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Boston.com chat transcript: Red Sox GM Theo Epstein

August 21, 2007

hedred__Guest: How do you explain Tim Wakefield's phenomenal record against Tampa Bay?

Theo Epstein: Pitching in a dome is ideal for a knuckleballer. The still air really helps the physics behind the pitch. Once he had a lot of success in their ballpark, he probably developed a psychological edge and has been dominant against their lineup ever since.

seriouslywhat__Guest: Theo, do you feel like the pressure to develop your own starters is even greater now that the free-agent market for pitching is weaker for 2007?

Theo Epstein: Relying on free-agent starting pitching is never a good plan, regardless of the quality of an individual free-agent class. Developing your own starting pitching is essential (Lester, Buchholz), and acquiring starters in trades (Schilling, Beckett) or internationally (Matsuzaka) is just as important. I hope we're getting to the point where we can avoid free-agent pitching unless the perfect fit is out there.

Jon__Guest: Theo, are you expecting to call up Ellsbury, Bucholtz, Moss, Lopez, and others on September 1??

Theo Epstein: We haven't communicated our call-up plans to the players yet, but there's a good chance some or all of the players you mentioned will be back in September. I think our young call-ups will have a chance to impact our team this year rather than just benefit from the developmental experience.

Rick__Boston___Guest: Hi, Theo. I assume you know who the PTBNL in the Pena deal is, but can't announce it until after the season. Do you think you could subtly sneak his name into a song on Friday?

Theo Epstein: I would try, but MLB is always listening.

DUDE__Guest: Theo, are you worried that the Yankees are [five] games back. What are your thoughts, and do you think the Red Sox will win the East?

Theo Epstein: We'd rather be up 14 games, of course, but we have to be somewhat satisfied with a five-game lead given how well the Yankees have played over the last 2 1/2 months. We're well enough positioned now so that we'll get what we deserve. If we play well down the stretch, we should get into October without concern. If we don't play well when it matters ... well, then we probably don't deserve to be playing into October. I am confident that these players have what it takes.

Quaid007__Guest: Hi, Theo. I was wondering if you ever talk to Brian Cashman about potential trades between Sox and Yanks. Is it ever a possiblility?

Theo Epstein: We joke around about possible deals now and then, but it's not really taken seriously. I suppose under the right circumstances it would be a possibility, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

NUCuneo35__Guest: Hi, Theo. Thanks so much for all the hard work you do. Very much appreciated. I wanted to ask you a question concerning Wily Mo Pena. He seemed like a terrific kid and talented. It seems he's already fit in with Washington and is playing more. Can you explain the importance of a younger player, such as Wily Mo and even Jacoby Ellsbury, getting the chance to play every day instead of them serving as a fourth outfielder with the Red Sox? This seems to be to be a key to their development. Thanks again!

Theo Epstein: Young players certainly benefit from playing every day. In Pena's case, we hoped that he would get enough at-bats here to unlock his potential, even in a fourth OF role. We suffered the usual injuries in the outfield last year and Pena had a good season filling in. This year, we've been pretty healthy and he never got the chance. There's a good chance he'll blossom offensively if given the opportunity. With prospects like Ellsbury, it's usually a good idea to let them play every day in the minor leagues rather than sit five out of seven days in the big leagues. Being patient with young position players is very important.

richsmith46__Guest: Theo, I read that Matt Clement is progressing really well. Will he pitch for Boston this year and if so in what capacity?

Theo Epstein: Matt is making progress and may be ready to pitch in a game setting around the end of the season. Whether or not he makes enough progress to pitch in an actual major league game remains to be seen.

Sea_Dog_Fan__Guest: Assuming Eric Gagne turns his recent sruggles around, and maybe that he becomes the dominant pitcher he is capable of being, what are the chances he could be brought back to close for the Red Sox? This would enable Papelbon to move to the starting rotation as was originally planned, and was this the long-term hope in acquiring Gagne?

Theo Epstein: Gagne was acquired to give us another option to set up Papelbon this year and to make sure Okajima and others got enough rest down the stretch. Gagne will definitely straighten things out -- he's just too good to continue to struggle -- but Papelbon sure seems like the Sox closer for a long time.

