BOSTON (AP) — Craig Breslow got a taste of what baseball means to Boston during two stints as a left-hander in the Red Sox bullpen.
But the experience that best prepared him for his new job may have come when he was working in the Cubs front office and he traded away his kid’s favorite player.
“I’ve worn multiple hats, and I think I’ve got a unique perspective,” Breslow said Thursday in a Fenway Park news conference where he was introduced as the team's chief baseball officer. “I also think I have the willingness and the conviction to make the tough decisions necessary to succeed in this role.”
A journeyman who bounced around 10 different organizations during 16 years in professional baseball, Breslow takes over the Red Sox front office from fellow Yalie Chaim Bloom, who was fired with three weeks left in the season as the team stumbled to its third last-place finish in four years.
Breslow had been working as an assistant general manager in Chicago. He was hired there and mentored by Theo Epstein, who also went to Yale before building the rosters that won World Series in Boston in 2004 and 2007. (Breslow would not identify which player was his child’s favorite, but while he was in Chicago the Cubs traded Anthony Rizzo, Javier Báez and Kris Bryant.)
But Breslow brings to the job playing experience that neither Epstein nor Bloom had.
“I watched a lot of baseball games at Fenway Park. Some from the stands. Some from the bleachers. But most from the bullpen,” Breslow said. “I know what it’s like to put on a Red Sox jersey, to jog through the bullpen gate across freshly cut outfield grass. And I know what it’s like to stand on the mound in front of tens of thousands of the most passionate fans in the game, to feel the cool, fall breeze hit the Red Sox jersey. And I know what it’s like to hoist a World Series trophy overhead, the culmination of a group of people coming together to accomplish something that they couldn’t have alone.”
“I know what it means to win in Boston,” he said. “I understand that some of you will see me as another Ivy League nerd with a baseball front office job. It’s true, I am that. But I’m also a 13-year big leaguer. And a 2013 Boston Red Sox World Series champion. And I know what it means to win here. And I’m willing to make the hard decisions necessary to deliver."
“My contribution to winning in this role will be different than it was back then. But one thing remains constant: My desire to win today is as strong as it was as a player,” he said, "and I can’t wait to get started.”
Breslow, 43, was born in New Haven and was the Yale baseball captain before graduating with degrees in molecular biophysics and biochemistry. He put off medical school to pursue a career in the major leagues and stretched his career to 576 appearances over 13 seasons, going 23-30 with a 3.45 ERA.
Breslow pitched in 13 games for the 2006 Red Sox and was a September callup the following year, making the postseason roster when Boston won the World Series. He earned his first of two championship rings even though did not pitch in the majors that year. He was 5-2 with a 1.81 ERA for the Red Sox in 2013, including a 2.45 ERA in six postseason appearances as they won it all again.
Team president Sam Kennedy said it wasn't just Breslow's playing experience, it was how he adapted his pitching style to what would help him hang around.
“Craig is a problem-solver of the highest order," Kennedy said. “He literally turned himself into a big-leaguer and turned himself into a front office executive using innovative and non-traditional methods. ... Most importantly to us, he played right here in Boston at Fenway Park. And Craig knows firsthand what it takes and what it means to win here. And ultimately, he knows what our fans expect and what they deserve.”
Manager Alex Cora said he doesn't remember interacting much with his new boss as teammates in 2006 and 2007. Like Breslow, Cora bounced around during his career, joining six organizations as a player before coaching in Houston and Boston.
To Cora, being a journeyman player can be an asset as an executive because it exposed Breslow to different styles he might not have experienced if he had spent his entire career with one club.
“You can learn from their mistakes. I learned from my mistakes throughout the years and how that made me better,” Cora said. “And hopefully our partnership can, you know, translate into a lot of wins and hopefully we can bring back that trophy that is in Texas right now.”
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