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10/02/08 11:51 PM ET

Terry Francona workout day interview

Manager speaks about injuries and changes to the lineup

Just wondering what the update on Josh is.

TERRY FRANCONA: Josh had a real productive side, I think he ended up with 67 pitches which is a pretty aggressive side, but I think we probably needed to do that. The idea is certainly to -- you're always checking on health and with Josh it's important, too.

He needs to know going into a start that he has what is available, what he needs to win, so today was a very productive day. Nothing was cut short, fastball had some finish to it, through all his pitches.

Now, again, we'll monitor him as we go, but the medical people were out there and I think we were very pleased with the way things went.

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Everybody talks about Daisuke Matsuzaka doesn't give into hitters and as you watch that what's the fine line about liking the fact that he doesn't give in and wishing he would throw more strikes?

TERRY FRANCONA: 18-3. Especially early in the season when he walked some people and got himself in trouble, he always pitched out of it. Early in the season he exited some games a little earlier than, you know -- didn't get as deep in games as his numbers would suggest but we won those games.

As the season has progressed, I think he's done a better job because he doesn't give up a lot of hits and when you combine them both, that's what he has those real good games. For the most part he's managed to stay away from one or the other, either hits or walks, and he hasn't got himself in trouble.

Terry, I'm sure any Red Sox fan would have tuned in and saw Drew in right field and Lowell at third and would be elated, but considering how few at bats they have had, how do you weigh that decision? How risky is it? In the lineup you get 'em some. Can you tell us and down the road it's great, but it's risky to put guys who have had so few at bats into the game?

TERRY FRANCONA: Well, we won the game.

And that's great, but the guys have combined for six at bats against live pitching, is that...

TERRY FRANCONA: I guess you -- again, any move in baseball can be second guessed. (Phone ringing.)

Especially that. Perfect! If you lose the game everything is going to be second guessed, that's the beauty of the game, making decisions and Mike Lowell hadn't played before. The last time back his first game he put up five R.B.I.'s, you just don't know. Mike is a good player and J.D. is a good player and in a perfect world they would all have at bats and they would all be injury free and we would go out there and see if we can win or lose.

It's not a perfect world, and we may have to make changes as we go along. We may have to -- I spent a lot of time talking to Mike this morning, it's not a nagging hamstring he's dealing with, so, again, we'll continue to -- I don't know what we're going to do tomorrow because, you know, it's hard -- it's actually a very difficult decision for me and you've got a guy that's the ultimate gamer, will go out there every day. We're coming back in two days going back to Fenway facing a lefty, and it's important to have his bat in the lineup. So, again, there are decisions we need to still make and I haven't actually come to a conclusion yet.

Terry, what is it about your clubhouse culture that's allowed young players to excel in the last couple of years under what seemed from afar great expectations, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jonathan Papelbon. What do you think happens among those players that creates comfort, or what is working that allows the young guys to succeed?

TERRY FRANCONA: It's a couple of things, first of all to be good players, regardless of the culture, if you're hitting .210 they can take 'em out to dinner but you have to be a good player.

When Dustin Pedroia came up here, last year was difficult. But he believed in himself to the point -- and we were playing good enough baseball where we could be patient. Certainly it paid off, you know, way more than we ever could have imagined.

Jed Lowrie comes up and establishes right away. He can help us win. That's one of the things we've talked to the young guys about a lot when they get here is understand how important these games are, and when the veterans see that they care about winning, and maybe not calling home to mom and dad that I got in a game.

It really goes a long way and they seem to grasp that early on and I think our veterans do a good job of allowing them to fit in, trying to teach 'em the game. And our young kids do a very good job of having that youthful enthusiasm and showing respect to the veterans, it's a pretty good combination.

On that note how did Ellsbury deal with his first full season, had some down times but now obviously has picked it up here in the last stretch and you couldn't ask for much more last night.

TERRY FRANCONA: I think it's been pretty much a typical season for a kid playing his first full season in the Major Leagues. First time through, I don't want to say you have a free pass but teams don't have a scouting report on you and then they have the ability to make adjustments and you see the player have their chance to make adjustments. It's pretty unlikely that a young player is going to go through a full season and never hit any bumps in the road. All along we talked about wanting to go get him in that lead off spot. There were times when it didn't seem practical, and we got him down in the nine hole and he started swinging better and we got him up there and that's how we envisioned it and we wanted it to work that way and it has.

Talk about the defense yesterday and the off season and how important is the defense to winning ballgames?

TERRY FRANCONA: Defense and pitching you hope are your strengths, especially when you're playing the Angels. If the ball doesn't end up where it's supposed to, they're going to score. And it showed last night the one time we didn't convert a ground ball and they scored.

They're going to be aggressive and try to run you into mistakes, but, again, if the ball ends up where it's supposed to then they have to find other ways to beat you. That's why they're improved this year because they have other ways to beat you. You have Hunter and Mark Teixeira who can hit the ball out of the ballpark, they can beat you that way.

How do you think Drew and Lowell looked last night? Are they up to speed?

TERRY FRANCONA: I thought J.D. moved pretty well. He doesn't have a ton of at bats but there is that presence that's important, too. If it's on the other side and we're pitching to him, I don't know that you could sit there and say this guy hasn't played.

Let's -- he still has the ability to hit the ball out of the park and do some things and you don't know when it's going to happen. I thought Mikey Lowell came through the ballgame pretty well. He's obviously an intelligent player. He cheated in on bunters, got himself into position to make all the plays and one he had to move when Vlad was going to third. Again, we had some time but I thought he came through pretty well.

Because of what you went through physically yourself as a player and certainly you could have had a much longer career had you been healthier, does that help you, does that experience help you deal with players who are hurt and go whether they should or shouldn't play?

TERRY FRANCONA: No, everybody is different. Everybody is different. You know, as a player I didn't really care 20 years later what happened to my body. I just-- when they allowed me to play I really wanted to play. Now when I have a tough time getting off the bench I'm not sure how smart that was, but that's how I felt. Everybody is different. And that will always be the case.

Mikey Lowell, what he's going through right now, he's going to pay for this later, he knows that. He's beating his body up, and as a manager or a teammate I don't know how you can't respect that to the Nth degree, he's the ultimate teammate.

Further on the subject of Lowell yesterday it looked in the top of the eighth that he aggravated his hip similar to the game against the Yankees.

TERRY FRANCONA: I asked him and he said no, not a bit.

So you never thought about a defensive replacement for him late in the eighth given his limitations?

TERRY FRANCONA: Well, he's our best defensive -- if he's not hurting to a point like in Tampa he's our best defensive player, and it allows Youk to stay at first, which you have to take into consideration.

This may not be totally on your radar right now but is it kind of neat to have a guy like Gil Velazquez here? He's been in the minors all his life to be here for the playoffs and experience this?

TERRY FRANCONA: Oh, no, I don't know about being under the radar or on the radar, it's very -- it's tremendous. This kid spent, what, 11 years in the Minor Leagues and then he gets four days in the Major Leagues and he comes with us and is possibly an injury away from being activated.

For Gil's spot it's a neat story, we're not looking for an injury, but, no, he's a great kid. We run through these kids every spring and you give 'em that speech when they get sent down, whether they're non roster, 40 man roster, and you say work hard and you never know what's going to happen and couple times a year you see it happen and it's very rewarding. Rewarding.

Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports.

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