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Transcript of Terry Francona on The Big Show: ‘When [Daniel] Bard’s in the game, Bard’s pitching’

05.24.11 at 4:12 pm ET
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Red Sox manager Terry Francona joined The Big Show Tuesday afternoon to talk about the injury status of Dustin Pedroia and Daisuke Matsuzaka. He also addressed his decision to let Daniel Bard pitch to Cleveland’s red-hot Asdrubal Cabrera in Monday night’s 3-2 loss to the Indians. Boston had a 2-1 lead heading into the eighth, but Bard (1-4) gave up two runs in the inning and took the loss. Cabrera’s RBI double proved to be the game-winner.

“When Bard’s in the game, Bard’s pitching.” Francona said. “The reason we took him out is we lost the lead and we’re trying to minimize his workload. But we never match up Bard with lefties or righties or take him out for a lefty. I think last year he led the league vs. lefties, so he’s almost like having a lefty. That right there for me, it’s not an option.

“I actually don’t mind facing [Cabrera] — and again I know Cabrera is hot right now — but having the open base sometimes can really be an advantage. Bard, if you look back at the at-bat, he threw [Cabrera] a breaking ball that I don’t know how he fouled off and kept himself alive. I think if I’d have [intentionally walked Cabrera], it would have been more for me to maybe cover my backside and I wouldn’t have agreed with it, so I really don’t want to do something like that.”

Francona also said that Bard has not performed as well as he did last season.

“What he did last year was probably hard to duplicate. He was on such a run for such a long period of time,” Francona said. “I don’t think his command at times is exactly what it was last year, because when he throws the velocity is tremendous. I think there’s times when the life through the zone isn’t quite the same. Not always, just sometimes. Because you see right now like last night when he makes a mistake, he got hit, and we didn’t really see that last year. Now saying that, it’s obvious how much confidence I have in him because we go to him almost every time somebody’s on base or the game’s on the line because of the amount of confidence we have in him.”

Following is a transcript of the conversation. To hear the interview, go to The Big Show audio on demand page.

How’s [Pedroia] doing today?

You know what? He’s OK. He popped his head in about an hour ago kind of gave me a thumbs up. I think he gave us all a scare last night, including himself. He went around the bag [Monday night against Cleveland] and kind of slipped. It was wet and he turned an ankle and he’s got that screw in there and gave him a little zinger, kind of a bolt of lightning going up that leg. We obviously needed to get him out of there because of that.

The doctors came over right away and looked at him and he’s OK, and again he got the feeling back real quick. I was kind of thinking about giving him today off anyway, because we’ve got the noon game tomorrow, and that kind of clinched it after that.

When Pedroia goes into a hitting slump, we usually find out that something was ailing him, like last year the knee or something like that. Has this been a problem at all during this stretch for him?

You know what, I don’t think it’s health. I do think there’s some things he’s getting accustomed to, you know like hitting against that front foot. It’s probably a little different, you know maybe the feel or lack of feel. So I think that maybe that’s part of it.  Besides the fact that he missed a lot of time but some of it, it’s never probably one thing, it’s probably a lot.

I think for a while there they were throwing him some outside fastballs. I think at times the strike zone got expanded, I think he started trying to reach that pitch, and all of a sudden now they’re throwing him in and he was kind of jamming himself so like I said it’s probably never just one thing, sometimes it’s multiple things.

There are certain by-the-book moves that managers are supposed to do, and you feel that sometimes those are the right things to do, but sometimes you feel like those are cover-your-butt moves?

Well, I guess that’s how I feel. Again it would have been an easy thing to do [Monday] night, to talk him, and maybe it would have been the right thing. But I’ve at times thought, OK this is our best chance of getting out of the inning, and if we walk him it’s not the worst thing in the world, but maybe he’ll chase something on his own and Bard’s stuff was really electric. It didn’t work, and again when it doesn’t work I obviously kind of feel it, but I didn’t probably second-guess myself maybe as much as other people did.

Do you want [Bard] to pitch a little differently against Cabrera, maybe pitch around him a little bit?

