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10/15/08 1:25 PM ET

An interview with Terry Francona

Red Sox skipper discusses impending Game 5

What was your reaction to Joe switching to Kazmir for Game 5, and how do you think that's going to affect your lineup for Game 5?

TERRY FRANCONA: I don't know that it'll affect who plays. It may affect our batting order. We'll go down and -- we've been looking at it a little bit and will continue to do that.

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What is it about Daisuke's preparation, makeup, whatever, that makes you think that he will respond well to a situation like tomorrow night?

TERRY FRANCONA: Oh, I don't know if it's necessarily about his preparation. I mean, this has been a long season, and you try not to do anything different as games kind of elevate.

I don't know that you can really change what you do. The consistency of what guys do is so important. I think he will enjoy this challenge a lot, and we obviously feel great about him going out there just to see how good he can be.

Carl Crawford was saying last night that during the game they thought last time with Daisuke that a lot of those balls were balls, and when they looked at tape afterwards, they were, in fact, strikes. What made him so particularly sharp? His location hasn't always been as good as it was in the last start.

TERRY FRANCONA: Well, there's been some command inconsistencies with him, but once he gets into the game and into the flow of the game and he starts throwing all of his pitches, then he'll get one or two that he's real comfortable with, whether it's a cutter, changeup, two-seamer, and he starts pounding that pitch pretty good.

It sounds to me what Carl is alluding to is what all good pitchers do is they spread the plate out because they're giving you a couple different looks and they're locating and the plate looks bigger than it is. That's what good pitchers do.

What's the mood like of the players in the clubhouse right now after that loss last night?

TERRY FRANCONA: I think they wish we were playing in about ten minutes.

It's good. It's very good. It's enthusiastic. I mean, we'll play tomorrow because that's when we're supposed to, but I think everybody is ready to play right now, which is what I was hoping for.

What do you remember about Daisuke's start in Game 7 of the ALCS last year?

TERRY FRANCONA: I don't even remember last year (laughing). That's a long time ago. I don't even that's a long way off the radar. We're just looking for him to go dial one up tomorrow. Believe me when I tell you, how he pitches this -- the intensity, the meaning, as much as this game means, that will help him. That won't hinder him.

In a general sense in the postseason, how much of a balancing act is there between managing for the next game and also being prepared for any game that might have to be played after that?

TERRY FRANCONA: There's something to think about. You know, you try to manage not only wins but manage losses, and there is something to be said for that. We tried the other night to just use Byrd, and that's what we did. Fortunately that's what we did do, because we followed it up with a game when we were into the bullpen in the third inning, and we got away with everybody but Okajima and Pap. We could still go to Delcarmen and Masterson, but we have a very fresh Oki and Pap that we can lean on.

Last year obviously Beckett turned the momentum of the ALCS around with a huge game for you. Obviously it's important for Daisuke to do something similar, but are you as concerned about getting your offense moving at this point?

TERRY FRANCONA: I think we're just concerned about winning. Whether we do it 1 0, 2 1 or 11 10, it really doesn't matter. We just need to find a way to get a win. That would be -- if we get a bunch of hits, it'll make it easier.

The dreaded two part question.

TERRY FRANCONA: Go slow (laughter).

In terms of slowing down an offense, I know Varitek is not throwing the pitches, but how valuable can he be to a pitching staff to try and shut down an offense? And secondly, have you given even ten seconds of thought to the fact that if things don't go the way you want, tomorrow could be potentially his last game was a Red Sox?

TERRY FRANCONA: You're talking about Jason? The first part -- God, knows two parters. When Jason puts a finger down, there's a pretty good chance that the pitcher is throwing that pitch with conviction, which I guess even if it's the wrong pitch -- if a Major League pitcher has got stuff like Daisuke or Lester is throwing a pitch with conviction, I'm not sure it can be a wrong pitch. And because of Tek's preparation, that's what's going to happen. That doesn't happen overnight, that takes a long time, and Tek deserves that. But it really does help, and there's something to that. You don't see a lot of guys out there wondering or second guessing Jason. That's very, very helpful.

As to the second part, I've given no thought to this being his last game, not out of disrespect to Tek, but we don't want this to be his last game.

When the opposition deviates from the original game plan like Joe has with the pitching staff, do you feel that this is a good opportunity for you guys to really capitalize on what they've done?

TERRY FRANCONA: Our job is to win regardless of who's pitching, whether it's Shields, Kazmir. If they win, it's not good. Our job is to win the game, regardless of who's pitching. I don't think we put a whole lot of they can do whatever they want. That's their right.

Late in the season you said that when Daisuke got here, the bar was set so incredibly high for him that it was probably unfair. Has he reached that bar with an 18 win season, and would a win tomorrow put him over that?

TERRY FRANCONA: It doesn't matter. The bar -- what I was alluding to was in spring training, if somebody made contact, I had this many reporters standing in front of me in Fort Myers asking me what was wrong. It was unfair. That's what I was alluding to. This kid has had a fantastic year, and we're hoping he builds off of that tomorrow.

There's been some inconsistencies in the way he's thrown the ball, but if you take wins, losses, hits per innings, I'll bet you there's about 29 other teams that would jump on it and say we'll take it. He's been phenomenal for us.

There's kind of a we got them right where we want them line going around town because you guys were in this same hole last year and worse than that in '04. Is there a danger in that kind of thinking or is there a consolation in knowing that you've done it?

TERRY FRANCONA: I believe that what we did last year -- if we can draw on anything from that, good. Anything that's happened in your past, if you -- you try to turn it into an advantage for you.

Saying that, this is a different team, it's a different Tampa team, but again, we'll use anything we can to give us any kind of advantage. That's our responsibility.

Is this team in any worse a position trying to make that kind of comeback, considering some of the injuries and some of the hitting problems, et cetera?

TERRY FRANCONA: The hitting problems can change in a hurry. Hitting can get very contagious. Somebody gets a hit, you get them out of the stretch, and all of a sudden you get a real hot team, that's what we need to do.

That's what Tampa has done. They have gotten on a roll. You see guys with confidence. That's a tough way to play a team. We need to eliminate some of that confidence and get something going on our side and get on a roll.

I think the Red Sox are 7 of 8 in elimination games under you. Obviously starting pitching is a big part of that. What else do you attribute being able to win these kind of games?

TERRY FRANCONA: Good players. That's what it always comes down to. We have very good players. And I think that the magnitude of so called elimination game doesn't -- it's not going to get in the way of guys performing. That doesn't guarantee you're going to win, but these guys have played in big games -- every game here is big, so you go play the game and then hopefully it's good enough to win and move on and play another game.

A couple of your pitchers last night mentioned that they thought the Rays' hitters looked too comfortable at the plate. Do you agree with that, and is there an adjustment that needs to be made there?

TERRY FRANCONA: Well, last night is not -- they hit everything we threw. If you let big, strong guys get their arms extended, that's what happens. We didn't execute in a lot of areas last night, and we paid the price.

Upton is a very good example. Every time you -- if you let him get his arms extended right now, he feels so good about himself, he back spins that ball all the way to whatever that street is. That doesn't mean you try and hit people. That would be incorrect. But to try to get in and not let them get their arms extended is important.

Masterson pitched to Longoria down trying to make him move his feet. I think he threw behind him, but it skipped. We're trying to -- you have to earn some of that plate back, but there's ways to do it, and we have not been effective yet.

Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.