|06.02.10 at 4:57 pm ET|
The Red Sox will not allow injured starter Josh Beckett to start throwing for about 10 days, according to manager Terry Francona, out of concern that his back discomfort could create other mechanical issues or injuries. Beckett has been out since May 12 due to what the team is describing as a lower back strain. But the team became considered when he ran into difficulties repeating his delivery in a bullpen session on Friday, resulting in the decision to further slow down his rehab.
[Francona explains Beckett situation.]
“We’re going to slow him down a little bit. By that, probably, I don’t know if we’re going to have a firm timetable, but probably about 10 days,” said Francona. “We lean on this guy too much, or we need to. So until we can completely get back where he’s going through his delivery, we’re going to make him take it easy. I think he understands it. I don’t think he probably loves it. I think he realizes this is where his best interest ends up probably being our best interest, so we’re going to be pretty firm about this.
“He can do a lot of things, but when we get him back out there throwing, we don’t want him making any adjustments to his delivery, to his arm slot, because that’s where we run into problems.”
Beckett is 1-1 with a 7.29 ERA for the Sox this year.
Meanwhile, outfielder Mike Cameron received an encouraging medical report from a specialist at MGH who examined his abdomen on Wednesday morning. While the 37-year-old had been experiencing discomfort in the left side of his abdomen (the opposite side from the area where he endured the tear that landed him on the disabled list in April), the doctor with whom he met on Wednesday informed him that he is not dealing with a tear in a different area.
[Click here to listen to Francona explain the Cameron injury situation.]
“Good update,” said manager Francona. “We ruled out any of the things that happened on the other side. There’s certainly some inflammation. It’s actually kind of deep. I think Cam feels a lot better knowing that, when this subsides, and it already is, to the point where he can do everything he wants, he’s not going to hurt himself. Already, you see a little different look in his eyes. That was really good news.”
Cameron is out of the lineup on Wednesday, and Francona suggested that he may be out on Thursday as well. Moreover, the manager reiterated what has been said since Cameron came back, namely that the Sox will monitor his playing time to try to allow him to manage his pain.
Nonetheless, the diagnosis offered reassurance to Cameron that when he is playing, he can do so without fear of further injury.
“I just think he wanted to know he wasn’t going to hurt himself. He’s a tough kid. He plays through a lot,” said Francona. “But this has been troubling for him. There are certain things, at times, he though physically he can’t do.”
Cameron is hitting .277/.370/.383/.753 for the season, and knocked in his first runs as a Red Sox on Sunday.
—Jason Varitek will start and catch Daisuke Matsuzaka. While Matsuzaka has pitched his best games with Varitek behind the plate this year, Francona said that the decision was related more to the schedule. Catcher Victor Martinez, who went 5-for-5 with four doubles on Tuesday, is still dealing with an injured left big toe. With the Sox scheduled to play a day game on Thursday after their Wednesday night contest, the team wanted Martinez to rest before catching Tim Wakefield in the series finale against the A’s.
“The way his toe is, I think we were reaching for a little too much,” said Francona. “I saw the way he was swinging. It was great. But the three games in less than three days, I don’t know if that’s going to work.”
–Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury did some running in the outfield and some swinging under the eye of rehab coordinator Scott Waugh. The Sox have yet to decide whether Ellsbury will make the upcoming roadtrip to Baltimore and Cleveland or remain behind to continue his rehab.
“It’s going to be hopefully a progression of moving forward as opposed to moving backwards,” said Francona. “Every quote I give you probably needs to be consistent, because it’s not really changing.”
—David Ortiz and Jon Lester were named the American League’s Player and Pitcher of the Month for May. Ortiz has received the award on three previous occasions (Sept. 2005, July 2006, Sept. 2007), while Lester has been honored twice before (July and Sept. 2008).
Lester seemed more excited about Ortiz’ recognition than his own.
“[Ortiz] deserves it. It was a huge month for him, not only for us as a team but personally,” said Lester. “I think a lot of people wrote him off at the beginning of the year. He kind of came back and stuck it in their face and said, ‘I’m not going anywhere.’ It’s good to see him be a presence in our lineup again and a presence in our clubhouse. With him swinging the bat like that and having that attitude he’s always had, it helps this clubhouse out.”
