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October 26, 2007

Terry Francona


Q. Could you just talk a little bit about Dustin? Obviously he was in a slump at the start of the year and what you saw in him that gave you faith in him, and also what you learned about him by playing Cribbage?
TERRY FRANCONA: Well, at the start of the year, and actually when we were talking to like local media during spring training, I think I remember saying you may not see the player in April that you'll see at the end of the year because that happens so often with young players, and that's really the way it came about, started off very slow. Fortunately our team didn't. That took a little bit of the pressure off of his shoulders. Cora was playing so well, that took a little bit of the pressure off.
And then the organization had said, hey, this kid can play, so stick with him. I thought it would have been doing the organization a disservice by not sticking with him. And he has more than rewarded our patience.
As far as Cribbage, I think first of all I enjoy it, but I think you get to see parts of people -- we've had conversations at 1:00 in the afternoon, we may have accomplished more then than you ever could on the field.

Q. For the three people in this room that are actually from Colorado, we're amazed when we see five people follow Kazuo Matsui around. Can you talk about what it's like having dealt with Matsuzaka on and off the field? I know this is an ad nauseam question for Boston reporters, but what's it been like as a social experiment on the field and dealing with everything off the field?
TERRY FRANCONA: What we've tried to do is not ever have it get in the way of anything on the field. And early on, well, and now, too, there's been a lot of extra attention because of Daisuke.
I think the thing that's made it easier for us is the way he's handled it, you know, hasn't gotten in the way, it hasn't seemed to throw him off his game, so that makes it easier for us.
But in Boston there's a lot of attention anyway, so it's really not that big a deal.

Q. I hate to keep badgering you on this, but have you settled on anything with third base, third base for tomorrow?
TERRY FRANCONA: David will play first base tomorrow and Mike Lowell will play third.

Q. I guess I'd ask you about the reasoning behind that, and then I have a second question on a different topic.
TERRY FRANCONA: The reasoning behind --

Q. Why you're playing David and sitting Youkilis?
TERRY FRANCONA: Well, I think David is a really good hitter, and I think Mike Lowell is a really good hitter, and I actually think Youk is a really good hitter, but they won't let us play all three of them. So we'll go with this. The hope would be we'd have a lead, we'll put Youk in late. It doesn't always work perfect, but we'll do the best we can.

Q. Actually the question I had was, in your time with the club, as you go to road sites, what have you noticed about the number of fans for your team at road sites? Does it have any impact on you guys?
TERRY FRANCONA: Well, I think it's noticeable. I mean, there seems to be a lot of interest when we go places, and that's fine. But it doesn't impact the game once it starts. I think we're blessed to have tremendous fans, and I don't think anybody would ever want to run away from that statement. But once the game starts, we need to play baseball. We have tremendous fans.

Q. A lot has been made about your starting pitching this year, but can you talk about the contributions from your bullpen and the level of confidence you have in these guys?
TERRY FRANCONA: I think if you have holes anywhere over the course of the year you'll get exposed. If somebody says to you would you rather have good starters or good bullpen, I think the answer is both, because if you don't have one or the other, you'll get caught short. We've been very fortunate to have guys that can do both, and that's why we're still playing.

Q. You were here as a visitor in the pre-humidor era. What was it like managing games here with the ball the way it was then?
TERRY FRANCONA: You know, I don't know that we really tried to make a big deal out of it then. I think if you -- whatever you come up against, if you make a big deal out of it, it's going to be a big deal. And whatever ball, whatever field, whatever time the game starts, the other team is going to be doing the exact same thing.
I guess the one thing I always felt was when pitchers left here, it wasn't so much the outcome of the game, but I thought they had to sometimes work harder to make their pitches do what it normally did, so you always kind of kept an eye on them the next start and the coming weeks after that, and in this instance it's not really that important because it's Thanksgiving; it doesn't really matter.

Q. Playing David Ortiz is obviously the logical thing to do, but the way that Kevin has been swinging the bat lately, does it give you at any point any pause to think about another option for tomorrow at least?
TERRY FRANCONA: Well, when you say "another option," I guess I'd have to say what would the option be.

