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December 7, 2009

Terry Francona


Q. Did you get any updates on health of guys?
TERRY FRANCONA: I came armed with updates on everybody. Go ahead. I just checked with Mike before I came down here.

Q. Anything in terms of guys rehabbing or Lowell?
TERRY FRANCONA: Saw Mikey in the Dominican. He looked good. Saw Wake down there. He looked good. Let's see, J.D., from what I understand, has full range of motion. Sounds like he's doing fine. I know Theo gave you that update a little bit ago. Lowrie is do for another exam on Friday. But again, he's having a pretty good winter.
Now, you know, saying that, rehabbing in Toronto is not the same as playing every day. We understand that. But we would rather have good news as opposed to not good news. Or at least encouraging news. That's probably a better word.

Q. Is he getting checked out by the Phoenix guy?
TERRY FRANCONA: I think he's coming up to Boston, Sheridan.

Q. What are you going to do with the Jason Bay situation, or the ability to acquire a hitter of that caliber?
TERRY FRANCONA: I'm not going to do anything. Theo would be much better suited to answer that question. I'm sure when we head down to Fort Myers, we'll have a better feel. We always do. We are amazingly consistent, in that every year we always have a left fielder, and I'm guessing we are going to have one this year, too.

Q. How much have you spoken with Jason, if at all, this winter?
TERRY FRANCONA: Just nothing about the contract. Just a little about fantasy football, like everybody else. Not comfortable giving him that, Sunday morning, Hey, you going to sign with us.
He's earned his right. We have all talked about it and he's talked about it, and he's really been, I mean, very professional about it all year. But he's earned this right, so now you've got to be patient and let the process work itself out.

Q. How valuable is it that a guy like Jason has proven over a year and a half that he can play in a market like Boston, which not everyone can? How much of that is part of his appeal in terms of coming back?
TERRY FRANCONA: Well, that and those 37 home runs. There's a lot. That's why other teams want him, too. You know, he plays all the time. Really, an understated demeanor. Is that the right way to say it? I think he's very aware of what's going on, but it doesn't let it bother him. He's even-keeled and obviously very likable.
There's not much to not like. That's why he's got a lot of -- that's why he's going to get a big contract.

Q. In terms of those sort of intangibles, he's already proven that, whereas some other guys maybe haven't. How much of an edge or how significant is that in your mind?
TERRY FRANCONA: You know, any time you know something, as opposed to not knowing, there's a comfort there. I mean, when we got him a year and a half ago, it seemed like I had to answer a ton of questions about, How is he going to do? How is he going to handle it?
He did just fine. Everybody said that he would be okay, the people we talked to. But he seemed to flourish. I agree with that.

Q. How do you assess what the offense did last year? Your highest run total in a few years yet there seemed to be conversation about what the middle of the order was.
TERRY FRANCONA: We were inconsistent. You know, I don't think we were ever as bad an offensive team as I think maybe we were portrayed, because we scored runs.
We just found ways -- that's not the right way to say it. We ran into times, especially on the road, where we didn't score much. And then we get to the playoffs, and that's what everybody remembers, the way you finish.
Unfortunately some of those road woes, they showed themselves in the playoffs. I didn't think it was a lack of speed. I thought my first year or so with the Red Sox, we were slow, and I thought we would get into like Toronto and Minnesota and we looked a step or two slow. I don't feel like that anymore.
But we ran into good pitching on the road, and we didn't have a lot to show for it a lot of times.

Q. The fact you didn't score many runs on the road, is that kind of flukey?
TERRY FRANCONA: I don't know. I guess that's what I was trying to answer with that. But after 81 games, I don't know if you can call it a fluke. But at the same time, I don't think we need to redo our whole team.
You know, again, in 2004, we went through times in 2004 where we played Millar in right field. You go into a turf place -- I mean, Millar will say the same thing. You hope they don't hit it out there. We were a little slow. Nomar was coming back from his Achilles, and we didn't move real well.
Or we get into interleague and Dave is playing first, things like that. I didn't feel like that anymore. J.D. runs good, and Jacoby.
Defensively, early in the year, Mikey is coming back from the hip surgery, and we had a bunch of shortstops. So that doesn't help either. So there's always reasons.

Q. How significant then is the signing of Marco Scutaro?
TERRY FRANCONA: I was really happy about this. Think people that have watched him play will come to appreciate him very quickly. He has tremendous on-base skills. He can steal a base. He's not a high stolen base guy, but he's a very good baserunner. He will hit an occasional home run, good teammate.
You have to remember, how much Gonzi stabilized our shortstop position the last couple of months. So we'll have that right from the beginning this year with a guy that has on-base skills. That should really be helpful to us.

