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December 8, 2008
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
Q. How is your health?
TERRY FRANCONA: I'm getting old. No, I'm fine. (Laughter) I had a knee surgery. It's like an oil change, and I held off on my back just because I got a little scared. We'll get it figured out.
Q. Not very optimistic that that something will get done this week. What are your thoughts?
TERRY FRANCONA: You mean with anybody? These meetings, I don't have any idea how -- you know, it's weird. Every year it seems to get its own personality, and there are so many names out there right now, big names.
I guess you kind of get the feeling that until one goes, they seem to be waiting and there's some maneuvering, but I really don't know.
I sit there and listen to what they are talking about, but just don't know.
Q. Do you get into it? Do you get excited about the whole process?
TERRY FRANCONA: I could probably get more excited about knowing guys that are in place for us that probably -- there are certainly some names circulating out there that are really good players. But I would get more excited about, you know, you start getting back in touch with the players. This is about the time of year you kind of start checking in on them. You give them their time away, and then you start checking in.
What Petey did with his contract, that was exciting. Things like that I would probably get more revved up about.
Q. Do you find yourself anxious to see what your team is going to look like when you get to camp?
TERRY FRANCONA: Yeah, but also understanding that there needs to be a certain amount of patience, because you know, I think your fans want your team to be in place today, and it just can't work like that.
But I think that I know these guys well enough that when we head down to Fort Myers, we will have a team that we think has a chance to win.
Q. Is it difficult watching a guy like Varitek, that you have a lot of ties with, going through the free agent process and not knowing if he's coming back?
TERRY FRANCONA: You know, the not knowing part is a little difficult for everybody, but that's the business side of baseball. Tek is just one example. He's earned the right to go through this, and that's what happens when you have good veteran players. The process has to play itself out. You just can't speed to the finish line. That's just not the way it works. So you bide your time and you go through the process and usually everything works out.
Q. Do you remember anything about the 2004 off-season when he was a free agent last time and trying to figure out what the shape of catching would be like for the following year?
TERRY FRANCONA: Well, I remember, was it Christmas Eve that he signed? I remember that was a big deal. I was out speaking all over the country.
TERRY FRANCONA: Exactly. (Laughter) I don't remember it tonight like I probably should. I know I was glad when he came back.
Again, that's just the way baseball is, and I'm glad that I don't have to be a huge part of that type of -- I don't like that side of it that much. I like knowing who our players are and being around them and getting on the field and trying to win. That gets me a lot more excited than talking about the economics of baseball.
Q. How much have you talked to Tek?
TERRY FRANCONA: Not too much. Giving him his room. I think he's wanted it that way.
Q. Did you meet with CC?
TERRY FRANCONA: Did I? No, not to my knowledge. Did Theo say we did?
Q. I haven't seen Theo. (Laughter)
TERRY FRANCONA: I haven't done much, to be honest with you. I would bet that Theo is checking in with everybody.
I'm answering that a little bit vaguely because I don't know exactly what he did.
Q. But were you part of the group that met with CC?
TERRY FRANCONA: I was upstairs. I didn't do much today.
Q. So no, you were not part of it?
TERRY FRANCONA: I'm pleading the fifth on that one only because I don't know; I apologize. That's a weak answer. What did Theo say?
Q. He said he met with a free agent but he didn't say.
TERRY FRANCONA: That's what I say. (Laughter) That's my answer.
I said, "Theo, I need to talk to you before I go out and talk to the media," and I whiffed on him.
To be honest with you, there was nothing earth-shattering, if that.
Q. Have you had all your surgeries?
TERRY FRANCONA: I think so. I think I'm going to hold off on my back. I think so. I've had enough opinions that I'm just not real comfortable going through it right now.
Q. Are they saying rest and rehab?
TERRY FRANCONA: No, not really. Just hear too many stories that, you know -- I just couldn't pull the trigger. I guess that doesn't sound real well for a manager to say that he's slow on pulling the trigger, but I just couldn't do it. Kept going to get different opinions and seeing really good doctors, and just couldn't pull the trigger.
Q. What are the risks?
TERRY FRANCONA: Of what?
Q. Of the surgery.
TERRY FRANCONA: I think they are pretty significant, so I just...
Q. What are you dealing with, if you don't have the surgery, in terms of pain?
TERRY FRANCONA: Just being miserable. Just basically being miserable. Like, when I sit for a while, I've just got a lot of burning and numbness up here. It's just the way it is. (Laughter.)
Can we talk about Sabathia or something? (Laughter.)
Q. Theo had said that he's very comfortable with the organization and the depth that they have, and he said there are some holes that he thinks he needs to fill. What do you see moving forward?
