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.”

Chaim Bloom felt Alex Cora was ‘right choice’ for manager in order to move Red Sox forward

Upon his hiring last October, Red Sox chief baseball officer got the chance to become familiar with Alex Cora, who he likely presumed would be his manager for the foreseeable future.

Instead, as a result of his involvement in the 2017 Astros’ illegal stealing of signs, Cora and the Red Sox mutually agreed to part ways in January.

That left Bloom with a rather sizable hole to fill at the managerial position in a relatively short period of time.

Ron Roenicke, Cora’s bench coach the previous two seasons, eventually landed the job in February, but he served as more of a stopgap as anything upon his dismissal from the club in September.

Again, Bloom was tasked with finding the Red Sox’ next manager, this time with a little more time do so and a greater number of candidates to consider.

One of those candidates, Cora, could not be interviewed until after this year’s World Series ended, so that left Bloom with about a month to contemplate who else may be qualified for the job.

“When we started the process after the season, we spent a lot of time coming up with a really good list of candidates,” Bloom said at Cora’s re-introductory press conference Tuesday. “We vetted them very thoroughly, we talked to a number of people.”

Still, even when interviewing external candidates such as Sam Fuld or James Rowson, Bloom knew he wanted to talk to Cora before arriving at any final decision.

“I knew at that time that I wanted to have some kind of conversation with Alex when it was okay to do so, which wouldn’t be until after the World Series,” he continued. “I really didn’t know then if he was, in my mind, in real consideration for the job. I just thought it would be good for me, good for him, good for the organization since we really hadn’t spoken since everything happened in January.”

So, Bloom, general manager Brian O’Halloran, and Cora talked. That dialogue, by all accounts, was initiated by Bloom, and it led to a group of Red Sox officials flying down to Puerto Rico to speak with Cora in-person at his home.

“When the time came time to speak with him, we had a lot of different things to work through,” said Bloom. “We were able to have some really intense conversations. Obviously, everything was happening quickly within the week-plus after the World Series, but we got to work through a lot of things. It was really just a question of trying to get as much information as I could to see Alex in full; everything that he had done, good and bad, and everything that he might do.”

Of course, Cora was viewed as one of, if not the favorite to return to Boston even before his suspension had ended. That was mainly due to how highly Red Sox ownership thinks of Cora, which led to speculation that the likes of John Henry, Tom Werner, and Sam Kennedy would overrule Bloom on this matter if the latter was not in on Cora.

Speculation aside, Bloom assured the masses on Tuesday that he had full backing from ownership regardless of the decision he made on this matter.

“First and foremost, it was important that they play a role,” Bloom said of Henry and Co. “They’re responsible for the entire organization. I respect that there’s a lot of different opinions out there on Alex on what he did and what that should mean for any organization that might think about employing him. And it’s obviously important, since [ownership] is responsible for the organization, for me to know how they felt. To understand that if it was something baseball operations saw fit to do, that it was something they would support.

“Obviously, if that weren’t the case, it would have obviously been a different process,” he added. “So, not only do I think that that was appropriate, I actually think it was necessary to know how they felt. They also made sure I knew that if I or baseball ops. felt differently, then that was okay, too… They were emphatic that it’s very important that this be a baseball operations decision and they would fully back whatever decision we came to.”

At the end of the day, or last Thursday to be more specific, Bloom and his team ultimately decided that Cora’s strengths, such as his ability to effectively communicate information to players, outweigh any red flags that come with the hire, such as history with the Astros.

“I felt he was the right choice to move us forward,” Bloom said of Cora. “The goal in this process for me was to find the right person to lead the Boston Red Sox.”

Cora has already shown that he can move the Red Sox in the right direction before, as evidenced by leading the club to a World Series title in 2018. The 45-year-old will now get another shot to lead a team that looks quite different from the one he initially left nine months ago.

How Cora and Bloom’s relationship continues to develop over the course of the offseason and into spring training should be interesting to monitor as well.

Red Sox Officially Re-Introduce Alex Cora as Manager

The Red Sox officially re-hired Alex Cora as their next manager, the club announced earlier Friday evening.

Cora, who turned 45 last month, signed a two-year contract with the Sox that includes club options for the 2023 and 2024 seasons.

The native of Puerto Rico was originally named the 47th manager in Boston’s franchise history back in October 2017. His first stint with the Red Sox, highlighted by a World Series-winning campaign in 2018, came to an end in January when the two sides agreed to mutually part ways in the midst of Major League Baseball’s investigation regarding Cora’s role in the Astros’ 2017 sign-stealing scandal.

