It’s tough to rebuild a team midseason. You build your team in the offseason, make finishing touches during spring training, and hope the roster can deliver when the games begin for real.

The 2015 Boston Red Sox have not delivered. Not yet. They left for a week on the West Coast with a 14-17 record, on a pace to lose 89 games. Now, the organization is trying to turn things around before the season becomes a runaway train.

On Thursday they fired pitching coach Juan Nieves in an effort to correct a staff with the American League’s highest ERA. He was ultimately replaced by Carl Willis, who has his hands full.

The ugly start wasn’t Nieves’ fault. It’s the pitchers who aren’t executing. When things aren’t going well it’s usually a coach who pays the price for a team’s struggles.

The move was a sign that a team is seriously concerned about the way things are going. The Sox made that clear when they demoted Allen Craig to the minors over the weekend. Craig has struggled this season (.135 batting average with just one extra-base hit), and his replacement, Jackie Bradley, Jr., was hitting .343 in 24 games with Pawtucket.

Still, it’s shocking to see a guy sent to the minors who was one of the National League’s best clutch hitters just two years ago. That’s why Craig is playing for the PawSox. And why Bradley is being asked to add some spark to a team that’s flatlining.

In the clubhouse, the players aren’t panicking. They know it’s early in the season. They’re less than a quarter of the way through the baseball marathon, and there’s plenty of time to turn things around.

That won’t happen without changes. The Sox know they need to be proactive. That’s why David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia spoke to their teammates in a players-only meeting after Saturday’s 7-1 loss.

“You work really hard to expect something different and it’s not what you’re looking for,” Ortiz said, “but at the same time as a veteran I pretty much let everybody know that we are in the fifth week of the season. We’ve got to keep on fighting all the way until October. So if you’re checked out right now, that means it’s going to be an issue.

“So what you’ve got to do is try to put these five weeks behind you and come back and play the game like it’s the first day tomorrow and make sure that different things happen.”

The thought that some on this team may have already “checked out” is alarming, but not surprising. The team has shown little life since a 7-3 start. In an early-season stretch of 22 straight games against AL East teams, the Sox lost 14 games and arrived on the West Coast tied for last place in the division. They have been outhit, outpitched and outclassed by the teams they’ll be battling with for position all summer.

It was time to make a move. Or a few of them. There needs to be a sense of urgency, and the loss of a coach’s job and the demotion of several players, is a great place to start.

Tom Caron is the studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.


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