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10/23/07 4:36 PM ET

Interview with Francona, Wakefield

Manager thinks Rockies have an American League lineup

Have you made any changes with the roster, and have you set the rotation after Beckett?

TERRY FRANCONA: Okay, what we have of the rotation right now is Beckett, Schill, Daisuke, one, two, three. The one decision that has been made is about Tim Wakefield and his availability, or lack of availability, and I can certainly answer questions about that. If you'd like to wait a couple minutes, Wake actually came down with me, and he'll come in here and we can do it together if you want. We can spend whatever time on it you want, but it might be -- you can ask other questions in the meantime if you want, but Wake will be here in a couple minutes and we can go over that.

As far as the rest of the roster goes, it is not set yet, so I can't go there yet. Theo -- with Lester throwing his four innings out there now, it kind of ran into this. We had a few more things we wanted to just make sure we're all on the same page.

Does that mean you're going to set the roster tonight, and then two, the fact that Lester threw four innings today, are you stretching him out for a possible start?

TERRY FRANCONA: Yes, and the roster doesn't have to be set until 10:00 tomorrow morning, but there's no reason -- I'm sure that we'll have our roster set today, and we'll talk to the players at some point when it's appropriate and we know the final answers. We'll talk to every player that is involved in that.

So Lester you're considering starting Game Four?

TERRY FRANCONA: You're starting to put words into my mouth.

No, I'm just asking. I'll ask you to be more specific.

TERRY FRANCONA: Not yet. I'm not ready to be more specific yet.

This is such a different team from 2004. I mean, most of your position players are different, most of your staff is different. How unique or how big of a challenge has this been to get back this quickly with so many different parts in play?

TERRY FRANCONA: I think when you have veteran teams, you're going to have some turnover. If you have good veteran teams there are going to be free agents, other teams are going to want them. You can't keep everybody. I think the struggle -- not a struggle because I think Theo and ownership has done a great job of turning over our ballclub, not becoming old, and still being competitive every year. That's not easy to do.

You know, I certainly understand we're allowed a very healthy payroll here. Ownership gives us a lot to work with. But to not ever step back and rebuild, that also puts some people at a disadvantage in our front office, and I think they do a great job of getting around that and giving us a chance every year to have a chance.

A two parter on the DH. How tough of a decision is that to decide who comes out in Colorado, and do you know when you might have anything to tell us?

TERRY FRANCONA: It is difficult. It puts us at a disadvantage. The team that we set up to play 154 of our games we don't get to send out there. They haven't set their rotation yet for those games. That may have something to do with it. Some of it also may have -- how David's knee feels. So we're really not set. Youkilis, Lowell, Ortiz, two out of three play, and we always say it'll be three out of three. We'll get to that when we know more.

With a lefty pitching tomorrow, have you decided who's going to play center and who's going to play right tomorrow night?

TERRY FRANCONA: J.D. is going to play right field, and Ellsbury is going to play center, and part of that is Coco banged himself pretty good the other night. He was actually unavailable for most of our workout today. He's getting treatment. He came out and got in the box off of Lester just to see some pitches, but he's not feeling real good. Not to the point where we'll take him off the roster, but probably to the point where we -- it made a very difficult decision maybe not quite as difficult.

Given the quirkiness of Fenway and the big outfield in Denver, does familiarity with the field give the home team a little more of an advantage than in a typical series?

TERRY FRANCONA: I hope so. This is a quirky ballpark and a lot of things can happen. We've seen it in right field a lot. We've seen it in left field. Manny made a play off the wall the other day that not a lot of guys make. I also think hitting last is maybe the most important thing. You can work your bullpen different, use pitchers as you may not on the road in a tie game, and our crowd certainly enters into it.

What did Ellsbury add the two games he started against Cleveland? What did he bring to the party?

TERRY FRANCONA: Well, what he brought was pretty much the same thing he brought the month of September, a speed factor, a much more mature attitude towards the game. We've talked about it a little bit, talked in spring training with having survival skills, and I think what he meant by that is he's not just here to be on the ride, or as you kind of alluded to, being at the party. He's here to win. And for a young player, that's kind of rare. For us to put him in Game Six after not playing, I think that shows the amount of confidence we do have in his ability to compete.

