10/14/08 7:21 PM ET
Terry Francona pregame interview
Manager talks about changes in the Red Sox lineup
By / MLB.com
Just the thought behind the lineup, and I'm curious, I thought Drew started eight games in the leadoff spot this year, whether you saw anything in that just by sample size or just in general.
TERRY FRANCONA: Again, John can tell you. I think last year we hit him maybe 12, 13 games to kind of get him going. This year we did it maybe seven or eight, nine, I don't have the exact number. More out of necessity, because at the time he was really swinging the bat very well. But we were getting nicked up.
Tonight the guy they're pitching, there's been forced home base attempts all year, one successful, so that doesn't really lend you to think we're going to run all over this guy. His on base skills are needed. Playing Coco, rather than hit him first and say, okay, go up there and be patient, we can use his strengths and hit him seventh.
We hit Cash eighth, Lowrie ninth, so if they want to bring in a left-hander, which inevitably they will, it doesn't give them a free pass through Drew. That's the thinking.
I just want to ask you the same thing, too.
TERRY FRANCONA: Would you like me to answer it again?
Just about overall how you feel about this particular lineup. I mean, obviously Ellsbury has been scuffling at the top, but you've talked a lot about J.D., when he bats in a leadoff spot being very patient.
TERRY FRANCONA: That's why he's there. Rather than put somebody in a position in the order and say, okay, do this, I don't think that really works. But because of his style, he can hit there. And again, if he gets a hit or two and walks and he's on base two or three times and somebody in the middle whacks one, that will help us.
Jake's scuffling a little bit. That's obvious. I didn't think last night made a whole lot of sense to do it when Jacoby had really swung the bat good against that guy and Coco hadn't. The timing didn't seem appropriate, but it does a little bit more tonight.
I know you said you guys win and lose as a team, but how difficult is it to make up for when Ortiz is not hitting at his usual level?
TERRY FRANCONA: They've done a really good job so far against David, really good. They've made some they've gotten him in between. Again, 98 with a breaking ball will do that to a lot of guys.
But I think I said it because that's how we feel. I mean, there's going to be nights when guys don't get hits, and we need to find a way to be good enough on those nights to win.
There's been times since I've been here where David has absolutely carried us. There's times when guys are struggling and we need to be able to pick up people. That's how we look at it.
If you were a scout and asked to give your GM a scouting synopsis of Dustin Pedroia, what would you say?
TERRY FRANCONA: Well, I'm not a scout. You mean you want me to tell you so you can relay it to the world
TERRY FRANCONA: Let me finish. You give me the answer and the question. Do you want me to tell you how to get him out?
TERRY FRANCONA: Good, because I'm not going to do that. I'm not sure what you're looking for.
The type of player he is. Could you compare him to anybody? Just how would you explain him to somebody who hasn't seen him?
TERRY FRANCONA: I'm not sure I can explain him to people that have seen him (laughter). He's one of the very best players in the game. I think as the people that are around him will tell you, he has to play with a chip on his shoulder. That's part of what gets his -- his motor is always running, and I'm sure that's because he's been told from a very early age that he couldn't do things, and he continues to want to prove that he can. He's gone so far past that, now he's proven he's one of the best players in baseball.
There's probably a scout in our organization that deserves a medal, because I'm sure when they put him up on the video, or there's probably still some scouts around baseball that are scratching their head, but for us to scratch our head would be very disrespectful. This kid, like I said, one of the very best in the game.
Has Upton's power surprised you guys considering what he did during the regular season? And is there any way that you can try to adjust to what's going on with him right now?
TERRY FRANCONA: He's gotten himself into -- I think what's surprising is that he hit nine during the year, not that he's starting to show power now.
He's gotten himself into a feel where if you make a mistake right now, you have to almost pick it up on the way home. I mean, he hit that ball a long way last night, and he did it to the White Sox. We need to not let him get those arms extended, because when he does, he's hitting it a long way. But I think the surprise more is he ended up with nine in the regular season.
In the past you've kind of shown a tendency to be very patient and trusting of your veterans insofar as making a move such as this, and I'm just wondering, had Ellsbury not been pseudo rookie or whatever you want to call him and had a little bit longer track record, might you not have made this move?
TERRY FRANCONA: Well, we've changed the lineup pretty frequently in our postseason this year. I think we've had to. I don't know that I necessarily I understand your question. I don't know that I necessarily agree with that.
I think last year we did something similar and it was reversed. You know, sometimes you do -- again, I want to come back to, I always do what I think is right.
Sometimes you need to be patient because if there's not another answer or another better answer, I guess I come back to Bellhorn. Everybody was kind of clammering to get Bellhorn out of the lineup.
Well, the replacement was going to be Pokey. I love Pokey, but Pokey was our defensive replacement. You're probably not going to hit a guy like Pokey third and get three doubles and a homer. Our team was what it was, and the patience paid off.
Now, there are times -- again, Coco has actually swung the bat against this guy pretty well, so it seemed to make sense to me.
With the way your pitching worked out last night, or yesterday, with the off day tomorrow, do you have the luxury of being able to treat this almost like an elimination game, if you have to, with your bullpen?
TERRY FRANCONA: Yeah, I understand that. I certainly don't want to do anything that puts us at a disadvantage. That's a hard one.
You know, Wake is tough enough during the regular season, because if you're not patient enough, you miss out on a really good pitcher. Now, this isn't the regular season, and you know when Wake pitches, there's a chance to be a few fastballs, a couple stolen bases. Those things happen.
But like I said, if you're not patient, you can miss out, but when to pull the plug is a difficult decision, or potentially difficult. Hopefully we have 10 and he's dealing and there is no decision.
Is Ortiz completely healthy?
TERRY FRANCONA: I think he went through a wrist -- obviously a wrist problem. I think he missed 45 games. I don't know if he's perfect. No, I doubt that. But I also don't think we want to sit him. That wouldn't make a lot of sense.
He's still a potentially -- they have to make pitches. If they don't, if he makes one good swing, even when he's scuffling, if he makes one good swing, that could change a ballgame. But I don't know if anybody is 100 percent. I don't think I've been 100 percent since 1976 (laughter).
I've got two questions. One, how concerned are you that Tim Wakefield hasn't pitched in a game in 16 days?
TERRY FRANCONA: Not as concerned as other pitchers. You know, if somebody gets too strong or their ball won't sink or they won't locate, Wake needs to make that thing flutter and throw strikes, make it good enough where they can't hit it and Cashy can catch it. If he does that -- this is the one guy we really don't concern as much as other pitchers. The rest should help him. What was the second part?
Also, Mike Lowell, I've heard he's having surgery on Monday. Can you talk about the decision to do that now?
TERRY FRANCONA: Mikey is -- when I say tentatively, he is going to have surgery on Monday. The time and things like that will be announced, and I believe Dr. Kelly in New York will do it, and it will be assisted by Pete Asnis, and I'm sure that Mikey will talk about it more and the doctors will talk about it more. But he is going to have it done Monday.
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