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Francona: Sox won’t ‘manufacture’ more starts for Lester

09.24.10 at 6:32 pm ET
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NEW YORK — Red Sox manager Terry Francona said that, while there had been some conversation earlier this month about the possibility of having starter Jon Lester pitch on short rest in order to give him an extra start in his pursuit of 20 victories, the team had decided against such a course. Lester, who is 18-8 with a 3.06 ERA, will start on Saturday against the Yankees and again next week against the White Sox.

In early September, when the team was considering having Clay Buchholz pitch on short rest, having Lester do the same was a consideration. But while the Red Sox could have pushed up Lester’s start against the Yankees to Friday, thus giving him a chance at a total of three more starts this year (one of which would have had to come with short rest), the team decided against it, particularly given that Lester is already at 197 innings for the year, and will soon surpass 200 innings for the third straight season.

“There was some talk [around Labor Day] about that,” said Francona. “I think we’re pretty comfortable where we’re at. If we start manufacturing starts for Lester right now, we might end up trying to do something really good for him and then do [something bad]. … The kid’s thrown a lot. There’s nothing wrong with just letting him throw when he’s supposed to, not manufacture some starts for him.”

Lester is trying to become the first Sox left-hander to reach 20 wins since Mel Parnell accomplished the feat in 1953.

Read More: Jon Lester, mel parnell,

David Ortiz won’t feel ‘comfortable’ with one-year deal

09.24.10 at 9:38 am ET
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David Ortiz is hoping to secure a multi-year contract this offseason. (AP)

In an interview for The Bradford Files podcast, Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz explained that he won’t feel ‘comfortable’ playing under a one-year deal for next season, citing his discomfort with going through some of the pressures that he experienced throughout the 2010 campaign.

“I always let you guys know how much interest I have in finishing my career here. I’m not going to feel comfortable coming back here just for a year just to re-live all the pressure and all the stuff I’ve been through. I don’t think it’s fair for myself. I think about things and I go through a lot of things mentally, especially for this club,” Ortiz said.

“The Red Sox are in my blood. If there is an organization that I always look at as home, as it’s part of me, it’s this one. This is the organization I’ve been the longest with. I carry a lot of responsibility playing for this ballclub. I try to keep up with it. But I don’t think I can keep up with all the crap that you go through just because you cool off for one week or one month. I think the only way you can stay away from that when people know you have a guaranteed contract.”

Asked if that meant he was hoping not to play under the one-year deal he could potentially be committed to if the Red Sox pick up his $12.5 million option for next season, Ortiz said, “I don’t feel like it, unless I have to. I want to be what I was here and be part of this ballclub until I finish my career. I feel for this ballclub. Believe or not, every year I try to work harder to put up the numbers that I put up there. Even going through some tough situations I think I’ve done a pretty good job.”

Ortiz confirmed that an ideal situation would most likely to sign the kind of multi-year deal that would allow him to retire as a member of the Red Sox.

“Probably,” the 34-year-old said when asked if he wanted to sign a deal that would lead to his retirement. “Everybody has an end. Everybody has a finish. When I walk out of here after I play my last game with the Red Sox I want to walk out through a big door because I pull myself together for that. If things don’t work out that way, there’s not too much you can do about it. That would be a huge completion for me.”

Ortiz is currently hitting .261 with 31 homers and 96 RBI.

To listen to the entire interview click here. (Talk of Ortiz’ contract situation begins at 11:20.)

Ortiz’s 2011 promise: ‘If I’m not here, I’ll be somewhere’

09.22.10 at 11:30 pm ET
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[Click here to hear what Big Papi thinks of his prospects for playing in Boston in 2011.]

Listening to David Ortiz after he drove in four runs in Boston’s 6-1 win over Baltimore on Wednesday night, it doesn’t sound like he wants to take a pay cut to stay with the Red Sox in 2011.

Ortiz was asked if he would consider taking a pay cut from the club option of $12.5 million for 2011 just to remain in Boston.

“I don’t feel like going anywhere else but if I have to, I have no choice,” Ortiz said. “We’ll see, we’ll see how things go. We’ll see. I took a pay cut already, five years ago. That’s some homework for you.”

Ortiz is just four RBIs shy of 100 for the season, which would be his sixth with the Red Sox and first since 2007, when he finished a run of five straight 100+ RBI campaigns. Ortiz said he wants to continue playing for the Red Sox but retiring is not part of the equation.

