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New GM Mike Hazen gives Red Sox continuity

BOSTON -- Moments before Mike Hazen was introduced as the new senior vice president and general manager of the Boston Red Sox on Thursday, his wife and four sons marched ahead of him into the interview room at Fenway Park.

Each boy wore identical green pants and the same collared, navy blue shirt. They were consistent and continuous, some of the same qualities that landed their father a major promotion.

It was Hazen's 10 years in the organization, the past three as the assistant general manager under Ben Cherington, and his familiarity with all aspects of the player development side that had the biggest influence in the hiring process for Dave Dombrowski, the new president of baseball operations. There was appeal in maintaining continuity and staying consistent.

"I've been very impressed with him and very many aspects of the job, when you're talking about an individual who is intelligent, who knows baseball, who's got a great work ethic, that has experience in the game, is a loyal employee," Dombrowski said. "That can be very helpful in every respect of the operation, so I think it's very fortunate for me and the organization to walk in and be in a spot where you have someone like Mike here. So I'm thrilled to have him on board."

That loyalty began from an early age for Hazen, whose opening statement Thursday was dotted with references to childhood visits to Fenway Park from his home in Abington, Massachusetts, and Jim Rice-versus-Dwight Evan debates with his father. It grew as he moved up the organization ladder, beginning with his role as the director of player development in 2006.

The 39-year-old Hazen gave credit to several key individuals who helped him along the way, noting his friendship with Cherington and all that the previous GM did to help the current one get to this point. And like Dombrowski, Hazen sees merit in continuing along with what the organization has in house, especially in a year that has seen so much change in the front office and in the dugout; Hazen worked under Red Sox manager John Farrell, who is away from the team while being treated for lymphoma, in Cleveland's player development department and has worked alongside interim manager Torey Lovullo.

"I think it helps again with the continuity for a relationship standpoint," said Hazen, who recently interviewed for the same job with the Los Angeles Angels. "I think it helps speed things up and hopefully puts me in a position to speed Dave up on things walking in that he may not know right away. Our ability to communicate from the front office to the clubhouse are extremely important, and hopefully those relationships will allow for that."

Dombrowski said he made a list of potential GM candidates upon arriving in Boston. There were 30 names. Only Hazen and Houston Astros director of player development Quinton McCracken were interviewed, and, again, Hazen's familiarity and track record won out.

"It helps a lot, it already has," Dombrowski said. "It's apparent he's knowledgeable and knows the game. Able to talk about players in the system, able to talk about, get his insight in how things are done. He's been very helpful to me already and will continue to be that way.

"It's almost hard for me to explain how busy things have been over this time period. ... A lot of things right now have been delegated, we haven't brought all those things back together but we will. So the insight he's given me now and will continue to do so is very important."

Hazen said that upon Cherington's departure there was a period of uncertainty. His ability to quickly recognize what needed to be done likely went a long way in impressing his new boss, who has seen the operation somewhat seamlessly transition into a positive stretch run, where just months earlier there was plenty of negativity.

"It's our job as Red Sox employees to get Dave up to speed as soon as possible," Hazen said of his mindset after the front-office shakeup. "He's walking in in the middle of the season. There's a lot of things going on. We have injury situations, a team that's playing now. The major league manager, obviously. It's our job to make sure that ship gets sailed."

Even if the Sox finish in last place for the third time in four years, Dombrowski has been able to focus on positives since arriving. The club's 20-13 record since Aug. 18 is one of the best in the American League and the product on the field -- complete with several promising youngsters doing great things -- has prompted the new head of baseball operations to look more favorably on the organization as a whole.

"I can't respond to everything that's taken place on the field over the past few years, but it's a situation where you always have good people," Dombrowski said. "A lot of good things have taken place. When you look at development and the signing of young players, a lot of people have been involved in finding them. If you look at the general outcome, things haven't worked well on the field, but I've been in a few different spots and this is different from all of them. I think we can make some adjustments and decisions that can make us good for next season."

While Dombrowski stressed Hazen's well-earned increase in authority, the GM acknowledged that Dombrowski will have the final say on all major baseball decisions. Some of those decisions will be compiling a rotation out of a handful of candidates and possibly some imported ones this offseason, restructuring a bullpen, ironing out the outfield and handling the Farrell-Lovullo dynamic.

Lovullo said earlier Thursday that the managerial job is Farrell's and that he's only holding it until Farrell gets better. But the interim skipper has impressed as the head man and will be sought after for any managerial openings. The club will field requests for interviews for Lovullo and may be forced to press on without him.

That would mean that a strong, loyal organizational man was no longer in the mix. But in promoting Hazen, Dombrowski made sure that the Red Sox retained another.