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10/04/08 5:37 PM ET

Terry Francona workout day interview

Sox manager discusses Josh Beckett, Kevin Youkilis and J.D. Drew

In your mind what, makes Josh such a good postseason pitcher?

TERRY FRANCONA: Well, first of all, I think you have to be a good pitcher during the season, but the stage or the size of the game, he doesn't shrink from that. I think he looks forward to that challenge. He has pitched some unbelievable games, not just in the postseason, but in all, during all of his seasons. But when you get to the postseason, he has been some kind of pitcher.

I think his work ethic and the ability to kind of stay in the moment, you know, he doesn't think about his start five days ahead of time. He's thinking about what he has to do on that day. He does that to the best of his ability and then he'll go have his long toss, he does that. Then he'll have his workday, his side day, and I think when the game comes, that's kind of the fun part.

With the lefty pitching tomorrow, are you thinking about giving J.D. a day off and get Coco in there, maybe?

TERRY FRANCONA: I think that's the one question. J.D. just walked in when I was coming up here. If there's any doubt about him playing a back to back day, that's what we would do. So we'll get to that in a little while. He's down there talking to trainers right now. I'll visit with him in a little while.

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Can you talk a little bit about the development and evolution of Kevin Youkilis over the last three or four years?

TERRY FRANCONA: Yeah, I'd love to. The first time I saw Youk was in '04 spring training. I believe that was his first year on the roster. We got him up and we played a night game up in Sarasota against Cincinnati, and he pulled a ball in the gap. I remember thinking okay, we'll send him down on that note, because he was a young kid learning how to be -- he's a very professional hitter, coming through the minor leagues. But looked like to me he was having a little trouble catching up with a good fastball. Getting a little in between on the breaking ball. He pulled that ball, and I remember thinking this would be a great time to send him down.

Went to Triple A, came back that year, and you could already see him developing and learning and getting stronger, understanding and every year it's gotten better. It's gotten to the point now where he's a force and one of the better -- he's one of the better players, but he's also one of the better hitters in the American League.

How difficult is it for Kevin and the other young players to develop on this stage with the pressure that there is in this city?

TERRY FRANCONA: Well, it's probably a little different for everybody. But I think that's where our clubhouse comes into play, our player development, some of the preparation even in the winter in the develop developmental program. I think it's important that players understand when they get here the most important thing is for us to win that game. And they've done a real good job of that.

Everybody fights that or has to resist that urge to call mom and dad after you get in the game. And the veteran sees things like that and the young kids blend in a little bit quicker when they understand the urgency of our winning. These kids have done a great job of that.

The first two games you guys have been very successful two outs late in the game; can you talk about how important those clutch hits have been?

TERRY FRANCONA: Well, yesterday we got all our runs in the first inning with two outs. We extended a couple innings with two outs, A.C. (Alex Cora) got a hit, and Ellsbury drove him in. Some nights it's glaring. Some nights you don't need him. If you've driven in a bunch of runs, it doesn't matter. Some nights you have to get them and you don't get them, that's the way the game is.

They also did it, we just got the long ball and we were able to get off the field a couple of times and they stranded some runners.

As far as the way the last two games against the Angels have gone, why do you think that -- maybe it's the environment -- why have you guys done so much better in terms of results than you did for a six month season?

TERRY FRANCONA: Well, if you go back, first of all, the regular season isn't the same, because you don't have the ability to do things with your bullpen or your starting rotation in the course of a long season. And there were numerous times where we would get in the sixth, seventh innings, game on the line, and we couldn't close it out. Started to happen last night and we stopped it at least when it was tied. That happened three or four times during the year. We actually had a lead, 3 2, 4 3, they get going, and we couldn't snuff it out. That didn't happen first two games. Some of that is the ability with days off, being able to set up your rotation and in the playoffs it is a little bit different.

Is there no worry with Josh's oblique now? Is that completely healthy?

TERRY FRANCONA: I don't know. I doubt if he's 100%. I don't know that anybody is. He threw the ball really, really well. I don't think we would pitch him if there was a worry. I don't know that it's fair to say he's 100%. But we also wouldn't pitch him if there was a big worry.

If we thought we were putting him in an unfair position, we wouldn't do that.

Josh had an exceptional season last year, and the numbers haven't bourn out that it's been as good a year for him, but he has shown stretches of that kind of dominating performance. What do you think has been the reason that there's been more unevenness during this season than in the last?

TERRY FRANCONA: His year has been interrupted a little bit this year, starting all the way back before we were going to Japan. He tweaked his back. He ended up making his first start in Toronto, I think the first three innings he pitched great. We were trying to get to a certain pitch count. He ended up giving up a bunch of runs whether it was the 4th or 5th inning.

So right off the bat he's starting from an E.R.A. that's up here. There's been, like you said, some unevenness. He's missed some starts for various reasons. I still think when we give him the ball in this type of situation we feel very good about this Josh Beckett.

Now again, over the course of the year things happen that lead to 12 wins instead of maybe 17, but there is no reason that when he takes the mound tomorrow he won't be competing and being a really good pitcher.

The choice of the schedules of the two different American League division series was up to the Angels. They went with this. Was this what you would have preferred way back when, and has this schedule served you well?

TERRY FRANCONA: I think that the hope is or the way we thought was it really wouldn't enter into who won. Whoever plays better will win. There was certainly a little bit of anxiety the night that Beckett did this, when he was throwing a side session, because that was certainly something on our minds.

But we have the right to choose last year. We spent a ton of time going back and forth. I really, by the end I was like, you know what, you guys make a decision, I don't care. Whoever plays better is going to win.

You know, when you pick the longer series, it gives the team that plays ahead, again, you can go to that bullpen, that part of your bullpen that you do when you're ahead, more often than when you play back to back games.

Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP.

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