Red Sox fire pitching coach Juan Nieves

BOSTON -- Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves became the first major casualty of the team's underperforming pitching staff, the team announcing Thursday afternoon that Nieves had been fired.

No replacement has been named, although general manager Ben Cherington said the team was working off a "very short list" that included at least one internal candidate.

Bob Kipper, the team's Triple-A pitching coach, is in his first season in Pawtucket but has been in the Sox system since 2000. Kevin Walker is in his first season as pitching coach at Double-A Portland.

Outside the organization, Red Sox manager John Farrell has ties with Charles Nagy, the Connecticut native currently serving as a senior pitching adviser for the Cleveland Indians, and Rick Langford, the senior pitching adviser for the Toronto Blue Jays. Fox Sports reported that former Cleveland pitching coach Carl Willis, currently serving with the club's Triple-A team, is a candidate. Willis was the Indians' pitching coach when Farrell was the team's farm director.

In addition, longtime Philadelphia Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee, a native of Brockton, Massachusetts, is currently serving as the Atlanta Braves' pitching coordinator.

Cherington did not identify the names on his list but said he may have someone in place this weekend in Toronto.

"While we are confident we have many of the pieces in place to improve and will see improvement, John and I simply got to the point where we felt that, in order to continue to push forward and make improvements, we needed to make a change and have a different voice in that particular position," Cherington said.

The decision to fire Nieves was reached after several days of discussions between Farrell and Cherington, who then presented ownership with their recommendation to let Nieves go.

Even though the announcement to fire Nieves comes two days after majority owner John W. Henry met with Farrell and Cherington, that meeting was focused on the team's overall performance and was incidental to Nieves' firing, according to a major league source.

"They have to start performing," Henry had said in a radio interview afterward. "It's been disappointing, and the bullpen hasn't been great either."

The Red Sox, who just completed a 3-6 homestand in which they were swept by the Yankees at home for the first time since 2006, rank 29th in the majors in ERA at 4.86. The starting rotation also ranks 29th, with a 5.54 ERA, and the bullpen is the only one in the majors that already has thrown over 100 innings (101 1/3).

"The ability to maintain the consistency or effect change when needed, or adjustments that are required that's typical with any pitcher, that wasn't the same as we saw two years ago." Farrell said.

The 50-year-old Nieves, who was in his third season as Sox pitching coach, formerly pitched for the Milwaukee Brewers and came to the Red Sox after 14 seasons in the White Sox organization, the last five as Chicago's bullpen coach.

In 2013, when the Red Sox won the World Series, the pitching staff had a 3.79 ERA, the team's lowest since 2002. That season, Sox pitchers also set a franchise record in strikeouts.

Since the start of the 2014 season, only Clay Buchholz remains in the Sox starting rotation. The Sox acquired Joe Kelly in a trade deadline deal in July, and they added Rick Porcello and Wade Miley via trades and Justin Masterson through free agency within days of ace Jon Lester announcing he was signing with the Chicago Cubs.

Cherington said he has seen encouraging signs from the starters in recent days and added that, as of now, no changes are planned in the rotation.

"We believe in the guys that are on this team, and we believe that we're going to start to play better. That will come brick by brick," said Cherington. "Right now, we're behind the guys we have. We believe there's a reason to feel good about what they can do going forward. We fully expect those five guys will continue to take their turn and try to build on what they've done."