BOSTON Presiding over a Boston Red Sox team that bubbles over with characters and charisma is a strong, quiet baseball lifer who fits the manager's job like a glove - John Farrell.
Besides handling a wide assortment of personalities, baseball is also a game of constant on-field adjustments between pitchers, hitters and fielders.
Farrell passed all the tests with flying colors in his first season at the helm in Boston, his rock-solid stability and know-how helping to put the club on track over the marathon season.
It added up to a sensational turnaround year for the Red Sox, who improved from 69-93 to 97-65 and earned a trip to the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
"John, since day one, gives us a lot of confidence," Red Sox slugger David Ortiz said after clinching the American League Championship Series over the Detroit Tigers.
"He wasn't trying to be a boss, he was trying to be a dad. He babysit all of us. He take a bullet for all of us. He let us know since day one that he got our back."
Ortiz's ringing endorsement was a major change from tensions between the players and combative manager Bobby Valentine during a 2011 season that was Boston's worst in 47 years.
Farrell, a former major league pitcher and former pitching coach for the Red Sox, was brought back to Boston through a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays, where Farrell had been given his first managerial job.
Despite so-so results and a pair of fourth-place finishes in Toronto, Farrell was the choice of Boston General Manager Ben Cherington, who knew him when Farrell was minor league director for the Cleveland Indians and then as pitching coach of the Red Sox team that won the 2007 World Series.
Cherington knew he and Farrell shared a similar outlook on the make-up of a team and believed they would form a strong partnership in rebuilding the Red Sox.
After a blockbuster trade sent some high-priced players to the Dodgers, Boston brought in battle-tested veterans with winning backgrounds including Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes.
Farrell said that was a turning point for the franchise.
"It gave the ability to target those players that we felt were a good fit for Boston, both from a talent standpoint and a personality standpoint that would embrace the challenge here," he said.
"It's probably the way we've gone about doing it and the type of players we've brought in that's as rewarding as the success on the field.
"It's the type of people that are here. It goes back to targeting the right people that can play here in Boston."
Farrell, 51, also coaxed pitchers Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, who he worked with back in his days as pitching coach, back to top form after their sub-par 2012 seasons.
His calm approach also helped him navigate a string of bullpen injuries before finding gold in current closer Koji Uehara, the fourth Boston pitcher used in the role.
"We knew the environment was different day one of spring training," said centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
"The guys that they brought in, it was just a fun clubhouse to be a part of all season. I think the fans could see it with our performance on the field."
(Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Frank Pingue)