Fourth interviewee Lovullo feels ready to lead
Pawtucket's 2010 skipper spent last season as Toronto coach
BOSTON -- He's not John Farrell, the Red Sox's well-regarded former pitching coach who left to manage the Blue Jays before last season, but he might be the closest thing to him that Boston has in this pool of candidates.
The Red Sox brought in their fourth and penultimate interviewee for manager on Friday, Torey Lovullo. Gene Lamont's scheduled visit to Fenway Park on Saturday will be the last in the club's first round of interviews in the search for Terry Francona's replacement, barring any last-minute additions.
Lovullo, who's Farrell's first-base coach in Toronto, differs with his manager in area of expertise: Lovullo played eight big league seasons as a hitter, while Farrell was a pitcher. But the experience of coaching under Farrell last year proved to Lovullo that he's capable of managing a Major League club, with both men possessing a similar outlook on the game.
"You know, silently, it confirmed a lot of what I thought and a lot of what I believe in, confirmed that it would work at this level," said Lovullo, 46. "I watched a great man and a great leader in John Farrell all year long. As far as I'm concerned, there's nobody better. I bounced philosophies and thoughts off of him and we were aligned in our thoughts, and I watched it work for him. And therefore, I'm convinced it could work for me."
What also could make Lovullo work in Boston is his familiarity with the organization. He was the manager at Triple-A Pawtucket in 2010.
"[Red Sox vice president of player development] Mike Hazen said to me when I was hired in that position, 'You're now the 31st manager of a Major League team,'" Lovullo said. "It made a lot of sense because I was exposed to many of you, exposed to Red Sox Nation, and it's real. And you don't know exactly what it's like until you're a part of it. It's a pretty spectacular place. Does that give me a leg up on the competition? I'm not certain. I feel very comfortable with the surroundings, the people and their concepts. I'm fortunate for that."
"He did a great job," said Boston general manager Ben Cherington. "We knew him pretty well before. ... [But] I wouldn't say there's a leg up."
Lovullo, like fellow candidates Pete Mackanin, Dale Sveum and Sandy Alomar Jr., has never been a full-time manager in the big leagues. Only Lamont has that distinction. But, Lovullo has managed in the Minor Leagues, starting off at Class A with the Indians in 2002, and managing each year through '10.
The decision to be a skipper on the farm, and to start at the lowest rung, was deliberately made with an opportunity like this in mind, Lovullo said.
"When I first came on board as a manager, I retired as a player and I asked Mark Shapiro, then GM of the Cleveland Indians, and I said to him, 'I was rushed through a system as a player, I want to start at the very lowest of the low,'" Lovullo said. "'I want to start in A ball, and work my way up and earn my stripes,' so to speak. I felt like I did that, I felt like I climbed the ranks as a manager, and that was my motive. I wanted to learn along the way, get some of that experience that's invaluable, make mistakes and learn from those mistakes at a level where it didn't really matter, it was not magnified.
"So, if and when the time came that I had this opportunity, I was prepared and ready for it. I'm not saying that managing's the only way and the only path, I certainly feel like there are many different paths to get there, but I feel like I'm qualified and ready because of the experiences that I've had in this game."
Like all the candidates, Lovullo praised the opportunity to manage the Red Sox as the gold standard.
Perhaps the most notable name that Lovullo has worked under is Sparky Anderson, who was his first big league manager with the Tigers in 1988. Anderson was a well-known disciplinarian.
"There was zero tolerance from Sparky," Lovullo said. "He was the type of manager that would have the hammer. If he wanted to send you down, he didn't need authority from the higher-ups to say it's time for you to go down. He demanded one thing of you, and that was that you respect your teammates and respect the game. One comment he made to me that stuck with me for a long time, 'You respect this game because it will go on a lot longer than you're going to play it, a lot longer than you're going to be involved in it.'"
Despite a strong resume, Lovullo faces the knock most in this pool do: no full-time big league managing experience. Speaking with an air of confidence in his nearly 20-minute session with the Boston media, Lovullo didn't bristle when asked if that should be an impediment for him.
"Well, who's to say when the time is right? Who's to say the guy is right?" Lovullo said. "I've worked a long time to get this opportunity. ... I feel like I'm ready."