Francona on D&H: ‘Err on the side of caution’ with Ortiz
|04.13.10 at 1:14 pm ET|
Red Sox manager Terry Francona made his weekly appearance on the Dale & Holley show Tuesday and talked about the Sox’ slow start to the season and the challenges presented by David Ortiz‘ slow start this year. The Sox skipper discussed why he believes it is premature to alter Ortiz’ playing time, including why he does not believe that a platoon between Ortiz and Mike Lowell is appropriate at this juncture of the season.
“You can’t just treat these guys like chess pieces. I don’t think that works. There’s a human element to this, and probably a lot more than people realize,” said Fracona. “If you’re going to make a change, you’d better damn well be sure you’re right. And that’s what we’ve always tried to do.
“I think it’s too early to [discuss a platoon]. David’s been such a mainstay for us both vs. lefties and righties. And I think if you talk to any hitter, for them to succeed against one type, they almost need to face the other side also. A lefty makes a guy stay in there. Now, I understand at some point there needs to be production. Again, these are things that get magnified in the early season that we always talk about at the end of spring, and then when it happens, it still seems to throw people for a loop even though we know we’re probably going to go through it. So, now we just have to live through it and get ourselves into a routine, and get into the grind of the season, and these things will take care of themselves.”
Francona also touched on several other topics, including the fact that he was “alarmed” by the comments of umpire Joe West about the pace of games between the Sox and Yankees, the Sox’ struggles to shut down other teams’ running games and the productivity of the bench. A transcript is below. To listen to the interview, click here.
Against the Royals in the top of the ninth on Friday, with the tying run on first, why did you elect to employ a sacrifice bunt?
‘We’ve got the top of the order. We didn’t feel like we could steal there. Give it two shots to score a run. A lot of times, we’ll start out by showing bunt, and if they want to give it to us on the first pitch, we’ll take it. Then if they move the infielders in, we’ll swing because they’ve sacrificed some real estate in the infield. A lot of things come into play on that. ‘¦ We talk about that all during spring training. Once we get the infielders to crash, then we really are comfortable letting guys hit. Sometimes it backfires, and you get a guy who hits one right at somebody, but we’re just trying to play the percentages.’
Have your starters not performed up to your expectations or hopes thus far?
‘You start out with the Yankees ‘ that’s a tough transition from spring training to the Yankees lineup. I think Lester, it’s been the Lester we’ve seen the last couple of years. The stuff is plenty good, just not quite there as far as command. I thought yesterday, I know you make your breaks, but he was awfully unlucky. I know you make your breaks, but you’re going to see a better Lester.
“We’ve just not quite gotten into the flow of everything yet. It seems like in a couple of games we’re an inning short when we get to our bullpen and we have to go to guys before we want to, just things like that ‘ normal, first-week things.”
Will you have to adjust your rotation when you get into a normal flow of games?
‘I don’t think so. I think we want to stay on a five-day if we can. Giving guys one extra day, especially early in the season ‘ actually, anytime ‘ we’re OK with that. We’re OK with staying in rotation. Regardless of how it works, we try to turn it to our advantage.’
Do you think that talking to the media has become a problem for David Ortiz, that he’s thinking too much about criticism?
“I think he’s frustrated. ‘¦ Yeah, I’ve seen that a few times, too. Until he really starts swinging like he can, he’s probably going to have to deal with it, and I’m going to have to deal with it, and we’re all going to deal with it. Because we went through this last year, and because of where we play, it’s there. And there’s no getting around it. It’s tough sometimes. You’d like to always say you have the right answers, and we certainly try to, [but] sometimes we’re searching a little bit, whether it’s the division between loyalty, and how far to go, and who to play, and the loyalty to a player and to your team, these are things we think about a lot, and it weighs on all of us. I was talking to [hitting coach Dave Magadan] after the game last night, because they’re down there constantly just trying to work on it, which is good. David, he drove the ball to left field yesterday, which is good. In his other at-bats, it looked like he was still stuck in between. But it was good to see him drive that ball to left-center.”
Does loyalty factor into whether David Ortiz is in your lineup?
“I think all our players have to have that feeling. These are things that I probably fight with myself all year long. I think the loyalty has to be to the team. And through that, I’m hoping that players whether they agree with the decisions we make or not, they understand why. And again, we go back to that we’re always trying to have an atmosphere around our team where guys want to do the right thing. Sure, they’re not always going to agree with the decisions. I understand that. I wish right now we could play two DHs. It’s just not the way it is. We continue to preach to guys, stay ready and stay focused, because you will get a chance and you don’t know when it’s going to be. And if you’re ready, then you’ll be able to help us win.”
Would you prefer not to platoon designated hitters?
