New Podding the Red Sox episode: Red Sox minor-league coach Chris Hess joins the show

On this week’s installment of Podding the Red Sox: A BloggingtheRedSox.com Podcast, I am joined by one of the Red Sox’ newest minor-league coaches in Chris Hess.

Among the topics Hess and I discussed were his college career at the University of Rhode Island, how he found out he got drafted in 2017, his professional career with the Yankees, what led him to join the Red Sox as a minor-league coach, what it will be like to work with Bianca Smith, and much more.

The episode is available to listen to on iTunes and Spotify, among other platforms.

Thanks to Chris for taking some time out of his Thursday night to have a conversation with me. You can check out his 401 Elite Baseball Training program by clicking here.

Thank you for listening and we will see you next time! Please make sure to subscribe and leave a five-star review if you can!

(Picture of Chris Hess: Rhody Rampage)

Red Sox promote Ben Crockett to senior vice president of baseball operations, Brian Abraham to director of player development in slew of personnel moves

The Red Sox announced several major- and minor-league personnel moves on Friday afternoon, highlighted by Ben Crockett being promoted to the club’s senior vice president of baseball operations and Brian Abraham being promoted to the club’s director of player development.

Crockett, 41, previously served as Boston’s vice president of player development from 2016-2020 and has been with the organization since 2007 after interning in their baseball operations department.

His promotion to SVP of baseball ops. comes a few weeks after longtime Red Sox executive Zack Scott left the organization to become assistant general manager of the New York Mets.

Scott has since been named New York’s acting general manager after the club fired Jared Porter on January 19 for harassing a female reporter in 2016.

Crockett, a Topsfield, Mass. native, played college baseball at Harvard University, and emerged as a legitimate right-handed pitching prospect there as evidenced by him getting drafted twice.

The first time around, Crockett — a junior — was selected by the Red Sox in the 10th round of the 2001 amateur draft. He did not sign with his hometown team.

The second time around, Crockett — now a senior — was selected by the Rockies in the third round of the 2002 amateur draft. He went on to sign with Colorado and spend five years in their minor-league system.

Since calling it a playing career, Crockett has undertaken a variety of roles within the Red Sox’ scouting and player development machine. From 2008-2009, he served as an advance scouting coordinator; from 2010-2011, he served as assistant director of player development; and from 2012-2016, he served as director of player development.

That role has now been taken over by Abraham, who, like Crockett, attended a local school in the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester.

The 36-year-old was born and raised in Worcester, too, and he got his start in professional baseball by spending six years in the Blue Jays’ organization “primarily working in advance scouting and video operations” from 2007-2012.

With Boston, Abraham has worked as a major-league staff assistant (2013-2014), assistant director of player development (2015-2018), and most recently director of minor-league operations (2018-2020).

In addition to the promotions of Crockett and Abraham, the Red Sox also announced that Chris Stasio has been promoted to the role of manager of baseball development, Shawn Haviland has been promoted to the role of senior pitching coordinator, Kirby Retzer has been promoted to the role of assistant strength and conditioning coordinator, Paddy Steinfort has been promoted to the role of senior mental skills coordinator and Adan Severino has been promoted to the role of Latin American mental skills coordinator.

In terms of new additions, Harry Roberson has been hired as the club’s coordinator of player development, Julio Rangel has been hired as the club’s performance pitching coordinator, and Gabriela Alfonso has been hired as the organization’s minor-league sports dietician.

Minor-league coaching staffs finalized:

The Red Sox’ pipeline of minor-league affiliates will be without the Lowell Spinners for this coming season, while Worcester is now the new home of the club’s Triple-A affiliate and the teams in Greenville, SC. and Salem, Va. have essentially switched places.

With that, here is how each affiliate’s coaching staff will stack up to start the new season:

Triple-A Worcester Red Sox
Manager: Billy McMillon
Additional Coach: Bruce Crabbe
Pitching Coach: Paul Abbott
Hitting Coach: Rich Gedman

Double-A Portland Sea Dogs
Manager: Corey Wimberly
Additional Coach: Ako Thomas
Pitching Coach: Lance Carter
Hitting Coach: Lance Zawadzki

High-A Greenville Drive
Manager: Iggy Suarez
Additional Coach: John Shelby III
Pitching Coach: Bob Kipper
Hitting Coach: Nate Spears

Low-A Salem Red Sox
Manager: Luke Montz
Additional Coach: Frankie Rios
Pitching Coach: Nick Green
Hitting Coach: Nelson Paulino