Well I wouldn’t say around, but I think almost maybe like backwards. Again, if you miss it doesn’t matter, and you never give in. That’s probably the best way to put it. There’s no reason to ever give in, and when you’re throwing 97-98, you know you can throw a ball a couple inches off the plate, you might get an easy out. Now, again the last pitch caught way too much of the plate, that wasn’t what we were looking for, but everybody’s human. That’s why the game’s played.

How much different is preparation for interleague ball, playing against teams you haven’t seen on a regular basis?

It’s a lot for the staff. You know the players go out and play the game and our guys prepare pretty well. But the staff has to take a lot more time, especially with the Cubs, they have a lot of younger players. You know we’ve seen [Alfonso] Soriano, we’ve seen Aramis Ramirez, guys like that, but there’s so many young guys we didn’t know that you want to get to know and you don’t want to wait until the third game in the series until you feel like you’ve got a handle on them.

How about Daisuke? Every time I read something I say, “That doesn’t sound too good.” What’s the story with him?

Yeah you know what, unfortunately we have to battle, the best way I can put it is with some unprofessional reporting. And that’s a shame. I guess nowadays that happens. [Matsuzaka] has been really good about communicating with me and us through this whole thing. He came in last week and we were talking about getting a second opinion with him and Dr. [Lewis] Yocum, who has seen him before and is really good about this particular area.

We made an appointment toward the end of the month and he asked me, “Can I go home and see my family?” I said, “Let me check with Theo [Epstein].” It’s not like flying to Cleveland; flying to Tokyo is pretty good. And Theo signed off on it. He goes, “You know what? He’s not throwing right now, might do him some good.” So, we allowed him to do that, and then on the way back he’ll stop back and see Dr. Yocum in LA, and all of a sudden it turned out that he’s having Tommy John [surgery] and he’s going back to see a doctor in Japan, so I don’t really know quite where that came from.

So, [John] Lackey made the trip with you guys, right? Is that a good sign?

Yeah. He’€™s throwing a side today. That’€™s a real good sign. He got the cortisone shot and we were hoping when he got the shot it would kind of alleviate some of that tugging and pulling in his elbow. And it actually really worked well. I think Lack’€™s got a smile on his face. He’€™s going out there and he can hopefully start finishing some pitches because I think that was missing the last few times.

I’€™m hoping one of these weeks we won’€™t have to go down the injury list with you.

That’€™s part of it. As long as it’€™s not a lengthy list, then we’€™re OK.

We look at this [Indians] team that you’€™re playing. They’€™ve lost four games at home [all season]. I just didn’€™t see that coming. I know you’€™re playing them right now so you have respect for them. You’€™ve got have more respect for them since you’€™re playing them right now. Did you see this coming at all? Did you think this team was capable of putting up numbers like it has?

I don’€™t think that we really ever thought about it. When we played them the first series, they obviously had their way with us. And they outplayed us. I don’€™t remember giving it much thought of how their record was going to be a month from now. We were trying to figure out how to beat the Yankees the next day. I think it’€™s a testament. They’€™re playing inspiring baseball. They’€™re paying attention to detail. They catch the ball, they run the bases, and they’€™re playing with confidence. Where it goes, you don’€™t know. Injuries, it’€™s a long year. But, they’€™ve got it going right now. That’€™s for sure.

A lot has been made of [Adrian] Gonzalez. A lot has been made of Carl Crawford for the opposite reasons. Nobody seems to be talking about David Ortiz. We spent the first three months of last season and the season before talking nonstop about David Ortiz. What are you seeing in him that’€™s different in the start of this season?

I think part of the reason is everyone who’€™s seen David knows that as the weather warms up so does he. And because he’€™s not just kept his head above water, but he’€™s actually been pretty productive, I think everybody probably thinks as we get into June, July and August he’€™s really going to heat up, which bodes well for us.

I think the biggest thing is he’€™s swinging at strikes and he’€™s using entire field. And he’€™s not using left field like serving singles, but he’€™s driving the ball the other way. And I’€™ve always said with David, when he drives the ball the other way, he’€™s in position to be a good hitter. That means he can probably handle the ball in. When you’€™re hitting the ball the other way, more often than not you’€™re laying off the ball in that’€™s off the plate because you have good balance, you’€™re seeing the ball, and that’€™s what David’€™s doing.