Q. Could it be tougher that the Yankees have won and are trying to keep winning? The AL East is always going to be tough.
TERRY FRANCONA: Yeah, I suppose you're right. They have a couple of things that make life difficult for us: They have a lot of money and they have smart people running what they are doing. So you have to acknowledge that. They are not going to go away. I hope they don't get better. But they are there, so we have to deal with them.
Now, saying that, we won't have to play them every day. We just need to be as good as we can be, and then see where it goes.

Q. Can you put into words the challenge for teams such as yourselves or the Rays or Orioles trying to win in that division?
TERRY FRANCONA: The first nine games I thought it was a lot easier than the last nine. Again, with the wildcard, it changes things a little bit. They won a lot of games, 103. When we won 95, that wasn't even close to being good enough to win the division, but it was good enough to get to the playoffs.
Again, if you take care of your business, you'll have a chance.

Q. It's not easy.
TERRY FRANCONA: It never is. We have said that for a long time. Our division is a killer. I think -- I really believe winning -- we won 95 games. It's not easier anywhere, but in our division it's harder than people realize.

Q. In your heart of hearts, when you hear that the Yankees are going to cut payroll and not spend, do you believe it?
TERRY FRANCONA: No. But that's not my business, either. Again, they have a lot of money and they have smart people running it. A lot of respect for cash and what they do. That doesn't bode well for everybody else.
We have really smart people, and I guess we have a lot of cash, probably not endless, but you know, we have a good situation here. So rather than worry too much about the Yankees, just do our own stuff, and I think we'll be okay.
We felt like we were positioned this year very well. That's why it was so frustrating when we exited so quick. We felt good about ourselves. We had our pitching lined up and they were healthy and we didn't do much, and because of that, we had to go home early.

Q. Did you gain any perspective in the month or two since being swept, as to what happened or why you think it happened? Anything over the course of time?
TERRY FRANCONA: You know, nothing earth shattering where I woke up after a week and said, "This is it."
We were positioned really well. We were concerned, and I think it was fairly obvious. We tried to position ourselves so we could go into it being healthy, because we were pretty realistic about where we were. When Mikey Lowell felt good, he was a good player.
When guys were healthy, we knew we had to rely on guys like Pap in the bullpen. It didn't go the way we wanted it to. Lackey carved us up, second game we didn't do much more.
We got home, and I think we all felt like we were ready to have that -- what we do, dig ourselves a hole and dig ourselves out of it. The one thing I said in 2004 and 2007, when you're down, you make a mistake, you go home. That's what happened. We made a mistake and we went home.

Q. When you arrive at the meetings, do you arrive with any expectations?
TERRY FRANCONA: I expect that nobody sits on my lap from the media. (Laughter.)
I don't know. I know our guys are really working at it. This is sort of the official meetings, but our guys have been grinding it. They are pretty well organized. I don't know, I've been to enough of these where some years it's crazy and people are stepping up to podiums, and some years, I walk down to the lobby just to hear what you guys think.
So who knows. You just don't know.

Q. What are your thoughts on replay? Do you think baseball should expand it?
TERRY FRANCONA: Oh, boy. I don't have a good answer to that. I think if you don't have a good answer, you probably ought to hold your criticisms.
I think that if the game, if you're running every two minutes to a replay booth, that's not going to work. I have some thoughts, and the local guys know, maybe adding a fifth guy in the booth I think would be a great teaching tool and a way to help the umpires.
But you know what, they are pretty good. I mean, I know there was some problems in the playoffs, to some really good umpires, and that happens.
But we have super-slow-mo now, and when it takes like four replays to figure out if an umpire is right or wrong, I would probably lean towards giving him a break.

Q. Other than the World Baseball Classic, is there going to be anything different about Daisuke preparation?
TERRY FRANCONA: No, as long as he's strong enough -- as long as he's strong enough and his shoulder is healthy enough. We have talked enough -- we would actually like him to be able to throw enough where he could take the mound with a lot of confidence.
We have been through this a million times. We didn't feel like that's where he was before. Hopefully that will be the case. We would like nothing better than for him to pitch all year and feel good about himself and maintain the strength to where he can go out there and make 35, 36 starts.

Q. Can you touch on the health of the rest of the pitching staff?
TERRY FRANCONA: Beckett sounds good. Just spoke to him the other day. I saw Lester in the Dominican, and he looks terrific. Wake is probably starting his winter a little later just because of the back, but he feels good.
Again, we have talked about Dice. I think he's feeling good. That's our starters.
Pap sounds terrific. I know Oki is doing really well. I just saw Bard, he looks terrific. Delcarmen, his wife just had a baby. He's doing good.
Who am I missing? Buch. I just saw him in the Dominican. He has got the marriage and the honeymoon out of the way and he's ready to go. So no red flags with the pitching staff.
Saying that, in December, if you're running into a lot of injuries in December, probably don't bode well in July.