SLC_BoSox_fan__Guest: Theo, you probably get asked this question a lot, but I am curious as to how often, if at all, you factor in a "gut feel" while making a decision or is it all analytics?

Theo Epstein: We try to do as much analysis as possible. The best decision-making processes usually involve the most information, the most preparation. But every decision also involves reliance on instincts as well. We try to make sure we have things covered from an objective standpoint even as we acknowledge that most decisions require a subjective balancing of close competing interests.

Corey_Hart__Guest: Hi, Theo. Where do you stand on the "value of a strikeout" debate? Does a strikeout, on average, hurt your offense more than any other out?

Theo Epstein: Not over the course of a season or any large sample. Of course, there are certain situations in which the strikeout is much more damaging than a more productive out.

soxfan33__Guest: Hey, Theo! How's it going? I was wondering if you could talk about the Sox plans on the catcher situation for the rest of the season. Tek is obviously a key part to the success of the team, but he can't be a one-man show. Kevin Cash has done well the past 2 nights, especially with catching Wake. Any news of Mirabelli? Will we be seeing George Kottaras, or are Tek and Cash going to be running the show, at least til Doug can come back? Thanks, Theo!

Theo Epstein: Cash did a great job last night battling through the first inning and stabilizing the game for Wakefield. He's an excellent defensive catcher and knows how to call a game. With Mirabelli out for at least two weeks, we'll rely on Cash to rest Jason. I'm sure we'll end up carrying three catchers in September.

Deeply_Concerned__Guest: I am concerned about the lack of offensive production. What moves, if any, can be made between now and the playoffs to strengthen the batting order?

Theo Epstein: We've actually scored the third-most runs in the league (fourth-most in all of baseball), although I know it doesn't always seem that way. Our offense can be frustrating at times because we get so many guys on base and therefore leave more runners on base than most clubs. Hitting with runners in scoring position is something that evens out over the course of time, although, again, I know it doesn't always seem that way. We'd love to lead the league in run-scoring as we did from 2003-05, but that's not the type of team we have this year. If you have the best pitching in baseball and score the third-most runs in the league, that's usually a pretty successful formula.

TheGreenMiles__Guest: Who's the best Red Sox prospect most fans don't know about, and who's the best band most music fans haven't heard?

Theo Epstein: Jed Lowrie is still fairly unknown for a guy having the type of success he's having. He's improved at SS and has been getting on base and driving the ball all year long. As for underappreciated bands, check our Buffalo Tom's great new album ... and hear them Friday night at Fenway during Hot Stove Cool Music.

eddie__Guest: With Youk playing a gold glove first base, is it safe to say he is going to stay there or is moving him to 3rd in the cards?

Theo Epstein: Youk has been outstanding defensively at first base. We're not necessarily in a rush to move him off of first, but his ability to play either corner certainly comes in handy.

Dan_Hahn__Guest: What do you think of the fact that it costs a family of four almost $200 just to get into Fenway?

Theo Epstein: We're very mindful of how expensive Fenway can be. The business side of the organization is always looking for ways to make Fenway more affordable for families, and, here on the baseball side, we work very hard to try to reward our fans for their great support with October baseball.

mm__Guest: Why have we not seen Craig Hansen much this year?

Theo Epstein: Craig has been continuing his development in Triple-A Pawtucket. He was really putting things together before a recent minor injury. You'll see more of him in the future.

Mr__Funk__Guest: Theo, what is your favorite Red Sox memory from growing up?

Theo Epstein: Probably Dave Henderson's home run against the Angels in Game 5 of the '86 ALCS. That was such a great game, capped off by a season-saving homer. Great moment ... and I had tickets to Game 7 and really wanted to go!

Theo Epstein: Thanks for your time, everyone. I have to run; sorry I couldn't get to all your questions.

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About Theo Epstein
Theo EpsteinTheo Epstein is the general manager of the Boston Red Sox, who made him the youngest GM in major league history by hiring him at age 28. In 2004 he engineered the first World Series championship by the Red Sox in 86 years.

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