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Red Sox notebook

Young enjoys homecoming

Pitching coach gets reacquainted

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / April 20, 2011

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OAKLAND, Calif. — Most days, the Red Sox coaching staff arrives at the ballpark around lunchtime to start preparing for the game that night. For pitching coach Curt Young, yesterday was a particularly busy day.

Young spent 23 years in the Oakland organization — 12 as a player, four as a minor league coach, then seven as the pitching coach under two managers.

He was part of two playoff teams as a pitcher and another as a coach. He helped develop a number of All-Stars, including Oakland’s latest ace, Trevor Cahill.

“I have a lot of people to see,’’ Young said before last night’s 5-0 loss to the Athletics. “It’s nice to be back.’’

His first stop was the office of Oakland manager Bob Geren.

“Good guy, good friend,’’ said Geren. “He seems to be enjoying his East Coast experience. He did a great job for us. It was great to see him again.’’

Hiring the 51-year-old Young was considered a coup for the Red Sox. When former pitching coach John Farrell left the organization to manage the Blue Jays, general manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona agreed that Young was their top candidate.

“The question was whether it was realistic to get him,’’ Francona said.

Young rejected a one-year contract offer from Oakland in October and jumped to the Sox for a better deal a few days later.

Young had a rocky start with the Sox. His new pitching staff had a 7.18 ERA through the first 10 games this season. Opponents were hitting .277 and had 21 home runs. Pitching wasn’t the only reason the team was 2-8, but it was a significant part of the problem.

Francona could see how much of a strain that put on Young.

“It’s hard on everybody,’’ said Francona. “That’s the way we make our living. But he’s a really good pitching coach and an even better person.

“I think it’s human nature. We care about it a lot. It’s the way we make our living, but it’s a heck of a lot more than a job. It’s our passion.’’

Said Young, “You take it personal as a pitching coach. When your group of guys aren’t doing what you expect on a consistent basis, you’re always looking for ways to help each individual and the entire staff.’’

The five games that followed were a marked improvement. The Sox had a 2.60 ERA, gave up one home run, and opponents hit .194. The team arrived here yesterday having allowed three earned runs in the last 27 innings thanks to shut-down efforts by Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

“Now we’re getting to a point where we want to be as an entire staff,’’ Young said. “This is a group of guys who can get on a roll. You can see that. When they’re all throwing the ball, we can go through a couple of cycles where everybody dominates.’’

Young never lost faith. During his seven years as Oakland’s pitching coach, the Athletics led the American League with a 4.03 ERA and held opponents to a .257 batting average. They also allowed the fewest home runs.

The A’s had a 3.56 ERA last season with 17 shutouts. Their starters had a 3.47 ERA, the lowest in the AL since the Sox starters had a 3.32 in 1990.

“He came here with a great reputation,’’ said Clay Buchholz. “We all knew what kind of staff Oakland had, and those guys always said great things about Curt.’’

On the way back Righthander Matt Albers, who has been on the disabled list since April 8 with a strained lat muscle, is scheduled to join the team in Anaheim tomorrow. He made a rehab appearance for Triple A Pawtucket last night, going two innings and allowing one hit with one strikeout against Syracuse.

Walk the line As of yesterday, Kevin Youkilis was tied with Bobby Abreu (Angels) and Jonny Gomes (Reds) for the most walks in baseball with 15. The Sox were third as a team with 67 walks. They had two last night (Youkilis did not walk) . . . Through 15 games, the Sox had one home run with a runner in scoring position in 143 chances. Overall, they were hitting .203 with runners in scoring position . . . David Ortiz had 13 hits, 11 walks, and 9 RBIs through 49 at-bats. He had 8 hits, 7 walks, and 4 RBIs in 56 at-bats last April . . . Dan Butler, a catcher with Single A Salem, was 3 for 4 with two doubles, a home run, and seven RBIs in a game against Lynchburg Monday night. He also walked and scored two runs. Butler was signed as a nondrafted free agent in 2009 . . . Darnell McDonald met with Sam Butler Callahan and his family before the game. Butler Callahan is a Bay area teen battling Ewing’s sarcoma, and when the Sox played the Giants last year, McDonald hit a home run off Madison Bumgarner while wearing a “Sam’s Team’’ bracelet. Sam’s grandfather is from Hingham and his grandmother is from Worcester.

Michael Vega and Dan Shaughnessy of the Globe staff contributed. Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com.

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