Ortiz’ 10 homers were his most since Sept. 2006, the year when he finished the season with 54 homers. He also hit .363/.424/.788/1.211 in the month.
Lester went 5-0 with a 1.84 ERA in the month to earn his award.
“That’s stuff you don’t really play for, but it’s nice,” said Lester. “I’m obviously honored to be named that. But I’m just more concerned with how our team’s been playing. We’ve been playing better baseball.”
|06.02.10 at 4:42 pm ET|
Red Sox manager Terry Francona went on the Dale & Holley show Wednesday afternoon to discuss Dustin Pedroia’s recent struggles at the plate, why John Lackey is right where he needs to be, and how him and Jacoby Ellsbury are on the same page.
“Everybody’s got an opinion,” he explained. “I think sometimes young players [referring to Ellsbury], you know somebody got his ear, and got him talking, and he probably vented a little bit ‘¦ I think he learned his lesson. Whether he said it off the record, however, he probably said it, and I think he probably wished he wouldn’t have said it, especially in a place like Boston.”
Below is a transcript of the interview. To listen to the interview, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.
Do you ever get a sense that a player is going to get hot before it happens?
Well I think sometimes you see things happening, like during B.P. [batting practice], where their timing is getting better, or maybe they’ve lined out, or maybe sometimes the numbers don’t quite say that the guy’s hot, but you’re seeing some things, guys hit the pitches and stuff like that. Sometimes all you need is one hit ‘¦ I was trying to explain last night to the media, it’s not always the same formula, sometimes guys get a hit and things fall into place. Sometimes they keep at it, and then you look up a week later and they have gotten hot. There’s a lot of different ways it works, but kind of fall back on the thing ‘¦ good hitters, they get to their level. And sometimes it’s not as consistently as we all like, but they find a way to get there.
Regarding Dustin Pedroia, have you talked to him about his recent struggles at the plate?
Well actually Michael [Holley] I actually don’t agree with that. I mean a couple years ago ‘¦ he goes through this from time to time. We went through inter-league play a couple years ago, and he went through a real tough stretch. I remember we went through Houston, and that period of time, he was really struggling. It will happen to everybody, he will get just as hot as he got cold. I’m sitting here telling you right now, you watch, it’s going to happen, I hope it starts tonight. But it will happen, he’s too good of a player, he’s too good of a hitter ‘¦ this is a crazy game, sometimes you can’t bottle it, and happen to be consistent, but I’m telling you he will get to his level, and it’s going to be fun to watch. Read the rest of this entry »
|06.02.10 at 3:28 pm ET|
On Tuesday, Dustin Pedroia offered his first positive sign at the plate in some time. In his fifth and final at-bat against the A’s, he smashed a ball to right-center, which crashed on the warning track and hopped into the stands for a ground-rule double that snapped an 0-for-17 slump.
But he was not alone in showing signs of a turnaround. In fact, the player who almost prevented Pedroia from becoming a member of the Red Sox also showed his own signs of life.
That would be Athletics catcher Kurt Suzuki, who had been struggling since returning from the disabled list (due to a strained side) in early May before going 2-for-5 with a double and triple on Tuesday.
In 2004, the Sox were left with an unexpected dilemma on draft day. The team did not have a first-round draft pick, but as the team’s top selection (the 65th overall pick, late in the second round) approached, a pleasant surprise started to present itself.
‘We had both Pedroia and Kurt Suzuki as two players we thought would be gone by the time we picked,’ Sox GM Theo Epstein once recalled. ‘We’d done our work on them, but they were over on the other side, so we hadn’t spent a ton of time getting them in the right order.
‘But with two or three picks left, we were like, ‘Wow ‘ two guys who we thought would be gone for sure could still be there.’ We took a quick minute to make sure we all felt the same way about which guy we would pick.’
Suzuki, a standout catcher at Cal State-Fullerton, knew that the Sox had been following him. As the draft unfolded and he remained on the board into the second round, the idea that he might land with the Sox seemed real.
‘I thought there was a chance that I could go to the Red Sox. I knew they only had one pick in the first two rounds,’ said Suzuki. ‘Obviously, there were a few teams that were interested in taking me fairly early. I’d known the Red Sox were one of those teams. The Red Sox, Oakland, the Blue Jays ‘ teams that were college-oriented.’
