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Francona on D&H: Doubront ‘showed what he’s made of’

08.11.10 at 6:07 pm ET
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Terry Francona

Red Sox manager Terry Francona joined the Dale & Holley show Wednesday to talk about his team as it enters the final stretch, and he confirmed Jarrod Saltalamacchia‘s immediate move from Pawtucket to the big club as well as Kevin Cash‘s trip to the disabled list due to hamstring issues.

“I don’t think we’re real comfortable with the position we’re in, having just one catcher,” Francona said. “So we talked to Cash this morning, and Saltalamacchia’s on his way [to Toronto]. He’ll probably get in here pretty soon.”

Francona also talked about Felix Doubront, who entered Tuesday’s game in a pickle but was able to perform admirably given the circumstances, and his quick transition from a starter to a reliever. Francona noted that he wanted to ease the young pitcher into his new role rather than throw him to the wolves so early.

“That’s kind of what we’re trying to not to do,” Francona said. “I’ll tell you what though, it ended up working really well, and it’ll end up helping in the long run. But you always run the risk of something unravels. I’d certainly have to take responsibility for that. But he also showed what he’s made of. … That was really gratifying. All of a sudden, you’ve got a young kid that we look like we can go to, and we’re going to go to him. That’s exciting.”

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

What did you think about Jacoby Ellsbury’s performance the last couple of days, since being moved down the lineup?

I thought to myself when we first brought him back to not hit him [leadoff]. But we had a lot of things going on. I thought if he can get on and run a little bit, we can hit [Marco Scutaro] second and use his bat control. Obviously, that didn’t pan out the way we wanted to — “J” didn’t even get on base. We knocked him down a little bit just to kind off take a little bit of the heat off, let him see some pitches, not have that first at-bat be “right now.” I hope it helps. He got on in New York and stole a bunch of bases. He did swing the bat a lot better last night. In New York he had a base hit and he fought it off. Last night off a left-hander he lined a ball up the middle. He had much better at-bats last night.

For a guy with his speed, I would expect to see him bunt for hits more.

We encourage it, to at least show bunt. Because I think we all feel if they have to respect the bunt, then we like the idea of him hitting. If the infielders are pinching on the corners and he’s hitting, that’s going to dramatically raise his batting average. If they want to give it to him, good. He’s not the most confident bunter. He kind of goes through times where he feels good and times when he doesn’t want to make an out bunting, which I understand. Just because a guy’s fast and he should be a great bunter doesn’t always mean — we all have work to do. But we like the idea of him showing it enough where they have to pinch in.

Monday afternoon in the Bronx, you guys win 2-1. We’ve had some debate on this. Bottom of the ninth, [Jonathan] Papelbon vs. [Mark] Teixeira, first base is open, you’ve got [Brett] Gardner] on deck. Why pitch to Teixeira, not put him on first and then pitch to Gardner?

Well, we’re in a one-run game. I mean, It’s certainly a fair question. First of all, we’ve got a lot of trust in Pap. It’s almost a similar thing to last night with [Jose] Bautista, almost an identical situation, and we let Pap face him, too. But there’s a lot that goes into it. Pap had really handled Teixeira. I think going into the at-bat, I think he was 0-for-8 with multiple strikeouts, and I apologize I don’t have it in front of me, but I think it was like four or five [actually two]. So, he’d obviously had his way with him. For whatever reason, Gardner was 4-for-4 [actually 4-for-5] with two walks [against Papelbon]. As much as it probably looked obvious to walk Teixeira, and I know you’re putting the winning run on, so it’s maybe not that obvious, but I understand the question. I just didn’t think it put us in the best interest to win the game.

You look at past experiences, but do you feel how that hitter is looking? I would imagine it’s more that feel than just leaning on the book all the time.

It’s a lot of things. I think I feel an obligation to know what the numbers are. Because it helps. It helps you make decisions. But there’s a lot that goes into it. Who is pitching? How are they pitching? Are they commanding good enough? Last night against Bautista, he’s as dangerous a hitter as you’re going to find in the league right now. But we felt like, OK, Pap’s got an open base, and we had enough confidence in his ability to locate that he’d be OK. And he threw three terrific pitches. And again, if that backfires, people are going to say, “Well, why’d you do that?” Well, we had confidence in Pap’s ability to pitch to Pap’s strengths as opposed to Bautista’s strengths.

If the numbers were different, if Teixeira is 4-for-4 and Gardner is 0-for-8 with all the strikeouts, do you walk Teixeira then to pitch to Gardner?

