Throughout the winter much has been made of the Red Sox hiring of new manager John Farrell. As the team’s pitching coach from 2007-2010, Farrell was able to form relationships with the key members of the Red Sox current pitching staff including Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard.
Combine that with the fact Farrell knows Boston well and is considered a guru on pitching, and expectations are high that Farrell will be a big part in helping turn around a pitching staff that performed poorly last season.
But the man who will be most responsible for the success or failure of the staff has hardly been mentioned at all this off season.
That man is Juan Nieves and he is a guy with a lot of good pitching pedigree.
According to WEEI’s Alex Speier, Nieves, who spent the last five seasons as the bullpen coach of the Chicago White Sox, comes highly recommended by respected White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper.
People automatically assume that Farrell will have control over his pitching staff because pitching is his niche in the game. But he is going to have his hands full trying to determine lineups and all the in-game moves that go along with being the manager.
Nieves is clearly going to be the guy with the most influence on a day to day basis with the staff and it appears that Red Sox pitchers will be in good hands.
Speier quoted Cooper as saying that Nieves was more than just a bullpen coach. He says Nieves was his right hand man and an integral part of the White Sox coaching staff. Nieves interacted with all the White Sox pitchers and Cooper thinks Nieves is more than ready for the challenge of running his own staff.
It will be vital for Nieves to take command of this staff from the get go if he hopes to get things turned around. Stability at pitching coach has been an Achilles heel for Boston since Farrell left with the team enduring five different voices in the last four seasons.
So, although you may not know the name aside from the no-hitter he threw in 1987 for the Milwaukee Brewers, just understand that the fortunes of the Red Sox pitching staff this season are strongly tied to a man whose mentor thinks he could be the next great pitching mind.