The decision at the time was not obvious. Even after making the call for Pedroia, there were some in the organization who wrestled with the question of whether the right choice had been made.
The team viewed Suzuki as a player at a premium position whose college performance suggested a high likelihood of both offensive and defensive value. But Pedroia’s impeccable track record of success, even against elite pitching both in the Pac-10 conference and as a player for Team USA, led the Sox to choose Pedroia.
Two picks later, the Athletics jumped on Suzuki. The A’s catcher cannot fault the Sox’ decision.
‘Obviously, everybody knows how that worked out. I played against him in college and I knew that he was going to be a great player,’ said Suzuki. ‘I thought he would be [drafted higher] based on his college numbers.
‘But people always talked about his size. It’s nice to see that he’s put a lot of those critics to rest. It’s not always about how big you are or tools. It’s what you do between the lines. He’s obviously had a knack for producing everywhere he’s played. He shows that just because you’re not the biggest and strongest that you can produce. It’s nice to see that.’
Pedroia clearly has offered the Sox exceptional returns on their draft choice. He has been a Rookie of the Year, two-time All-Star and MVP.
For his part, Suzuki has also delivered tremendous returns for Oakland. He is currently the cleanup hitter for the A’s, and offers one of the better offense/defense catching packages in the game. A year ago, he hit 15 homers, drove in 88, and hit .274/.313/.421/.734, and seemed on the cusp of a breakout before his April injury.
Yet even as he showed signs of rebounding from his injury with his strong performance at Fenway Park on Tuesday, Suzuki has spent little time contemplating just how close he came to being a Red Sox.
‘At this point in my career, I don’t really think about it much. Maybe when I got drafted, I thought, ‘It would have been cool to be a Boston Red Sox and to be able to play at Fenway,’’ said Suzuki. ‘But I couldn’t be happier to play where I’m at right now. Oakland gave me the opportunity to come to the big leagues. They’ve been patient with me. They’re great.
‘At the same time, it’s a business. There’s opportunities that come up. I’m hoping that I can stay with Oakland for the rest of my career ‘ absolutely. At the same time, everybody knows how this business works. Sometimes there are other opportunities out there and you have to move on. But this is the place I’m comfortable with and where I’d like to stay for the rest of my career.’
|06.02.10 at 2:06 pm ET|
NESN Red Sox analyst Jerry Remy joined Dennis & Callahan for his weekly discussion about the Red Sox. Asked if this team is a World Series contender, he said: “Do they have the players that can get and catch the Yankees and possibly Tampa Bay? Yeah, I think they do, but they’ve got to play great baseball. They are not an overpowering team and I think they just have to play their best baseball.”
Talking about the enigma that is Daisuke Matsuzaka, who pitches Wednesday night, Remy said: “I am done trying to figure him out. This is going on what, four years now? I can’t figure it out. And imagine being his pitching coach.”
Following is a transcript. To listen to the interview, visit the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
What are you convinced that you know for sure about this baseball team?
Well, they are going to score more runs then we thought they would score, No. 1. I think the pitching is going to get better as we move along. I think there have been signs with [Clay] Buchholz and [Jon] Lester. I expect better things out of [John] Lackey and of course, [Josh] Beckett has to get healthy. As far as Daisuke goes, who knows? I think as time goes on, we are going to see better pitching, the offense will stay the same, if not even get better, and I think they are going to put themselves in a position where they are going to be competitive all season long with those top teams.
Adrian Beltre is now the leader at the one-third pole for MVP. Did you see this coming? Did you think Beltre was this kind of player?
I had no idea, because when you play the West Coast teams, you only play them maybe six times a year. You really didn’t get to see very much [of him last season], so when they got Beltre, you know, I don’t get this, but the more I watch him, I’ll tell you what, if you want a guy that plays the game hard, this guy does it, day in and day out. He has impressed me. It looks like he has gotten some power back, hitting some home runs now. It took a little bit of while, but defensively he is outstanding. I had no idea that he was that good defensively, I really didn’t. He had a rocky start here, but over the last month he has been flashing some leather down there, so he has been a very good player for them. Read the rest of this entry »
|06.02.10 at 11:28 am ET|
The Red Sox enter the second game of their three-game series at home against the A’s playing some of their best baseball of the season, having won eight of their last 10 games heading into Wednesday night. The Sox continued their impressive streak Tuesday by scoring nine unanswered runs to rally back from a 4-0 fifth-inning deficit in an impressive 9-4 win. If the Sox are going to solidify their good start to the month of June, they could use a good start from Daisuke Matsuzaka on the mound. The A’s will counter with former All-Star Ben Sheets.
