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John Farrell on Terry Francona: There’ll be ‘three days of some bantering back and forth’

04.15.13 at 11:30 am ET
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Red Sox manager John Farrell says he’s looking forward to managing against Cleveland Indians skipper Terry Francona Tuesday when the two clubs open a three-game series in Cleveland. Farrell served as Francona’s pitching coach for four seasons in Boston before leaving after the 2010 season.

This much is for certain, it won’t be boring for Farrell or Francona the next three days.

“Before I came up [for Monday morning media briefing], I [had] a text on my phone waiting so I’m sure there’s some remark that will start three days of some bantering back and forth but it’s always fun,” Farrell said before Monday’s series finale with Tampa Bay. “It’s always fun, whether it’s the conversation before or after the game or the conversation what takes place inside it. I know one thing – they’ve got a very good lineup and they’ll be well-prepared.”

What did Farrell learn from Francona while serving as his pitching coach for four years beginning in 2007?

“His ability to blend the personalities that have come through this clubhouse door in the eight years he was here,” Farrell said. “He had such a knack and a way to connect with so many different people, and to bring them all to a common point. Players loved playing for him and they ran through a wall for him. He just had a way of making every player know or feel that he was behind them, supported them and if there were any issues – and there were – they were handled in an appropriate way.

“He treated us great so we wanted to do the best job we were capable of as well. He made you feel part of the team. He didn’t make anyone feel like they didn’t have a voice or an opinion or an ability to contribute to what we were trying to get accomplished. He’s just got a very good way with people to make them feel included.”

But Farrell cautions not to read too much into the familiarity between the two managers dictating the play between the teams Tuesday through Thursday.

“I probably wouldn’t go that deep into it because it’s still going to be what the guy on the mound is doing, what the players in the lineup are doing,” Farrell said. “The game situation will give us information to which to make decisions on. I think there’s an awareness of maybe the style of play that maybe he employs or what I employ but still it’s going to be about the strengths of the roster we have. Not to always deflect back to the players, but this is still always about them.”

Francona knew Farrell would be an ideal managerial candidate down the road, even while he was serving as Francona’s pitching coach.

“He was all for it, very supportive of it,” Farrell said. “As opportunities emerged prior to finally making the move [to Boston], he was always curious as to why? Why not now? Or what are you waiting for? Not to be over presumptuous on anything but this was a special place to work, and to work alongside him is a rare opportunity and I wasn’t looking to make a change just for the sake of change but he was always supportive in any kind of decision that was to be made.”

Also aware and supportive were Cleveland baseball executives Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti while Farrell worked as farm director with the Indians prior to being hired by Francona before the 2007 season.

“There were some situations that came up that certainly weren’t as attractive and challenging as here,” Farrell recalled. “There were always conversations on the path on that side of the game. But things have worked out as they have but there were conversations with Mark and Chris.”

But none match the conversation that Farrell had with Francona when the then-Red Sox manager recruited Farrell before the 2007 season.

“He did, as a matter of fact he drove up,” Farrell said. “He was in instructional league, I was in Winter Haven, he was in Fort Myers. We sat in a hotel room and talked about what possibly could be. At the end of a long night, he drove back.”

Farrell’s favorite Francona memory? It had to do with the commotion and confusion in the dugout after a certain double-switch as the Red Sox were about to capture their second World Series title in four seasons.

“It probably is Game 4 [2007 World Series] in Colorado,” Farrell said. “He had the benefit of managing four years in the National League. In the heat of the moment, when there was a double-switch we were going through. There were some things we were going through. The overriding thing is that in a very important moment, there was a calmness about him. His ability to think on his feet is second to none.

“It was in a pretty important moment in time and he always gave off the impression that he had everything under control and could very easily handle all the different things that were getting thrown at him and come up with the right decision. That’s the probably the one that really stands out to me because of what it meant, the stage we were on and the in-game decisions that came down.”

This will be the first time Francona has managed against the Red Sox since Cleveland trains in Arizona while Boston, of course, gets ready for the season in Southwest Florida.

Read More: Boston Red Sox, chris antonetti, Cleveland Indians, John Farrell
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