We would have certainly thought about it. I’m not a real big proponent of putting the winning run on base, but if it’s that strong, you’ve certainly got to think about it. We’ve done that in the past. We don’t do it very often. Again, there’s a lot of things that go on. But that’s part of it. And again, the way a way a guy’s pitching. There’s a lot of things. The other thing is, who was on second base?

[Derek] Jeter.

Yeah, so if we walk Teixeira, with Pap pitching, Jeter’s got a chance to steal third. If we play back, because you don’t want a ball to sneak through the infield because you’re paying attention to the runner, if you play back, Jeter’s going to steal third. And Teixeira’s going to follow him into second even though he doesn’t have great speed, because we don’t want to hold him on. So, there’s a lot of things that come into play there.

Last night Daisuke [Matsuzaka] had great stuff. I thought he made two mistakes, not the two home runs but the two walks.

Well, I’ll take that stuff further, I thought he made three mistakes. He had the leadoff walk with the second hitter and then he had the leadoff walk in the other inning. His stuff, I agree with you man, was great. It’s a shame, that shouldn’t have happened. We had a 4-1 lead, with the way he was pitching, that lead should have held up. This team is looking to do one thing, they’re trying to hit the ball as far as they can. We need to limit them to solo homers, you can’t give them walks.

We do you think it takes Daisuke so long to settle in? His first-inning ERA is 10.

I think in the past, I think he’s tried to pace himself. He talked about that at length when he was in Japan, how he would pace himself so he would have a lot left at the end of the game. Then he found out he was pacing himself and he was out of the game. So we kind of told him, “Look man, go out there from pitch one, give it all you’ve got, we’ll take you out when we’re ready. Quit worrying about when you’re coming out of the game, we’ll make those decisions. Just give it all you’ve got.” I actually think it’s been much improved.

People talk about results and confidence, which one comes first. To me, Daisuke Matsuzaka is getting results on his fastball which is giving him confidence and that’s been a difference.

I agree. Maybe the walks last night don’t make it look like that, but when he’s on the mound right now, he looks good. He looks like he thinks he can get people out. The walks hurt our chances last night and that happens from time to time, but I don’t think he’s out there picking, afraid of contact. He looks like he’s a pretty confident pitcher right now and he should be, his stuff is filthy.

What’s the update on Dustin Pedroia and what do you think he’s learned away from the game?

I think what he’s learned is that he doesn’t want this to happen again, and I can certainly echo that. I think he’s lost his mind. I’ll tell you what, on a serious note, this kid has been unbelievable. The energy he’s brought to the clubhouse and to the dugout while he’s been out has been phenomenal. We’ve always talked about how this kid’s one of a kind, you know what, he is. We learn more. When things aren’t going the way you want it to, a lot of times your true colors come out. And this kid’s true colors are still coming out and it’s unbelievable.

Yesterday, he had a great day running. Today, he’s going to show up and do some cutting. If that goes as expected, which we’re really hoping, there’s a chance maybe when we leave tomorrow for Texas, we’ll send him back to Boston. We got to get him cleared by the doctors, but if that goes as we anticipate, maybe this weekend we can get him down to Pawtucket.

Is there any doubt in your mind that Pedroia will be hitting second?

No, if I did something different, he’d be a worse player. [Pedroia] likes the responsibility of being up at the top of the order, and that’s just getting to know your guys. If we were to ease him in down low, he would ease in playing and we don’t want him to do that. I thought I was helping him earlier in his career and I actually wasn’t.

We have a couple of new Red Sox we want to ask you about. One is Jarrod Saltalamacchia and the other one is Carlos Delgado.

Well, Saltalamacchia is joining us tonight. Kevin Cash tweaked his left hamstring the other night. He poked a ball to first, I think Bill Hall was on first. He did the old Dale Sveum of taking a big step to second and going back to first. But Cash, his hammy grabbed him a little bit. Now, it’s not horrible, but I don’t think we’re real comfortable of the position were in with one catcher. So, we talked to Cash this morning and Saltalamacchia is on his way up here, he should probably get here real soon.

How about Delgado, what do you expect from him? What are your observations of him throughout his career?

I saw him in a limited look in New York the other day when he came in to hit. A couple of things stood out. One, he obviously worked very hard because he was in great shape. I saw him take BP, the medical people worked him out a little bit. I think it’s stating the obvious that he’s been through a lot with that hip. But it was also obvious that he worked hard to be very impressive in the workout.

The one thing we probably want to see, and this won’t happen overnight, is how that hip holds up as he starts to play. As he gets into a little bit of a grind of playing, how that hip responds. Plus, we’re doing our due diligence. Mike Lowell, everybody has confidence in him as a player, but I think we also have to recognize that he’s been through a lot, too. So we just don’t want to get caught short, that’s just what we’re trying to do.