Whenever Matsuzaka (3-2, 5.77 ERA) takes the mound, Sox players, coaches and fans alike have to wonder just which Matsuzaka they’ll be getting in that particular outing. He has been at times spectacular, mediocre or just plain awful. His eight-inning one-hitter against the Phillies on May 22, in which he had a no-hitter going with just four outs left, is by far the high point for him this season, but that was just one start. He has gotten out of the sixth inning just once in his other five starts and has given up at least five runs in half of his starts this season.
The Sox hope they may have found the solution to Matsuzaka’s inconsistent pitching, and that solution is putting captain Jason Varitek behind the dish for his starts. The move may be a difficult one to make for manager Terry Francona after Victor Martinez went 5-for-5 with four doubles in Tuesday’s win, but a quick look at the history between the Matsuzaka and two catchers reveals that the decision should be clear as to who should catch Wednesday. This year in three games with Martinez catching, Matsuzaka has a ghastly 11.05 ERA with an opponents’ batting average of .344. When Varitek is putting down the figures, those numbers deflate all the way down to a 1.83 ERA and .095 OBA. Despite the potential offensive hit, expect Varitek behind the plate Wednesday.
On the flip side, Sheets (2-3, 4.91 ERA) will be making his first-ever start against Boston after pitching the previous eight seasons of his career for the Brewers of the National League. He sat out all of last season after elbow surgery before signing a one-year deal with the A’s last offseason. At the time, the signing certainly looked good for the A’s, despite the possible questions about Sheets’ health. After 11 starts, there have been no injuries yet, but Sheets has yet to return to the form he once displayed in Milwaukee. He has not had a season with an ERA over 4.00 since 2003 but certainly could break that streak this season. Also, his strikeout-to-walk ratio, a stat that reached as high as 10.55 in 2006, is down to 1.76.
Sox fans also will have to keep an eye on Sheets’ former Milwaukee teammate Mike Cameron, who did not start Tuesday with abdomen pain. He had his best game of the season at the plate Sunday, going 2-for-3 with two doubles and two RBI, but sat out Tuesday’s win after experiencing discomfort on the opposite side of where he previously had felt pain. Darnell McDonald got the start instead in center field.
|06.02.10 at 9:08 am ET|
* – Lackey became just the 2nd starter in the majors this season to allow 12+ hits and still get the win. The other was Texas’ Scott Feldman, who beat Baltimore on May 20 despite allowing 13 hits. It was the 2nd such start by a Red Sox pitcher since the turn of the century (Beckett last September 23) and their 10th such start since 1980.
* – The Red Sox collected 6 hits with RISP last night, their most since May 3 and the 4th time this season that they’ve had 6 or more in a game.
* – Beltre’s 3-run HR was Boston’s 9th HR with 2 or more runners on base this season, tied for the 2nd most in the AL:
* – Victor Martinez has gone 18-39 (.462) in his last 11 games and has the highest average in the majors since May 17 (min. 35 AB):
.462 – Victor Martinez, BOS
.453 – Robinson Cano, NYY
.450 – Joey Votto, CIN
V-Mart’s average has gone from .226 to .279 and his OPS has jumped from .643 to .818 in that span.
* – Daniel Bard did not strike out a batter in his perfect inning last night. It entends his streak to 7 consecutive appearances with 1 strikeout or less, the longest of his career.
* – After never allowing more than 7 line drives in any start last season, last night was the 2nd time in John Lackey’s last 4 starts in which he has allowed 8 line drives. Fortunately, opponents have gone just 5 for 8 on those liners in each game or things could have been worse. For the season, opponents are batting .829 on line drives against Lackey.
|06.02.10 at 1:41 am ET|
Red Sox outfielder Mike Cameron will see a specialist on Wednesday to determine the status of his abdomen. An MRI on Tuesday revealed that the original tear that the 37-year-old suffered on the right side of his abdomen is now healed. Now, however, the outfielder has been dealing with similar pain on his left side, and the specialist will determine whether there is a new tear on that side.
