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Terry Francona on The Big Show: Unsure about Adrian Gonzalez in outfield

06.21.11 at 4:16 pm ET
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When the Red Sox finish up their three-game series with the Padres on Wednesday, they will head to Pittsburgh to begin nine straight games against National League opponents. That’s an obvious dilemma for manager Terry Francona, who has to figure out a way to get David Ortiz in the lineup.

One scenario involves moving first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to right field, but Francona said on his weekly interview with WEEI’s Big Show that there is still much to be considered. Click here to listen to the whole interview.

“David is certainly not going to play nine games,” Francona said. “Gonzie has talked to us and we’ve gone back and forth with him about possibly going to right field. I don’t know how I feel about that. I’m a little bit confused. If we ever send him out there and something bad happens — and by that I don’t meaning a bad play. Do you move JD [Drew]  to left field for a couple of days. He’s never done that. I don’t know. That’s the best answer I can give you. We have a day off before we go to Pittsburgh. There’s a lot of things we need to talk about and then we’ll figure it out. There’s some anxiety. Just being truthful.”

This is a different scenario for Francona than in past years when he could mix and match Mike Lowell, Kevin Youkilis and Ortiz and third and first base. Also, the games in National League parks are consecutive.

“We have nine in a row in the National League. That hasn’t been the case since I’ve been here,” Francona said. “So again it’s going to be something we’ll have to deal with. I’m not excited about it. It puts at a real disadvantage, not just competitively but in keeping David sharp.”

Here’s the rest of the transcript from Francona’s appearance:

How did Dustin Pedroia beating out a double-play set the stage in the seventh inning?

You just never know what’s going to help you win a game, that’s why I talk so much about paying attention to detail or just doing the best you can all the time. You don’t know at the time when Pedey stretches that out and beats it out, you don’t know what’s going to happen. Instead of [Gonzalez] hitting a double and maybe us scoring a run. We end up turning it into a full-fledged rally. We stay away from [Daniel] Bard and [Jonathan Papelbon], a lot of good things happen. That’s the way Pedey plays. You certainly appreciate it. I’m glad it didn’t go unnoticed because it’s pretty special.

What was your favorite part of Ortiz’ 14-pitch at-bat?

It was the hit. But even going up to that point. So many good things happened because of that. Even if he makes an out, it probably cost the starting pitcher one full inning, which is terrific. They had one left-hander in the bullpen [Cory Luebke] and he was actually a good lefty. he went right through us, but he was their only lefty. They had to bring some righties in and we had lefties sitting on the bench. You get the starter out before they want him out then normally good things happen.

On playing so many lefties against Padres left-hander Wade LeBlanc:

It was a small sample size but he had been struggling with left-handers. Actually I was wondering about not playing J.D. Then you watch the game unfold and Jacoby [Ellsbury] lines out to center his first couple of at-bats. Gonzie is on everything. David has the 14-pitch at-bat. He was tougher against righties because of his change-up and his cutter and you could see against lefties, there was no give. They were comfortable up there. It doesn’t mean you’re going to get hits but you could see the lefties were on him pretty good.

How would you assess Andrew Miller’s debut?

I thought it was a shame he left that pitch right over the plate to [Orlando Hudson] because I thought it was a really well-pitched Major League game. The reason I say that is he’s been damn good at Triple-A, but there is a difference. It’s nice to see in a Major League setting him go out there and have three pitches — have a fastball that’s in the upper 90’s at times, a real nice feel for a breaking ball and I thought he threw a really nice change-up. He stayed in his delivery. He’s a big tall, lanky kind and there’s a lot of moving parts. He stayed in his delivery and I think maybe we’re going to catch a break.

Sometimes you have to get lucky or be the recipient of a good sign. You can’t just go out and sign every free agent there is. We appreciate our payroll but you’ve got to hit on some of these guys and I think we’re all kind of hoping this is one.

How does his size affect his delivery?

