New Red Sox manager John Farrell knew a week ago that he wanted Torey Lovullo to become his bench coach. There was really no second choice.
The two have been friends for nearly 20 years, meeting as teammates in 1993 and working together for five years in player development for the Cleveland Indians. Lovullo then coached under Farrell for two seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays.
During a 28-minute conference call on Friday to discuss Lovullo’s appointment, he and Farrell bantered about the old days and discussed the future, often using the same phrases.
“Excited is probably an understatement,” Lovullo said about his new job.
The familiarity, trust and professional respect underscored to what degree that was missing with the Red Sox this season with Bobby Valentine and his bench coach, Tim Bogar. The two feuded to the point of not speaking, the bitterness going back to 1997 when Valentine cut Bogar from the Mets.
On most teams, the bench coach serves a clubhouse liaison for the manager, helping communicate with the players and smoothing out problems before they fester. For the Red Sox, those lines snapped early in the season and were never repaired.
In Farrell and Lovullo, there’s a partnership that should contribute to success on the field.
“The relationship we formed is pretty unique. I think we developed a natural confidence in one another,” Lovullo said. “I can look over at John and at times get a feel from just watching some of his reactions to what he’s thinking. That will be advantage for me in being in the dugout with him. I think we’ll be able to challenge one another; I think we’ll be able to inspire one another.”
Farrell and Lovullo played together for the Angels in 1993 and with Triple A Buffalo in 1995. In 2003, when Farrell became Cleveland’s director of player development, Lovullo managed Single A Columbus then made his way up the Cleveland ladder.
Lovullo managed Triple A Pawtucket for the Red Sox in 2010 then accompanied Farrell to Toronto as the first base coach.
“You first connect with a person on the way they live their life, the way they view the game [and] they way they interact with people. That was present in ’93 when we were teammates out in Anaheim with the Angels,” Farrell said.
“You see how people react to certain challenges. Watching Torey handle his own team in the minor leagues over a number of years in Cleveland gave a lot of those examples. I can tell you, they weren’t always the easy ones. Whether they were issue that arose with a given team; whether they were things inside the framework of a team. There were some fires that we had to put out along the way.”
Lovullo, 47, played parts of eight seasons in the majors before retiring in 2000 after playing in Japan. The Red Sox interviewed him during their managerial search last year and Valentine considered him for bench coach.
Farrell said that Lovullo would coordinate plans for spring training and make sure everything runs smoothly in Fort Myers. He also will be charge of the team’s running game.
Like former Red Sox manager Terry Francona did with his bench coaches, Farrell plans to use Lovullo to inform players of expected lineup switches the night before they happen.
Their relationship is such, Farrell said, that Lovullo would have no reluctance to make a suggestion during even tense moments of a game.
“That’s what allows you to weigh all the options that might be present, even though I might not be thinking of them. To have that free-flow and not have anything held back, those barriers aren’t there,” Farrell said.
Lovullo said his aim would be to provide Farrell with as much information as he can about players to help the manager make better decisions.
“We’ve got to make sure we’re thorough in our preparations,” he said. “I think John used the word ‘relentless.’ To never be underprepared. That’s the first and foremost thought that I have in moving forward in this position.”
The Red Sox did not name their coaching staff until Dec. 23 last season. But as November approaches, Farrell is moving diligently to get that done. The Red Sox have asked permission to speak to Rick Peterson, Baltimore’s director of pitching, about becoming the pitching coach.
“We’ve got some work to go,” Farrell said. “We’re deep into it in terms of not only building lists as they relate to each position on the staff but getting recommendations and going deeper than just out personal relationships with an individual candidate. We’re working through. We’d like to get it done sooner than later. But we’re not going to take any shortcuts just to put names in positions.”