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Red Sox add analytics guru Brian Bannister to coaching staff to aid pitching

BOSTON -- Over the next few weeks, the Boston Red Sox might trade for a pitcher to improve one of the American League's worst starting rotations. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski estimated that he and general manager Mike Hazen checked in with about 10 teams on Tuesday alone.

In the meantime, though, the Sox are adding to their coaching staff in an attempt to help their pitching.

Brian Bannister, an ex-major leaguer and the son of former All-Star lefty Floyd Bannister, will serve as an assistant to pitching coach Carl Willis, Dombrowski announced Tuesday. Bannister will be in uniform before games, but in accordance with big-league rules, he must watch games from the clubhouse or the stands.

"He has worked closely with supplying information to [manager] John Farrell and Carl Willis throughout the season. We thought it would be that much more helpful to put him in uniform," Dombrowski said. "The players in today's game really want the type of information that he supplies -- statistical, analytical, arm angles. They want to see these type of things."

Bannister, 35, is regarded as an expert in statistical analysis, his pitching career coinciding with the advent of PitchF/X. Although Bannister barely threw 90 mph, he was able to reach the big leagues with the New York Mets and even posted a 3.89 ERA in 27 starts for the Kansas City Royals in 2007.

The Red Sox hired Bannister before last season, and when Dombrowski took over last August, they promoted Bannister to the newly created position of director of pitching analysis and development. According to both Dombrowski and Farrell, part of the decision to put Bannister in uniform was driven by the pitchers' desire for more analytical PitchF/X data.

Among Bannister's biggest triumphs was helping to revive 36-year-old lefty Rich Hill’s career by getting him to focus on his curveball. Hill, coincidentally, likely will be among the better pitchers available before the trade deadline. He is 8-3 with a 2.31 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 70 innings for the Oakland Athletics.

Entering play Tuesday night, the Red Sox rank 11th in the AL with a 4.48 team ERA. The starters have combined for a 4.81 ERA, with the six pitchers who have occupied the No. 4-5 starter spots combining for an ERA higher than 7.00.

Dombrowski nevertheless insisted that the change in Bannister's role doesn't indicate a dissatisfaction with Willis.

"We thought it would be the best way to make it work in cohesion with Carl," Dombrowski said. "It's not that we're unhappy. But we're looking for any way to make ourselves better. I don't mean to say, by any means, that you don't try to get better from a talent perspective also, which we will continue to try to do. But there's a lot of work to be done, and we think it maybe gives us a little bit of an edge and will help us improve."

The first few days of July have brought an uptick in trade conversations, according to Dombrowski, who said recently that only a handful of teams had begun to act as sellers. It's no secret the Red Sox are looking to upgrade their pitching staff, both the rotation and the bullpen.

"Let's face it: Our pitching has scuffled at times. We're trying to do everything we can to help it," Dombrowski said. "We're aggressive. This is a time period where a lot of things happen. Calls are increased. You get into July, it's amazing how much calls increase. They'll continue to increase more so after the All-Star break, and they'll pick up even more around the trading deadline. It doesn't mean you're going to do something, but I can say we're aggressive talking."