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Francona on D&H: Stick with Vic at catcher

04.21.10 at 2:18 pm ET
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Terry Francona called into the Dale & Holley Show on Wednesday for his weekly segment on the state of the Red Sox. Aside from the come-from-behind win last night, the Sox have been struggling, and the Red Sox manager said it isn’t just one thing.

“Sometimes it’s different every day, and I think that’s why teams get into problems,” said Francona. “It’s not just one thing. It’s an inconsistency. One day it might be defense. One day it might be a bullpen guy. One day it might be a bad start. One day it might be a baserunning error. That’s why you try to play the game correctly all the time, because you don’t know what the score is going to be at the end of the game.”

Francona also talked about his decision to pinch hit for David Ortiz on Tuesday, Daisuke Matsuzaka’s return to Boston and the new call-ups who paid immediate dividends.

A transcript follows. To listen to the interview, click here.

You’ve got to feel good for Darnell McDonald last night.

How about that. On a night when we are scrambling going into the game, we are scrambling during the game, and this kid comes right out of the hotel and hits the home run to tie the game, hits the ball off the wall to win the game. You could see the joy on everyone’s faces. It wasn’t just for us. It was for him. It was a lot of relief and a lot of excitement.

How did you decide to call up McDonald?

Again we had [Josh] Reddick because they were starting a right-hander and we knew with the lefties coming McDonald would be next if [Jacoby] Ellsbury couldn’t do it. As we watched Jacoby during the afternoon we were ready for this because we thought it was a possibility. We didn’t want it to be. As the week progressed we thought there was a chance it would happen so we got him ready.

Both of those guys that got called up ended up making contributions last night.

And they are probably going to. [Mike] Cameron is going to be out for a little while. Whether it is the two weeks of the DL period, but hopefully we get Jacoby back on Tuesday when he is eligible to come off. They got some left-handers going, so Darnell is going to play some center field. He’ll probably play some left field. Reddick is going to play some center field. These guys are going to be involved in our games.

Is there anything that can be done to stop the running game of the opponents?

There needs to be. We need to do better all the way around. Last night was as frustrating a four or five innings as we’ve been a part of. When [Tim] Wakefield pitches, potentially that perfect storm is there. You are looking at walks, hits. Sometimes because of slower time to the plate, a knuckleball you have to wait until it settles in. Balls in the dirt. That was tough to handle. That was like the perfect storm. It was difficult. The good news was we came back to win. That was not an easy game to win, but we are going to have to do better and I certainly understand that.

Is it a mechanical issue with Victor Martinez?

When he does that, he’s trying to rush. He’s trying to be too quick, and that’s when the ball is sailing on him. It’s happened three, four or five times. His arm strength is fine. When he tries to be a little too quick, that’s when the ball sails on him and it’s happened multiple times.

Are you comfortable with Victor as the everyday catcher, or could he be moved to another position?

The way we’ve set our team up in the winter, I don’t think we can just bail on our strategy a couple of weeks into the season. I know it’s been a tough week all the way around. Not much has gone right. [Jason] Varitek will catch tonight, but that doesn’t mean we are going to rework our whole situation. One move affects another. Rather than bail on our plans I think we got to work our way through it. As a staff, [coaches] on the field, we are trying to do a better job of getting guys ready to play.

What went into the decision of pinch-hitting for David Ortiz?

Mike Lowell had taken [Darren] Oliver deep twice. A couple of things, first of all, early in the season I think you always try to give guys some leeway. Especially guys who have been great players. That’s a given. The other thing is we really haven’t had opportunities the last week to do much. We haven’t had an extra outfielder. There has been situations where if Lowell hits we haven’t had a pinch runner. By making a move, although it may look good in the sixth or seventh inning, you are really not giving yourself as much of a chance to win as you think, so leave your players out there. Because we had the two call-ups yesterday we had moves to make on the bench where we could actually pinch-run if we pinch-hit. We could put a guy in the outfield. We were still getting close to getting stuck out there. We ran for Victor. We decided not to run for Mikey. Again, he’s in the DH role, and you only have so many players.

Ortiz did not look happy. Did you have a chance to let him know it could happen before the game?

I thought David actually handled it pretty well. You guys probably look at things that I don’t. You have time and probably enjoy it. I actually thought he handled himself. He was in the line at the end of the game when we won, looking about as happy as anybody. I don’t expect anybody to come back high-fiving. That’s not part of their competitive nature. Again, you talk all the time of putting the team first, and that’s hard. This is a very proud guy who has had a lot of success here, and I certainly understand that probably more than anybody, just trying to do what’s right by our team.

You got a couple of guys scuffling now. Is it just early season problems?

