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Francona on D&H: ‘David needs to play tonight’

05.05.10 at 1:45 pm ET
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Terry Francona called in for his weekly talk with Dale & Holley on Wednesday, and still the No. 1 question is about the David Ortiz-Mike Lowell situation, especially with Lowell swinging a hot bat and Ortiz struggling.

Francona said Ortiz will be in the lineup Wednesday against the Angels, and he explained his decision.

“David needs to play tonight,” said Francona. “We got to give David chances where we think he can succeed to put some good swings on the ball. It doesn’t insure that it is going to happen. I certainly want it to happen. In a night like tonight, David is going to DH. I understand what you are asking. I understand what you are inferring. It’s a long year and we got to try and put guys in a position to succeed.”

Francona also talked about the health of Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron, the decision to send Jason Varitek in Baltimore and how it’s OK not to have a “happy clubhouse.”

To read the transcript look below, but to hear the interview click here.

Does it feel like you’ve managed 999 games in a Red Sox uniform?

It feels like I’ve managed 999 this week.

Number 1,000 is tonight for you.

I actually didn’t know that. I think there is a lot of things I didn’t know.

What does it mean to you?

My first thought is if it’s a 1,000 here it’s probably like dog years and it’s 7,000 somewhere else.

What was your mindset of how long you wanted to stay in Boston when you first took the job?

I don’t I’ve ever viewed it like that. I was obviously excited to come up here. When managers jobs change, not too often are the circumstances that they are here. This job was kind of built to try to win, so I caught a break and I knew that. Things went well and you get to stay and you do the best you can. I don’t think I’ve ever really thought about stuff like that. I’ve got my hands full trying to spend my energy on what I can control. Those other things, I don’t think it makes any sense to do that. Someday I won’t be here, for whatever reason, and that’s the way the game is. I can live with that. I just want us to play good baseball. That’s kind of what I need to spend my energy on.

You’ve said you are not a fan of team meetings but you held one before the Angels series. What did you say to the team?

You are right about the first part. In baseball, on the nights you have a meeting you want to make sure you have a pitcher going that you think is going to pitch well, because that can go south in a hurry. I think there just needs to be a reminder of the things that we believe in. For various reasons things go wrong. For us it’s been multiple things and there has been a lot of inconsistencies. I just wanted to remind guys to get back to what we believe in. It doesn’t mean it’s always going to work, but if her put ourselves in a position to win, if we have the talent that I think we do we will be OK. It may not work out every night. Things might not go our way. We are going to have to fight through this, and that’s one of the first things we talk about on the first day of spring training, is fighting through frustration, because there is so much of it in this game.

Is that message even more important this year with all the new guys on the roster?

I agree. There is some uncertainty coming into a new place. It’s human nature. You are looking around a little bit. Then some of the guys that we have relied on in the past have different roles. There is a little bit of uncertainty getting in there and that’s our job to get it out of there, rather than make an excuse, fix it and figure out how you are going to win.

How do you go about picking who will DH on a certain night?

I think my job is to try to put guys in a position to succeed. If we are not going to play David [Ortiz] tonight, we’ve got [Scott] Kazmir going tomorrow and certainly [Mike Lowell] will play that game. If I run away from David tonight, and I know the way Mikey Lowell has been swinging that bat has been great, we got to try and get not only each guy on track but our team on track. Again, David needs to play tonight. We got to give David chances where we think he can succeed to put some good swings on the ball. It doesn’t insure that it is going to happen. I certainly want it to happen. In a night like tonight, David is going to DH. I understand what you are asking. I understand what you are inferring. It’s a long year and we got to try and put guys in a position to succeed.

Was that part of the mentality last night, because it was surprising to see Lowell out of the lineup after a four-hit game?

Some of the things we talked about in spring training, and I know Mikey wants to play every day. I have to use judgement on physically does he where down after a couple games? Who’s pitching for them? The balance of our team. There are a ton of things that go into it. I agree, Mikey is swinging great and I’m thrilled. I hope it continues, because he’s always been a good hitter. The decisions that we made and why we made them, they can go the other direction on you if you bail on what you believe in because somebody got hot for a couple games. Then you are going to dig yourself a hole.

Has a player ever said, “You absolutely right for keeping me out of the lineup?”

I remember when Tom Trebelhorn pinch-hit for me against Scott Radinsky and I remember thinking, “Treb what are you doing? Why are you doing this?” That was probably the reason I got into the coaching side, because I didn’t feel real good about myself as a hitter. I don’t think players can succeed or we can expect them to succeed when they are being good self evaluators. They are trying to find a way to survive and beat the other team. Sometimes you have to be a good used car salesman and you got to, even if you lie to yourself, whether you are a pitcher, a catcher, sometimes you got to make a pitch when you don’t think you can. That’s the mentality. I understand that. It’s our job to evaluate. We want them to go out and compete.

Has it made it harder for you this year having to deal with the veteran players that have been around in Boston?

Hopefully they are still respected, because that’s important. But what’s really important is that we win. I think as an organization we have an obligation to try to win, and win every year. It’s not an easy thing to do and we try to balance that. Sometimes balancing it is more difficult than other times. I think it all comes down to the way you are playing. When you’ve lost things stick out. It’s the same thing in every sport, and it’s magnified in ours. Things get magnified when you are losing. Why you lost gets magnified. That’s never going to change. The best way to handle it is by playing better baseball.

Is there a worry that their unhappiness could become a problem in the clubhouse?

