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Sam Galanis
Contributing Writer

It seems like a miracle.The Red Sox pitchers who completely lost focus somewhere before the infamous 2011 September collapse are not only back on track, but are pitching better than ever. Jon Lester is 6-1. Clay Buchholz is 6-0. Sure, there are some kinks that still need to be worked out, but Red Sox pitching is leagues ahead of where it was last year without making too many major trades or moves, really.

AP Photo/Chris O'Meara
But no one had to walk on water to make that happen. Juan Nieves turned hardheaded hooligans into pitching machines with his own discipline and experience. Nieves worked as Don Cooper’s bullpen coach for the last four years for a different pair of Sox: the Chicago White Sox. Cooper is considered one of the best pitching coaches in baseball. Cooper is all about quick pitching, utilizing the lower half of the strike zone to its fullest potential, and monopolizing on the weaknesses of specific hitters. If you think that sounds familiar, that’s because Nieves is directly mirroring what he learned from Cooper.

Of course the most noticeable of those changes is the tempo that the Sox pitch at nowadays. Games with Lester and Buchholz used to be almost insufferable for example. Just watching them on television could make you sweat the tension was so palpable. But Nieves has managed to loosen them up and get them to pitch without thinking too hard. He has taught all the pitchers the way to use every pitch to its fullest potential. In essence, he’s saved them all.

According to this Boston Globe article by Nick Cafardo, Nieves tells every reliever, “you’re all closers for the inning we’re asking you to pitch.” They’ve gotten some lights out innings from relievers. It’s like watching a different team, yet it’s many of the same players.

It’s clear that Nieves has been able to do what no pitching coach could do since John Farrell left the job. Now, the two of them have transformed the team from the mess it was last season. That doesn’t come without slumps, but there’s no arguing that they have proved to be great choices for the team. Red Sox pitching may still have some more to learn, but thankfully, Nieves seems to be a wise teacher.



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Sam Galanis 5/22/2013 07:40:00 PM Edit
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