Q. Address the catching for a moment. Jason is getting older but still has some skills. How do you see it?
TERRY FRANCONA: We have Victor to catch the majority of the games. You don't know how it is going into a season. He's going to prepare to be the catcher. That was one of the things that was harder for us last year, is when he came over, we couldn't catch him every day. Physically, that was not going to work.
Tek understands what's going on. Actually, I saw Tek this weekend, too. He's as mean as he's been for a while, which is exciting for me, because this is either a really good situation, or not. Obviously I would like it to be a really good situation, and I think he's ready for it to be that way, too.
Varitek is an interesting guy. He's logged a lot of games and he has some age under his belt, but there are days where I really wanted him to catch anyway because I thought we could win that game. So that's probably -- I mean, that's a compliment.

Q. Victor grew up in Cleveland's league. How did he adjust going up to Boston? He took it pretty hard as he left that system.
TERRY FRANCONA: I don't know. He told me he was excited. Maybe he was lying to either me or you. I'm betting on you. (Laughter.)
It's kind of your family. When you come up with your first team, guys you came up with in your Minor Leagues, it's very emotional. I would expect that.
But the minute he got to Boston, except for wearing those blue shoes, it was okay.
All of the things we heard about in Cleveland and were looking for, he did with us. It's a rare thing when you see a guy come to a new team and assume such leadership skills that quickly, especially on pretty much a veteran team, and he did that.
We expect that, and probably more, going forward, because we are going to have him from the very beginning.

Q. You said you have talked to Bay in the off-season? When is the last time?
TERRY FRANCONA: Last time I played him in fantasy football. Probably a couple of weeks ago.

Q. Is it easy to not - "probe" is the wrong word --
TERRY FRANCONA: That's what I'm saying. I wouldn't do that. I think he would be disappointed in me. He knows. He knows how much I like him. There's no secret there. But at the same time, I don't want to make Theo's job harder, either. That's not right. I have a lot of confidence in our front office. I was sort of teasing about having a left fielder, but we are going to be okay. They will figure it out.
There was a comfort with Jason because we know him and we know how reliable he is, but they will figure it out.

Q. Who won in the fantasy football?

Q. What did you think of Hideki Matsui's World Series performance?
TERRY FRANCONA: I didn't watch a lot of the World Series, just because I was kind of bitter. I didn't handle our early exit as good as I -- you know, one game, he had, what, seven RBIs? It was a pretty good performance.

Q. Is he the kind of player you would be interested in managing?
TERRY FRANCONA: Where would we put him? If you say we can have two DH's, I would say yes.
I know there was a report from a Japanese news organization, but the cart was probably a little bit ahead of the horse. I know that's shocking.

Q. How did Pap seem when you talked to him?
TERRY FRANCONA: He's okay. He's all right. He actually is -- I take Pap's interviews with a grain of salt, as long as he's not offending anybody and I have to yell at him.
I think what he meant when he left was that he kind of contradicted himself, which Pap is good at. He cares. It's not going to affect him next year. But I do think it will help drive him, too. Because he wasn't quite as good -- again, all you guys are here all the time. He set the bar so high. And I don't know if you can show up every year and walk five guys. It's probably not realistic.
But saying that, his command wasn't quite the same. He lost his split sometimes. You know, he was trying to do some things mechanically. He's still one of the best in the game. He just picked an inopportune time to make a couple of bad pitches.

Q. Now with some distance, how are you feeling about David and some of the struggles?
TERRY FRANCONA: It was an interesting way to get to 99 RBIs. You know, we have had some pretty honest talks, and that's good. I've known David a long time, and I feel like we can do that. Don't know that you can do that with some of the more elite players in the game.
David understands, and he's gotten himself to an age. He's a big guy that's been injured, and he's getting older. So he either has to work harder than he has in the past -- and I'm not saying he has not worked hard, but you have to work harder or it's not going to work, and he understands that.
It's not necessarily fair, but that's the only way he can continue to be the impact guy he wants to be, and he understands that.

Q. Is there anything he's going to be changing this off-season or that you have discussed?
TERRY FRANCONA: No. He's already dropped -- I think he's dropped about 10, 12 pounds. He looks pretty good.
You know, again, you are talking about big guys that have been injured; when they get a little bit older, you have to start doing some things you didn't have to when you were young, and he's aware of that.

Q. Is there a chance Pedroia could go to short and Scooter go to second?
TERRY FRANCONA: Why? Who are you? Are you a scout? That wouldn't make a whole lot of sense to me. We signed Scooter to be a shortstop. Probably doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Q. What can you say about Scooter? Does he have issues with length?
TERRY FRANCONA: I never even thought about it.

Q. That's been a big subject of debate in Venezuela.
TERRY FRANCONA: I haven't even thought about it. I'm not aware of -- I'm just not aware of it. I don't want to speak out of school, because -- somebody asked, what was that last year? Somebody asked me something last year at this thing, and I had no idea what I was talking about. I had to recant. Rather not do that.

