Closer by Committee" - is it limited to the context of "don't anoint a guy CLOSER and pay him big bucks"? As Pedro has commented publicly, will nobody know on a given day whether he will close or not? Couldn't you still designate your 2-3 run guy (Timlin?), while using Embree/Mendoza with the game on the line in the 7th/8th?

Theo Epstein:

The "closer by committee" concept (if we must call it that) has more to do with usage than it does with personnel. We still want a truly dominant reliever (or two, or three, or four). We just won't hold him back for the ninth inning so he can chalk up a save. The goal is to put the best pitcher in the game to get the most critical outs, period.

I don't really like "closer by committee." Anybody have a better name?

The "closer by committee" concept (if we must call it that) has more to do with usage than it does with personnel. We still want a truly dominant reliever (or two, or three, or four). We just won't hold him back for the ninth inning so he can chalk up a save. The goal is to put the best pitcher in the game to get the most critical outs, period.

I don't really like "closer by committee." Anybody have a better name?

Red Sox Dirt Dog:

Now that's a pitch I can hit...

- Best Man Bullpen
- Late Inning Machine
- All Arms on Deck
- A Call to Arms
- Real Time Saves
- Situational Save
- Clouts (for closer-outs) instead of saves, just create the category
- Closing Time
- Closing Early
- A Save in Time Saves Nine
- Ready for Anything
- Closé Diem - Save the Moment - Bull-Sit? (for Situational Bullpen)

Nomar's Last Twitch:

Anderson Amador the Dominican SUPER Prospect is a Free Agent Now (late of the Dodgers). Amadors' agent is talking with the Atlanta braves officials and they are looking at a least a 3-4 millions signing bonus. Scouts for the Braves had seen him play and are very much after him if they price is right. The Yankees more likely are going to get involved soon.

Are the Red Sox on top of this situation?

Theo Epstein:

Our scouts in the DR have seen quite a bit of Amador. We're aware of him... that's all I can say. Thanks for the question.

Philly Sox Fan:

What excites you about the HS players from the 02 draft – specifically Lester, White, Spann and OK Pellend? Do any of them have a chance to make the Aug roster? Can you explain the reasoning behind using an option year on Lester for 2/3 of IP?

With Smith’s unfortunate injury it looks like Goss and Concepcion are the best bets of the college picks to make an impact this year. Can you give brief scouting reports on them? How refined are Goss’ skills vs his good tools? Do you see Concepcion as catcher, what’s his offensive ceiling?

Of the young Latin players who played last year in the DSL and VSL, who are you most looking forward to seeing make their US debut? Specifically what can we expect from Wilson Reyes who had a huge year in the DSL?

Jim Callis named Bret Bonvechio and Dusty Brown amongst the lower level sleepers. Can you give us 3 or 4 guys who aren’t on the usual Top 10 lists who might surprise in 03?

Theo Epstein:

Lester: great athlete...arm works cleanly...ball jumps out of hand...feel for four pitches...very projectable LHP

White: outstanding defensive 3B...advanced knowledge of K-zone for young player...upper half should fill out for strong frame.

Spann: ball explodes off his bat...plus bat speed...strong projectable body...hard worker...key for him knowledge of strike zone...long long way away but chance impact bat.

Pelland: very quick arm...up to 93 from stretch in instructs...feel for CH and SL...repeats delivery.

I'm going to punt on Lester's burned option year... just call it an organizational mistake.

Goss: 70 runner...great body...an athlete...strong...plate discipline key for him as well...just needs at-bats.

Concepcion: can catch...arm was better than amateur reports...has legit pop to all fields...knowledgeable hitter...hard-nosed player.

I like what I saw of Herrera in instructs...light-tower power...a great project for Orv.

As for sleepers, I'd like to think we have a lot of them. Keep your eyes on our left-handed pitching: Gabbard, Cedeno, Pelland et al could surprise. Plus, he's not a sleeper but De La Rosa was 95-96 in winter ball.

Gash Prex:

Can you give us the organizational view of Hanley Ramirez? (tools, plate discipline, defense, maturity).  What sort of timetable do see?

Theo Epstein:

I touched on Hanley the other day. I'll refrain from gushing about Hanley again and just recommend that you try to check him out in person if you get the chance. He's special.

Eric Van:

You've seen the BA prospect rankings . . tell us about one or two guys who stick out as players they've underrated.

Theo Epstein:

If I answer that, then a whole lot of players (by inference) are over-rated. I do think De La Rosa was a bit low. What do you think?

The Boomer:

Your taking the time to linger here is greatly appreciated by those of us out in the Red Sox Diaspora. 2 questions:

1. It was publicized that you had a program to evaluate minor league managers and coaches in other organizations based on their ability to actually develop talent. Without revealing proprietary information, who was hired based on this creative approach and why?

2. How do you practically plan to implement the principles of Mike Marshall in the minors and where can we expect to see the earliest results from this long overdue revival of his ideas?

Theo Epstein:

We're going to keep the details of the program to ourselves. I really enjoyed using it as part of our search process.

For "research and development" purposes, we've talked to dozens and dozens of people with interesting pitching theories. Marshall is one of them. We want to hear everyone's theories and work through them to find the truth. If we can keep our pitchers even 10% healthier, that would be invaluable to us.

OK, I'm signing off... just wanted to get to the questions I missed on Thursday. Thanks again for all the questions.

Enjoy the rest of this great winter... I'm heading South.



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