Francona has nervous energy for opener
Sox manager enters his sixth season with Red Sox excited
BOSTON -- A day later than originally scheduled, Terry Francona had the honor of managing his sixth Opening Day for the Red Sox on Tuesday, and 10th in the Major Leagues. But no matter how many times he does it, Francona always feels the same nervous energy for the start of another season.
"I would say a lot," Francona said. "Opening Day, no matter how many you do, or how many you haven't done, they're pretty much the same. The excitement is there, the anticipation. [There's] certainly some anxiety. On one hand, it's exciting to go out and everyone gets introduced and there's a lot of firsts. In saying that, you want to get into the grind too and get a lot of firsts out of the way."
Though Francona has always been a creature of habit -- and Opening Day festivities can't help but get a team out of their normal routines -- he understands what it means to the ravenous collection of people that support his team.
"I think it's an exciting time for people -- for the fans," Francona said. "Not necessarily for today, because it's going to be about 42 [degrees], but I think it kind of signifies that spring is coming and winter is done -- just maybe not in the next couple of days."
Not only is Francona the only manager to guide the Red Sox to a World Series championship since 1918 -- winning two of them no less -- he has also produced some other impressive feats.
Francona's .580 winning percentage for the Red Sox is second only to Joe McCarthy (1948-50) among those who have managed the team for at least 350 games. Francona's .667 winning percentage (28-14) in the postseason is second all-time among all Major League managers. Again, McCarthy (30-13) is the only one he trails.
But Francona isn't one to revel in those accomplishments, let alone even know them. He is all but tunnel vision, trying to get the most out of his team each day over a long season.
As entrenched as he's become with the Red Sox -- he's fourth on the team's all-time wins list and fifth in games managed -- Francona appears as driven as ever. He also has a unique way of staying even-keeled in a market that is anything but.
"You prepare and you do the best you can and you try to get everybody ready, and then all of a sudden, you fly north and you sit around for a couple of days and everything the first couple of weeks will get magnified," Francona said. "We talked about that the other day. I guess that's why I have a little bit more comfort level in the grind of the season, because I do have a lot of confidence in our team.
"Sometimes it takes a while. I hope we get off to a great start, because it's easier. But I think I feel over the long haul that we'll find out if we're as good as we think we are. Sometimes the first couple of days you play a game, you sit around and it is a little hard, and it creates some anxiety, but I don't think [it's] pressure."
Short hops: The one reliever Francona will shy away from back-to-back situations early in the season is Takashi Saito. The righty didn't pitch on successive days all of Spring Training after experiencing right elbow problems in the second half of last season for the Dodgers. ... Rocco Baldelli is likely to make his start Wednesday night, but Francona hasn't decided yet what position the Rhode Island native will play. ... Jason Varitek made his 10th Opening Day start for Boston on Tuesday, the most by any catcher in team history. Ditto for David Ortiz, who made his sixth Opening Day start as the designated hitter. ... With a third-inning RBI double, third baseman Mike Lowell now has a 10-game hitting streak on Opening Day. ... Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury carried over an 18-game hitting streak from 2008 into Opening Day, but it came to an end with an 0-for-4 performance on Tuesday. ... Catcher George Kottaras, who wore No. 68 during Spring Training, has switched to 16.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.