Now, nearly 10 months after he left the club, Cora is back and excited to manage once again.

“I  am grateful for the opportunity to manage once again and return to the game I have loved my entire life,” said Cora in a statement released by the Red Sox. “This past year, I have had time to reflect and evaluate many things, and I recognize how fortunate I am to lead this team once again. Not being a part of the game of baseball, and the pain of bringing negative attention to my family and this organization was extremely difficult. I am sorry for the harm my past actions have caused and will work hard to make this organization and its fans proud. I owe John Henry, Tom Werner, Mike Gordon, Sam Kennedy, Chaim Bloom and Brian O’Halloran my gratitude for giving me another chance. I am eager to get back to work with our front office, coaches, and especially our players. Boston is where I have always wanted to be and I could not be more excited to help the Red Sox achieve our ultimate goal of winning in October.”

The process of re-hiring Cora did not last all that long for the Sox, as they were free to interview him for the opening as soon as this year’s World Series camt to a close late last month.

Still, in a separate statement released by the team, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom acknowledged that conversations with Cora about a potential reunion were “lengthy, intense, and emotional.”

“Alex Cora is an outstanding manager, and the right person to lead our club into 2021 and beyond,” said Bloom. “The way he leads, inspires, and connects with everyone around him is almost unmatched, and he has incredible baseball acumen and feel for the game. We considered a very impressive slate of candidates – the brightest managerial prospects in the game today. Because of all that had happened, I knew that I wanted to speak with Alex once his suspension ended, but I didn’t yet know if it made sense to consider him for the job as well. Our conversations were lengthy, intense, and emotional. Alex knows that what he did was wrong, and he regrets it. My belief is that every candidate should be considered in full: strengths and weaknesses, accomplishments and failures. That is what I did with Alex in making this choice. He loves the Red Sox and the game of baseball, and because of that we believe he will make good on this second chance. I join our whole organization in welcoming Alex back to Boston and Fenway Park.”

Cora and Bloom were able to get acquainted a little bit prior to the former’s departure from the Sox in January, but they will now have the opportunity to get to know one another even better.

As for when Cora will be re-introduced to the media via a press/Zoom conference, it looks like that will not take place until next week.

It should be interesting to see what kind of questions Cora and whoever else is on the dais with him will have to field from reporters once that presser does take place.

Red Sox make bold decision in bringing back Alex Cora as manager

Regardless of who the Red Sox tabbed as their next manager, it was going to be a bold decision.

On one hand, there’s Alex Cora, who managed the Sox for two years before he and the team mutually agreed to part ways in January due to the role he played in the Houston Astros’ 2017 sign-stealing fiasco. Cora was ultimately handed down a one-year suspension by Major League Baseball in April. That season-long ban came to an end late last month, which allowed the 45-year-old to interview for any managerial opening.

On the other hand, there’s Sam Fuld, who has no experience managing in the majors, let alone the minor-leagues. The 38-year-old, like Cora, is a former major-league veteran. Rather than follow the same kind of path Cora embarked upon in his post-playing days, though, Fuld began the second leg of his baseball career in the Phillies’ front office.

Philadelphia initially hired the New Hampshire native in November 2017 to serve as player information coordinator before promoting him to director integrative baseball performance back in January.

In his time with the Phillies, Fuld has served as a conduit who worked to foster communication between players, coaches, and front office staff while also “[integrating] advanced metrics into game planning.”

As intriguing as his resume may appear, Fuld did not have the same luxury as Cora in that he was already familiar with most of the Red Sox’ higher-ups. Yes, he may have a “tight” relationship with chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom on account of the time they spent together with the Rays, but that likely does not amount to much when comparing it to Cora’s relationship with the likes of John Henry, Tom Werner, and Sam Kennedy.

So, in the end, the Red Sox went with what they were already familiar with: a known commodity in the form of Cora, who led the club to a historic World Series title in 2018 and is well regarded by players, ownership, and fans alike. The red flags with Cora were certainly there due to what he may have done during his time Houston’s bench coach, but the Sox do not seem all too concerned with that. They made it abundantly clear Cora was at the top of their list when team officials flew out to Puerto Rico to meet with him last week while other candidates traveled to Boston to interview for the opening.

It’s unclear at this point if Bloom would have preferred to bring in his own guy in Fuld and was overruled by club ownership on this particular decision. However, it is worth noting that before Cora initially left the Sox earlier this year, he and Bloom seemed to get along swimmingly during the latter’s first few months on the job as chief baseball officer.