“He’s got a lot of pain. We’ve got to figure out what and how to deal with it,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “We’ll try to make a good judgment on wehre he is.”
Cameron said that he came through the game on Sunday (his third straight, and his first day game after a night game since returning from the disabled list) without a problem. However, after he flew home to Georgia following the game, he started experiencing significant discomfort that was reminiscent of the injury (which he referred to as sports hernias) that sent him to the disabled list.
“I just had those same symptoms that I had on the left side,” said Cameron. “I’ve gotten better over the last 24 hours. But I was just concerned so I called [the team] when I was at home. … I was in pain Sunday night when I got into bed. My wife asked me, ‘What’s going on? Why are you tossing and turning in bed all night long?’ Just kept going. It was abnormal for me to have those kinds of things that I felt when I was sleeping, or trying to go to sleep.”
The specialist will allow Cameron and the team to determine the cause of his discomfort, whether that is normal for his state of recovery from the initial abdominal strain and whether the outfielder can continue to play without jeopardizing further injury.
The development continued a frustrating pattern for the outfielder. He had kidney stones removed in April, only to discover that he had an abdominal tear. After a rehab that proved longer than expected, he was showing promise in his return, going 6-for-17 (.353) with an .859 OPS, before suffering his latest round of abdominal pain.
“We were really excited Sunday that he felt good,” Francona said. “Some of that excitement we felt Sunday is a little tempered now.”
“Guess it’s just my time for [things] to go wrong,” said Cameron. “I just hope it doesn’t go wrong for so long.”
|06.02.10 at 1:31 am ET|
Yet even though he can rely on experience to reassure him that he will emerge from his struggles, it does not make it any easier to endure a fallow stretch.
“Your wife wrecks a car every year, it happens every year, but that doesn’t make it any easier,” joked hitting coach Dave Magadan. “He’s been frustrated, because he knows he’s a big part of this team. He takes it personal. I think it hurts him more. It affects him more in the way that he feels like he’s letting the team down, as opposed to his own personal goals.
“I think that’s what makes him such a special player. He makes everybody in this clubhouse better. He’s got a great attitude about it. But he wants to make it happen right now. He doesn’t want, ‘Hey, do better tomorrow.’ He doesn’t want to hear that. He wants to be here right now taking B.P., trying to get better. That’s what makes him great.”
In that context, of the 14 hits that the Red Sox amassed in their 9-4 razing of the Athletics, one can make the case that the most important one came after the game had already been decided.
By the time the Sox were batting in the bottom of the eighth inning with a 6-4 lead, the team had already done all of the damage necessary to ensure victory. But it was then that Pedroia — stuck in a miserable 0-for-17 rut — unloaded on a 2-2 slider from A’s reliever Michael Wurtz.
His one-out, bases-empty rocket to right-center bounced on the warning track and into the Red Sox bullpen for a ground-rule double. That gave a reprieve to one of the worst runs of the second baseman’s career. Since hitting a two-run homer in his first at-bat on May 14, Pedroia had gone to the plate 63 times, and had a dreadful .127 average, .236 OBP, .159 slugging mark and .359 OPS to show for it prior to that double. He hadn’t driven in a single run in that span (a streak that continues even after the double). He had gone through an 0-for-19 stretch, emerged briefly to go 5-for-11, then slipped back into another hitless stretch.
On Tuesday, Pedroia had hit the ball well in two at-bats, and poorly in two others. He lined out to first in the first, popped out with the bases loaded and two outs in the second (prompting him to smash his helmet on the infield dirt), grounded out hard to short in the fifth and grounded into a bases-loaded double play in the sixth.
The pair of well-struck outs had already represented a positive direction for Pedroia’s evening, but he seemed unwilling to see the silver lining. Magadan saw the frustration mounting in the second baseman, and so pulled him aside after the double play. He told Pedroia to focus on the two quality at-bats that he had delivered, rather than his failures, and reminded the 2008 MVP that he might yet have another turn at the dish.
