Francona: ‘We Know What’s At Stake’
|10.11.09 at 11:12 am ET|
No, Terry Francona did not sleep at the ballpark, but the Red Sox manager has been at Fenway Park since 6:30 a.m., a concession to the scheduled 12:07 p.m. starting time of today’s game. That said, there hasn’t been a whole lot out of the ordinary that Francona has felt compelled to do since getting here.
The lineup changes are minimal. David Ortiz and Jason Bay have been flip-flopped in the order, with Ortiz hitting sixth against left-hander Scott Kazmir and Bay batting fifth. But Francona didn’t feel it necessary to rally the troops over breakfast.
“If I have to go out there and have a meeting today, we’re not in good shape. We’ve had one meeting all year. Our guys understand what to do. We communicate enough. If I have to go out there and have a Knute Rockne speech, we’ll be in trouble,” said Francona. “All year, all the things we talk about – that’s why we do it. So when we get in these positions, we don’t have to fake it. In June, we say we’re trying to win today’s game, because it’s impossible to turn the switches on and off. When you’re in situations like now, we feel the same way. That’s why we do the things we do.”
A few other subjects upon which Francona touched:
Lester is set to start in a potential Game 4 after a short box session on Saturday (meaning that Lester threw on flat ground and then off the front slope of the mound). Francona is well aware that recent history suggests that pitchers working on three days of rest have performed poorly. That said, Lester — one of the strongest pitchers on the Red Sox — informed his manager that he feels physically up to the task of pitching on short rest, something that was critical for the Sox to set in motion the plan to have Lester take the mound for a potential Game 4 and Josh Beckett to handle a potential Game 5 should the series return to Southern California.
“I looked at the numbers. Guys coming back on short rest, the majority of the time, it’s when guys are on fumes, when you have to do it. When CC [Sabathia] did it last year [with the Brewers], it was phenomenal because he wasn’t on fumes,” said Francona. “We just thought this was our best team. And we were pretty open about the fact that we weren’t going to do it if he had an extended outing [in Game 1]. This has as much to do with trying to pitch Beckett twice. When we were looking at finagling the rotation the last 10 days of the year, talking to Lester about it, we said, ‘Can you handle this physically? Because if you can’t, it’s kind of silly.’ We can do all the thinking we want, but if it doesn’t feel right, it’s not going to work.
“A couple years ago, we watched Wake, and everyone was like, ‘You’ve got to move Beckett up.’ He wasn’t ready. When you talk to a pitcher and they say they’re not ready, then don’t do it. In this instance, he felt real good about it, so it made sense to us.”
Francona said that Lester was removed from Game 1 after 100 pitches in a concession to the fact that the team wanted to have him available for Game 4. Under other circumstances — meaning had the Sox been winning, or if they did not plan to bring Lester back on short rest — he might have pitched beyond his six-inning, three-run workload.
“If we’d have been winning we wouldn’t have [pulled Lester after six innings]. Then we would have figured it out from there,” said Francona. “Since we were losing, I’m not going to make him throw another 20 pitches for nothing.”
Matsuzaka remains available in the bullpen for Game 3 today, since Jon Lester came through his Saturday throwing session without a hitch and is set to pitch Game 4. Matsuzaka has showed no reservations about his role.
“He’s gone out and long tossed early and we told him that we’re not going to bring him in in the middle of an inning, bases loaded. That’s not in his best interest. I’m sure he has some anxiety about that, but we’ve re-assured him, hey, if we use you, it will be clean innings,” said Francona. “We were pretty open about what we wanted to do in this series. We wanted to use Lester. But again, we wanted to protect ourselves in case Lester had a ball off his leg or a long outing. And we told Dice that going in. He knew kind of what to expect. What it does, it does a couple of things aside from him pitching. It frees us up to use some other guys because he’s sitting there maybe behind somebody with a lot of length.
“He was wanting to help out wherever he could. You get to this time of year and most of the time that’s what guys do do. I’m sure he would love to start. I would hope he would like to. I hope there’s a time that he can. We just thought this was in our best interest, that this was our best chance to win.”
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