Whoever may have made the final, bold decision on this matter, one thing is for certain: Cora is back managing the Red Sox, and he is likely here to stay.

Stay tuned for more in the days ahead.

Red Sox managerial search: Alex Cora, Sam Fuld viewed as finalists to land job

The Red Sox are entering the final stages of their weeks-long search for a new manager, and according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, former Red Sox manager Alex Cora and Phillies director of integrative baseball performan Sam Fuld are currently viewed as the favorites to land the job.

In addition to Heyman’s report, The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier wrote earlier Thursday that the Red Sox have begun narrowing the field of potential candidates to five — Cora, Fuld, Marlins bench coach/offensive coordinator James Rowson, Yankes bench coach Carlos Mendoza, and Pirates bench coach Don Kelly — to three, “and by Thursday evening, the search process was believed to be down to no more than two finalists.”

Those two finalists in this case would be none other than Cora and Fuld; one of whom already has a rapport with Red Sox brass while the other does not.

Cora also has two years of major-league managerial experience with the Sox as compared to Fuld’s zero.

The 45-year-old led Boston to a World Series title in 2018 and a third-place finish in 2019 and was seemingly well-regarded by players and ownership alike.

However, as Major League Baseball’s investigation into the Houston Astros’ illegal stealing of signs unfolded over the winter, it was revealed that Cora, who served as A.J. Hinch’s manager in 2017, may have played an integral role in the Astros’ schemes.

As a result of said investigation, Cora and the Red Sox mutually agreed to part ways in January, approximately three months before he was handed down a one-year suspension for his actions in Houston.

By the time Cora’s season-long ban came to an end at the conclusion of this year’s World Series, he was almost immediately labeled as the favorite to retain his old position with the Red Sox.

Most recently, a party of club officials that included the likes of chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and general manager Brian O’Halloran flew to Puerto Rico last Friday to speak with Cora in-person about the managerial opening.

The fact this meeting took place may lead one to believe it is Cora’s job to lose at this point, but it would appear that Fuld is also being seriously considered, per Heyman.

Fuld, a native of Durham, N.H., has spent the past three seasons in the Phillies’ front office, first serving as major-league player information coordinator before being promoted to the club’s director of integrative baseball performance in January.

A veteran of eight major-league seasons, the soon-to-be 39-year-old’s playing career included a three-year stint with the Rays from 2011 through 2013.

In Tampa Bay, Fuld built a strong and “tight” relationship with Bloom when the latter served as an executive there, one in which could help his case for the Sox’ managerial opening.

While Cora and Fuld share many of the same qualities, such as their abilities to successfully utilize analytics and foster communication between players and front office staff, Cora may have the upper hand due to experience alone.

Cora has already ingrained himself within the Red Sox organization. Players such as J.D. Martinez and Christian Vazquez gush about him, ownership gushes about him, even Bloom seemed to get along with him in their short time together last offseason.

Fuld, meanwhile, is somewhat of a complete stranger to the organization outside of his connection with Bloom. That would not seem to bode well for him, but if finding Ron Roenicke’s successor is truly Bloom’s ‘call to make,’ Fuld would be an obvious fit if he wants to bring in his own guy.

Whether Bloom has final say in this decision or he will be overruled by the likes of John Henry, Tom Werner, and Sam Kennedy has yet to be determined. One thing is for certain, though, and that is the notion that the Red Sox’ search for their next manager is nearly complete.

As MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo alluded to, “Friday [is looking like] a potential decision day.” We will have to wait and see on that. I still say it’s Cora.

The latest on the Red Sox’ managerial search

With the White Sox and Tigers both landing their new managers in the forms of Tony La Russa and A.J. Hinch this week, the Red Sox currently stand as the only club in baseball with a vacancy at manager as the month of October comes to a close.

From what has been reported, the Sox have interviewed seven candidates — Will Venable, Don Kelly, Luis Urueta, Skip Schumaker, James Rowson, Mike Bell, Carlos Mendoza — to fill that opening, though former manager Alex Cora has been viewed as the favorite to return to his old post.

As it turns out, Boston has indeed been in contact with Cora since his one-year suspension ended on Tuesday following the conclusion of the World Series, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

On top of that, assistant general manager Eddie Romero told Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Dia Friday that the Red Sox do plan to speak to Cora about the position, while MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that the club will interview the 45-year-old within the “coming days.”

