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Coaches chatter

Posted by Chris Forsberg, Boston.com Staff  October 11, 2008 05:51 PM

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Terry Francona

Q: You guys have done a rather remarkable job of transitioning on the run and not missing a beat with this team, and I'm just curious, if somebody had told you back in April that you would be here without Manny, with Lowrie at shortstop, Masterson as your primary right-handed setup guy, what your reaction might have been to all of that?

TERRY FRANCONA:
I understand your point. I actually think that there had been some things go wrong, Mike Lowell getting hurt; Lugo getting hurt. But some of the names you brought up, I don't think it's quite as farfetched as maybe it looks.

When we had our meetings in spring training, listening to the player development people talk about Masterson, talk about Lowrie, I actually think -- and they had seen them play a heck of a lot more than I had, I think they felt like this could unfold the way it did. They were talking about Jed Lowrie as kind of a Bill Mueller-type player, which is, I think, a pretty good call.

They spoke with about Masterson at some point in the season, he was probably going to accumulate some innings where we may want to put him in the bullpen because he could come up and really impact our season, which is exactly what's happened. So I think the guys in this organization had a pretty good feel for some of these younger guys.

Q: Is the way Masterson pitching for you now in the playoffs clarifying or confusing the situation with regard to his future role with this team?

TERRY FRANCONA:
Well, I don't think there's any reason today to clarify what he's going to do down the road. Our job right now is to win as many games as possible. I was asked that earlier by the other group of writers. I don't think there's any reason to do that.

Pap is similar. Pap could start or relieve. I guess when it boils down to it, if you get guys who can get outs, we'll figure out where they can best impact our team, but for the moment, we really like where he's at. Again, there were some reasons he was put in this situation, because he's developing still as a young pitcher. Where that takes him down the road, we'll see.

Q: It looked as if J.D. Drew got drilled pretty good on the shoulder last night. What's his status today, and is he in the lineup?

TERRY FRANCONA:
He's not in the lineup, and that's not because he got hit. We're putting Coco in center more because of Kazmir, we want Ellsbury to stay in the lead-off spot. He got whacked pretty good in the shoulder, but saying that, from where I was sitting, I thought he got hit in the face. So there was a sigh of relief because it looked a lot worse when it happened. I'm sure he's a little sore today, but again, I'm glad it was not the face or the neck.

Q: When you send Daisuke out last night, you talked about it after the game last night, but how much discussion goes into something like that? Is it always the same amount of discussion, or are there cases where we need to go on the runway and talk this one through?

TERRY FRANCONA:
There was a lot of discussion last night because there were a lot of different scenarios that could present itself, which it did. We actually got Masterson up before he went out, because we wanted to have an answer for everything that could possibly come up, and we only had two mounds.

So we got Masterson up, and we told him to get close to being ready because we wanted Oki ready for a scenario with Peņa; we wanted Pap to be ready if the inning went a little bit better. And then we needed Masterson available to get a double-play ball with Longoria if that presented itself. So we tried to have everybody be as ready as possible for anything that happened. I mean, the idea when you send Daisuke out certainly isn't to have the first two guys get on, but you have to be prepared that that could happen, and we were.

Q: A lot of people in this room, and, of course, throughout the building are spending a lot of time writing about the importance of postseason experience. In your view, is the idea of postseason experience going into a playoff series like this overrated or underrated or neither?

TERRY FRANCONA:
I think you try to take any experience you have and make it to your advantage. If it ever gets in the way of how you play, then it would be a disadvantage. I think somewhat it's probably overrated, though, but again, we're going to try to use everything to our advantage we can.
If experience is part of that, good for us.

Q: Just to follow up on what I asked you before, I know that Theo and the front office people told you in the spring that these kids are pretty good, that they may be helping you, but seeing how it's all played out, especially Lowrie with his defense, and, of course, Masterson and what he's done. Are you at least a little bit surprised at their makeup and at their poise and that they don't seem to be fazed by all of this?