Sure enough, that prediction came to fruition.
“Sure enough, he got up that last at-bat, took a great swing at that ball and drove it to right-center. When he’s doing that, he’s a special hitter,” said Magadan. “He’s gone through a period right now where he’s kind of gotten away from what makes him a really good hitter. with the amount of hard work he does, it’s just a matter of time before he gets back to it.”
In that final plate appearance, Pedroia spread out his stance. According to Magadan, his stride has gotten too long in recent games, resulting in his struggles.
“He normally has a pretty big stride, but his stride right now has really gotten big. When his stride is big like that, he gets underneath a lot of balls,” said Magadan. “His game is hitting line drives and getting on top of the balls that he’s hitting the other way.”
In that final at-bat, Pedroia was rewarded for just that, but barely. The ball just eluded the grasp of speedy center fielder Rajai Davis. But the extra inches of carry meant a world of difference to Pedroia, who is now hitting .254 with a .776 OPS.
“If Davis catches that ball, we probably have to get out of the way because he’s going to be down there killing somebody or himself,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “I don’t really worry about him on the fact of his performance. I worry that he tries too hard.”
It remains to be seen whether the double will allow Pedroia to back off of that desperation. Nonetheless, on a night when the Sox featured plenty of offensive fireworks, it would be difficult to identify a single hit that brought as much relief to the entire club as that one.
|06.01.10 at 10:59 pm ET|
The Red Sox kept their winning ways going, taking their third straight victory, beating the A’s, 9-4, in the teams series-opener at Fenway Park. The Sox appeared in trouble early on, falling into a 4-0 hole in the fifth inning. But the hosts managed three runs in the fifth, two in the sixth, one run in the seventh, and three more in the eighth to help hand starter John Lackey his sixth victory of the season.
Leading the way was Victor Martinez, who finished with five hits, four of them doubles, becoming the first catcher to hit four doubles in a games since Cleveland’s Sandy Alomar at Fenway Park on June 6, 1997. (Click here for a complete recap.)
WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX
– Victor Martinez showed his worth once again, especially against left-handers. Martinez finished the night going 4-for-4, scoring a run and driving in a run. Perhaps his biggest hit of the night came in the sixth when he broke a 4-4 tie with a run-scoring double off lefty reliever Craig Breslow. The decision to allow Breslow to face Martinez with Darnell McDonald at third seem curious considering the catcher’s success against lefties, both for the night and the season. Martinez came into the game hitting .383 against left-handers, and kicked off his night against Oakland starter Gio Gonzalez (a lefty) with two doubles and a single. Martinez also showed he can hit right-handers, as well, managing his fourth double of the night in the eighth, plating Dustin Pedroia. He also improved his batting average by 22 points, now sitting at .279.
– Like Martinez, the entire Red Sox lineup has continued to excel against left-handers. With the win over Gonzalez, the Sox improved to 12-6 in games started by left-handers, with the lefty starters they have faced going a combined 3-5 with a 5.97 ERA.
– Through four at-bats it appeared as thought Dustin Pedroia might be residing in the “What Went Wrong With The Red Sox” category. But in the eighth, after a night of hitting some balls hard with no results, Pedroia snapped an 0-for-17 drought by launching a double over the head of center fielder Rajai Davis.
– Adrian Beltre continued to add punch to the Red Sox’ lineup, this time getting the Red Sox back in the game after their early four-run hole by launching a three-run shot over the left field wall in the fifth. It was the sixth homer of the season for Beltre, with all of his round-trippers coming with the Red Sox either trailing or tied. Even with all the success of Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz in the last month, it was Beltre who finished May having the most extra-base hits for the Red Sox.
WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX
– John Lackey pitched well enough to win, but there is still something missing from the starter’s game these days. Lackey finished his night having given up four runs on 12 hits over six innings. Lackey’s ERA now stands at 4.95.
– While McDonald once again filled in admirably in center field (coming away with a hit and two walks), his presence in the lineup raised a red flag as Mike Cameron had to sit out once again due to abdominal soreness. Cameron was scheduled to visit with Dr. Thomas Gill to diagnose the root of his problems. ‘We were really excited Sunday that he felt good,’ Francona said. ‘Some of that excitement we felt Sunday is a little tempered now.’
|06.01.10 at 6:43 pm ET|
If you found yourself driving around a car and engaging in some demonstrative gestures towards the driver of a vehicle that was inconveniently pulled over next to a rotary on Friday night, well, that may have been your way of saying hello to the manager of the Boston Red Sox.