Fort Myers Complex
Manager: Tom Kotchman
Additional Coaches: Mickey Jiang, Bianca Smith, Chris Hess
Pitching Coaches: Dick Such, Brett Merritt, Jason Blanton
Hitting Coaches: Josh Prince, Junior Zamora

Dominican Republic Academy
Latin American Field Coordinator: Jose Zapata
Managers: Ozzie Chavez, Sandy Madera
Additional Coaches: Juan Hernandez, Claudio Sanchez, Carlos Vallejo, Leonel Vazquez
International Instructor: Amaury Garcia
Pitching Coaches: Oscar Lira, Humberto Sanchez
Hitting Coaches: Eider Torres, Danny Ortega

For more information on the Red Sox’ minor-league coaching staffs, check out this press release from the team.

(Picture of Red Sox logo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Red Sox make Bianca Smith hiring official, making her first Black woman to coach in history of professional baseball

In case you missed it, the Red Sox officially announced their hiring of Bianca Smith as a minor-league coach on Monday.

Smith, 29, becomes the first Black woman to coach in the history of professional baseball, which goes back to 1869.

“The opportunity is amazing,” Smith told MLB Network’s Matt Vasgersian and Harold Reynolds on Monday’s installment of Hot Stove. “I’m still wrapping my head around it. I probably won’t have it really sink in until I’m actually there.

“But, I think it’s a great opportunity also to inspire other women who are interested in this game,” she added. “This is not really something I thought about when I was younger, and I kind of fell into it being an athlete. So I’m excited to get that chance to show what I can do.”

Prior to signing on with the Red Sox, Smith played college softball at Dartmouth College from 2011-2012. She also has experience as director of baseball operations and a graduate assistant at Case Western Reserve from 2013-2017 as well as an assistant hitting coach at the University of Dallas in 2018.

Currently, Smith operates as an assistant baseball coach and hitting coordinator for Carroll University (Wisc.). She will remain in that role for the next few weeks before joining the Red Sox.

“Preparing for the season, I’m doing exactly what I’ve been doing for the last several years,” she said. “Just continue to keep learning, continue to keep researching. Doing as much as I can. I’ve still got several weeks here at Carroll, so I get to work with my players here. So that will be great preparation. I’m going to be nonstop coaching for about the next seven or eight weeks before I get started with the Red Sox.”

In her role with Boston, Smith will primarily work with minor-league position players at the club’s player development facility in Fort Myers.

The Pennsylvania native does also have prior experience working within major-league organizations, interning for both the Cincinnati Reds and Texas Rangers’ baseball operations departments in recent years.

“She was a great candidate coming in,” Red Sox vice president of player development Ben Crockett said of Smith. “She’s had some really interesting experiences and has been passionate about growing her skill set and development herself… It’s a meaningful, meaningful thing for the organization.”

According to MLB.com’s Ian Browne, the Red Sox are expected to introduce Smith to the media via Zoom conference sometime this week.

The Boston Globe’s Julian McWilliams was the first to report last week that the Red Sox were hiring Smith as a minor-league coach.

Information from MLB.com, MLB Network, and The Boston Globe was used in this article.

Red Sox make Will Venable hiring official, announce other coaching staff changes for 2021

Red Sox manager Alex Cora’s coaching staff for the upcoming 2021 season is now set.

While pitching coach Dave Bush, hitting coach Tim Hyers, assistant hitting coach Peter Fatse, first base coach Tom Goodwin, and third base coach Carlos Febles will retain the same roles they held this past season, changes have been made in other areas.

For starters, Will Venable has officially been named Red Sox bench coach after it was reported on Tuesday that he was going to get the job.

The former big-league outfielder had spent the previous three seasons as a first and third base coach with the Cubs, and he was one of several candidates who interviewed for Boston’s managerial opening last month.

That vacancy was ultimately filled by Cora, but the 38-year-old Venable now has the chance to strengthen his resume as a bench coach for the first time in his coaching career.

“Will is a bright, young mind that will add a lot to what is already a strong collection of coaches,” Cora said of Venable in a statement released by the team earlier Friday.

With Venable succeeding Jerry Narron, who succeeded Ron Roenicke, as bench coach, the Red Sox also named Jason Varitek as the club’s new game-planning coordinator.

For the past eight years, Varitek had been working for the Red Sox in a special assistant/catching coach capacity. He, like new quality control coach/interpreter Ramon Vazquez, will now step into more significant roles within the organization moving forward.