TERRY FRANCONA:
No, I don't think "surprised" is a good word. I'd be lying if I told you I haven't enjoyed these last two months. We've mixed in some youth, and when guys seem to be going in one direction and we have a lot of veterans, we do have a lot of young kids on the field sometimes; when they seem to be going in one direction, I have really enjoyed it.

We've got some pretty special kids in there, and at the same time, we have some pretty special veterans that have allowed these young kids to come in and be a big part of our team. And it probably goes both ways. Once these kids prove that they understand how important our games are, it works a lot quicker.

Q: Do you give up any outfield defense with Drew not out there?

TERRY FRANCONA:
Not with Coco playing. No, Coco can go get them at center and Jacoby has done a great job of going to either corner position and can impact the game very well.

Q: You talked a little bit about -- it might have been under the radar in Boston a little bit when you required Mark Kotsay and what you had known about him beforehand and kind of what he adds to this team.

TERRY FRANCONA:
I got so many messages when we acquired Kots from people that I know in the game that respect that said we were getting a guy that was off the charts, and I agree with that.

He's a gamer. The one concern I had was one of the type of guy he was, to kind of grind it out, that there was a chance he wouldn't play every day. But because of our injuries an things like that, he's played a ton, and he's been tremendous for us.

Joe Maddon

Q: Simple question: What do you tell your team going into Game 2 tonight?

JOE MADDON:
Not a whole lot. We've been here before. I know it's the playoffs so there's a difference in that regard, but we've lost twice to the Red Sox in the first game of a series this past month and came back nicely.
I just want us to go out, and again, I hate to be redundant, but to play our game. It's going to be all about pitching once again. It was a really well-played game last night, a really close game. They got two runs; we did not. I liked over all the way we handled things, so don't change a whole lot, just hope we score more runs.

Q: The Red Sox seemed to challenge Longoria in particular in a number of his at-bats last night. From your standpoint, is his wrist healthy? How much is it affecting him, if it is at all?

JOE MADDON:
He's fine. He's fine. A couple days ago, he hit two home runs in one game and looked pretty good. I just think for right now, he just expanded his own strike zone a bit. He's gotten out of his game plan a bit. It happens. It happens to everybody. So I talked to him a little bit today. I'm just trying to get him to go up there and just pretty much just do what he's done all year, and that's use a little bit more selectivity, looking for his pitches, et cetera, et cetera. It happens. The first game against the White Sox, he hit the two home runs; he looked very good. And I've seen him do this before; whereas he may have had a couple bad games in a row, and all of a sudden, heads up.
So he's got it in him. They got him yesterday. Look forward to him getting them today.

Q: I was wondering if you had any reaction to David Ortiz's comments after the game last night. He talked about seeing different looks on the faces of some players that maybe he didn't see during the regular season. I wonder if you saw those and what you thought about them.

JOE MADDON:
I agree, and I did see it. That's why I thought it primarily manifested itself in the pitches that we swung at. However, they had kind of the same look themselves. It was a very close game. It was 2-0. I think both teams played a relatively good game. Neither team played well on offense. That happens sometimes.
Both starting pitchers were fantastic. That was our first foray into that situation yesterday, and I'd like to believe we're going to come out and be more typical today. But I can't disagree with him.

Q: Kind of on what Jack just asked, your guys swung at a couple times, swung 3-0 and 2-0. Is that something you need to do in this series, be aggressive, or just a case of the situation dictated it?

JOE MADDON:
It's something we've done all year. 2-0 is a nice pitch to hit normally. 3-0 yesterday with Carlos, I was just taking everything into consideration and felt pretty good about it, just topspin the ball a bit. You look at who's on deck, who's going to pitch. The fact that Papelbon is there to get four outs and not three, all those things matter. You know Carlos is going to see fastball, and you trust him right there. I trust he's going to put a good swing on a good pitch and if he didn't topspin it, it might have hit the back wall. Based on the fact it's this time of the year, I want us to continue to play aggressively. That's what's got us here in the first place.

