GM backs Bobby Valentine

BOSTON -- Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington emerged from a closed-door meeting on Saturday night with manager Bobby Valentine, CEO Larry Lucchino and majority owner John W. Henry to say he was "very satisfied" with the manager's performance while acknowledging the team's pitching "has to improve."

Cherington met with reporters to announce the team had completed a trade with the Cubs for outfielder Marlon Byrd nearly two hours after the Red Sox blew a 9-0 lead to the New York Yankees, with the Yankees scoring 15 unanswered runs for a 15-9 Red Sox loss that dropped the team's record to 4-10. The topic quickly shifted from the trade to the team's early-season performance, which includes five straight losses at home.

The last time the Red Sox lost five straight in a single homestand was back in 2006, when they fell out of contention in August by losing five games to the Yankees, a series that was called the "Boston Massacre" at the time. Saturday's loss was already dubbed the "Bobby Valentine's Day Massacre" by one New York-based tweeter.

"Our pitching performance has to improve," Cherington said. "That's the bottom line. There's a lot of different things that go into that. There are different ways to improve and we've got to look at all those ways. We've got to talk about it, think about it, and look at it.

"We also just need to sleep on this one," he said. "Wake up tomorrow and take a fresh look at it."

Asked to assess the job Valentine has done, Cherington expressed support for his manager, who was booed loudly throughout Saturday's game by a disenchanted crowd of 37,839.

"Very satisfied," Cherington said. "He makes the lineup out, makes decisions during the game. The players will always influence wins and losses more than anybody else, and that's no different here.

"He's doing the best he can with the roster he has. It'll get better. He knows that and I know that, and along the way if changes need to be made on the roster, that's my responsibility."

The door to Valentine's office remained closed long after the game ended.
Why were the owners there?

"As they've done in the past, they came down after a tough loss," Cherington said. "It was an opportunity to talk and remind each other we're all in this together. We also talked about different options to get better, but that will stay behind closed doors. It was a chance to catch up for good productive conversation, and more than anything be in the room and talk about sticking through this together."

Approaching midnight, Henry had not responded to an email seeking comment.

The Red Sox pitching staff has an ERA of 6.68, worst in the majors. The bullpen, after giving up 13 earned runs in three innings Saturday afternoon -- the Yankees scored seven runs apiece in the seventh and eighth -- now has an ERA of 8.44, also the worst in the majors.

Andrew Bailey, acquired from Oakland to be the team's closer, is on the DL after thumb surgery. Mark Melancon, imported from Houston to be setup man, has been sent to the minors. Alfredo Aceves, designated on the eve of the season to be the team's closer, failed to retire any of the five batters he faced in his first two appearances, both Red Sox losses. On Saturday, he had an even worse meltdown: Called upon to protect a 10-9 lead in the eighth, Aceves did not retire any of the six batters he faced, five of them scoring.

Eight straight Yankee batters reached base against the Red Sox pen in the seventh before Franklin Morales retired the last two batters of the inning. The first seven Yankee batters in the eighth reached, one against Morales and six against Aceves, an almost incomprehensible stretch in which 15 of 17 Yankee batters reached safely.

"I don't know if it was overwhelming," Valentine said after the game. "It happened quickly and it was hard to believe. When it's hard to believe, it's overwhelming. Yeah."

Cherington said Daniel Bard, the team's setup man for the past two seasons, is still scheduled to make his start Sunday night against the Yankees.

"He's shown everything he's had to show in his first two starts to give us a lot of confidence he will pitch well tomorrow night," Cherington said. "That's all there is to that right now."

The weather forecast for Sunday calls for heavy rain, which could force a postponement of Sunday night's game. Cherington said the team has not yet discussed the ramifications of a rainout for Bard and how he would be used.

He acknowledged, as did Valentine, that a return to the bullpen for Bard cannot be ruled out.

"Any changes, whether it's roles or positions, those are things we'll talk about more in time," Cherington said, "but the pitching has to improve."

Cherington also said that the team has yet to make a decision on pitcher Aaron Cook, who is in Pawtucket and can trigger an opt-out clause on May 1 that would make him a free agent.

"He's throwing the ball well in Pawtucket, and has at least a couple more starts down there," Cherington said. "We'll watch those, keep looking at it, talking about it. We're glad he's throwing the ball well. He's certainly proven he's a capable major league pitcher and looks like one right now."

Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.