BOSTON — When Red Sox assistant general manager Mike Hazen and new Boston manager John Farrell first worked together in 2001, Hazen was thoroughly impressed and thought Farrell would wind up becoming a big league GM someday.
At that time, Hazen and Farrell, who was introduced here at Fenway Park yesterday, were working in the Cleveland Indians front office. Hazen was an intern and Farrell was the Indians director of player development.
“He commanded a tremendous amount of respect (as farm director),” said Hazen, who served as Red Sox farm director from 2007-11. “Intelligent. He held his staff accountable. He held the players accountable. ... and really probably sowed the seeds for that 2007 Indians teams that we (the Red Sox) faced in the ALCS.”
It should be extremely interesting to see the type of roster the Red Sox build this offseason through trades and free agency, particularly in terms of strengthening pitching, with Farrell and newly-appointed baseball operations special assistant Jason Varitek, a former All-Star catcher, helping in the process.
A strong comfort level already exists between Farrell, Hazen, Varitek and GM Ben Cherington. Farrell and Cherington have known each other for approximately 10 years. The relationship between those four men obviously strengthened when Farrell was Red Sox pitching coach from 2007-10.
That existing comfort level will allow them as well as others in management to have tough conversations right away, Hazen said. It will allow them to get down to business immediately in terms of player-personnel unlike last year when the search for a manager stalled until late November and everything else stalled thereafter.
What type of tough conversations will take place?
“Maybe questioning roster decisions, current state of the roster, player performance, role of the coaching staff ... (and) the contributions of the farm system or the lack thereof that went into last season,” Hazen said. “It’s extremely important for us to turn the page on 2012 and for John to be able to start having those challenging conversations.
“In order for this to turn around, there’s a lot of tough questions that need to be asked by the manager to the front office and so on down the line,” Hazen added.
Farrell’s front office experience and Varitek’s vast knowledge from working with pitchers should add to an already extremely capable baseball operations staff as they piece together a 2013 roster.
In recent months, Red Sox management has emphasized player development and building from within as the most important element of returning the club to the top of the AL East standings. But the Red Sox have money to spend and will spend some this offseason for impact players whether through trades and/or free agency.
Farrell and Varitek already have had conversations with the front office about the roster and they will continue to have a strong voice in that area, Hazen said.
“Tek and John have a very good relationship, a very strong relationship that was built from his (Farrell’s) time here,” Hazen said. “Certainly the pitching coach-catcher relationship is one that’s critical to the success of the pitching staff, and I know they are going to be working with Ben together to help them reconstruct the roster.”
Hazen said managers have a good amount of input in the roster building.
“Certainly in his contacts and his evaluations from across the field (and) his information he knows about that player — is that player one that has the ability to come play in Boston?” Hazen said.
Farrell, who spent the past two years as manager of the Blue Jays, reportedly didn’t always agree with roster moves made by Toronto management.
“In my relationship with (Toronto GM) Alex (Anthopoulos), in the conversations we would have regarding the roster, I think there might have been opportunities for me to speak a little bit more passionately toward some suggestions or recommendations to the roster,” Farrell said.
There certainly aren’t many managers with front office experience. Hazen thinks Farrell’s experience in that field helps him tremendously as a manager.
“The supplementation of the roster with key internal guys is critical,” Hazen said. “And for (Farrell) to have that feel (is important). ... That’s going to be critical for us: to integrate those players.”
Farrell knows some things need to start happening for this club to contend in 2013.
“Certain players (must) return to the form and the performance that they’ve established for themselves,” Farrell said. “And (the team must) get the guys back that were taken out because of injury — to get them back fully healthy. And then whatever additions are brought forth into this group. I think this has an opportunity to be a fairly quick turnaround.”