“I am also pleased that both Jason and Ramón will step forward and play larger roles for us,” Cora added.

Finally, Kevin Walker, who was named assistant pitching coach under Bush last October, has been named the Sox’ new bullpen coach. That position opened up when Craig Bjornson was let go by the club last month.

With his promotion, it would appear that the Red Sox could be in need of a new assistant pitching coach to take over for Walker unless they otherwise choose not to carry one next year.

That being said, Cora seems pleased with his new-look coaching staff as he prepares to embark on his second stint as Red Sox skipper.

“I am thrilled to have so many great baseball minds on our staff,” he said, “and I look forward to their contributions as we set out to achieve our goals.”

Red Sox Announce Bench Coach Jerry Narron, Bullpen Coach Craig Bjornson Will Not Return in 2021

The Red Sox will not be bringing back bench coach Jerry Narron or bullpen coach Craig Bjornson for the 2021 season, the club announced Monday morning.

Narron, 64, was named the Sox’ bench coach under Ron Roenicke back in February, which was the same role he served under Grady Little during the 2003 season.

Bjornson, meanwhile, had served as Boston’s bullpen coach for the past three seasons. The 51-year-old initially came over from the Astros shortly after Alex Cora was hired in November 2017.

In the same announcement, Boston also invited eight members of this year’s coaching staff back for the 2021 campaign.

Those coaches include hitting coach Tim Hyers, assistant hitting coach Peter Fatse, pitching coach Dave Bush, assistant pitching coach Kevin Walker, first base coach Tom Goodwin, third base coach Carlos Febles, coach Ramon Vazquez, and special assistant/catching coach Jason Varitek.

Outside of Fatse, all other Red Sox coaches who could return next season have been with the organization in some capacity for more than one year.

With that in mind, on top of the fact that there have been next to no rumors pertaining to the club’s ongoing managerial search, it would appear that old friend Alex Cora is a favorite to return to his old post and retain his title as the Sox’ 47th manager in franchise history.

The soon-to-be 45-year-old led the Red Sox to a World Series title in 2018 and was subsequently handed down a one-year ban from Major League Baseball this past April for the role he played in the Astros’ 2017 sign-stealing scandal.

That suspension for Cora runs through the end of this year’s World Series, so he will not be able to formally talk with any clubs about their managerial openings until the end of October.

Whether it be Cora or someone else, whoever Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom brings in as his club’s next manager will have more coaching staff decisions to make. The current openings at bullpen coach and bench coach are one thing, but more vacancies could be created if one of the names listed above leaves Boston for another organization this winter.

Red Sox Have Not Asked for Permission to Speak to Mets Bench Coach Hensley Meulens About Managerial Opening

The Red Sox have yet to seek permission from the New York Mets to speak with bench coach Hensley Meulens about their managerial opening, per Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen.

Van Waganen made this news clear after formally announcing that Luis Rojas, the club’s quality control coach, would be named manager less than a week after Carlos Beltran stepped down from the role due to being a key figure in the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal going back to the 2017 season.

According to multiple reports, the Mets interviewed three internal candidates in Rojas (quality control coach), Meulens (bench coach), and Tony DeFrancesco (first base coach), to replace Beltran before ultimately reaching a final decision on Wednesday.

Going back to this past Sunday, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported that the Sox had ‘shown interest’ in Meulens while he was still a candidate for the Mets job.

Now that that hole has been filled by Rojas, there are only two open managerial positions remaining in Boston and Houston.

In regard to the Astros job, owner Jim Crane has interviewed six candidates in Buck Showalter, John Gibbons, Will Venable, Dusty Baker, Eduardo Pérez and Joe Espada, according to the Houston Chronicle’s Chandler Rome.

There have been no links between Houston and Meulens, so perhaps now would be a good time for the Red Sox to reach out to the Mets bench coach about their managerial opening.

Of course, that all depends on the direction chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom wants to take here in either hiring a stopgap for one year before opening up a more extensive search next winter or hiring the ideal long-term guy right now.

Looking at his resume, Meulens, 52, has plenty of major-league coaching experience under his belt, as he served as Bruce Bochy’s hitting coach in San Francisco from 2010 until 2019. He was one of several candidates interviewed for the Yankees’ managerial opening prior to the start of the 2018 season and was named Mets bench coach last month.

The Curacao native also fits the mold of former major-league veterans who have gone onto become major-league managers, such as former Sox skipper Alex Cora.