You have Schilling, who's one of the best postseason pitchers in history, and Beckett, who's on his way to being the same. Do you see any similarities between the two in the way they approach these postseason starts in particular?

TERRY FRANCONA: Well, they both compete really well, which I think is kind of stating the obvious. They're different pitchers now, though. You see a guy that's been doing it for a long time and knows how to do it, doesn't quite throw like he used to but still knows how to pitch and how to win. You see the other guy that's starting to come into his own and make a name for himself. He's younger, starting to mature, and we're seeing -- we're reaping the benefits of that because he's maturing right in front of our eyes. Seems like every game he wants to make more of a name for himself.

Outside the three games you played the Rockies here, what did you know about the Rockies and the franchise? They pretty much disappeared off your radar since you left Philadelphia.

TERRY FRANCONA: Well, I don't know about disappeared off the radar. I mean, when we played them, they were the most important thing on our radar. They actually labeled us two out of three games. I know enough about them now to know that they've won a lot of games out of a lot of games (laughter), and they feel really good about themselves, and they have a lineup -- I heard Josh at the tail end. They have an American League lineup. Speed at the front, knocking the ball around the ballpark in the middle. There's a lot of respect for what they can do. Saying that, we like our team. This should be a great series. It's supposed to be, when you get to this time of the year. You not only survive but thrive if you have holes. Things get exposed.

The American League all year long has generally been considered the stronger league. You are the big market team, you have the more recognizable stars. Do you disagree with the perception of you guys being a favorite in this series?

TERRY FRANCONA: I don't care about the perception. Just to make this really clear. If I were betting on it, I would care; I'm not (laughter). I know we're trying to keep cursing to a minimum and betting out of it (laughter).

I don't think anybody on our team -- it doesn't ever enter into who we're playing, the perception of how a series will go. What's on our radar is tomorrow night's game. We'll give it our best shot and we'll play the next time.

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Terry mentioned that you were going to talk about your availability or lack of availability in the series. Can you just kind of go over that?

TIM WAKEFIELD: I really wish I was up here talking about my starting game, too. But unfortunately that's not the case today. After long talks with him and John Farrell and Theo, my health, advice from the doctors, it's not going to happen, unfortunately.

Could I pitch Game Two? Probably. But are you going to get 100 percent out of Tim Wakefield? I don't know that, either, until Tuesday. After that I don't know, either, because dealing with this problem that I've had for the past two months, it seems like my recovery time is getting longer and longer and longer, and I just don't think it's fair to the other 24 guys on this team that I go out there and maybe I pitch well and maybe I don't, and then I'm not available for the rest of the series. It's not fair for the rest of the 24 guys in that clubhouse for me to put them through that.

Wake, is this since Sunday? In other words, if Josh Beckett had gone two innings on Sunday, might this have been different? Has something happened in the last couple of days?

TIM WAKEFIELD: Probably not. I tried to throw a side yesterday or the day before to see how it would feel. Based on what the doctors were saying, they wanted me to throw a side and see how I felt the next day. I could barely even throw the side. It was maximum at 75 percent or 60 percent or whatever. My doctors and John Farrell was saying, trust me -- this stinks for me, it does. As a competitor I want to be out there competing. This is the ultimate stage, this is what I've worked hard from spring training through the course of the season to get to this point, and now I can't be available. I mean, it sucks, to put it bluntly.

Could you just talk a little bit about the injury? You talked about how you could barely throw the side. When was its worst point? Was it during your last start? How much did it affect you and so on?

TIM WAKEFIELD: This has been ongoing. I missed a start in September. I was having problems before that start in September. Got a cortisone shot, felt better. Just the start itself really didn't bother me, it was the days between that really bothered me to where I couldn't play catch the day after I started, or my side was cut short because of pain or whatever. My start, obviously I missed a divisional series. I was able to rest my shoulder for three weeks, two and a half weeks, and I started in Cleveland and I felt really good on that start. The next day, the next day, the next day, I've been battling this since that start.