TERRY FRANCONA: You know, I think what Theo is alluding to is that we certainly know the competition we are up against. But also, I think what he's trying to say is that we don't feel the need to go sign somebody for more years than the organization is comfortable and put the organization in peril, potentially. We have had a lot of good young kids come through our system and we have some veterans and it's a very good mix.
As we found out, it doesn't guarantee you're going to win the World Series, but I think our organization is in pretty good shape.
Q. When Pedroia signed his extension, Theo talked about his leadership; can you talk about his leadership, and especially for a second-year guy, taking that kind of a leadership role on a veteran team and how special that is.
TERRY FRANCONA: He's come a long way, there's no denying that. Every hurdle he's been asked to do, he's kind of soared over the hurdle.
He starts out two years ago not doing much, ends up being Rookie of the Year. Starts out this year, gets into May and has a decent little slide there where he was kind of frustrated. He got down to about .250 and was kind of upset with himself, and gets the MVP and wins the Gold Glove and the Silver Slugger.
There's not much to not like about this kid. He wants to steal more bases, so he steals about 20 out of 21. He plays good defense that turns great with the game on the line. There's not much not to like about him.
Q. How rare is it for a guy that young to be a leadership personality in the clubhouse? It seems like a rarity.
TERRY FRANCONA: Yeah, but how many guys are a second-year player that have won the Rookie of the Year and the MVP? It doesn't happen very often. He's a pretty unique guy.
Q. Did you come into last season, a few days away, and say, There's something we need to do with our roster?
TERRY FRANCONA: No, not really. I think the biggest thing is perspective, you know, because it's easy to lose perspective.
We were obviously beat up in the playoffs. But if somebody knocks a ball out of the ballpark, and that's a big if, but if somebody does and we go to the World Series and we win, nobody wants to change anything.
So you know, we were close and we were not quite good enough, but I don't think that means that you reshuffle your whole roster. I think some of it has to do with health. We ran up against some tremendous pitching and we were not very healthy and couldn't get it done.
It's frustrating and disheartening, but I don't think that means that you tear up your ballclub.
Q. Is it too early to know how healthy Mike Lowell will be?
TERRY FRANCONA: Got a great report on Mikey today. He was in Boston. He had a sparkling report, which was really nice to hear.
I think the timetable is that he'll probably be hitting by the middle of January. I don't think that you're going to see him play nine innings in the first game of spring training, because he wouldn't anyway, but you understand my point. I think everybody, from medical people on down, think that when the season starts, he's going to be ready to go.
The report today from Mike Reinhold is that he has better range of motion today than he has since he joined our ballclub. So he's obviously working very hard.
I think that this has to run its course, as any surgeries do. But I think when it's said and done, he's going to be in a lot better shape than he was trying to fight his way through it this year. I can't imagine -- he was hurting. I think anybody that's been around him knows how much he likes to play, and he was really hurting.
Q. Ortiz was saying last week that he planned to see the doctor at the beginning of next week, sometime next weekend. What is the latest you've heard?
TERRY FRANCONA: Saw David before he left for the Dominican, and I know he had his golf tournament this week. David was fine. Again, I think David just needed some time away from -- there's no miracle cure or there was no surgeries needed. He just needed to let it rest.
I think what David went through, the medical people did a pretty good job of saying what would happen. There were not really any surprises along the way.
Q. Have you seen him on the golf course before?
TERRY FRANCONA: No, and I don't know that I want to. (Laughter) That can't be real pretty.
Q. He said he's going to work because of his tournament.
TERRY FRANCONA: Yeah, I bet you he stinks. (Laughter.)
Q. Organizationally, how exciting is it to see young guys getting locked up in contracts where you're going to be able to pencil them in for a long time?
TERRY FRANCONA: I think it is exciting, and I think it sends a great message, to not just the fans but the other guys in the organization, guys like Lester, guys coming through. And I know it's not easy. On both sides there's a lot of give and take for it to work. But the more it gets done, the better I feel for sure.
Q. Off-season, there were some of your coaches that interviewed for managerial positions; how do you feel about that?
TERRY FRANCONA: It's hard to answer that honestly. I was thrilled that there was interest in them as managers. How do you sit there when two guys are interviewing, and it's hard to root for one guy. It's just not fair.
Saying that, when I heard that they were both coming back, I guess I was disappointed for them, but I was thrilled for us. That's about as honest as I can be. I've known Millsy for the better part since my freshman year of college. How could I not want what's best for him?
At the same time, I want him in our dugout because I know what he means to us. Same for DeMarlo.
Q. Have you had any communication with Beckett this winter, and do you think his workload last year, do you think that had a carryover effect that might have been negative?
TERRY FRANCONA: I talked to Beckett a few days ago, very short, but he's doing well. I think it's easier for me to answer that in general terms. You know, we've played a lot of post-season games the last couple of years, and I do think that it can have a wear-and-tear effect on the ballclub.