“I’d prefer not to. And again, I think it’s too early to talk like that. David’s been such a mainstay for us both vs. lefties and righties. And I think if you talk to any hitter, for them to succeed against one type, they almost need to face the other side also. A lefty makes a guy stay in there. Now, I understand at some point there needs to be production. Again, these are things that get magnified in the early season that we always talk about at the end of spring, and then when it happens, it still seems to throw people for a loop even though we know we’re probably going to go through it. So, now we just have to live through it and get ourselves into a routine, and get into the grind of the season, and these things will take care of themselves.”
Is Ortiz being too patient? Should he be more aggressive early in the counts?
‘I don’t want to tell him that. I love the fact that he’s seeing a lot of pitches. I think there are times when he’s not committing to a pitch, and you’re seeing some check swings. I think [Magadan] was referring to that yesterday. But I never want to go up and tell someone, ‘Just go up and whack the first one you see.’ I love the fact that he’s getting deep into counts, because the more he does that, that’s going to help him. He’s going to get better pitches to hit. We talk sometimes about how if you get a check swing on a breaking ball in the dirt in a fastball count, you’ve got to earn the fastball. If you lay off the breaking ball, you’re eventually going to get a fastball in the zone that you can handle. I think he’s in between a little bit. I don’t deny that. But I love the fact that he’s seeing pitches.’
Are his struggles just a function of the stage of the season, or is this a more serious concern than that?
We have some experience with this. Last year, the first six or seven weeks of the season, David looked ‘ he wasn’t driving the ball. It was tough. It was hard to imagine him being capable of driving in 100 runs. Then you look up four months later, and he’s doing that.
I don’t know if anybody has the exact right answer. But until you do, I’ll tell you what, as a manager you better err on the side of caution. Because you can’t just treat these guys like chess pieces. I don’t think that works. There’s a human element to this, and probably a lot more than people realize. And sometimes we struggle. If we struggle as a team, we’ll get ourselves straightened out as a team. And that’s how I guess I’ve always felt about it. If you’re going to make a change, you’d better damn well be sure you’re right. And that’s what we’ve always tried to do.
The bench made you look smart over the weekend.
I thought our guys did a terrific job. When you bring in a reliever and they give up runs, the manager is either a dummy or he’s smart. We try to know what we want to do before hand and be prepared. A lot of time when a reliever comes in and it doesn’t work, I probably don’t take it as personal as other people want me to. If I felt like it was the right thing to do, OK, maybe someone hung a pitch, that doesn’t mean you had the wrong pitcher in there. I thought our bench guys ‘ that’s tough duty. ‘¦ I thought our bench guys did a great job, because that’s not easy duty, facing Greinke under those circumstance.
How can you improve on slowing opponents’ running games? Right now, opponents are 12-of-13 against you on steal attempts.
We’re well aware of that. I actually think that our pitchers have done a better job. Yesterday, we had some legitimate chances to throw guys out. We had a 1.21 [seconds time from the pitcher] to the plate. Lester was a 1.23. Victor [Martinez] was a little bit up and to the right, to the arm side, on his throws. The thing, teams aren’t stupid. They’re scouting us like we’re scouting them. If they see a crack or a chance to jump out at us, they’re going to be more aggressive on the bases. That makes it more difficult also. We can start trying to pitch out but we really value ‘ you’ve heard how much I talk about first-pitch strikes and pitching ahead in the count, we value that so much ‘ so we’ve just got to keep plugging along. Not every team is perfect. We realize that teams, that’s one of the way they’re going to try to attack us.
Why would opponents throw a high and inside fastball to Dustin Pedroia?
I don’t think they always try to, but the other thing is, what you remember are the ones he hits. He also covers the outside of the plate. When you see him reaching down on those breaking balls, spanking one to right-center, you’ve got to try to come in and get him off the plate, and every once in a while he hits it. He’s just a special hitter.
How’s Brad Mills holding up while managing the winless Astros?
Millsy’s been great. I was joking with John Farrell yesterday, I looked up at the scoreboard and saw that they were losing and I said, ‘Man, I feel like we’re losing a doubleheader.’ He’s actually been terrific. I think, if anything, no one wants to go through what they’re going through, but I think it proves that they’ve got the right guy. I’ve heard some of the comments from their players, how consistent Millsy is, how upbeat he’s been and I don’t doubt that. I think that it will prove through some tough times that they got the right guy.
What did you think about umpire Joe West’s comments about the Red Sox and Yankees games?
I was actually kind of alarmed. I get all the information from the league and I know how they feel. The one thing I think is misconstrued is I’ve seen the word ‘arrogance’ a few times, or ‘lack of respect.’ That’s not it. Sometimes we’re cited for slow play. I think sometimes we’re guilty. That’s the way it is, and we’ve paid the price. We’ve paid fines, we’ve gotten warned. But when you have a guy that is supposed to have no bias for a game come out and make comments that strong, it actually kind of alarmed me a little bit.
I’ve known Joe for a long time. You hate to see something like that come out in public, just because he’s supposed to be the guy ruling the game having no feelings, just making the calls. So, we’ll see where that goes.
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