Sometimes it’s different every day, and I think that’s why teams get into problems. It’s not just one thing. It’s an inconsistency. One day it might be defense. One day it might be a bullpen guy. One day it might be a bad start. One day it might be a baserunning error. That’s why you try to play the game correctly all the time, because you don’t know what the score is going to be at the end of the game. David got beat with fastballs last night. There’s been some games when he’s been in between on breaking balls with some check swings. Sometimes it’s different. You try to make one adjustment and maybe it sets off a little bit of a chain reaction in another area.

Are guys pressing early on defensively, trying to show that they belong here?

That could be part of it. Some of it is the defense we’ve had out there. We had an outfield that got exposed a little bit. We had Billy Hall in center. We didn’t have either of our guys playing center, and Cam has had a tough time, and I think everybody knows why now. He had a stone and a strain in his abdominal wall. It’s been tough for him. There has been some reasons that we’ve been slowed down. We’ve also just flat out made some errors.

Do you think Ortiz is prepared for what might happen because of his performance this season?

I don’t know. I’m just not comfortable talking about what could happen to David and what I’m going to say to David through you guys. I understand the question. I know it’s a hot button issue. We try to do what’s right for our team, and communicate it to guys, and that’s what we have always done and that’s what we will continue to do.

Have you noticed if [as Dustin Pedroia suggested] this team hasn’t been as prepared as you’d like to see them?

No, I don’t know that I necessarily agree with that. I think it’s early and I think we have a lot of new guys. I think it looks like that at times. Anytime you struggle, every negative thing is going to be pointed out. We have a responsibility to check ourselves. You are either doing enough to win or enough to lose. Those things get swept under the table if you are winning, and even though they probably don’t with our staff, but when you are losing everything is magnified. Everything you do wrong comes under the microscope.

Is there a timetable for Cameron or Ellsbury?

I think with Ells, the first day he can come back is Tuesday in Toronto. I think we are really hopeful that’s what will end up happening. When we talked to him and told him that would be his day to come off if we put him on the DL, he looked very surprised. That was good news to us. If we could get Ells back today or tomorrow we can suck it up and go without him for 10 days, it didn’t work. He tried to go out yesterday and he was just too tender. We realized that, so we’ll back up and put him on the DL. With Cameron, when he had the stones, it made sense to us. He got sore so fast in Minnesota, we couldn’t quite put a finger on it. We were kind of relieved and we thought, OK, a couple days he’ll be OK. He comes back and plays and he got sore again, so now we are thinking there are remnants of stones, or he needs to pass another one. When they found that that wasn’t the case we had to dig deeper. So they did multiple tests and an MRI, and they found out that the abdominal wall was a strain there. We got to let that cool down so it doesn’t end up worse where he has surgery. Hopefully it’s two weeks. I hope it’s not more than that.

Will Daisuke Matsuzaka’s next appearance be with Boston?

Yeah, that’s the hope. We got to figure out where to fit him in and what works best for us. Again, we’ve had a lot of moving parts on our roster the last few days, so we’ll sit down and figure out where it best works for us. But we do expect him to pitch for us.

Have you begun to have discussions with the other pitchers about possibilities going forward?

No, we’ve had a lot of conversations with Theo [Epstein] and John Farrell and the guys about what’s best for us. We want to let our guys go pitch and not get in the way. When we need to make decisions we will communicate to the guys. We are trying to figure out what’s best for our ball club and they are not easy decisions. You are looking at present, future, bullpen, who can handle it, who can’t, where they can help you. We are just trying to make good decisions.

How do you handle the situation you had when the game was suspended in the ninth inning against Tampa?

It’s easy to look back and say, “We should have done this or they should have done that.” You see [head of the grounds crew] Dave Mellor running onto the field with his cell phone every ten minutes talking to the umpires about the weather, so they are getting a lot of information. They are not going to suspend a game and try to create havoc. The idea is if they start a game to end it. They were getting reports that the weather was getting worse, so they called it. Regardless of what happened, whether we played it that night or the next night, we had bases loaded nobody out and we couldn’t score. That’s not on them. That’s on us.

It just looks like you have guys pressing, offensively and defensively.

I think it’s probably human nature. You hear people in the media having a loose clubhouse. If they walk in after we’ve lost four in a row, something’s wrong. There’s a balance of showing the respect of a loss and then being able to move on and play good baseball. That’s always the fight.

Jon Lester is off to a rough start. Can you put your finger on why someone so good, with so much talent, has had these rough starts?

I think there is a lot of players in the league that go through what Jon goes through. His stuff is good. It seems like early in the season every time he makes a mistake he pays for it. As he gets into form, as he finds some success, you start seeing him finish pitches, put hitters away, have that consistent pounding of the zone, the inconsistencies go away. Just the repetition of just being relentless in the zone is what we are shooting for. Once he gets there, thank goodness he stays there. It’s just for what reason it takes us awhile to get there.

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, darnell mcdonald, David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury
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