How many times have you heard me say, ‘Repeat your delivery.’ It’s harder to do that when you’re lanky like that. That’s just the reality of it. He was such a high-profile pick. He got to the big leagues so quick. He threw across his body. Part of the reason he was having success was because there was so much deception. But at the same time it was hard to repeat his delivery and throw strikes. So we just talked to him. He’s a real athletic kid. Let your athleticism show and enjoy competing. Don’t be so worried about the end. Enjoy the process and go out and compete.

How is this situation with Ortiz different than in past years?

It was right there for us. You play [Kevin] Youkilis, Mike Lowell, give them a day off against a righty, slip [Ortiz] in there for six innings at first base, hopefully have a lead, put [Youkilis] back in at first. This doesn’t work like that now. And not only that, but we don’t have the three [games] in the National League, three in the American League, back to the National League. We have nine in a row in the National League. That hasn’t been the case since I’ve been here, so again it’s going to be something we have to deal with. I’m not excited about it because it puts us at a real disadvantage. Not just competitively, but for keeping [Ortiz] Sharp.

Let’s say you make it to the World Series and have to play in Philadelphia. Now you’re dealing with a much different lineup.

After they have the parade for me, then I have to start thinking about … No, you’re right. We built our team to have [Ortiz] as our DH. Now we’re going to a National League city and not only do we have not [Ortiz] hitting, but we have pitchers hitting that aren’t used to that. And it is hard and we’ve actually dealt with it pretty well, but it’s not terribly fair.

With two days off in that nine game inter-league stretch, that’s possibly 11 games that Ortiz could miss. He’s in a great rhythm right now.

I know. We’ll figure something out. None of the answers are probably perfect but we’re aware of it and we’ll figure something out.

But how do you do it without actually putting Gonzalez in the outfield?

I’ll have to figure it out. Yeah, no. We’ll figure it out.

[Marlins manager] Jack McKeon is 80. Could you ever imagine managing at 80 years old?

I’ll be three heart attacks into it by then, so that’s not going to be an issue. Are you kidding me?

What did you think when you heard the news that he would be managing?

I don’t know. I mean again, I have my hands full here. I don’t know how you do it. I mean there’s days when I feel like I’m 80, and I can’t imagine managing when I’m that old. I’d just be happy to be alive.

I think Dave O’Brien said McKeon was getting sleepy in the dugout last night. I don’t blame him. That’s a long day.

I will say this: I’ve heard some of his interviews and I really like him. I like what he says, talks about players coming to the ballpark, being accountable, enjoying competing, and giving a full day’s work and going home, and you can live with yourself. And I’ve always felt that way because he’s come into this situation a few times and I actually think he’s handled it really well.

You guys have worn down pitching staffs. You’ve got a lot of walks already. [Dustin Pedroia] was asked last night why he’s been walking so much. Here’s what he [jokingly] said: “No protection. No protection. We gave [Gonzalez] 154 million dollars and I can’t get any protection. This is unbelievable. I don’t care how hot he’s hitting or if he’s hitting .360. I need somebody back there protecting me. I don’t want to walk. Are you kidding me?”

What you just heard there, that’s 24 hours a day. I mean you have to hear the comments in the dugout. It’s non-stop. But he pulls it off.

What happened with that situation where one day I hear [Pedroia] could have surgery and be out for awhile, and the next day he’s going to be in the lineup. What happened?

You know I can’t help what guys are tweeting. There were things coming out that weren’t true. What was true was we needed to get him back to get looked at just because we know [Pedroia]‘s mentality, and he was hurt. And he probably still is, but we know he’ll play if he’s not injuring himself. And that’s what we wanted to reassure him. So we brought him to Boston, we were really up front with what we were doing, and I really think it has helped a lot.

It almost seemed as if he was relieved to find out that there was nothing seriously wrong with him, because after that he went on a tear.

He’s really an emotional kid as you guys know, and as he’s banged up he kind of wears it on his sleeve. We all felt like this was going to really help him, plus we just needed to find out just to make sure. I mean the kid’s got a screw in his foot, his knee’s banged up, and since he’s been back he’s been tremendous.

What did you think of the public shout out you got from [Bruins coach] Claude Julien?

It’s a good thing I called him, or I would have been the only one that didn’t. I’d have been left out.