Terry Francona has long been an enthusiast of the Celtics. Even when the team struggled through its 2006-07 year of misery, the Sox skipper would stay up in order to watch the Celtics play (and usually get crushed) on the West Coast.
So now, he is very much caught up in the excitement of the Celtics’ run to the NBA finals. But it is not merely a fan’s perspective that he brings to the mix.
The Celtics hired Doc Rivers in 2004, while Francona was in the dugout for his first season with the Red Sox. Since then, the two have struck up a friendship, and while much of their correspondence is via text, the two find a way to deliver meaningful messages to one another. That, in turn, led to an illegally and inconveniently parked Francona on Friday night, much to the chagrin of a few Boston drivers.
The Sox had gotten blasted by the Royals, enduring a 12-5 defeat that concluded with utility man Bill Hall on the mound. But the Celtics were putting the final touches on their Game 6 victory over the Magic to clinch their advance to the finals. And Francona wanted to reach out to his friend.
“It was the night we lost a tough game. I was driving, and they were getting down towards the end but it wasn’t the end, so I purposely sat at the rotary because I knew I’d lose my service when I got to the house,” said Francona. “I wanted to be, like, one of the first ones to tell them congratulations, but I didn’t want to do it too quick. So I endured all the people flipping me off, then sent him a note saying, ‘Hey ‘ way to go.’ because I do care. I’m a big fan of the Celtics, but I’m a big Doc fan. I like the way he does everything.”
Professionally, they share a number of similarities. Francona is 51, Rivers is 48. Both had relatives who offered roots in their sports — Francona as a second-generation baseball player who came to be called by the same name (Tito) as his father, Rivers as the nephew of Jim Brewer. Both learned a great deal from spending four seasons (for Rivers, four and change) with other franchises before getting fired. Both took over once-proud Boston franchises that had become desperate for championships and oversaw them as they climbed the mountain. Both are now viewed as being among the best in their field.
Philosophically, the two also feel a kinship. That became particularly evident to both this past winter, when Rivers accepted an invitation from the Red Sox to speak at the organization’s Rookie Development Program. Rivers addressed a group of Sox prospects, and Francona found himself in nearly total agreement with his basketball-coaching colleague.
“I think our kids enjoyed [Rivers’ talk]. They probably didn’t enjoy it more than me. I loved it. When he talks, he has a lot to say that’s really interesting,” said Francona. “We laughed afterwards. I said, ‘You may have said it better than I do, but I think we agree totally on everything.’ we got to talk a little bit. All the things he believes in, I probably agree with. I hope I’m able to get it across to our guys in a way that he does, because I think he’s tremendous.”
Francona loves both hoops and football, but he resists the temptation to talk X’s and O’s with either Rivers or Bill Belichick. Those two, in turn, pay him the same courtesy.
“[Rivers] hasn’t had any complaints [about Francona’s bullpen management],” said Francona. “He’s one of the few.”
Yet while he does not try to discuss the relative merits of playing man-to-man or zone, Francona makes no secret of the fact that he is invested in the Celtics, a fact that he admitted candidly when asked for an NBA finals prediction.
“I’d better say the Celtics,” said Francona. “I’m a biased observer. I like the Celtics so much I’m rooting for them. I’m a big fan.”
Latest from Bleacher Report
- Weekly Notes: Big league season comes to an end
- The Write-Up: Logan Allen, Travis Lakins, William Cuevas and Yankory Pimentel
- Weekly Notes: Season end awards & front office changes
- SoxProspects.com 2015 season-end award winners
- Travis, Moncada highlight Red Sox minor league awards
- Podcast Ep. 86: Season in Review, Pt. 1
- Weekly Notes: Moncada to play winter ball in Puerto Rico
- 2015 SoxProspects.com All-Stars
- Weekly Notes: Front office moves, Fall Instructs rosters announced
- Podcast Ep. 85: Final Notes from the Field, Sept. Rankings, Wendell Rijo