In that same tweet from Heyman, we also learn that Mendoza, currently the Yankees’ bench coach, and Kelly, who serves the same role for the Pirates, have gotten second interviews for the job, which have actually happened in-person.

While Heyman notes that other candidates may have been interviewed a second time as well, it is worth noting that all three of Urueta (Diamondbacks bench coach), Venable (Cubs third base coach), and Bell (Twins bench coach) are now out of the running for Boston’s managerial opening, per Speier and MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

With that in mind, the list of managerial candidates chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. have composed to take over for the ousted Ron Roenicke can, at the moment, be narrowed down to Cora, Mendoza, Kelly, Schumaker (Padres associate manager), and Rowson (Marlins bench coach).

Of course, as Cotillo notes, these are just the names that have been leaked out. There still could be other candidates, such as Dodgers first base coach George Lombard and former major-league outfielder-turned-Phillies executive Sam Fuld, who the Sox have in mind and would like to speak to.

That being said, how Boston proceeds with their managerial search could very well make for an exciting weekend depending on how things play out from here. My guess is Cora is named manager by next Friday. We will have to wait and see on that, though.

Red Sox Managerial Search: Yankees Bench Coach Carlos Mendoza Interviewed for Opening, per Report

The Red Sox have reportedly interviewed Yankees bench coach Carlos Mendoza for their managerial opening, according to The New York Post’s George A. King III.

Per King, Mendoza has talked with the Tigers in regards to their vacancy at manager as well.

Mendoza, who turns 41 next month, has spent the last 12 seasons with the Yankees, most recently serving as manager Aaron Boone’s bench coach for the first time this year.

Prior to being named bench coach, the native of Venezuela worked two seasons as New York’s first-ever quality control and infield coach in 2018 and 2019. He also has experience as a coach and manager in the minor-leagues, as well as stints as manager for the Arizona Fall League’s Scottsdale Scorpions in 2012 and 2016.

A veteran of 13 minor-league and independent seasons as a professional, the former utility infielder is now the seventh confirmed managerial candidate the Sox have interviewed in recent weeks. The other six include Cubs third base coach Will Venable, Pirates bench coach Don Kelly, Diamondbacks bench coach Luis Urueta, Padres associate manager Skip Schumaker, Twins bench coach Mike Bell, and Marlins bench coach James Rowson.

Of course, as soon as this year’s World Series comes to a close, which will happen on either Tuesday or Wednesday, former Sox skipper Alex Cora will have finished serving his one-year suspension for the role he played in the Astros’ 2017 sign-stealing scandal.

Cora, who was at the helm in Boston for two years, is thought to be the favorite to return to his old post in place of the ousted Ron Roenicke, but given the qualities of the other candidates listed above, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and Co. could be looking to go in a new direction in terms of on-field team leadership. We will have to wait and see on that.

Red Sox Managerial Search: Padres Associate Manager Skip Schumaker, Twins Bench Coach Mike Bell, and Marlins Bench Coach James Rowson Have All Interviewed for Opening, per Report

The Red Sox have reportedly interviewed three more candidates for their managerial opening. Those three candidates? Padres associate manager Skip Schumaker, Twins bench coach Mike Bell, and Marlins bench coach James Rowson, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Kevin Acee and The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

Per Acee, Schumaker has already ‘interviewed for multiple managerial vacancies’ thus far, with the Red Sox being the latest.

The former big-league outfielder, who turns 41 in February, has spent the last five seasons with the Padres organization in both a front office and coaching capacity. His past roles with San Diego include assistant to baseball operations and player development under A.J. Preller, third base coach under Andy Green, and associate manager under Jayce Tingler.

Before embarking on his coaching career, Schumaker enjoyed an 11-year major-league career in which he racked up 905 hits in 1,149 games between the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Reds.

Bell, meanwhile, served as Twins manager Rocco Baldelli’s bench coach this past season in Minnesota. Prior to that, the soon-to-be 46-year-old had spent the previous 13 years with the Diamondbacks organization as a minor-league manager, minor-league field coordinator, director of player development, and vice president of player development.

Given all the time he spent in Arizona, Bell likely formed some sort of relationship with current Diamondbacks and former Red Sox general manager Mike Hazen, who was hired away from Boston back in October 2016.

A native of Cincinnati who was a former first-round draft pick of the Rangers in 1993, Bell comes from quite the baseball family. His grandfather, Gus, was a four-time All-Star over the course of a 15-year major-league career. His father, Buddy, was a five-time All-Star as a player who also managed the Tigers, Rockies, and Royals for a total of nine seasons between 1998 and 2007. And his brother, David, is the current manager of the Reds.