How difficult is it when you have Victor [Martinez], Ellsbury, [Jed] Lowrie and Lowell? You would like to have these guys in there every day but you can’t.

We can’t do it every day. Jed’s a good example right now. Last night, his at-bats were as good as your going to see. But, coming off the mono if we run him out there too much, he’s going to start dragging and it just doesn’t work. Even as good as he swung the bat last night, we’re going to have him out of there tonight because we have a day game tomorrow and we’re probably going to play him at shortstop. So, we’re just mixing and matching right now, just trying to keep everybody not just healthy, but healthy so they can be productive.

I want to talk about Felix Doubront. Last night, you threw him right in the fire and he responded.

Yeah, that’s kind of what we were trying not to do. I’ll tell you what though, it ended up really working out well. It will help in the long run but you always run the risk of if it unravels, I certainly have to take the responsibility for that. He also showed what he’s made of. When he comes in to the big part of the game, makes a great pitch, we don’t make the play, he has to come back and make more pitches and he did. That was really gratifying. All of a sudden you have a young kid that we look like we can go to and we’re going to go to and that’s exciting.

Do you have the whole lineup figured out and if so, would you like to share it?

Yeah, we’ve got Bill Hall playing second. [Ryan] Kalish is back in left. Everything else is pretty normal. Mike Lowell at first and Victor catching.

I’ve heard you reference Kalish and talking about Trot Nixon. It might have been a little bit earlier than you thought you would see him but you have to be impressed, I would think.

I think that’s probably a good way of saying it. The one thing you see is that he can get a little bit out on that front side, you can see him fighting it a little bit. Not to the point where Josh Reddick was, but I think he knows it. When this kid gets some at-bats under his belt, it’s scary what he might do. He’s so strong mentally, I mean this kid gets it. He’s got one speed and that’s all out. But he’s also a real intelligent kid, it’s not just running around with his head cut off. I know I said this last week but we call him up one the end of the trade deadline and you have about 25 guys in the clubhouse that are excited. What a huge compliment to a young kid.

What a smart baserunning play by Kalish last night on Lowrie’s double. Instead of stealing and staying at second base, he got up and was aware that he could score on the play.

Well, he was stealing the base. So actually there were two outs, you probably need to pick up the ball a little earlier. But, everybody does it a little different when they’re stealing. Some guys are able to pick up the ball off that bat, some guys when you’re straight stealing your just running. I agree though, he recouped in a hurry. … I’m just saying it’s different. When guys are stealing, some guys are able to pick up the ball. He didn’t because he was straight stealing, but again, once he realized what was going on, he got going in the right direction.

The Cardinals and Reds were on the verge of big brawl last night. What was the most absurd brawl you were involved with in your career?

Oh man, I don’t know, there have been a lot of silly ones. Most of them are silly. I think what people probably don’t understand is that when you’re out there, even though most of the time it doesn’t get ugly, there are some big bodies. When they get that adrenaline going, it’s scary. You get a guy like [John] Lackey or a guy like [Brad] Penny out there and they start huffing and puffing, you know what, you better look both ways. Whether or not they want to hurt you or not, they might hurt you unintentionally. There are some big bodies moving around there.

As a result of [Kevin] Youkilis’ season-ending injury and the signing of Carlos Delgado, how has the front office and your relationship with Mike Lowell changed?

Oh, I don’t think it’s changed at all. I think Mikey’s been very open about his frustration this year. That hasn’t been hidden, we’re aware of that. I don’t think this has anything to do with it. Mikey’s playing just about every day right now. I think Theo [Epstein] has been open and honest that if anything, this is a complimentary piece. You start reacting to stuff that’s not here, that doesn’t do us any good.

Maybe Mike Lowell was happy to see you in previous years when he was playing and when he’s not playing, he’s not so happy to see you. How do you deal with that?

The best you can. Like I said, he was pretty open that he wasn’t happy. We were aware of that. My job is to win as much as we can and that’s our organization’s goal. Sometimes it doesn’t coincide with our players’ personal goals. We’re aware of that and we try to respect that. At the same time we have a job to do just like the players, we do it the best we can. We’re not perfect, we try to do as good as we can and we’ll continue to do as good as we can.

It’s good to see him smile again, though.

I agree. It’s been though on him, we’re aware of that and I respect that. Again, as an organization sometimes you have to make tough decisions. They are difficult but we try to make the right ones.

Read More: felix doubront, Jacoby Ellsbury, mike lowell, Terry Francona
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