“If I’m not here, I’ll be somewhere,” he predicted. “I guarantee you that.”

Ortiz signed a four-year, $52 million extension at the start of the 2006 season. The Red Sox have a club option for next season at $12.5 million, with no buyout. Ortiz said he has not heard from the team as to whether they intend on picking it up or asking him to take a pay cut.

Ortiz repeated his desire to retire with the Red Sox but said after Wednesday’s win over the Orioles that he hasn’t begun to give much thought to whether he will return in 2011.

“It’s only the end of the season and things are going to start at one point,” Ortiz said. “Even myself, I haven’t been thinking about that. Sometimes, I feel like I’m part of the family and I’m going to stick around longer but I’m not the one who takes that decision and I’m not the one that makes that move. I’m trying to do my job and hopefully they do theirs after the season.

Read More: Big Papi, Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz, MLB

Closing Time: Red Sox 6, Orioles 1

09.22.10 at 9:55 pm ET
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Well, at least the Red Sox will be saved the indignity of begin swept at home by the Orioles and losing a season series to an A.L. East rival that is closing in on 100 losses.

After losing the first two games to the newly-energized men of Buck Showalter, the Red Sox rode the bats of David Ortiz and Josh Reddick and the arm of John Lackey to an easy 6-1 win over Baltimore at Fenway Park. The win gave the Red Sox a 2-4 record on their six-game homestand against Toronto and Baltimore.

The win allowed the Red Sox to split their season series with the Birds of Baltimore, 9-9.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX:

Lackey looked very strong from start to finish. Lackey threw 111 pitches, 74 strikes in his seven innings, allowing only an RBI double by Ty Wigginton in the fourth inning. Lackey retired the first 10 batters he faced before Nick Markakis singled in fourth. Wigginton followed with a doubled off the Green Monster. He finished allowing just five hits and the one run while striking out four and walking none. In the process, Lackey snapped a personal four-game skid and won for the first time since a 6-3 win over Seattle on Aug. 23.

David Ortiz is closing in on 100. Like a player that can sense a significant milestone, Big Papi drilled a three-run homer to the Red Sox bullpen in the third to energize a quiet crowd that was settling in with the Orioles ahead, 1-0. He singled home another run in a two-run sixth, giving him four RBIs for the game and 96 for the season. If he drives in four more between Friday and Oct. 3, he will have reached the century mark for the sixth time in his career, but the first time since 2007, when he finished out a string of five consecutive 100+ RBI seasons.

Josh Reddick continues his Baltimore Chop. The Red Sox left fielder connected for his first homer of 2010 and first since Sept. 19, 2009. He has three career home runs, all against Baltimore. His first two came in 2009 at Camden Yards.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX:

Mike Lowell can’t catch a break. The veteran, who is in his final days in Boston and baseball, went hitless in his four at-bats Wednesday, went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and saw his average drop to .222.

Tuesday night still haunts. Jonathan Papelbon clearly wanted a chance to get the taste of the night before out of his mouth once and for all. The Red Sox closer had to get up in the middle of the eighth inning not because Terry Francona was concerned about his team’s five-run lead. He was more concerned about giving Papelbon a chance to redeem himself after Tuesday night’s epic meltdown. Papelbon looked strong and sharp, striking out the side and only allowed a flare single to right to Luke Scott after Victor Martinez dropped what would have been the third out on a foul pop.

Read More: Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Buck Showalter, David Ortiz

A little love for Millsy

09.22.10 at 7:38 pm ET
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It’s been this kind of season for Terry Francona.

Following Tuesday night’s 9-1 blowout loss to the Orioles, Francona, perhaps to try to make himself feel a little better, gave a call to good friend Brad Mills.

Francona’s former bench coach is in the midst of a hot finish to the season that has the Houston Astros making a run at .500 and possibly catching the Cardinals for second in the N.L. Central.

So, he gives Mills a call to congratulate the Astros skipper when he heard they were leading the Nationals in their game.

“When we lose, and it’s not possible, I want everyone to lose,” Francona said. “I want everyone to play extra innings and lose. The exception, I wanted Houston to win last night. I gave Millsy a nice of congratulations and then found out when I called him, they gave up eight late and so I even screwed that up.”

The Astros were screwing things up big-time to begin the season. Even late in July, the cause seem hopeless in Mills’ first year in charge. Following a 7-0 loss to first-place Cincinnati in the N.L. Central, the Astros fell to 39-58. Since then, they have caught fire. The Astros are 34-19, posting the second-best record in the NL in that period.

