Considering how crisp you played and efficient, is an off day a good thing or a bad thing at this point?

TERRY FRANCONA: I don't think it can ever be a bad thing. I don't think you forget how to play. We had two days off coming in. I just think every game, especially this time of the year, kind of has its own personality, own flavor.

But I was pleased. Every aspect of the game last night, I thought we played like we know how to play. Now again tomorrow it will be a whole new game, and it will take on a whole personality or life of its own.

We heard both Josh and David say that you can't do things differently when you get to the playoffs. Do you believe that or do you think that there are guys who really can pick up their game when the pressure's on?

TERRY FRANCONA: Probably believe a little bit of both. I think I understand what they're saying though. On one hand, especially in baseball, you can't do things differently when a bell rings and says it's playoff time. You can't try to hit a ball 20 feet farther; it just doesn't work. I think the whole idea is to treat every time you play the game, whether it's March, April, May, June, the same and give it a lot of importance. So then when you get to this time of year, the time of the game or significance of the game doesn't become too much. I think we've always done a very good job of that.

As a rookie to the postseason, what, if anything, could Daisuke learn from what Josh is able to do and the way he controlled the game last night?

TERRY FRANCONA: Well, if Daisuke wants to throw 97 with cut, a curveball from hell and a really good changeup. I think Daisuke's considered a rookie by Major League standards, and he's definitely had a lot thrown at him for the first time, but he's not a rookie. He's a pretty established professional pitcher. He's just had a lot thrown at him this year that is I mean, it is the way it is, and we're thrilled to have him, but we knew he was going to go through a lot of firsts. I mean, culturally, baseball, everything. And he's handled it very well.

But I think we all enjoyed watching what Beckett was able to do. Now we've got to move on and take care of business tomorrow.

Escobar did not face you guys this year but he has in the past and he's done pretty well. What are some of his weapons?

TERRY FRANCONA: What is a little bit encouraging for us, and this doesn't mean that it will directly translate into tomorrow, but last night I thought we did a great job of swinging at strikes. You know, so much is made of whether you call it patience. But I thought we swung at balls in the zone, didn't swing at balls out of the zone. And because of that we had hits early, we had four, we didn't knock them out of the ballpark, but he also didn't shut us out which he is capable of doing. We've seen him do it to other teams.

Escobar would be the same thing. If we stay in the zone, it will certainly give us a much better chance to score some runs. He's got good velocity, actually sometimes great velocity, And off speed pitches that are in and out of the zone down. And if you can't lay off of those or you put those in play, you don't do a lot with them. Got a lot of deception to his off speed with a very good fastball. It'll be important for us to put it up in the zone and swing at strikes.

Last night Kevin was in here and he was asked about David's home run. And he sort of went on a tangent where he said that David had faced a lot of criticism this season, and that he thought that it was unfair. I mean, when you take a look at what Ortiz did, he's got a very high batting average, 35 home runs, more than 100 RBI. I mean, what is your take on that? I mean, is the criticism unfair? Why was there criticism?

TERRY FRANCONA: I don't know that there was. If there was, I didn't see it. I mean, we talked from time to time about him not being at full strength. I don't think that's criticism, I think that's being honest with how he felt physically. I think David had a monster year. Some of it, a lot of it came late.

Again, I think he had 52 doubles. He was fifth in the league in batting average. I think he led the league in walks. Oh, he had a monster year. Just the bar was set so high as far as home runs go that you would have to tell me some of the criticisms, because I just wasn't really aware of that part of it. You know, I know he had some shoulder problems. I know he had some knee problems. I also know he played through it, and sometimes that can translate into lower numbers.

David's a big leader for us, and when it was time to step up when we needed it, he was right there at the forefront.

How do you feel about all the rest your bullpen going into tomorrow's game?

TERRY FRANCONA: I think we all hope that we don't get in a situation where you're overusing. And I think we also hope that when you get into a situation where you need a pivotal out from your bullpen that they'll be rested, not rusty. That's why we have these optional workouts today. And as you can see, our guys really do the right thing. It's not mandatory. We don't want somebody out there just to show us that they're out there. We had everybody that needed to throw, throw. The guys that hit, especially the extra guys and most of the lineup because a lot of guys hit in the cage. It's just for their benefit so we can take out rust if it's potentially there, and just continue to let them play their game to the best of their ability.

Do you recall what your initial reaction was when you found out that Mike Lowell was going to be a member of this team?

TERRY FRANCONA: Oh, wow. Probably not. I was in the hospital. I'm always in the hospital (smiling).

They made the trade during the winter meetings. I was getting my knee -- I was probably hooked up to something that was making me feel good. I probably would have approved of anything.

What has he meant for this team?