Is the approach different this year based on how slow a start he had the last couple of years? Have you seen anything differently in the way he’€™s approached it?

I think he’€™s tried to go to left field more. Remember last year how many check swings you would see? He was frightened to earn fastballs. I remember he would complain a little bit, “I’€™m not getting any good pitches to hit.” Well, sometimes you’€™ve got to earn it. And now he’€™s laying off the ball in the dirt or the breaking ball and he’€™s getting himself in hitters counts Sometimes he gets that fastball and he does something with it.

I remember when you first got to town and you had Manny [Ramirez] and David and both of those guys I think wanted to be the No. 3 hitter. Neither one of them wanted to be No. 4 and Manny wound up being No. 4.

I remember.

I’m sure you do. Do you think this spot in the lineup consistently, the No. 5 guy, do you think that affects him in a positive way at all? Does it have any effect on him?

I think it’€™s a great place for him to hit. It’€™s a great RBI place. You’€™ve got Gonzalez hitting third. You’€™ve got Youk who is always going to be on base. I think it’€™s a tremendous RBI position.

[Jarrod] Saltalamacchia is starting to show at least some power now in producing runs. For you, is the average really important in what you get from him, on-base percentage?

For every player, I think a batting average is an indicator of probably the quality of their at-bats. There are certainly more important things. Production. If a guy is hitting .300 and there is no production, certainly rather have a guy hitting lower with some home runs and RBIs and on base and things like that. It probably also depends on who it is. Right now our catchers are hitting ninth. If they occasionally run into a home run or do some things like that, it’€™s not like he’€™s hitting third.

I do think the quality of his at-bats is drastically getting better. You’€™re going to see some production just because he’€™s swinging at more strikes. He’€™s staying back a little bit. There have been some balls he hit, just gotten under them, but he’€™s had some good swings. Those will turn to hits or home runs.

You said [Indians president Mark] Shapiro was in your office. Was he talking about maybe a Tito night in Cleveland, retiring your jersey from your time with the Indians?

That wasn’€™t part of the conversation, but Mark and I are pretty close. He always pops his head down and I know my day gets better because of it.

You worked for him for a while?

Sure did. When I was let go in Philadelphia, Mark called me and I was a special assistant to him that summer. He was just getting ready to take over for John Hart as the GM here, and I worked for Mark for the summer. And it was a good year for me. I learned a lot about myself. When you get fired, especially the first time, your self-esteem takes a hit, your confidence. I didn’€™t know what I wanted to do, and I got a chance to sit back and look like a manager with a general manager relationship without having the emotion of being the manager or having a loss hang over your head. He let me do some scouting and some things like that and it was a good year for me.

How much more do you learn in doing that for your next managerial job?

When I left Philadelphia, I didn’t even know if I wanted to be a manager again. I knew I wanted to stay in the game, but I got pretty beat up. And then being around Mark and Chris [Antonetti] and those guys that summer was a good learning experience. And I also learned that I missed being on the field, which was good. So then I started coaching again. And then went I went to Oakland with [Ken] Macha, that kind of helped invigorate me also, and I thought maybe, you know what, maybe I do want to do this again.

[Sarcastically] You can get beaten up in that job? I didn’t know that.

A shocker, isn’t it? Especially in Philadelphia. [laughter]

Very soft media there.

I know. The fans are so forgiving there. [laughter]

[Alfredo] Aceves and Wake gave you good outings this weekend.

You know what? They did OK. I mean, going into that weekend, they weren’t very stretched out, so you’re always kind of in the back of your mind thinking, OK, we’ve got to be ready for this and this and this. And they both ‘€” especially Wake, Wake was so good. He was so economical through those first five innings that all of a sudden a weekend that maybe you’re looking at bullpen duty turns out to be a pretty good weekend.

You mentioned giving Pedroia a day off. What’s your lineup looking like?

We’ve got [Drew] Sutton playing at second and we have [Jed] Lowrie hitting second. And we moved [Jason Varitek] up into the 7 hole, keeping Carl right where he is, and hitting Sutton ninth. Everything else stays the same.

What was the incident with Beckett with the neck the other day? And is that fine now?

