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October 13, 2007

Terry Francona


Q. I know your preference is not to rate and rank guys, but a lot of other people have put Manny and David up with some legendary names, Hall of Famers. With the splurge that they're on right now, could you talk about how impressive it's been?
TERRY FRANCONA: The reason I don't do it sometimes is I don't feel like I'm very good at it because I don't spend much time -- it's not that they don't deserve it. Hopefully what they're doing I know certainly can't last a full year, but hopefully it can maybe be sustainable through a nice little playoff run, but having them on base at the rate they are with the danger that they present, you know, they can hit the ball way out of the ballpark. If you want to come in, they can pull the ball out of the ballpark. They're taking their walks, keeping the lineup moving, trusting the other guys in the order, it makes them very, very dangerous. I think I'm probably understating it.

Q. Going back to the third inning last night when Pedroia moved Lugo over with the bunt, do you feel when you get to these types of games at this time of year that there's a need to play any differently than you do, or is it more a reflection on the game last night?
TERRY FRANCONA: Say reflection on the game. If you think that one run helps you win a game in June, there's a pretty good chance it's probably going to help you win a game in October. I do think sometimes you handle your bullpen differently, things like that. But games in June, July are now depending on who's pitching for your team and the other team and who's on base, all those things come into play, and they really don't change.
I mean, Pedroia, there's a lot of times we want the runner to end up at third if there's nobody out with a runner on second. They have their choice how they feel they can best do it.

Q. Without asking you to compare Manny and David to any of those combinations, when you were playing who did you look at as a dominant 3-4 hitters when you would go out and play other teams?
TERRY FRANCONA: Francona and Mills don't count, withstanding (laughter)?
I don't know. It's not a bad question. I haven't spent any time thinking about it, so I don't know I could give you a good answer. Maybe I could think about it a little bit tonight and have a better one for you tomorrow. I wasn't on a lot of good teams (laughter).

Q. Or other teams that you played against.
TERRY FRANCONA: Yeah, let me think about it a little bit because it's not a bad question, I just don't have a good answer.

Q. Obviously people nationally look at what Manny can do and what a slugger he is. Last night he had two 0-2 counts, came back to take walks. Is that maybe a part of his game that maybe isn't appreciated as much as it should be?
TERRY FRANCONA: Oh, I think it's greatly appreciated. That's kind of what I was alluding to last night after the game. A guy like Sabathia, with his array of pitches, it's hard enough to hit when you're down 0-2, to lay off four straight balls that are kind of tantalizingly out of the strike zone, that's a very professional piece of hitting. I don't know how he does it sometimes because those balls are in and out of the zone. A couple balls were down but a couple were in and out. That's not easy to do. That really helps.
If you can swing at balls in the zone -- first of all, you've got a better chance of scoring them up, and then the byproduct is you take your walks, work the pitch count and hopefully score runs.

Q. Is that a facet of his game maybe that people outside your team maybe aren't as aware of as maybe they should be, that he's able to do that?
TERRY FRANCONA: I don't know. I'm not sure I've really paid attention. I think people in the game that watch the game certainly know what Manny can do and probably respect it because he's done it for a number of years.

Q. You've been around long enough to know what a Hall of Famer looks like. Does Curt Schilling look like a Hall of Famer to you?
TERRY FRANCONA: I haven't spent a lot of time looking at the numbers. We get so wrapped up in what we're doing. I guess from being very biased, I hope so. I've been around him a long time. I do know that when you need to win a game, putting the ball in his hands is a good feeling, just because it never assured you're going to win, but you're pretty much assured the other team has to beat you.
He doesn't walk people, he's not going to balk, he's going to field his position, he's going to hold runners, he knows how to compete. The magnitude of the game won't be too much.
Now, saying that, their guy is pretty good, too.

Q. Last night there's a couple ways I guess to look at Gagne's outing: One, is he put on three base runners, and the other hand he struck out three guys. What was working for him? What wasn't?
TERRY FRANCONA: I would say kind of both. When he went to using all his pitches, he was very effective, and when he got away and started staying hard, he ran into a little bit of trouble.
So the good news is we had a lead and he got some swing and misses. The other side of it was that he got away from that a little bit, and it caused us to get in a situation where there were men on base.

Q. For all the talk about the offense of late, how about the overall defense, especially last night? Manny made those couple plays and so did J.D.
TERRY FRANCONA: Yeah, in fact, J.D., I didn't get to see it until it was on the screen because we lose sight of that down there. I didn't realize how good a play it was. And Manny's play was terrific.
We've been playing good defense, crisp defense, making the extreme play is good, but just making the plays you're supposed to is probably more important. If the ball ends up where it's supposed to, that's probably what we need.

Q. When you look at your ballclub, you oftentimes talk about hitting and how guys sometimes can't wait to get up, you go through the lineup and everything else. Would you agree with the term "hitting is contagious" out there? Are good at-bats contagious with your team, as well, not only just the hitting but also what you saw from Manny and a lot of the guys working the count? Is that contagious throughout the lineup at times?
TERRY FRANCONA: Yeah, I think so. Especially when there's a trust in the next guy in the order. We took some walks, don't leave the zone, Mikey Lowell hits a ball the other way and drives in a couple. I think that certainly accelerates the feeling that, okay, I don't have to leave the zone.
I think there were times this year David had to fight that. Manny was out, there were times when J.D. was nicked up, and we told David, that's not going to help. You've got to swing at strikes, and if the next guy doesn't drive you in, we're going to lose. You can't win by leaving the strike zone.

Q. A lot of teams want their middle guys to swing at pitches and be the run producers. Can you just talk about how you have faith in the other guys to do that and how that allow Manny and David to take the pitches they need.
TERRY FRANCONA: Well, don't mistake that, we want those guys to be run producers, but we want our lineup to swing at strikes because I don't think you can produce overall -- you might drive a run in every once in a while, a runner on third by leaving the zone to hit a ground ball when the lead is back, but overall it's hard to square up balls that aren't in the zone. Our hitters, they understand that. David, when you look at David's year and look at the pitches that he drives, the pitches that he doesn't drive, same with Manny --

Q. I'm thinking more about the other guys in the lineup, how important it is for them.
TERRY FRANCONA: That's our responsibility as an organization, to run guys out there where we have enough depth throughout the lineup, or if people pitch around somebody it ends up hurting them. We've talked about that all the time. If you want to walk somebody, we want them to pay for it.

Q. Could you talk about Carmona and how he's grown since last year, the failed closer experiment. How difficult is he to face?
TERRY FRANCONA: I would have a little better answer probably about 11:30. Hopefully (laughter).
Unfortunately I think John Farrell had a lot to do with this kid. I think it kind of went under the radar, the type of year he had last year. He was such a bright prospect for them, then he got thrust into the closer's role and he ran into difficulties, which is well documented. He went back to the minor leagues and kind of got remade as a starter and really took it and ran with it.
I don't know the kid personally. From what I understand, he's a great kid, and his stuff is off the charts. He has that sinking fastball with some velocity on it that if you don't make him throw strikes, he can make quick work of you. So we're going to have to bring the ball up and stay in the middle of the field. We saw what he did to us personally in Cleveland, we saw what he did to the Yankees the other day.

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