PAWTUCKET -- In the end, Torey Lovullo could not say no to his mentor and close friend John Farrell.
A partnership that took flight as teammates with the California Angels in 1993 and later working side-by-side in the player development ranks with the Cleveland Indians was rekindled Monday, as Lovullo was hired to join Farrell’s coaching staff in Toronto. The former Pawtucket Red Sox manager will serve as the Blue Jays’ first base coach.
For someone who has toiled in the minors since 2001, Lovullo never once gave up hope that he would land a big league job. Once Farrell was appointed Toronto’s skipper last month, it became wildly assumed that one of the people the ex-Red Sox pitching coach would reach out to was Lovullo.
“I felt like getting on board with John was a no-brainer. Knowing him like I did helped promote this whole idea and made it happen a little quicker than normal. We understand one another and know each other well. Everything is aligned,” Lovullo said when reached via cell phone at his California homestead.
“I dedicated 10 years of my life to getting into this situation. Through perseverance and hard work, I felt like this opportunity would come. I always maintained that if I’m around good baseball people who are teaching and helping me that good things were going to happen.
“I’m sad to leave the Red Sox and PawSox, but I’m ready for the next challenge,” Lovullo added. “I had the best teachers for a year and I take a lot of value from that time.”
Lovullo admitted to Blackstone Valley Sports on Oct. 28 that while he had conversed with Farrell, who at the time was only a few days into his new role, the possibility of a job offer was never discussed. The tenor of the situation changed late last week, when Toronto general manager Alex Anthropolous, not Farrell, reached out to Lovullo after asking for and being granted permission from the Red Sox.
“A small negotiation conversation happened with Alex and John,” Lovullo said. “In no time we got to the bottom of it and agreed to terms. It happened quickly and was the best thing for all parties.”
In his first and what turns out his only season in the Red Sox organization, the 45-year-old Lovullo guided the PawSox to a 66-78 record. Beyond the final record, he drew praise in how he handled a revolving door of player movement at McCoy Stadium, a skill that many people who came in contact with him believed helped in strengthening his reputation as a major league manager in waiting.
“I can only imagine what he had to deal with this year, learning a new program and having all of this thrown on him,” said Pawtucket catcher Mark Wagner. “He was more than understanding and really knew his team. It’s pretty impressive that guys felt that comfortable around him so quick.”
After Pawtucket’s season ended, Lovullo spent September serving as an extra coach for Boston manager Terry Francona. Interacting with Francona – and Farrell – proved “invaluable.”
“Just watching ‘Tito’ operate a game, work a bullpen or attack the opposition the best way possibly, he never once changed his demeanor,” Lovullo recalled. “He was always the same guy every day and I think the players appreciated that.”
While Lovullo knows his primary role will be to coach first base for the Blue Jays, he expects his workload to possibly include working with the team’s infielders. Lovullo played every infield position expect shortstop during the course of his eight years spent in the majors.
“I just want to go and provide all the information I can so that the players can play to the best to their abilities in whatever my domain is,” Lovullo said.
Lovullo’s departure from the PawSox comes nearly one year to the day his predecessor Ron Johnson was promoted as Boston’s first base coach. Next year marks the second straight campaign Pawtucket will break in both a new manager and a hitting coach. The latter position opened up last month when Gerald Perry accepted a job with Oakland.
One internal candidate figured to be on the radar for Lovullo’s replacement is Arnie Beyeler, who has managed the past four seasons in Double-A Portland. Another possibility is Gary DiSarcina, a former manager at Single-A Lowell and current Red Sox minor league roving infield coordinator.