Finally, we arrive at Rowson, who also has one of year of major-league coaching under his belt, which he accrued under Don Mattingly in Miami this year.

Prior to joining Mattingly’s coaching staff, the 44-year-old out of Mount Vernon, NY spent three seasons as hitting coach in Minnesota. In 2019, Rowson, under Baldelli, oversaw a Twins offense that clubbed a major-league record 307 home runs while leading the league in RBI (906) en route to an American League Central crown.

Rowson’s coaching career also includes stints as Yankees’ minor-league hitting coordinator and Cubs’ minor-league hitting coordinator and major-league hitting coach.

In addition to Rowson, Bell, and Schumaker, the Red Sox have also interviewed Cubs third base coach Will Venable, Pirates bench coach Don Kelly, and Diamondbacks Luis Urueata for their vacancy at manager.

That means at least six candidates have been interviewed, and assuming no one is hired between now and the end of the World Series, former Sox skipper Alex Cora could very well be the seventh, eighth, or ninth individual interviewed for the position. Whoever else Boston interviews is obviously up to chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom and whoever he may consult in seeking out additional candidates.

Red Sox Managerial Search: Chaim Bloom Can’t Poach Anyone From Rays, Like Bench Coach Matt Quatraro, Until 2021

As the Red Sox continue to interview candidates for their vacant managerial post, one potential candidate who appeared to have a strong case for the job will actually not be able to interview for it at all. That particular candidate would be none other than Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro.

Per the Boston Sports Journal’s Sean McAdam, Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, who came over from the Rays last October, is prohibited from hiring anyone, front office and uniformed personnel alike, from his previous organization for a period of two years.

Quatraro, who turns 47 next month, has been coaching professionally in some capacity since 2004. His past experience includes stints as minor-league catching instructor, minor-league hitting coach, minor-league manager, minor-league hitting coordinator, major-league assistant hitting coach with the Indians under old friend Terry Francona, and major-league third base coach with the Rays.

Since returning to the Tampa Bay coaching staff in 2017, Quatraro was elevated from third base coach to bench coach in October 2018 under current Rays skipper Kevin Cash. The Albany native’s responsibilities also include working with outfielders on positioning, per the Rays’ media guide.

Before it was revealed that Bloom could not poach any staffer from the Rays for his first two years as Boston’s chief baseball officer, someone like Quatraro seemed like a logical fit to potentially become the Sox’ next manager given where he would come from.

Now that we know the Red Sox cannot lure away any active Rays coach or front office member until 2021, Quatraro can be crossed off the list of names thought to have a chance at becoming the 48th manager in Boston’s franchise history.

Among the names the Red Sox have reportedly interviewed to this point, we have Cubs third base coach Will Venable, Pirates bench coach Don Kelly, and Diamondbacks bench coach Luis Urueta.

Former Red Sox manager Alex Cora is thought to be the favorite to retain his old position, but he is not allowed to speak with the club about the opening until the conclusion of the World Series on account of the role he played in the Astros’ 2017 sign-stealing scandal.

Red Sox Interview Diamondbacks Bench Coach Luis Urueta for Managerial Opening for Second Time This Year

For the second time this year, the Red Sox have interviewed Diamondbacks bench coach Luis Urueta for their managerial opening, according to ESPN’s Enrique Rojas.

Per Rojas, Urueta’s interview with Boston was conducted by chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom last week. Obviously, the results of the interview are not known yet.

Urueta, who turns 40 in January, was also interviewed for the Sox’ managerial opening this past January after the club dismissed Alex Cora in the wake of the details of the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal coming out.

Bloom and Co. ultimately decided to roll with an internal candidate in Ron Roenicke to immediately replace Cora in 2020, but the 64-year-old will not be returning to the club in 2021, thus leaving a vacancy for a highly sought out position.

In terms of coaching experience, Urueta, a native of Colombia, has spent the past four seasons with the Diamondbacks in some capacity at the minor and major-league level, most recently serving as old friend Torey Lovullo’s bench coach this season. He has also managed Leones de Monteria of the Colombian Winter League and Team Colombia in the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Along with Urueta, the Red Sox have also interviewed Cubs third base coach Will Venable and Pirates bench coach Don Kelly for their vacancy at manager.

Cora, the former Sox skipper, is thought to be the favorite to return to his old post, but he cannot speak to the Red Sox or any other club until the conclusion of the World Series on account of the one-year suspension he received in April.