Q. Either no Papi or moving him to third and taking Lowell out?
TERRY FRANCONA: No, I have -- we sat down and tried to talk through it logically, and I guess we felt like this was the best thing to do. You're talking about a guy that drove in 120 -- two guys that drove in 120, and we love Youkilis as a hitter, too. It's a difficult situation to be in, but I don't have any second-guessing about what we're doing. I'd just rather play all three of them.

Q. How did David move catching ground balls, fielding ground balls today in BP? Any problems there?
TERRY FRANCONA: No, he did okay. I think his knee feels okay. Again, we'll certainly keep an eye on him, if not every day but certainly after games to make sure he's all right. The worry I have -- again, some of it is physical, but some of it is just the fact that he hasn't been out there. And even if you're a really good Gold Glove caliber player, when you're not out there every day, it's not fair. But he's done it in the past and he's handled it in the past. And again, the hope would be we have a lead and we put Youk in.
Now, again, we have to go get a lead. But that's what we'll try to do.

Q. A lot of your players will talk about your unflinching loyalty. Where do you think that ranks amongst the characteristics a manager needs to succeed, and what do you think are the most important characteristics?
TERRY FRANCONA: It's probably different for everybody. I think the biggest characteristic is you have to be true to yourself. You can't be somebody that you're not. I think I believe in what I believe in, and if you do, just do what you think is right every day. It's not always right, but if you try hard, do the best you can, then you answer the questions, and again, you have really, really good players like we're blessed with, I think they're supposed to have our backing. It's easy during the good times, but when things aren't going so well, I think that's when it's important to show your faith and your belief in them.

Q. With the off-day today, do you expect to be able to push Okajima and Papelbon as you did last night? And what kind of resource is that when you can get 10 outs, 11 outs from them?
TERRY FRANCONA: That was awesome last night. Again, we knew we had the day off today, and they had a couple going into it. When you say push, that might be a word that we might be doing if we went that far tomorrow. Again, you get into a National League type game, some of that is going to be determined by where they enter a game, what the score is. But especially Oki, he threw two and a third, and it wasn't a ton of pitches, but you can't do that every night. We felt like we had an opportunity, we took advantage of it. We will certainly -- and he feels fine today. But you're not going to be able to do it every night.

Q. Because you said you put so much thought into it, and this is the way you want to go with David and Mike, should we figure if everybody comes out healthy in Game 3 that this will be the same way you go in Game 4, as well?
TERRY FRANCONA: You know, I really don't know. We'll see. And it's nothing wrong with the question and it's not like we haven't thought about it. But I think we talked so much about preparing for a game and staying in the moment that for me to start veering away, it doesn't make a lot of sense. We'll take stock of where we are and then the next day we'll put on a lineup that we think works.

Q. With Youk not starting tomorrow, have you decided how that will affect the top two spots in the batting order tomorrow night?
TERRY FRANCONA: I think what we're going to do, and again, this hasn't been -- it's not etched in stone, but I think what we'll do is lead-off Ellsbury and hit Pedroia second. Hopefully Ellsbury's legs come into play, Pedy's bat control, and we don't have the lefties back-to-back. But I reserve the right to change that tonight over dinner, but I think that's probably what we'll do.

Q. Aside from the obvious with Lowell, having the 120 RBI, the Gold Glove caliber defense, what makes him so important to your club, what makes him who he is and able to succeed after the down year in Florida a couple years ago?
TERRY FRANCONA: Well, I think the down year in Florida got really magnified. He had a down year. He's had a lot of really good years, I mean, a lot of them. Made a lot of All-Star teams, he's won Gold Gloves. This year from day one until the end he put together a pretty solid year. You saw last night his ability to go first to third. He's not blessed with the greatest speed. He was blessed with knowing how to play the game. He catches everything, throws the ball to the right base. He's a good player, and he's a good leader. Guys look up to him a lot in there, as they should.

Q. How have you seen the altitude affect pitchers that you've had come in here, and how do you think that may affect Matsuzaka?
TERRY FRANCONA: You know, I really don't think that it does, not in a one-game -- not when you have the ability to go to the bullpen. I think that's something that over the course of a year I do think can beat up your team a little bit. In a setting where you can go to the bullpen, I don't think that's as much of an issue as it could be. It's probably going to be as big an issue as we make it out to be, and we're not going to make it out to be one, so it won't matter.

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