It's hard to pick out Beckett and say, Well, this did this, because he had a lot of things that kind of hit him. You know, when we are leaving spring training, he slips on the mound. I don't know how you can attribute that to pitching late in the season, but there were a lot of nagging things that we were aware of and concerned ourselves with and probably worried about it. When that happens, your pitching is the first thing that you concern yourself with.
Q. Has there been a lot of discussion as of right now about Jon Lester going into next year, and how you are going to limit things or ramp them up slowly, or is that something that as you get closer to spring training that you'll talk about?
TERRY FRANCONA: That's something that we will talk about. You know, he did a great job. I understand the innings jump in this guy, some of it. Again, he was sick, and there's a lot of factors that go into that.
You know, I also think that when Jon shows up for spring training, he's not going to want to hear that he's limited; nor should he probably be. I mean, there's a reason some of these guys work real hard: so they can answer the bell every five days, and you've got to fulfill your innings.
Saying that, we also have what, a 25-year-old left-handed pitcher, that we care a lot about, and he's part of our present and future. So we will obviously put our heads together and try to come up with the best plan.
Q. Have you come up with Jacoby, and if you did, did you get a sense that he's excited about the opportunity?
TERRY FRANCONA: Yeah, I did. It was probably a couple of days before Coco got traded. Just wanted to make sure I touched base with him. Again, when the season was over, he was the one sitting a little bit as opposed to last year.
I just wanted to touch base with him and remind him that, in my opinion, next year will be a huge year for him. Now that Coco is not here, I think is stating the obvious.
You know what, for all of the -- and we talk about it a lot. It's not realistic very often that kids are going to come up and play in this league and not have some hiccups, and he certainly had some. But at the same time, you look back, stolen bases, batting average, he didn't do too bad. This can be a very difficult league to play in, and I thought he handled himself pretty well.
Q. (Indiscernible) had an injury last year. Did the injury affect him?
TERRY FRANCONA: I thought he was beat up at times like everybody. The one thing that he always has and you can't forget, as long as his legs are healthy, sometimes, guys like Jacoby, they can be swinging the bat bad and actually get more hits. As long as he uses the whole field and stays on top of the ball and uses his bunts, those slumps should not last that long.
Whether he's driving the ball well or not, that's all well and good. But if he's using the whole field, guys like him should not go into prolonged slumps.
TERRY FRANCONA: We have not got there yet, but certainly something that if they are both on the team, we have to figure out how it best suits our team. But I don't know that answer right now.
Lugo really worked hard to try to get back, and he just could not quite get there at the end.
Saying that, at a time when we really needed somebody to help us, Lowrie came in and was really productive. Now, again, the last six, eight weeks, left-handers were tough for him, and we recognize that.
I guess if we get to a point where if we ruffle somebody's feathers because we have a player or two that thinks they should be playing that aren't, that probably means our team is in pretty good shape. I would rather have it that way than not have enough players.
Q. Could you talk about that Tazawa?
TERRY FRANCONA: To be honest with you, I don't know a lot. I know Theo and John Ferrell have talked about him. I was not able to meet him the other day. I had very pressing business; Pookie got married, (laughter) so I did not get a chance to meet him in person. Looking forward to it. I know what he has and what he throws and things like that, but I have not had a chance to meet him yet. Looking forward to it.
I know there's some talk about him possibly coming to the rookie development program. I don't know if that's etched in stone, but looking forward to meeting him.
Q. Do you think he can get a spot on a 40-man roster even though he's not pitched in the Major Leagues?
TERRY FRANCONA: I think Theo could answer that better than me. But if some of these guys think he's worthy of being put on a Major League roster, especially pitchers, it's certainly worth the effort.
Q. If a guy gets married, can he still get called Pookie?
TERRY FRANCONA: Yeah, that was one of the funner weddings I've been at.
Q. Does how you use Masterson affect any additions you make?
TERRY FRANCONA: Well, it certainly could. I think that that's for some interesting conversation with our group. I mean, he did such a great job in the bullpen, but I don't doubt he can start. If he impacts a team better, everybody has their own opinion, but some of that could come down to what starting pitching we have.
That's certainly, I think, a pretty realistic observation.
Q. Do you guys prep him as a starter? Do you have to go that route?
TERRY FRANCONA: I think we would. When you say prep him as a starter, I think there's a little bit of a difference. You know what we have done with Pat the last couple of years where we have stretched him out longer than he will ever pitch during the season, I think we really like to do that with certain pitchers.
You can't do it with everybody because there's just not the innings, but he would certainly fit into that category regardless of where he pitches. We want him to use all of his pitches. I think we really feel like that's a great way to build arm strength in spring training.
Q. Do you have any homework assignments for the off-season, like coming back with a lefty, any homework assignments you sent him home with?
