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Management course

Epstein stresses that Sox can right the ship

The weather in New York eliminated on-field warm-ups for Conor Jackson (left) and Josh Reddick, which was just as well since the Red Sox and Yankees were rained out in their series opener, leading to a day-night doubleheader tomorrow. The weather in New York eliminated on-field warm-ups for Conor Jackson (left) and Josh Reddick, which was just as well since the Red Sox and Yankees were rained out in their series opener, leading to a day-night doubleheader tomorrow. (Uli Seit for The New York Times)
By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / September 24, 2011

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NEW YORK - General manager Theo Epstein accompanied the Red Sox to Yankee Stadium for a weekend series that could determine whether the $161 million team he built advances to the postseason or goes down in history for its September collapse.

Before last night’s game was postponed by rain, Epstein sat in the dugout and spoke to reporters about the Sox having lost 14 of their last 18 games, and other issues.

“We still have an opportunity to get where we want to go. It’s all on us to turn this thing around. We don’t have any excuses; not an excuse in the world,’’ he said. “It’s time to step up and show what we’re made of.

“This is a stretch of disappointing play and we own that. We can’t run away from that. It’s certainly not too late. We’re fortunate in a sense that we can wake up, play one good week of baseball, and have a great opportunity in the postseason.’’

Epstein said he senses “frustration’’ within the clubhouse. In meetings with the players, he has stressed that continuing the collapse is not inevitable.

“They feel the same way. It’s what happens after you get knocked on your ass that matters,’’ he said. “We were on our ass in April and our players dug deep and pulled themselves out.

“Given how we’ve played, we’re fortunate that we do control our fate here. All you really ask for in baseball, and in life, is a chance to carve your own path. We have that opportunity. No one’s going to remember April, no one’s going to remember the last two weeks. Everyone’s going to remember what happens next.’’

Poor pitching has led to the collapse. Red Sox starters have a 6.75 earned run average in the last 18 games in part because of a lack of depth. Rookie righthander Kyle Weiland has been forced into a role he is not ready for, and the Sox have stuck with underachieving John Lackey because of a lack of options.

“We have the capability to pitch well. We haven’t. [But] we can get this done,’’ Epstein said. “You’d always like to be deeper. You’d always like to be healthier. You’d always like to have more guys on a roll. Right know we’re searching to find it. We can. We can do it.

“It was sort of a confluence of events that left us exposed. We need to bounce back from that. We still have a lot of talent on this roster and can still win games. The things that were foreseeable, we foresaw and we did the best we could to plan around it. If it’s not good enough, it’s not good enough and I’ll own that.’’

Epstein said the organization bears responsibility for not having prospects ready to step in.

“We had a number of guys we thought [were] positioned fairly well in the farm system to step up and take a more meaningful role,’’ he said. “But development is not linear, and it just so happened that those players didn’t develop exactly the way we wanted on the perfect time frame for how our injuries coincided. That happens.

“We have to own that as an organization. That didn’t happen. There were injuries that occurred, and we didn’t necessarily match up with the trade market to go and replace those guys. That happens. If I had done a better job, maybe we would have had better backup solutions.’’

Epstein defended left fielder Carl Crawford, who is having one of the poorest seasons of his career after signing a seven-year, $142 million contract.

“Obviously if you could pinpoint an exact reason why it happens, someone would have done something to address it by now,’’ Epstein said. “I’ll say this, he’s never stopped working his tail off. He’s never stopped fighting. He’s shown accountability, taking responsibility for the year he’s had. That’s a great sign, a great indication that he’s going to bounce back from this.’’

Epstein spoke confidently about the team being able to emerge from its crisis with a collective effort.

“It’s hard on everybody. But I think it’s a good opportunity to demonstrate some leadership. Not just me, but [Terry Francona] and the coaches and the management and ownership,’’ he said. “I don’t see any sign of panicking.

“I will say this, win a game or two in a row and this team will feel unburdened a little bit and get dangerous in a hurry. It starts with winning one game.’’

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

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