He’s OK. I actually thought he did a good job. We’ve been on him so much about being honest with us. Because he’s the kind of guy that, the communication during a game, it’s not good. He kind of sometimes turns into a little bit of a lunatic, so we just kind of stay away from him. But there’s times when we need to know how he feels. So we’ve kind of come to an agreement where he’ll tell me how he’s doing. And he came up to me the other night and he goes, “I think this would be a good idea to get me out.” He goes, “I don’t want this to turn into something.” So we got him out of there. And I appreciate that.

Is that just a matter of learning the individual, that some guys are just so competitive, they don’t want to leave the game and yet you think maybe there’s something wrong with them, and they’re lying to you?

It is learning the guys. It’s not so much that. I guess it’s where I think they may have something left ‘€” like, the pitch count’s down, I think they’re throwing the ball OK. But you’re at a point in the game where if they go back out there and they don’t feel good about themselves, well, then I’m making a mistake. So, you’ve got to figure out how to get to them without getting in the way of their pitching. And that’s a little bit touchy sometimes.

So, with Beckett, he’s been so good this year. And it becomes more and more obvious that when he’s healthy, he’s real, real good. And that maybe he’s had some physical issues here, as minor as they may be, that have messed up his mechanics or whatever. How do you constantly monitor that if the guy’s not telling you the truth?

No, but he has been. He’s been good. Again, he’s been really good.

Truth serum?

Well, maybe he’s getting more mature. I don’t know. I shouldn’t say that, because that’s probably not true.

You know what it is, he’s getting a lot of consistent reps. Last year, every time it got interrupted, it wasn’t just his health but it was trying to pitch the way he can pitch, and he never could quite pull it off. Now that he’s out there enough and he’s not getting interrupted, and we’re seeing a pretty good pitcher.

Time for Mohegan Sun’s Dinner with Tito question. It comes from Paul Farrell from Foxboro: Do you take into consideration or monitor the throws a pitcher makes holding a runner on base?

When you say “take into consideration” ‘€” I know he’s not going to be able to clarify this ‘€” does he mean workload?

Yeah, I think pitch count, like if a guy throws over 20 times or 10 times.

No, no. That would be a little bit probably micro, or doing too much. If a guy’s getting tired because he’s throwing over to first, we’d probably better go get another guy.

If you were doing that, you know what we’d call that? We’d call that a Showalter. [laughter]

You can say that. I can’t. That’s the last thing I want, is somebody calling it a Francona. That would be a little bit much. … What was that guy’s name?

Paul Farrell.

Paul better not win. We can do better than that. [laughter]

You don’t like that one, huh? Hey, it’s random. ‘€¦ Is this censorship from the manager? Is he trying to censor? Is he trying to edit?

No, I wouldn’t do that. I just thought that was a bad question.

Like you’ve never heard them before, after a game. ‘€¦ By the way, you look great in those throwbacks over the weekend.

You know what, guys? [Media relations director] Pam Ganley kept asking me, she goes, “Would you please quit ripping on the uniforms.” And I said, “Pam, it’s not the uniform.” I said, “It’s me.” I said, “I work so hard to get here and then I end up going out there and I look like [legendary baseball clown] Max Patkin. I was so embarrassed. [Umpire] Ed Rapuano called me out. I told DeMarlo [Hale] to tell the umpires the other night, I said, “Guys, if you mess up, you’re going to have to really mess up, because I’m not coming out here to argue, because I look like a moron. And then Ed Rapuano called me out, there was an issue with the lights. And I got out there and he said, “You know what?” He goes, “You look terrible.” So, that did a lot for my self-esteem.

I understand they weren’t even authentic. Because in 1918, they had collars. Could you imagine like big collars ‘€” dress shirts?

To be honest with you, I didn’t care. I put that white hat on, and I just remember thinking, this is awful.

Yeah, but think about this: They wore all like heavy wool. Imagine playing in July and August.

My dad played, the early part of his career, those uniforms were heavy, and they were hot. I remember when they first went to those kind of the more modern uniforms, just what a relief it was for those guys.

In the ’70s they went to polyester.

Yeah, because I had a suit like that. And Michael, I know you did, too.

Read More: Asdrubal Cabrera, Bard, Big Show, Daisuke Matsuzaka
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