I kind of go back to what we talk about the very first day of spring training where we try to create an atmosphere where guys want to do the right thing. It doesn’t always mean that it’s the popular thing. Sometimes personal goals don’t match team goals. Once again, I come back to that we want to have an atmosphere where we want our guys to want to do the right thing. If we do that and they can do that, we’ll get through some tough times. It’s not always perfect. But we can push through and grind and not go the other way and make excuses, then I think that we will be OK.

Do you need to have a happy clubhouse to be successful?

No. I don’t think that’s what we are shooting for. We are shooting for production. I’ve seen plenty of teams that get along good and stink. Again, I do want to have an atmosphere where guys want to come here and do the right thing. Generally when guys feel better about themselves it’s easier. But if it takes somebody who’s angrier to play well, OK, that’s fine. We’ve always tried to feel the same way. We try to respect the players, the organization and the decisions we make. We try to communicate it to them, and we expect them to try to play the right way, then we try to win. We’ve had to do it a little bit differently this year, because we feel that some of our guys are in a little different place. That’s just the reality of it. It doesn’t mean it’s fun to deliver that message, but it doesn’t mean it’s wrong to deliver that message.

Tell us about the decision to keep Jason Varitek on second, and how do you think Tim Bogart handled that situation at third base.

I think my decision, and I knew going into this, put [Bogart] in a tough spot. We set the inning, I say we being me and DeMarlo [Hale] because we were the ones talking about it, we said before the inning, whether it’s right or wrong that we were not going to pinch-run for Tek. The game had that flow to it. He was catching a game that we liked. The guys we had coming in was [Daniel] Bard, [Jonathan] Papelbon, that was our decision. That can be argued right or wrong, and I could probably argue with myself, especially the way it turned out. We get that situation we are going to gamble. We are going to hope for a bad throw. I would have done the same exact thing as the third base coach. Bogie, when we went out, he knew Tek was running. We were all on the same page. We knew what we were doing. We needed a bad throw, and we didn’t get it. It’s easy to second guess because when it doesn’t work you could have done something different. I go over those things, and I probably beat myself up sometimes. But that’s what I wanted to do and it didn’t work.

It looked like Bogart wanted to hold Varitek up at first.

He started to hold him, and then kept him going. We know the throw has to be off line. With two outs, we had an opportunity to score. We took it and it didn’t work. There are so many things to second guess and we talk about it. I want to try to put us in the best position to win. Sometimes I have a different position than the fans or maybe you. Maybe I’m wrong sometimes. That’s just the way the game is.

What was it about the way Varitek was playing or what was it about the matchup that kept him in the game?

That was the day that we had some guys out of the lineup. We are looking at who we have available? What are our options? Can we bunt? Can we hit-and-run? Can we pinch-run? Do we use a guy here? We just eliminated that. Sometimes, like last night, we had no problem putting Tek in the game and running for [Victor Martinez]. We thought it was our best chance to win. The other night I thought, OK, with [Dustin Pedroia] hitting, I’ll take our chances with a ball maybe not being right at an outfielder or in the gap and keeping Tek in the game because he was in the flow. We had a good game going defensively. Between him and the pitchers we had Bard coming in who I was comfortable with. It just made sense to me until he gets thrown out by 10 feet. Then I’m thinking OK, maybe we can do it the other way.

Time for Mohegan Sun’s Lunch with Tito. Today’s question comes from Bill Hoyer in Holliston who asks: “Several weeks ago Jerry Remy had made a comment on his telecast that Jon Lester loses about four to five miles per hour every time has to go to the stretch. A couple of innings later, the Yankees had the bases loaded with two outs and Jorge Posada on third. Why not give Jon Lester the advantage of going into the full windup and maybe getting out of that situation?”

When you go back a couple of weeks, that’s hard. When pitchers have the bases loaded they can do whatever is to their advantage. A lot of pitchers feel like if they go out of the stretch you are taking away the ball in the dirt where a guy can get an extra 10 feet. The other thing is, and I think information gets regurgitated so much, sometimes when Lester throws a cutter it’s probably in that 89-91 mph range, as opposed to 94-95 on his fastball, and over the telecast probably gets misinterpreted. He’s not four to five mph different on his fastball. To answer the question is a little bit harder, because that’s not necessarily correct.

Do you give up anything by pitching out of the windup?

Probably not. But the pitchers may have been in stretch for three straight hitters and they may feel more comfortable. Sometimes there are some moving parts. [Josh] Beckett with a runner on third will slide step. He’s trying to eliminate some of that leg swing. There are a lot of different things that go into it. It’s not just cut and dry. These guys are guys that have pitched a lot. It’s not like they’ve forgot. There’s reasons they do it.

This is not an order from you or John Farrell, it’s up to them?

Yeah, unless there is less than two outs and we are trying to keep a double play in order. Or there is a runner on third where we think there is a chance to move up on a ball in the dirt, we’ll put him out of the stretch. When it’s two outs, whatever they feel they can get the hitter out they can do.

What’s the medical update on Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Cameron?

They are making good strides. I think the last 10 days or so I’ve been saying they’ve been making small strides. Jacoby swung the bat on the field yesterday, and he looked pretty good. Cam is starting to start doing some big activities this weekend. What that is we got to figure out. We are going to have to sit on Cam a little bit, but he wants to play bad, which is good. He’s been very intelligent, he’s been very aggressive. He can’t be too far off, which is great news. I thought Jacoby took a big step yesterday in the way he swung the bat. How he bounces back today will be just as important.

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