10/28/07 5:59 PM ET
Terry Francona pregame interview
Boston manager talks of Beckett, Varitek, Pedroia, Ellsbury
By / MLB.com
TERRY FRANCONA:I don't know. I mean, I don't know how to even answer that. That's not our concern. Our concern is to play tonight's game, not to be philosophical about the other team's chances or what we did four years ago. Our motivation is to win the game tonight, and that's what we do all the time. And I think we're pretty good at it, whether we've won the game before or lost the game before, just do what's at hand.
Could you just speak to the idea of how comforting it's been for you to have Jason Varitek as your starting catcher during your entire tenure? And also how devastating was it in retrospect to the team when he got hurt in August?
TERRY FRANCONA:I think you always want your catcher to be indispensable until you find out the hard way. At the same time Dougie got banged up, and when that happened -- I don't think we've ever denied, nor do we want to, the role that he has in our ballclub. He's our captain. He not only runs our team, but obviously runs the pitching staff. He has a lot of responsibility. Sometimes you see him after games with those ice packs. I think he ought to maybe put one on his head, too, because you can tell he's worn out. After a game he bears a lot of what happens and take the responsibility. But on the flipside when you're shaking hands after a win, by his demeanor you would never know how many hits he has. If he catches a win, I think he feels like he's done his job.
Back to your first press conference with the Red Sox when you signed on, you said a lot of the right things. You seemed to understand what you were getting into here. Three, four years later, is it what you thought it was, getting from there to this point here, dealing with the job, dealing with the fans?
TERRY FRANCONA:Well, I don't remember everything I said. I'm sure whatever I said I believed. That's the reason you say it. But until you live through things, you really don't quite know. I mean, you try to prepare yourself for whatever can happen, but I think as you go through experiences you try to grow and get better, just like everybody. And the more experiences you come through, I think it helps with your confidence because you learn to deal with them.
It came up a couple of days ago specifically with the pick-off, but could you let us know, one, the value of all the things that your advance scouts do; and two, without giving up too much proprietary information some of the kinds of things that they help you guys out with, because it seems like it's been a big part of the success over the last several years for you guys?
TERRY FRANCONA:Well, I think the easiest way is we certainly believe in preparation and we're certainly blessed to have a lot of people that help us prepare. We feel responsibility as a staff to be prepared, never forgetting that we want players to go play the game. So we do; we spend a lot of time trying to prepare. But as far as what is in our reports, I'd rather keep that with us.
As good as Josh has been for you in the regular season, this year in the playoffs he's been against presumably the best opposition there is, eye popping. In your mind is he a different pitcher in the postseason, and where does he stand for you in terms of being a so called money pitcher in big games?
TERRY FRANCONA: How unusual is it to have a couple of young guys like Ellsbury and Pedroia who are as adaptable as they seem to be from at-bat to at-bat?
TERRY FRANCONA:He's been good all year. I mean, he's got a chance to maybe win the Cy Young. I think when you do those types of things in the postseason, as far as getting national recognition, as it should, people talk about what you've accomplished. It gives us a chance to brag on him a little bit. But he's been good. I've seen some of his numbers, and they're up there with some pretty interesting names. Again, the stage isn't too big when he pitches. He actually seems like he has calmed down somewhat during these playoffs and his focus has been fantastic. That doesn't mean you're going to win, but if you get the best of Josh, we'll take our chances.
How unusual is it to have a couple of young guys like Ellsbury and Pedroia who are as adaptable as they seem to be from at-bat to at-bat?
TERRY FRANCONA:Well, probably part of the reason they're good is they do have the ability to make adjustments. With Ellsbury, with his speed, Pedroia with the ability to go to right field. If you want to pitch him in, sometimes he'll turn that ball. But they both understand how to play. I'm sure there's a lot of people in our player development that are pretty proud right now, as they should be. We're the ones that get to stand up there and talk about the young kids, but the player development people, the ones that spend all the time with them, they've done a great job.
Since we're out here in left field I'll throw you one in left field. Dustin Pedroia, did you clear up his winning percentage against you in these pregame Cribbage matches, and have you had yours today with him?
TERRY FRANCONA:Yeah, I beat him up pretty good. He's not that good. He's a really good baseball player. He's all right. He's not that good (laughter). Thankfully he's a really good baseball player. But he comes back for more. His mentality is he doesn't quit.
The fact is that the second half of last year Josh had troubles, an ERA hovering around 7.00 and gave up a lot of home runs. How evident to you during spring training was it to you that something had changed with him?
TERRY FRANCONA:I actually think it was about three pitches into his first day on field three. We were standing behind the screen and he threw about three fastballs that were knee high that looked like they were going to hit the plate. Everybody standing there said, "Where did that come from?" He has been that pitcher from that moment until today.
Where did that come from?
TERRY FRANCONA:He's had it. It's consistency. It's the ability to not try to necessarily break the radar gun, because he's always going to be a max effort guy, but the idea of locating and maybe cutting it or sinking it or throwing a change up at times, throwing his breaking ball for strikes. Again, he wasn't -- he got a lot of wins last year. He had some growing pains in our league, but he was a 26 year old kid. He turned 27, and he works hard, he listens. There were some things last year that physically he was not able to make adjustments with. We knew that. You just go out and compete and do the best you can. And then there's a time when the season is over when physically you can make some adjustments.
There's no secret that this organization spends some money, but this time around as compared to three years ago, this is a little more of a home-grown team. To what extent is that -- as you're talking about the player development people, to what extent is there some satisfaction organization wide in the way that this team was put together?
TERRY FRANCONA:I think there's a lot of pride in that. Any time you talk with Theo, he'll bring that up right away. You know, we do, we have the ability to -- our owners give us a lot of money to go out and spend and get good players. But having guys come through your system is a great way to do it. And when they're able to come and contribute, and not just contribute but be pivotal players, we've got guys hitting first and second, Papelbon is closing games, Youkilis playing first, it's a huge source of pride.
You mentioned that it doesn't matter that Jason, whether he has a hit or not and a victory. He's the all-time Red Sox home run leader in the postseason. How would you characterize him as a hitter, either in general, and also in this postseason, how do you rate him?
TERRY FRANCONA:Well, I think he's dangerous because he has the power. I think any catcher worth his salt is going to lose at-bats because you're catching first, and Jason falls right into that. You see a lot of innings when he's hitting second and he's got some pitcher's ear or they've got his ear, and the hitting isn't at the forefront. That happens. You get worn down. But he takes such good care of himself, and he's always a threat. You can hit and run with him. He knows how to play the game. Again, you catch that many games, you're got to get worn down. You're going to lose some bat speed from time to time. That's just the way the game is.
If you can look at Daisuke's season in an overview, is he sort of just scratching the surface of what he can do here with all the things he had to learn here, all the adjustments he had to make?
TERRY FRANCONA:I don't know about scratching the surface. I do agree that he went through everything here for the first time. Everything he did was a first, and he did it in a foreign language. It wasn't probably always very easy. I think he has a great ability to make adjustments, and I do think next year you'll see more consistency from him. What level does he get to as a pitcher, I think we're excited about that, to see how it plays out. But I also think there will be a bigger comfort level for him next year just because he was here for a full year.
Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports.
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