Q. At the end of the season you were talking about Daisuke, and you said his off-season conditioning program was really important. You would have to keep an eye on that. How is that going?
TERRY FRANCONA: He's okay. He went back to Japan for a little bit, but for the most part, he's been in Boston for the winter. His weight is lower than what it was when the season was over. That doesn't mean -- but that's good.
He's going to start throwing, and I think he's scheduled to be in Arizona for three weeks at the API thing.
We have been through so much. He knows how we feel. We know how he feels. We just really want him to be good.

Q. Do you think you kind of got over that hump this year with him in terms of what you want him to do, his willingness to accept that, that that's kind of behind you now because of how things played out and you don't have to preach to him anymore?
TERRY FRANCONA: You know, maybe what happened is the best -- at the time, it wasn't a lot of fun. At some times, when things happen, how you move forward is really important.
We kind of put the gloves down and told him how we felt. He told us, but I think it was really good for everybody. We had probably gotten to the point where we needed to have pretty direct conversations; and him to us, also. That's great.

Q. The API, was that his idea?
TERRY FRANCONA: I think so. I think so.

Q. Does that send even more of a message to you how committed he is?
TERRY FRANCONA: You know what, what he did in Fort Myers this summer, he really did a good job. It was obvious when he came back. He looked different. He got up early. He was never late. You know, that sends a message more than -- somebody volunteering to go to API, good, I hope he does, because that would be great.
I think the organized workouts are terrific. But what he did in Fort Myers I think told us what we needed to know.

Q. Given the impact on the division, are you watching the whole Roy Halladay situation?
TERRY FRANCONA: I don't know. Nothing's happened. If he comes to a team in our division, I would be interested. He's really good. Other than that, he's a player on another team, and I don't want to comment much on stuff like that.
When I leave, one of my goals is for the guys upstairs not to be mad at me because I spoke out of turn.

Q. (Indiscernible.)
TERRY FRANCONA: We like our starters, but at the same time, you have to be realistic enough to know that you are probably going to need more than five. That's the hard balancing act. You know, go into the season, okay, we love these guys. Okay, can all five of them handle 200 innings? Do they have enough to go through a playoff run? That doesn't happen very often.
You try to do the best you can, and last year, we had Penny, we had Smoltz. The ideas were solid. They didn't pan out as well as you would have hoped.

Q. Do you think with Wake coming off the surgery, his age and everything, do you have a number in mind in terms of how many innings he can give you, or do you wait to see what he looks like?
TERRY FRANCONA: Probably a little bit of both. You know, I don't think that we need Wake to be a 200-inning guy anymore. I'm not selling him short. That may be a little bit more realistic that we would back him off a little bit. We saw what he can do when he's healthy. He made his first All-Star Team.
At the same time, he's not that guy that you give him the ball, he throws nine. That's probably not realistic.

Q. Are there any guys in the organization that you think can step into that?
TERRY FRANCONA: Right now the two guys that come to mind, probably Tazawa and Bowden are probably the closest to what you are talking about. But I think we would like to get a little more depth. That's not an easy thing to do. Guys don't want to sign and come to camp and thinking they are going to AAA. They probably want to go other places for opportunities.
So that's a tough sell.

Q. (Indiscernible.)
TERRY FRANCONA: Not as much as I would rather have a good pitcher. I realized early on, when you have that lefty that is borderline, you can get yourself in trouble rather than just have a good pitcher.
Last year, Cito, Manny, when he was throwing the ball well, they got lefties out. That's a little bit better than maybe having just a lefty down there just so you can say you have a second lefty.

Q. What do you know about Scott Atchison?
TERRY FRANCONA: I'm not supposed to comment on him yet. Sorry. I'll give you a lot of knowledge later.
I don't think it's official. I think Theo will be happy to talk about him.

Q. Speaking of Manny Delcarmen, since the season ended, have you come to any conclusions, his velocity was down a little bit.
TERRY FRANCONA: He kind of owned up to us a little bit at the end that he was sore and didn't tell us. You like that, because part of the reason you like pitchers is they want to play. But we talked with him at length about the ability to be honest, because we probably would have had him available in the playoffs if he would have told us earlier.
For whatever reason, he kind of lost his lower half. However you want to say it, but he was kind of running away from his delivery. Like if this is where you're pitching, he ended up going this way. His stuff was not quite as electric as it can be, and it hurt him.
He's a guy, again, you just asked about lefties. He got them out pretty good with the changeup and breaking ball. Valuable guy.
When he and Ramón kind of had it going, gave us such a different look in our bullpen. Those games in the sixth inning when you're down two or three, those are great games because they come in and give you multiple innings.

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