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Managerial musings: Francona on Ellsbury, Daisuke and more

02.16.11 at 1:54 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — After the Red Sox‘ second day of spring training workouts, manager Terry Francona touched on the news of the day. Naturally, as one might expect from a time of year when games have yet to begin, the topic was primarily about who is and is not camp. Towards that end, Francona was asked whether any position players are expected to be late to report, or if all are expected to check in by Thursday.

“I haven’t checked to see if Manny will be here,” he said with a grin, in memory of the annual tardy arrival of former Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez. Incidentally, Ramirez checked into Rays camp on Wednesday.

Among current members of the Sox, Francona expects all position players to be in Fort Myers by Thursday.

In other news of the day:

Daisuke Matsuzaka threw a 45-pitch bullpen session, surpassing the 30 pitches that most of his teammates logged. The right-hander did that with the Sox’ blessing, however. Whenever possible, he wants to throw at some length, and the Sox are willing to sign off on that so long as his physical condition suggests that he can tolerate it.

“He’€™s obviously worked very hard. You can tell by the way he came into camp. We’€™ve always told him, it’€™s no secret, he wants to throw more, generally, than most of the guys we’€™ve had because of his background. We always told him, if he could withstand that, we had no problems with that,” said Francona. “Today he threw 45 pitches. Most of our other guys threw 30. That’€™s because he’€™s in good shape. We have no problems with that. If that’€™s a comfort zone for him but he can handle it because he’€™s strong enough, I think that’€™s terrific.”

Brandon Duckworth and Tony Pena Jr. both underwent MRIs to determine whether an injury had caused their low scores in strength testing. The MRIs came back negative, and so the two non-roster invitees both were cleared to throw bullpen sessions on Wednesday. They were joined by newcomer Alfredo Aceves, who continues to be without restrictions just a couple months removed from the surgery to repair his broken clavicle.

–Francona said that Jacoby Ellsbury appears to be in excellent shape following his offseason at Athletes’ Performance in Arizona. He suggested that there was little to be gained by the center fielder dwelling on any aspect of the 2010 season, when he missed almost all of the year with broken ribs.

“He was moving around and feeling good about himself. He’€™s starting out with a clean slate, which is good. He looks terrific,” said Francona. “It’€™s nice to hear him show up and say, ‘€˜Yeah, I feel good and I’€™m ready to go.’€™ We’€™d like to have him out there healthy and doing what he’€™s able to do.

“For Jacoby, I don’€™t know why he would dwell on ribs being broken. This is a fresh start. He feels healthy. If he wasn’€™t healthy, then we’€™d have to figure something out. But the good news is he feels really good and he’€™s ready to play.”

Asked whether there was anything the 27-year-old could take from his 2010 season, Francona struggled to find a silver lining.

“[The missed time is] not going to help. But that doesn’€™t mean he can’€™t be a terrific player,” said Francona. “When guys miss time, sometimes it takes time. Maybe it won’€™t. Hopefully he falls right back to where he was. But those are important years of development for young players.”

Francona said that he did not envision giving Ellsbury extra at-bats this spring to make up for the ones he missed last year, feeling that it was more important to avoid running the outfielder into the ground with an artificially accelerated pace this spring.

–Francona said that Ellsbury had no restrictions. He will be free to run whenever he wants, especially during spring training. Indeed, the Sox encourage all of their players to run liberally in spring training in order to gauge their speed, whether stealing bases or trying to advance an extra base on hits.

Mike Cameron told Francona that he would like to play both right field and left field this spring as he prepares to play positions that he has only rarely occupied. Cameron last played right in 2005, when he suffered a devastating head injury when running into Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran in one of the ugliest collisions in memory. He has played just three games in left in his career.

Francona, however, suggested that the Sox don’t foresee the need for Cameron to play much left field since, barring injury (to Carl Crawford), they don’t envision there being a lot of at-bats from that position. Right field will be another matter, since Cameron can platoon with J.D. Drew. In their conversations, Cameron has expressed no reservations to Francona about playing the corners.

–The latest Jarrod Saltalamacchia testimonial came from Francona as a result of the catcher’s work with instructor Gary Tuck this offseason. Here is what the manager had to say, one day after Josh Beckett said that Saltalamacchia is reminding people of Jason Varitek with how he is conducting his business:

“Tuckster said he’€™s never seen someone buy in so much as Salty did. Tuckster really rode him pretty hard,” said Francona. “We’€™ve talked about the opportunity for Salty. I think he’€™s earned this. We wouldn’€™t have done this out of the goodness of our heart. We want to win really bad and he’€™s bought into everything. The idea that somebody’€™s dropping a [Jason Varitek reference] on him is a pretty good compliment.”

–Once again, Jason Varitek showed up in spring training in incredible shape.

“I laugh every year. It amazes me. I tease him: ‘You’€™ve obvoiusly quit working,’” said Francona. “He goes out here and does those drills. He can embarrass some young kids. That’€™s why he’€™s still playing, because he’€™s willing to do that. Same as [Tim Wakefield]. When you get to be Wake’€™s age you have to be harder. The body just doesn’€™t work like it used to.”

Asked whether Varitek could play into his mid-40s and enjoy the sort of longevity experienced by Carlton Fisk, Francona said that would be up to the catcher.

“If he wants to,” Francona said of his ability to play several more years. “It comes to the point where you get to the end of the season  and are you willing to do that, because you have to work harder. That’€™s not for me to say, but I hope as long as I’€™m here he wants to keep coming back, because he’€™s tremendous.”

Read More: brandon duckworth, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Varitek
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