Did you know he was going to acknowledge you at the parade?

Oh, no. I wish he wouldn’t have. I didn’t want to horn in on their time, this is their thing to do. I just like the way he handles himself. As you guys know, I thought the blue line was the train that went to Brookline. I just like the way he handles himself and I just wanted to tell him that, and he was really cool. Picked up his phone and we chatted for a minute. It was fun.

All of you guys [Francona, Julien, Patriots coach Bill Belichick, and Celtics coach Doc Rivers] around the same time here won championships, and you’re all still active.

Well you know if you don’t win you’re not going to be active. That’s why I hugged Dave Roberts [Monday] when he came over there. If he’s out [in the 2004 ALCS], I’m gone. You’re talking to somebody else.

Do you think all that [success in Boston] is a coincidence?

I think there’s a lot going on. First of all the fan base here is incredible, so we’re a big market in all sports, as we should be. And there’s really good players. I mean every team you look, they brought in really good players and they continue to do that. If you’re a fan, it’s exciting. At the same time I think the fans deserve it because they’re tremendous.

Let’s look at the flip side in San Diego. You guys get the big name first baseman in Gonzalez, but the Padres have to wait for a guy like Anthony Rizzo to develop, and that’s not necessarily a secure position for a manager.

And I’ve been through that with the Phillies when it wasn’t the Philadelphia that it is now, when it was young and trying to get some of these kids to learn how to play. Maybe I’ve changed my opinion because I’ve been here so long. We have a chance, our ownership gives us a chance every year to win. That doesn’t ensure that you’re going to win, but it’s a heck of a lot more fun to have the so-called pressure of wanting to win or being expected to win as opposed to if you have a good year you’ll be .500. To me, that’s awful.

Josh Beckett is going to miss his start. You said he’s sick?

We termed it intestinal turmoil. In other words, you know what’s going on there. He just got really sick and he was going to go home last night and the more I started thinking about it I was like, “OK if he’s too sick to pitch today, how the heck is he going to show up tomorrow and be OK?” So we talked to him about it and he was like, “Yeah. I agree with this.” So we’ll see how he shows up today and we’ll kind of figure out where he fits in the next couple days depending on how he feels.

How much do [Alfredo] Aceves, [Tim] Wakefield, and last night [Andrew] Miller give you a luxury to give some guys some days off? [Clay Buchholz]‘s back is bothering him a little bit. Maybe under different circumstances he’s out there pitching.

Well I disagree with that. I think it is a luxury and we appreciate it, but we would have still [sat Buchholz]. It just makes it a heck of a lot easier. I think we’re pretty adamant about not doing something wrong with our pitching because if you extend too far, once you go too far you can’t go back, and then it’s terrible. But it is a heck of a lot easier. There’s guys we know we need to lean on in the second half of the year. [Buchholz} is one of them. [Jon] Lester, Beckett and if you use them up now it’s no good.

What’s the lineup tonight?

I think we’re OK. They have a righty going tonight. We have [Jarrod] Saltalamacchia catching Aceves and J.D. [Drew] in right and [Josh] Reddick in left. Everybody else is the same.

A lot is made of the wait pitchers have between innings when the Sox bat for a while, score runs, etc. Is that overblown or is there something to that?

It’s actually something we think about. We have a little cage in the warmup area behind our dugout and a lot of times guys will go back there, stretch, if not even throw a little bit just because it is a wait. You’ll notice when we’re fortunate enough to have those long innings, which we love, but the pitchers that go out there the next inning a lot of times you see first-pitch walks just because they have been sitting for so long. So no, you’re not making more of it.

Do you think hitters pay attention to starting pitchers who, even when they’re out of the game, hang around the dugout?

Yeah, I really do. I think the guys get it. We talk to our pitchers a lot. If they pitch a Saturday night game, you come in on Sunday, nobody’s going to say anything if they’re in the clubhouse a couple innings sitting on the couch. The guys that show up and that game is important also, the game not just they’re pitching, the position players understand that, they appreciate that a lot.

Read More: adrian gonzalez, andrew miller, Big Show, David Ortiz
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