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Red Sox Notebook

Francona has managed nicely

From humble start, he reaches milestone

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / July 24, 2011

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Terry Francona vividly recalled yesterday getting his first managerial win in his first game with the Philadelphia Phillies on April 1, 1997. Curt Schilling went eight innings and closer Ricky Bottalico sealed a 3-0 victory over the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

“I thought it was going to be easy,’’ Francona said.

But, as Francona has come to learn during his 12 years as a manager, nothing worthwhile ever comes easy.

“We went the rest of the road trip and didn’t win,’’ Francona said of the season-opening series. The Phillies dropped into the National League East cellar for good April 23 en route to finishing 68-94, 33 games out of first.

From that ignominious start, Francona found himself on the threshold of a significant managerial milestone: his 1,000th win, which he got with a 3-1 victory over the Mariners.

“Someone did tell me [Friday] it was 998 or I wouldn’t have known,’’ he said. “I don’t think I get too caught up in personal stuff, I hope I don’t. What it does mean to me is that I got really lucky. I caught a huge break just being able to be the manager here.

“We’ve had a great organization and we’ve had great players and I just feel pretty fortunate,’’ he said. “That’s kind of how I feel.’’

Francona has a 1,000-880 managerial record that includes 285 wins with the Phillies (1997-2000) and World Series titles with the Sox in 2004 and ’07.

“It’s a testament to him in sticking it out after a couple of tough years in Philadelphia,’’ said Daniel Bard, who extended his scoreless streak to 22 games. “A lot of guys aren’t given that second chance he was given here, and he’s taken full advantage of it. He’s well-respected by everyone in this clubhouse. He sticks up for us and we try to do the same for him when we’re out there on the field.’’

Francona became the 57th manager to win at least 1,000 games, joining seven active skippers: Tony La Russa (2,691), Jim Leyland (1,546), Dusty Baker (1,454), Bruce Bochy (1,332), Davey Johnson (1,157), Mike Scioscia (1,034), and Jack McKeon (1,027).

“We’re all proud of him,’’ said Dustin Pedroia. “He keeps everybody on that line. We started out two-and-whatever [2-10], and Tito was the same guy as he is now that we’re 23 games over [.500]. That’s all you ask for - a guy that has your back and is always consistent.

“He treats you the same whether you’re hitting .300 or hitting .100,’’ Pedroia said. “That’s all you ask from a manager.’’

During spring training, Red Sox great Dwight Evans said Francona would likely go down as the greatest skipper in Sox history.

No one in the Sox clubhouse argued that point.

“He’s one of those guys you want to play for,’’ said shortstop Marco Scutaro. “He’s one of those guys who lets you go out there and play and he gives you a lot of confidence. He’s one of the best managers I’ve ever had.’’

Being careful Clay Buchholz, who had been expected to start throwing off the mound Friday, will not likely get that opportunity until tomorrow, Francona said. While Friday’s development was viewed as something of a setback for the righthander, who has been on the disabled list since June 17 with a lower-back strain, Francona said the decision was more of a precaution.

Buchholz had a long-toss session on Friday and played catch yesterday.

“It’s already taken way too long for this, in my mind, but I’m already on the DL and it can’t get any worse than it was at the beginning and it hasn’t gotten any worse,’’ Buchholz said Friday. “It’s just slowly, slowly getting better. Just not on my timetable.’’

Francona said he talked with Thomas Gill, the team’s medical director, and head athletic trainer Mike Reinold, “and they all say he may feel it,’’ Francona said.

“But that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to hurt it,’’ Francona said. “So that’s the kind of fine line we’re walking right now. He’s not ready to pitch and I don’t think anybody thinks he is.

“There’s got to be a progression here and it’s going to have to be a consistent one, but I think we feel like this is going to work. If you watch him throw, he looks great, but he just still feels it.

“I don’t know if trepidation is the right word, but there’s some concern on his part and I don’t blame him,’’ Francona said. “So we’re just trying to take it a step at a time and do it the right way.’’

Pedroia keeps rolling Pedroia reached safely in his career-high 32d straight game when he extended his career-high hitting streak to 20 games with his first-inning double to left. He also stole his 20th base of the season in the seventh, becoming the first second baseman in Sox history to record three seasons of 20 stolen bases . . . Although he went 0 for 4, Kevin Youkilis made up for that with his defense. His biggest assist came on a hard-hit grounder in the hole by Franklin Gutierrez that helped extricate Bard from a bases-loaded jam in the eighth. “Just a sigh of relief, man,’’ Bard said when he saw Youkilis field the ball . . . The Sox improved to 6-2 since the All-Star break and have won six straight series, beginning with a sweep of the Houston Astros July 1-3 . . . Jed Lowrie, on the DL since June 17 with a left shoulder strain, has picked up the intensity of his hitting since working on the tee Monday in Baltimore. “He’s doing a few more reps each day and I would imagine he’d probably be like a week on the tee, a week on the soft toss, and maybe a week on BP. That looks like a rough progression,’’ Francona said . . . Former Sox third baseman Mike Lowell drew a loud ovation when he was introduced to the crowd for the ceremonial opening pitch. With Pedroia behind the plate, Lowell painted the inside corner for a strike . . . Four of five Boston Breakers - Rachel Buehler, Amy LePeilbet, Stephanie Cox, and Kelley O’Hara - who participated on the US national soccer team that finished runner-up to Japan in the Women’s World Cup were recognized before the second inning. Lauren Cheney was unable to attend.

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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