The Red Sox remain without a GM but the team made more changes to the medical staff today as Diamondbacks trainer Paul Lessard was named as the Sox’ new head athletic trainer.
Former head trainer Jim Rowe will stay with the Red Sox to coordinate sports medicine throughout the organization. In addition, Scott Waugh will return as the club’s rehab coordinator.
“We are pleased to make these changes that are designed to increase and improve the quality of care that the players receive in our organization,” said Red Sox Medical Director Dr. Thomas Gill. “We are thrilled to add Paul Lessard, who is recognized across the industry as a strong leader in the field of athletic training with considerable experience at the major league level. We are also eager to see Jim Rowe, who is among the most-respected and highly-regarded individuals in the game, continue his work with the club by coordinating sports medicine throughout the organization.
“In Paul, we welcome home a Connecticut native and graduate of Northeastern University with 10 years at Boston University and Holy Cross before spending the last eight with the Diamondbacks. In Jim, we have a professional with 11 years of experience with the Red Sox who will continue to be based at Fenway, but whose influence will be felt through the minor leagues as well. This combination may be the best in Major League Baseball.
“In addition, Scott Waugh last season brought to the club a lengthy and impressive history of success in rehabbing athletes back to elite condition, and we are excited for his return in 2006.
“I look forward to working with all three as we appoint an assistant athletic trainer and a strength and conditioning coach to enhance our staff and improve our injury prevention and medical research.”
Major League Baseball rules changed after the 2005 season, and now require that each club employ a certified, full-time strength and conditioning coach.
Lessard, 43, has been the only head athletic trainer in Diamondbacks history. The Stamford, CT, native was named to the position prior to the club’s inaugural campaign in 1998. Lessard spent 10 years combined at Boston University (1988-94) and the College of the Holy Cross (1994-97) as head athletic trainer. Before joining BU, Lessard spent two years as the assistant athletic trainer for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and one season in the New York Yankees organization as the trainer at their Fort Lauderdale affiliate in 1987.
Lessard graduated from Northeastern in 1986 with a degree in athletic training, and he is a member of the Eastern Athletic Trainers Association and the Athletic Trainers Organization of Massachusetts.
The Red Sox had previously fired popular physical therapist Chris Correnti in October. The Globe’s Gordon Edes and Chris Snow wrote about the decision at that time:
“Red Sox players will not be happy with the club’s unexpected decision to fire physical therapist Chris Correnti, who joined the organization in 1994, has been with the big-league club in his current role since 2001, and is widely credited for creating the exercise program that allowed Pedro Martinez to thrive despite shoulder trouble. Pitcher Mike Timlin called it a ‘tremendous loss.’
“Correnti, who was informed of the decision several days ago, was blindsided, and numerous players have contacted him expressing their dismay, according to club sources.
“His supporters point out that Correnti, whose primary responsibility was working with pitchers, worked this season with 26 pitchers, tying a club record, and did an outstanding job maintaining the staff’s health. Curt Schilling (ankle surgery), Keith Foulke (knee surgery), Wade Miller (shoulder), and Matt Mantei (ankle surgery) were the notable exceptions, and Schilling’s conditioning did become an issue during the season.
“Medical director Thomas Gill, who replaced team doctor Bill Morgan at the start of the season, is believed to have asked Epstein to approve the change, though Gill would not comment and Epstein did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
“No replacement has been named, though it appears the Sox have one in the wings. Jim Rowe remains the team’s trainer.
“‘He was a great trainer,’ Timlin said by phone yesterday. ‘Not only did he understand the medical aspect of it, he integrated that with strength training and your on-the-field performance. The resource they had in that person is a tremendous loss.'”
Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling also commented on the firing of Correnti on sports radio WEEI on Oct. 29:
“I think myself and probably 24 other guys have talked to Chris repeatedly over the last 7-10 days,” Schilling said. “I think that he was fired stunned us to say the least. I think there was a personality difference between the incoming medical group and some of the people that exist here now and I think that started last year when Dr. Morgan was fired but that’s I guess, as a player, you can have an opinion but it tends to really not matter in situations like this, when people that aren’t on the field are making the decisions and that’s unfortunate.
“I’m not really sure (if it was a personality or philosophy conflict) and I would be speculating but probably a combination of both. But as a player I don’t care. That stuff doesn’t matter to me. What matters to me is that there’s people that I trust with my career in the clubhouse and around me on a daily basis. Honestly, I probably spend as much time in or at or around Chris Correnti as I did with my family this year, as did other players on this team and I have two years left in my career and I look at that job and that role and I see a guy who made it real easy for me to get what I needed to get done and not having that is a lot… I don’t know, it’s just disappointing. Mr. Henry wanted to bring in a new medical staff and wants to make this the premier medical situation in baseball and that’s he and Mr. Werner’s obviously their decision and it’s their franchise. It’s unfortunate to me that, again, I think the human element is not factored in nearly enough when it comes to decisions away from the players.”
When asked if Correnti would be part of his offseason preparation, Schilling replied “Absolutely. Absolutely. Chris will be a vital part of whatever happens with me over the next two years and I would imagine quite a few other guys that he had a major, major hand in. Because if you look at it going through this season, we did not have one pitcher go down with an arm injury, other than Wade (Miller) who came in with a preexisting condition.
“Chris is one of the, probably tied for me with the best I’ve ever been around on a baseball field as far as handling pitchers and getting pitchers ready, but he’ll be in baseball somehow, some way at some point here, so we’ll figure it out.”