When asked about the qualities he would like in Boston’s next manager at the Boston Baseball Writers Dinner last Thursday, Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts said that he would want “someone like Cora.”

This is not to say that Meulens is comparable to Cora, because I really do not know if he is. What I do know is that Meulens does have a relationship with Bogaerts thanks to him managing Team Netherlands in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. He also speaks five languages, two of which being English and Spanish.

Since the Red Sox have yet to be seriously linked to any other external managerial candidates, there could still be a long way to go in this search. Either that, or the club decides to go with an internal candidate, like current bench coach Ron Roenicke, instead. Plenty more to come for sure.

Red Sox Hire Dave Bush to Be New Pitching Coach

The Red Sox have reportedly hired pitching analyst and minor league coordinator Dave Bush to be their new pitching coach, according to Barstool Sports’ Jared Carrabis and confirmed by MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

Identified as the “clear front-runner” for the role by The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier earlier in the week, Bush has been with the Red Sox’ organization since 2016.

Going back to his playing days, the soon to be 40-year-old right-hander was originally drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the second round of the 2002 amateur draft out of Wake Forest University.

In 211 career big league appearances (187 starts) between Toronto, Milwaukee, Texas, and Toronto again from 2004 until April 7th, 2013, Bush posted an ERA of 4.73 and FIP of 4.69 over 1,141 1/3 total innings pitched. He finished eighth in American League Rookie of the Year voting in 2004.

Per the Sox’ 2019 media guide, Bush, was promoted to pitching performance coordinator in January. He also spent two years coaching overseas through MLB International and for the Chinese and South African national teams before joining the Sox three years ago.

A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., Bush will be taking over for former Red Sox pitching coach Dana LeVangie, who was reassigned as a pro scout for the club earlier in the month.

This news also comes just two days after the Sox formally introduced Chaim Bloom as their new chief baseball officer, so it would be interesting to see how much influence he had in this decision given the notion that Boston is headed towards a more analytics-driven approach with their pitching staff.

Kevin Walker was named assistant pitching coach on Thursday.

 

Red Sox Have Reportedly Spoken to Former Reds Manager Bryan Price About Pitching Coach Opening

The Red Sox have reportedly spoken to former Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price about their vacancy at pitching coach, per Yahoo! Sports’ Tim Brown.

Price, 57, served as Cincinnati’s manger from the start of the 2014 season until April 19th of the 2018 campaign, but does have experience as a pitching coach, spending five years in the role with the Seattle Mariners from 2001-2005, four years in the role with the Arizona Diamondbacks from 2006 until May 2009, and another four years in the role with the Reds prior to his promotion to manager on October 21st, 2013.

In his most recent stint as pitching coach under Dusty Baker’s Reds, Price oversaw a Cincinnati pitching staff that posted a 4.01 team ERA in 2010, a 4.16 team ERA in 2011, a 3.34 team ERA in 2012, and a 3.38 team ERA in 2013.

The Red Sox as a team owned an ERA of 4.70 in 2019, good for the 12th-worst mark in all of baseball.

Price appears to be the first name linked to the Sox’ pitching coach opening since the club reassigned Dana LeVangie two weeks ago.

Dana LeVangie out as Pitching Coach, Andy Barkett out as Assistant Hitting Coach as Red Sox Announce Coaching Staff Changes

The Red Sox announced changes to their coaching staff earlier Tuesday, and out of all the moves made, now-former pitching coach Dana LeVangie accepting a new role with the club as a pro scout probably stuck out the most.

LeVangie, 50, has been with the Sox since 1991, when he was selected in the 14th round of the amateur draft out of American International College in Springfield, Mass. that year.

Serving as a bullpen catcher, pro scout, advance scout, and bullpen coach in his time with Boston, the Whitman native was named Alex Cora’s pitching coach back in November of 2017 and oversaw a pitching staff that was one of the best in the American League en route to a 119-win season and historic World Series title in 2018.

2019 was a different story though, as the Red Sox finished with the ninth-worst team ERA (4.70) in the American League. Narrowing those numbers down to just the starting rotation, Boston ranked seventh in ERA (4.95), seventh, in fWAR (11.0), and eighth in innings pitched (806).

As difficult as it is to pin all these struggles on LeVangie, along with now-former assistant pitching coach Brian Bannister, someone had to take the fall. Bannister will also remain with Boston as vice president of pitching development, so it seems his role will primarily focus on aiding minor league pitchers in their development, as the above tweet mentions.

The news pertaining to Andy Barkett, meanwhile, was first reported last Wednesday and is now official.