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Theo Epstein: 'We've pulled ourselves out of this before'

Posted by Steve Silva, Boston.com Staff  September 12, 2011 09:40 AM

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Despite the panic across Red Sox nation this morning, Theo Epstein is remaining positive and hopeful that his team can turn things around in the last 16 games of the season.

The Red Sox general manager spoke this morning about the team's swoon, and revealed that J.D. Drew has a broken finger, in an interview on WEEI's "Dennis and Callahan Show:"

ďWe have an opportunity ahead of us to play good baseball for two and a half weeks, ride that momentum into the postseason. If we don't do it, we don't deserve to be there," Epstein said. "We have to prove that we were the team that had the best record in baseball, four plus months, we're not the team that started 2-10 and went 3-10 most recently, so that's on us. We need to go out and do it."

Epstein said there wasn't one specific reason for the current collapse.

"It's never one factor," Epstein said."There are a lot of things that we're not doing well right now, and those are all contributing obviously. We're not getting very good starting pitching right now, our bullpen is in a downturn. We have some guys that are not having the kind of at bats that they've had throughout the course of the season. We're not playing great defense. We're making some mistakes with the balls in play so a little bit of everything contributed to it. It's not just one thing, it's just right across the board why we've had a really bad couple of weeks."

More from Theo's Q&A with WEEI:

On if the bad play becomes contagious throughout the team:

Epstein: "It seems that way. It's hard to tell whether it actually is. It probably is to a small extent and beyond that it's just seems that way when so many things aren't going well. I do think that when you have a run of bad starting pitching, it does obviously impact the bullpen, and has a little bit of effect on the offense as well. They go into at-bats early in the game feeling like they're down 5-0, sometimes they are, sometimes it just feels that way, and it's hard to have, especially with our kind of approach, you need to be patient, you need to have good at-bats, let the other guys knock you in, sort of the group offense mentality. Hard to have those kind of at-bats when you feel like you need to put a crooked number on the board all the time. I'm sure that's the way it is, guys start looking at each other wondering who's going to step up, sure. When you're playing well, we won two out of every three games over four months, there's a contagiousness to that when you're expecting things to go well, and when you're on the other side of the coin, sure, you're expecting things to go poorly.

"The thing we have going for us here, beyond the fact that we're a very good team just not playing like it right now, is that weíve pulled ourselves out of this before. April was no walk in the park, different from September, you've got the length of the season to fix things, but you were around the team then, you remember what that was like, That was not fun. And this team did a great job of pulling itself out of that, so we certainly can do it again and have to. Weíve been punched in the mouth here a little bit, itís how we respond that matters."

On J.D. Drew's finger injury:

Epstein: "J.D.ís got a broken finger, he's had an avulsion fracture of his middle finger so it needs to heal, hopefully he can come back. We haven't ruled anything out with him. He wants to be out there. He cut back his rehab game, went 3-for-3, then in that last at-bat broke that finger. So, he's doing the best he can and we want to try to get him back as soon as we can. Same as the case for a number of other guys that we've had out for a long time here."

On John Lackey's struggles:

Epstein: "Again, I think it's a number of factors. We were pretty hopeful for a while there that he would pull himself out of it. He had a run of good starts, was starting to throw the ball better, had a little bit of regression here lately but that's what makes it frustrating. If it were that easy to pinpoint, obviously he would have made an adjustment by now so it's a continual struggle to try to pinpoint exactly what's going on with him and make adjustments so he can help us."

On the message he wants to send to the players:

Epstein: "For me the message is, and obviously I think this purveys the clubhouse, is that itís not what happens to you, every team is going to stumble, every team is going to get kicked in the mouth. Itís how you respond. Itís incumbent upon us to respond the right way. If we don't respond the right way, there's going to be night after night after night that every single one of those players is going to wake up and say ĎGosh we were three and a half up with 17 games to play, and we felt like it was slipping away from us, why didnít we just come out and play great baseball the way we had for most of the year.'

As much as this team [has] a massive problem, this is a tremendous opportunity to respond for the second time in one regular season after some horrendous play with great opportunity to be had beyond that. If we can right the ship and we will, not only will we be where we want to be at the end of the regular season but we're going to have great momentum heading into postseason. I'm glad we play the Rays four times coming up. If we can't right the ship against these guys, if we can't do what we need to do, we probably donít deserve to get into the postseason. As much of this looks like a crisis from the outside and obviously hasn't been fun from the inside, this is an opportunity. If we are what we think we are, to quote somebody else, then this is a great opportunity for us to go play well for two and a half weeks, ride the momentum into the postseason, and be the team we were for four months, the best team in baseball over four months, and we have to go do that."

On if players assumed they were already in the postseason a little prematurely?

Epstein: "I canít get into the minds of every single player in that clubhouse. I donít think so. There's always been a focus to go out and win that nightís game. When Tito and I get together after the games, talk about how we played, and then he asks what happens in the other games beyond the scoreboard, weíve always been talking about the Rays. Even when we were 10 up a couple of weeks ago, whatever it was. We never really fully erased them from radar. yeah you want the division, and we do want the division, still want the division. You look ahead of you, and in a division like this you're always looking around you. Sure it looked good. We put ourselves in position where it looked good. It still looks good if we play the way we're supposed to, but I don't think we ever took 100 percent for granted that we're in the playoffs. You have play until you spray champagne and then you can look to the postseason. We're not there yet and we've got a lot of work to do ahead of us now to get there."

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