Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 8/21/12

Pitching coach Bob McClure is the first casualty of the Boston Red Sox's underachieving season.

McClure was fired Monday night after presiding over a pitching staff that ranked 11th in the American League with a 4.31 ERA. McClure also had a stormy relationship with manager Bobby Valentine.

Randy Niemann, a trusted Valentine lieutenant who had been serving in an unusual role as "assistant pitching coach," will replace McClure, becoming the Red Sox's fourth pitching coach in the last three seasons.

"We have great respect for Bob," Red Sox GM Ben Cherington said on a conference call. "He's a quality guy, a good coach. It just didn't work out the way we'd hoped. We felt like we needed to make a change."

As recently as Sunday, Cherington noted improved communication between Valentine and several coaches, including McClure. Yet the Red Sox's pitching staff has underachieved, with purported aces Jon Lester and Josh Beckett struggling badly at times.

"This was a performance-based decision," Cherington said. "We simply felt like we needed to make a change to put our pitchers in the best position to do what they needed to do the next six weeks. We feel like the next six weeks are important, no matter what our record ends up, and there are things we need to accomplish the next six weeks to create a foundation going into the offseason. We felt like this change was needed to give ourselves the best chance to do that."

The Red Sox hired McClure, 60, in November as a special assignment scout and instructor. He was named pitching coach in December, shortly after Valentine was hired.

Cherington said McClure won't remain with the organization in a different capacity.

Niemann, 56, follows John Farrell (2005-10), Curt Young last season and now McClure in a position that recently has been unstable for the Red Sox. He spent 24 seasons in the New York Mets organization, including six as a member of Valentine's coaching staff.

"He's been involved with the pitching staff pretty intimately since the beginning of spring training," Cherington said. "There won't be any learning curve, that's for sure."

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