Mills has taken a page out of the Red Sox’ book by implementing an organization-wide approach toward winning. It’s paid huge dividends of late, on and off the field. Millsy’s bunch are 12-7 in September, with the hope building for 2011.

“No, I’m not amazed,” Francona said. “Not ‘I told you so’ but all of his qualities are coming out. He started out slow, they’re getting beat up, he just kept fighting. He helped create a culture and they’re five games under .500 and they could’ve quit. All of sudden, there’s reason for optimism, guys are enjoying coming to the ballpark in September and they’re not even .500. That’s Millsy.

“They lost the first eight games of the year. Some veterans weren’t happy. He did a great job. I think he’s kind of included player development and it’s his personality, he’s finally a got a chance to do it. Good for him. I don’t think that’s a surprise at all.”

Get in line:
The Red Sox are doing their best right now to take a look at as many young players as possible while still maintaining a competitive lineup. On Wednesday the Red Sox started Ryan Kalish in the leadoff spot, with Yamaico Navarro at short and Josh Reddick in left. The Red Sox have been averaging roughly three rookies or prospects in their lineup ever since they fell out of the race in the last week.

With the Yankees – who are trying to salt away another A.L. East Division crown – on the docket this weekend in the Bronx, that trend will likely continue.

“We’ve tried every day to put together a lineup that can compete and win and have some balance and it hasn’t necessarily looked like that some nights because we haven’t done much,” Francona said. “Our main concerns are us and if we do it right, we’re not going to sacrifice winning. We’ve pinch-hit. We want to win. We want to look at some of our younger guys but we still want to win.”

Traveling men:
Francona announced Wednesday that the team would be taking the train – presumably a charter – down to New York on Thursday afternoon for the weekend series that begins Friday at Yankee Stadium. Following that series, the Red Sox will fly to the Windy City to take on the White Sox in a four-game series, their final road series of the season, before returning to Fenway for the season’s final three games against the Yankees, Oct. 1-3.

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros, MLB, New York Yankees

Tito on Pap: He’s grown up

09.22.10 at 6:57 pm ET
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There was a time when Terry Francona would’ve been concerned how Jonathan Papelbon would’ve handled Tuesday night’s four-run meltdown at the hands of the lowly Orioles.

But now, Francona is convinced his closer is a lot more mature and able to handle things like a bad outing and a rough statistical season.

All the proof the Red Sox skipper needs is in how Papelbon has prepared himself physically.

“He’s done a really good job [in maturing],” Francona said before Wednesday’s game. “When I say maturing, I mean in respect to what happened with his shoulder, his work, his ability to handle a workload, his ability to maintain that. That’s not an issue. He’s just given up some runs some games.”

But the natural question was what’s up with Papelbon besides just his 3.92 ERA?

“A couple of things,” Francona began in his attempt to answer. “It’s a little tougher to answer that question after last night because his ERA went up. He’s still fourth in the league in saves. There’s a lot that Pap does. He’s just had whether you called them hiccups or inconsistencies, and his walks are up which has made his innings harder.

“His split has come and gone from time to time, which I think has made his work harder. But I don’t think there’s anything out there to think, ‘Okay, he can’t do it. He’s throwing 87 [MPH]. He’s nursing it up there.’ We’ve talked about setting the bar higher. He’s certainly not there right now, statistically. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be really good.”

And if you think Francona is even for a second giving thought to experimenting with Papelbon as a set-up man in front of Daniel Bard, don’t waste your time.

“I don’t think that you immediately take that guy out of that role for a couple of reasons,” Francona said. “One is it upsets what you’ve got and the other one is the guy everyone is complaining about, where do you think he’s going to pitch? If you take your closer and make him your set-up guy, all the people you don’t want him to face, he’s coming in with men on [base]. It sort of a backwards [theory]. You better have a good closer and good rest of your bullpen. If you’re short, you get exposed.”

The only likely way Papelbon is not the closer in Boston is if he’s wearing another uniform.

Even though he hadn’t pitched since Sept. 14 at Seattle, there was some thought given to not even pitching Papelbon Tuesday. And the fact that Papelbon entered the game with the Sox already down 5-1 also could have played a role in his nightmarish outing.