TERRY FRANCONA: Oh, he's been great. I know what you're alluding to. I do remember trying to -- and I think Mikey was very aware of it. We gave up all of this for Beckett and Mikey's a throw in, I would never say that. He had had a really tough year the year before. Tacked on before that he had had some All Star years. I think we were actually really glad to get him.

And as a manager any time you get a guy of Mikey's professionalism okay, on the nights you go for 0 for 4, you still get the glove, you still get the desire to win, you still get the good base runner, even though he's not going to steal a hundred bases. So that if you're a coach or a manager, that really helps.

Now the fact that he had a monster year on top of that is awesome. I mean, he's one of the best guys you'll ever be around. His teammates love him. We love him. The fans love him. There's no reason not to.

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The other day you said that Daisuke seemed much more confident now than he had been. From what point do you feel that confidence? Is there anything you can share with us?

TERRY FRANCONA: I think the point I was trying to make is the other day he came out of the bullpen and just looked, again calm, which he always is fairly calm. But pretty confident about executing his pitches. He executed all his pitches in the bullpen according to John. With some pretty good drive on his fastball, you know, throwing it downhill and locating it. And there was some shape to his breaking ball. There's a few starts where everything had kind of run together. And I think you go through a long year and you go through some tough times, you go through some good times. Then you go through some periods where sometimes your pitches are running together. And when that happens, you're not giving the hitters the different looks you need to.

I think Daisuke's year is pretty much, if you look back on it, probably not a surprise the way it went. Some ups and downs, some learning. Some different things have been thrown his way. But I think we're all excited that he's taking the ball.

Did we get a pretty good example last night of why you thought Ellsbury would have an impact on this series?

TERRY FRANCONA: Yeah, you know what, the tools are there that everybody can see, but for a young kid the willingness to be ready. He's done his homework on all their pitchers. So when he does pinch run, he will be as game ready as possible. May get one opportunity where he can impact the game, but we don't want to let that go by.

And again that play, I don't want to say it makes or breaks the game. It shows what he is able to do. And maybe makes that play later on in the series with men on base.

Can you just talk about how you've seen Kevin Youkilis evolve as a hitter from the four years that you've been managing him?

TERRY FRANCONA: The first spring in '04, I think it was his first year on the roster. I know he was in camp. He wasn't getting to a lot of fastballs. He actually turned on a ball in Sarasota against the Reds and hit it in the gap, and I remember thinking I'm glad I saw that. Because we'd heard how professional of a hitter this guy was. But he's not your prototype corner guy, knocking balls out of the ballpark. Then he goes to the Minor Leagues and he comes up and down that year. Kind of on that shuttle. Every time he'd go down, he'd come back and just in the course of conversation he would tell me something, and I would think this kid's really paying attention.

And he got better so fast. We all knew he commanded the strike zone so maturely for a young guy. But now he's a good threat at the plate. You don't know as he gets older how he will evolve. You know, does he hit for a higher average? Can he hit more home runs? Who knows. But he's a very good professional hitter.

Can you talk about the difference between the different rounds of the playoffs? There seems to be obviously more urgency in this one with the shorter series. The LCS's seem incredibly intense. Is there a difference from your standpoint?

TERRY FRANCONA: No, there really isn't. They're all urgent. I think we've tried to somewhat play each inning of every game all year that way. Even when we're resting people, we want to play the game right all the time. I think sometimes that's part of an advantage at playing at Fenway. Every game is treated like a playoff game. Shoot, even in Fort Myers. I remember the first time we played the Yankees and we didn't play all the regulars, everybody went bananas.

I think that's the culture we want to have here. Every game means so much. Then when you get to games that do mean so much, it doesn't make you do something you don't want to do or make you react in a negative way.

With Pedroia getting off to a slow start this season, do you recall the moment in the season where maybe his personality clicked in, and any concern he had early, he became a scrappy, confident guy you know now?

TERRY FRANCONA: I don't actually remember a moment. I really don't. You know, what's interesting about what you're asking is, and I think he went about it the right way. You know, when you're a young player, you're coming into a Major League atmosphere, veteran team, there's a way to act. And sometimes balancing that isn't the easiest thing to do. While he was quiet, and maybe that's not his nature, the veterans, I think, respected the way he was handling himself. The way he was handling his adversity early on. And then he started getting hot. While he wasn't hitting, he was contributing in making all the plays and helping us win. Then he got hot and his true personality came out. Then it started being a case where the energy was good, the veterans loved him, and that's the way he needs to be to be a good player.

But I still think he handled it correctly. You come in on day one saying some of the things he's saying on day 160, and somebody might have smacked him. In fact, they still do. But it's worked. I think he handled himself very well.

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