BOSTON -- Though it wasn't until last week that John Farrell became the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, Terry Francona had a strong feeling for several weeks that his long-time friend wasn't going to be back next season. So Francona put himself through an exercise of identifying who would be the best fit to be the next pitching coach for the Red Sox. Farrell, as a going-away favor to Francona, put together a similar list.
The man who was picked as the top choice on Francona and Farrell's list was officially named as the new pitching coach for the Red Sox on Tuesday.
Curt Young, who served in that same capacity for the Oakland Athletics for the last seven seasons, will take the place of Farrell, who was Boston's pitching coach for the last four seasons.
"We both came up with Curt as the No. 1 choice for the Boston Red Sox for a lot of different factors," said Francona. "It was something I appreciated John doing and it was something I did at the same time. Now saying that, I didn't run across and tell Curt that. This was just something I messed around with in September."
So instead of accepting Oakland's multi-year offer to remain there, Young became a free agent, putting himself in position to come to Boston, where he will work with Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Jonathan Papelbon, Daniel Bard and some other intriguing arms.
"They have been successful with what they're doing," Young said. "I will bring some suggestions -- some things that may help these guys get better. But mainly, coming in and learning what these guys have been doing on a daily basis, what they do in between starts and what the relievers do, when they're available for the game, when they're not. Just make sure we get into good routines that help everyone get ready for their games."
Once Young decided to leave Oakland, he quickly interviewed with Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. It didn't take long for either man to feel the fit was there.
"Really, just the opportunity to talk to Theo out here in Arizona, and get an understanding of what they're looking for and the type of pitchers they have was very exciting for me to be a part of," Young said. "Knowing Terry, and the respect you have for him across the field, what a great job he does, it was definitely something that I could not pass on once I had the opportunity."
"We are lucky to be able to add an experienced pitching coach the caliber of Curt Young to the organization," said Epstein. "Curt has a proven track record of success in this job, mixing excellent relationship-building skills with expert knowledge of pitching and how to get hitters out at the Major League level. Pitchers who have worked with Curt swear by him, and the results speak for themselves. We think he will work well with our pitching staff and within the culture of our clubhouse."
Francona was Oakland's bench coach in 2003, back when Young was a Triple-A coach. They worked together that spring, but they will become far more familiar with each other in the coming weeks.
"What will happen now is Curt and I will stay in touch, hopefully maybe face to face a few times," Francona said. "I'm looking forward to hearing things that are important to him. Theo already talked to him extensively out in Phoenix and I talked to him a little bit, the last couple of nights. I'm looking forward to hearing things that are important to him and having some back and forth, some fresh ideas. Spring Training formats, things like that.
"It's exciting. I've been fortunate to have some really good coaches. This is another name. This was an important hire. Losing john Farrell was a big deal. Getting Curt Young is a big deal and we're really excited."
Under Young's guidance, the A's had the best ERA in the American League in 2010, at 3.58. He helped nurture an impressive young pitching staff that included Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez, Dallas Braden and Andrew Bailey. Now he'll work with a more veteran staff.
"My challenges are going to be getting to know the guys in Spring Training, learning what they like to do, what they feel makes them successful, and I'll try and pass along some things I think will help them improve their game," Young said. "Everyone's always looking to get better, and any way I can help, I'm definitely going to be there for these guys."
In Young's years as Oakland's pitching coach (2004-10), Oakland's staff has posted an American League best 4.03 ERA (4,535 ER/10,135.1 IP) and held opponents to an AL low .257 batting average (9,939-for-38,616) while allowing the fewest home runs (1,062) in the league.
Young pitched parts of 11 Major League seasons with Oakland (1983-91, 1993), Kansas City (1992) and the New York Yankees (1992), compiling a 69-53 record and a 4.31 ERA (530 ER/1,107.0 IP) in 251 appearances (162 starts). He was a member of the starting rotation when the A's won three straight pennants in 1988-90.
"This is an exciting time for us," Francona said. "It's an exciting time for John Farrell, and now it's an exciting time for the Red Sox. We really caught a break here. We got a really good pitching coach. I'm excited for that. I'm pleased because our expectations are always high, and we got a really good guy for the job."