“I think that’s always a concern,” Francona admitted. “We called down [Tuesday] night because he needed to pitch and wanted to pitch and we said if you’d rather throw in the bullpen we’ll have one of these younger kids throw an inning. He said, ‘Nah, I really need to pitch.’ The good side of it is he only threw 17 or 18 pitches because that’s the last thing we wanted him to do is throw 30 pitches and get beat up on a non-save night.”

Francona actually sees a comparison with Papelbon’s struggles with the splitter and another pitcher who relied heavily on the out pitch – Curt Schilling.

“It’s kind of come and gone,” Francona said. “I think that’s the way most guys are with their split. Schill was the exact same way. He could still be effective but he had to work harder. I think the thing that is probably a little different with Pap is that his command of his fastball there for a while there was phenomenal. It was as good as anybody in the game. It’s why his numbers were so miniscule. Not only did he not walk people, he didn’t get to Ball 3 very much. And that’s changed a little bit and so it’s made him have to work harder.

“I think the split has the ability to come and go. With a starter, you’ll see it and they have the ability to go a third pitch because they’re starters. You’ll see Pap throw an occasional slider but that’s not something he needs to be featuring. You’ve seen that when Pap has that split that’s in and out of the strike zone. He’s throwing his fastball and he’s ahead in the count then he throws his split. And even when he doesn’t get the strikeout on the split but maybe get the check swing then he elevates the next fastball, he’s put that different speed into their head. That’s how you pitch.”

Read More: Boston Red Sox, Curt Schilling, Daniel Bard, Jonathan Papelbon

Terry Francona on D&H: ‘Realistic’ with Jacoby Ellsbury

09.22.10 at 2:30 pm ET
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Terry Francona

Red Sox manager Terry Francona made his weekly appearance on the Dale & Holley show Wednesday and talked about his point of view now that his team’s chances for the postseason are an afterthought.

“Where we’ve played ourselves into kind of a longshot, I think we have an obligation — I don’t care if we’re 20 games out — we have an obligation to try to win as many games as we can,” Francona said. “Now, you might use some younger guys in doing that, and do some balancing for the organization. But we always have an obligation to try to play the game right. That will never change.”

Following is a transcript. To hear the interview, visit the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

After a game like last night, you probably would rather talk football.

The first five innings were kind of interesting. [Clay Buchholz] was doing his thing. We weren’t doing much offensively, but it was a nice, crisp game, so it was actually kind of fun. And then, boy, it really got away from us in a hurry. That was frustrating. That’s a tough way to leave a game. We were up 1-0, Buch’s battling, throwing some speed counts and some longer innings, but really still throwing; he had some good curveballs and really good changeups. We let the popup drop, the run scores, and then from there it just went downhill.

Do you still allow yourself to think at this stage like some optimists do? Do you still do those mathematical permutations in our head?

I don’t spend my whole day doing the permutations. I certainly think I need to be aware of where we are in the standings. But I hope I’m going to spend more time on how we’re going to play better baseball. Where we’ve played ourselves into kind of a longshot, I think we have an obligation — I don’t care if we’re 20 games out — we have an obligation to try to win as many games as we can. Now, you might use some younger guys in doing that, and try to do some balancing for the organization. But we always have an obligation to try to play the game right. That will never change.

Is it different now, the way it feels than in June or July?

I think at the ballpark the last couple of night you can see a little bit of a difference. And I think that’s human nature. People are still coming, which I think is fortunate. I think this streak we have of sellouts is one of the really cool things in sports. I think it’s something the Red Sox are really proud of. I think the fans should be proud of it. I hope that’s something that doesn’t get broken, because I think it’s really cool. And I think it’s easy to lose sight of that sometimes, so I hope that stays intact. As far as people wanting to talk football, that’s what fans do. That’s OK, shoot. I’m not a fan. My job is to try to get these guys to play good. So, that’s what we’ll do.

From a medical perspective and a baseball perspective, if your season was going on into the playoffs, would a guy like Jacoby Ellsbury be approaching what he’s doing differently?

Yah. I don’t doubt that one bit. We’re trying to be pretty realistic with where we’re at. We tried numerous times to get him out there. The last time, when it didn’t work, it was pretty obvious that we needed to shut him down. So, maybe I didn’t actually answer that correctly. I don’t know if he would be able to play or not. I do know that by finally sitting back and allowing him to rehab and not try to play, I think it ensures when he comes into spring training next year we won’t have to deal with it anymore.

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Read More: David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury, ryan kalish, Terry Francona
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