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Red Sox hire Carl Willis as pitching coach

TORONTO -- Former Cleveland Indians pitching coach Carl Willis, whose time in Cleveland overlapped with John Farrell's tenure as the franchise's farm director, has been named the Boston Red Sox's new pitching coach.

The team officially announced the move Saturday.

Willis, who had been serving as the Indians' Triple-A pitching coach for the Columbus (Ohio) Clippers, informed the Clippers he had taken the Red Sox job after its game Friday night, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

"They're to announce it for me [Saturday]," he told the Dispatch. "The deal was I didn't want to leave until the Indians could arrange for someone to get here, and they're prepared to get through the weekend without somebody in Boston. So getting there after their game Saturday, we play Sunday and fly to Oakland. So that will be a good five-hour trip that I can get brought up to speed on everything that's going on there."

Willis, 54, was the Indians' pitching coach from 2003-09. He served another four seasons as pitching coach for the Seattle Mariners (2010-13). As a big league pitching coach, he had three Cy Young Award winners on his staffs: CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee in Cleveland and Felix Hernandez in Seattle.

A native of Danville, Virginia, Willis was a relief pitcher for the Tigers, Reds, White Sox and Twins. He compiled a 4.25 ERA in 267 appearances over a nine-year big league career.

Willis replaces Juan Nieves, who was fired Thursday in his third season as Red Sox pitching coach. The Sox staff ranked 29th in team ERA entering Friday's 7-0 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Farrell said he met with the team's pitchers Thursday to inform them of the decision to replace Nieves. Willis inherits a staff with five veterans, including Justin Masterson, who was traded to the Indians at midseason of Willis's final season with the Indians.

"I think every player, regardless of the stage of their career, they want direction, and it's our job to provide that in the most clear, succinct, direct way we can,'' Farrell said.

Asked what type of voice he'd like to see a new coach bring, Farrell said: "The criteria of a coach, in my mind, is one who is always going to be available for a given player. One that has a message that players buy into, that they trust, and that there is a plan for each individual pitcher, not only what they work on today but what is needed to improve and develop as individuals. In a nutshell, that's the description."