BOSTON — The slumping Boston Red Sox will have a new pitching coach for the remainder of their tumultuous first season under manager Bobby Valentine.
Bob McClure was fired Monday and replaced by Randy Niemann with the Red Sox on the fringe of the playoff race following another rough stretch.
“We felt like we needed to make a change to put our pitchers in the best position to do what they needed to do,” general manager Ben Cherington said. “The next six weeks are important to create a foundation going into the offseason. We felt like this change was needed to give ourselves the best chance to do that.”
The Red Sox have lost 12 of 18 games this month to fall off the pace in the competitive AL East. Boston’s 4.30 team ERA was 11th in the American League heading into Monday’s games.
“This is a performance-based decision,” Cherington said. “As I said yesterday, there’s been a real good effort on the part of the staff to work together and iron out any communication issues that may have existed previously. This decision had nothing to do with that.”
Boston has struggled in its first year under Valentine, who took over in December after agreeing to a two-year deal with club options for 2014 and 2015.
Popular infielder Kevin Youkilis had a public dustup with Valentine before he was traded to the White Sox, and Yahoo Sports reported that several players met with owner John Henry and team president Larry Lucchino in New York last month to complain about the manager’s handling of the team.
The Red Sox (59-63) were off Monday and host the Los Angeles Angels in the opener of a three-game series on Tuesday night.
The 60-year-old McClure became the pitching coach in December. He also spent six seasons in the same position with the Kansas City Royals. The left-hander was 68-57 with 52 saves and a 3.81 ERA in 19 seasons in the majors.
Niemann was elevated from assistant pitching coach. He is in his first year with Boston after spending 24 seasons in the New York Mets’ organization.
“Randy’s got a lot of experience, too,” Cherington said. “He knows our guys well.”
Crawford headed for surgery
Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford will have season-ending surgery on his left elbow Thursday.
Crawford has been playing with pain since coming off the disabled list last month and will have Tommy John surgery.
“It became clear over last few days that surgery was going to happen,” Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington said Monday on a conference call. “We felt like after talking about it more this weekend with Carl, the right thing to do is to get it taken care of now. He had played through the injury and played pretty well, but it wasn’t getting better. The symptoms were getting worse. It wasn’t fair to ask him to keep going out there. We decided to take care of it now and he agreed to do that.”
Crawford was a major disappointment last season, his first with Boston after signing a $142 million, seven-year contract. He batted .255 with 11 home runs and 56 RBIs, and had only 18 steals after swiping 107 bases combined in the previous two seasons with Tampa Bay. He missed the first 89 games this season while recovering from left wrist surgery.
He partially tore his elbow ligament in April while rehabbing, slowing his return. Crawford was activated from the disabled list July 16 and was batting .282 with three homers and 19 RBIs.
He is expected to be sidelined six to nine months.
“The recovery is shorter than a pitcher and can be up to nine months,” Cherington said. “Position players have come back sooner than that in a couple cases. It’s a quicker return than a pitcher would be.”