I threw a side a couple days ago, it still wasn't getting any better. I've been taking medicine, been seeing the doctors, seeing the trainers trying to get this stuff out because I knew what was going to take place up to the World Series and I wanted to be able to be ready to start Games 2 and 6. Ideally that would be what Tito and the organization wants me to do is to start Games 2 and 6. I could start Game 2, but I can't promise you I could start Game 6 right now, and I don't think that's the right decision to make?

Could you discuss your emotions when Tim had this meeting with you?

TERRY FRANCONA: This has been like Wake alluded to. It was not a quick one meeting. It's actually been over the -- we communicate every day. Over the course of the last two months we have known where Wake has been, even when the public hasn't, and the recovery time between each start has been getting more difficult and more difficult.

The emotion, it wasn't a lot of fun. That's part of the reason Wake is sitting here now, because of our respect and regard for him, that it wasn't just a move made on paper and we'll go on. Sometimes doing the right thing is certainly not the fun thing, but it comes back to having respect for the organization, for the team, and for the players, and that will never change.

During this process have you even thought about the future?

TIM WAKEFIELD: Yeah, I have, and it's -- another reason why I'm here today is because if I continue to do this, based on the information I'm getting from the doctors, I'm seriously at risk of injuring myself for the rest of my life. So that had a lot of weight in the decision. Even though it's the World Series, and Tito has been around me, and a lot of you guys have been around me long enough to know, I'll go out there at 50 percent, I don't care. But again, like I alluded to before, I don't think it's fair to the 24 guys that are in that clubhouse, and I don't think it's fair to the organization, and I don't think it's fair to me, lastly, that I go out and injure myself and I'm not available for next year or the year after that.

What is your plan now for Game Four, and do you have a contingency plan in case there's a rain out tomorrow?

TERRY FRANCONA: If we rain out tomorrow, Beckett is going to pitch the next day (laughter). We're prepared here (laughter). We don't need to go past Game 3 right now. We certainly have -- as you can see, Lester threw today extensively. He's not being groomed for the bullpen tomorrow. But again, there are some things that can arise. Whether people are taking balls off the shin, I mean, there are things that arise that we will be prepared for, but right now Games 1, 2, 3, are all we're prepared to go to.

Obviously while you're going through this, and as Tito said, not all this was public information. But now that this is out, we've heard it described as back, shoulder, and now you're saying that doctors are saying this may be permanent. Could you tell us what exactly is going on?

TIM WAKEFIELD: It's just a lot of inflammation in my shoulder and posterior shoulder and my back or the back of my shoulder. There's no structural damage based on an MRI that I had in September. The problem that the doctors are uneasy about is my recovery time. If I keep throwing and throwing and throwing with swelling, it may cause impingement, it may tear something.

Back in September they said the risk of me injuring myself was probably very slim, so a cortisone shot, get healthy, go back and pitch, get to the postseason and see how it feels. But since the recovery time and the second cortisone shot, the risk of taking a third cortisone shot is out of the question right now, and I think just based on what Dr. Gill was trying to tell me, it's riskier now than it was back in September. I'm not saying it's going to be permanent, but I'm saying the chances of an injury happening now are riskier than they were in September.

TERRY FRANCONA: With increased inflammation in the shoulder area comes a decrease of strength, so with that happening, you're always putting somebody at more risk every time they pitch.

Is there a chance that Tim could start Game Four, and how much would the fact that it's in Colorado and the knuckleball play into your thinking?

TERRY FRANCONA: There's a lot of things that came into our thinking. The biggest problems we were approaching were the not knowing, as Wake kind of alluded to, going into any game, the unknowns, and then the idea that once he pitched he's probably done, that ends up being very difficult.

And again, there's a lot of -- this is not a ten minute conversation; this has been a lot of talk with Wake, with the medical people, pitching coach, Theo. Sometimes arriving at the right thing to do is not the fun thing to do, but you have to get there, and it's not always easy.

Just so I'm clear, have you definitely decided he's not on the roster, and who would replace him?

TERRY FRANCONA: Well, as I said earlier, Wake is not on the roster, and we have not announced the roster yet.

Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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