TERRY FRANCONA: Justin? We know we'll work hard, and John Ferrell keeps in touch with all of the people. When we know what we are going to do, he will be the first to know. He understands the situation. He's happy doing either. We just need to get our house in order and see where we all end up determining he can best impact our club.
Q. If you had to start today, where would you use him?
TERRY FRANCONA: That's a hypothetical. (Laughter) I don't know. Thinking about if I'm going to hit on 16 or not.
Q. Have you considered the impact of the World Baseball Classic?
TERRY FRANCONA: You know what, I don't know how it's going to impact us yet. It's not perfect. You know, because we have a pretty good team, we are probably going to lose -- my guess will be between seven and nine guys. That's probably pretty close. That's hard to run a good spring training when you have guys gone.
The last time Tek was not there the majority, and we went through the whole spring with Dusty Brown as our catcher. Nothing against Dusty, and that was a great experience for him, but it's very difficult to put in your first and third plays, your bunt plays, when guys are gone.
For me, it's a nightmare when we go on the road, because we are the Red Sox and people pay good money, which I respect, to watch the games.
But for us to get ready for our season, you cannot take the regulars that are left behind on every single road trip. It does not help you get ready for the season. So there are some logistical nightmares, and there's a reason you want spring training. You want your guys to be together and you certainly worry about the pitchers, because they are not ready to compete yet, and it makes all of us nervous.
Q. Is that something that you took away from the last WBC experience, just seeing the pitchers that participated a good deal struggle coming out of the gate and had issues throughout the year?
TERRY FRANCONA: Yeah. And it certainly had an effect on Timlin.
But just you look at it, regardless of whose team, these guys are not ready to compete. That's why when they get to that third inning or whatever, the first count of the day, we take them out of the game. If they want to throw more we take them down to the bullpen where it's a controlled environment. Now all of a sudden they have two on base and two out and it makes you nervous.
TERRY FRANCONA: No, I think that's different. Not terribly worried about the position players, other than the fact that, you know, it's hit or miss on how they play in the WBC because they are not ready to do that.
But as far as we are concerned, no, I don't think that's a big issue. More we are talking about the pitching.
Q. Do you worry about Okajima's left wrist?
TERRY FRANCONA: No, Oki finished the season really strong.
Q. But at the beginning of the off-season he got an MRI in case.
TERRY FRANCONA: Be careful how you say that. Everybody had exit physicals, and he was fine.
Q. Do you worry if he's selected by the WBC National team?
TERRY FRANCONA: Well, like I just said, he's no different. We worry about all our pitchers.
But it's a huge honor, also. We recognize that. Just hope for the best. There's a reason you plan out spring training, and you try to do everything almost down to the minute so you can help these guys get ready when they are 8,000 miles away playing in a game that all of a sudden counts. It gives you a little anxiety.
Q. We talked to David a couple of weeks ago, and he mentioned that he would like to see another 30-home run, 100-RBI guy in the lineup. There's a pressing need for another big bat in the lineup, do you think?
TERRY FRANCONA: If we sign one, yeah. If we don't, no. (Laughter.)
You know what --
Q. Good answer.
TERRY FRANCONA: No. I mean, I really, at the end of the year, really liked our team, a lot. I think that was pretty obvious. You know, Lowell was out, a guy that was the MVP in the World Series the year before and he's not playing.
I think the way you end up sticks with people a lot. We were not hitting on all cylinders at the end. I don't know. You know, if we got four more 30-home run guys it would probably help us. But I'm not overly concerned about sitting here thinking we have to have this or we have to have that. I think we are good enough as is, where if we play good baseball and stay healthy, we are a pretty good team.
I know we are going to sign some people. We always do. But I think we feel pretty good about our ballclub.
Q. What are the plans for Cla Buchholz going into the season?
TERRY FRANCONA: That's going to be an interesting scenario. He did do pretty well out there. He had some ups and downs, but certainly more good than not good out there. I think he is maturing, as you expect young guys to do.
It will be interesting. Cla is a kid that everybody was talking about going into this year as maybe being Rookie of the Year or this or that, just because of what he had done in the Minor Leagues. Then he got called up with us, and then he ran into really tough times. And because we were trying to stay in the race, we finally felt like it was best for him to go back to the Minor Leagues.
I think we are all hoping that he rebounds from that and learns from it and ends up being the guy that we think he can be, because his stuff is awfully sharp. He certainly went through some growing pains.
Q. Did he talk about if that bothered him from a psyche standpoint, working on a certain pitch down there?
TERRY FRANCONA: I don't think it bothered him. If anything, we communicate with everybody, and there was a reason he went out there and did a very good job of what was asked of him. We sent the pitching coach along with him.
No, I think he knows we have his best interests at heart, and he handled himself very well.
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