Q: You just spoke earlier how when you played Boston earlier this year, you lost the first games of the series and came back to win --

JOE MADDON:
During the last month.

Q: Did those series have a playoff mentality, or are you looking at this as sort of, hey, it's not the end of the world; we lost one game. How does that translate?

JOE MADDON:
Well, those guys are really intense. I don't know if you saw them in person or not, but the games both here and in Boston were really intensely-played games. I thought they were fabulous, and they did have a playoff quality to them, but they never are until you actually are in the playoffs. I just thought overall that we reacted well after we had lost the first games of those series. The second part of your question again was?

Q: Well, I was just curious as to -- I think you answered it, whether or not those games had a playoff feel or these games have less of a --

JOE MADDON:
I see. Again, you're talking about it was one loss. You've still got to win four games to win this series, and that's the point. I talked about it coming into this. You really have to remain with the one-game-at-a-time attitude, right now, one pitch, one inning, et cetera. We lost yesterday. We've been there before. They still have to win three more games. We've got to win four. Just move it along, go out there and play our game, let it rip and see what happens.

Q: Up until fairly recently, you come into here for Boston, there would be as many Red Sox fans as Rays fans here. That's changed recently. How much does that register with you? How significant is the change in atmosphere, if at all?

JOE MADDON:
It's pro-Ray. Over the last couple years, you come into this building, we're playing the Sox or the Yankees, or a lot of other teams actually, even the White Sox, you get this big pro-contingency from the other side.
When you're in your own ballpark that's a little bit disconcerting and it's kind of disappointing. But all along we've known that it's incumbent upon us to win to create the tipping point within this building, and I think we've done that.
You look at the record this year when it was 30,000-plus people; that was our 33rd loss this year under those circumstances. The fans make a huge difference for us, and we've been appealing to them all season in that regard. Once again, we've got to win first, and we knew that.

So now we're getting to the point now and into next season, it's one of those situations you want to win to build upon, and you have to nurture it and treat it with respect. And I use that phrase a lot, but I believe it. We got them here; now we want to keep them here.

Q: It'll be a little cooler in Boston than it was in Chicago. How do you think your guys will respond to that, or is that the least of your concerns going to Fenway?

JOE MADDON:
I'm not really there yet mentally. We'll see how cold. It could be really cold. That's not good. And if it's mildly cold, with all the gear that you are provided for, hopefully we'll be fine. I haven't even thought about it. I know on the sidelines I get cold easily. I grew up in Pennsylvania. I remember minus-46 with the wind chill, and I freeze now in 40-degree weather. We'll just play that one moment at a time and see how it all turns out. I think our guys at this time of the year, I'd like to believe they're not going to be impacted so much by that.

Q: How difficult is it to make sure your guys stay kind of loose and not get tight in this situation?

JOE MADDON:
How difficult? I mean, I don't know that it's easy or difficult. I just want them to be the same. Sometimes you take for granted that you believe people will be. But we're going through this uncharted territory right now, and I just keep preaching the same thing.

Part of it is, like I said, to not bring it to their attention. I think once you bring it to their attention then you're going to force the thought. For instance, I did talk to Longo today primarily because I want him to organize his strike zone again more than thinking. But I have those private conversations with different players at different times, as opposed to group settings. So for right now I didn't really want to get the group together and give them the old Knute Rockne thing. I don't think it's necessary.

Like I said, it's a baseball season. The vibe within a baseball clubhouse is totally different than football. I've been in clubhouses through college and I know what that feels like. It's an entirely different feeling. We just want to get ready and go out there and play another good ballgame.

Q: Carlos Peņa very graciously credits the speed of the top of the lineup for a lot of what he's done this year. Conversely, what's he done to make that speed work for you guys?

JOE MADDON:
When he's up there -- setting the table obviously is really important. I didn't want to mess with the one two aspect of the lineup even though Carl came back because I thought Akinori and B.J., even though B.J.'s batting average wasn't very good, you look at his on base percentage and he's swinging the bat really good, but they feed into three and four.

But furthermore, particularly B.J. because Akinori is not the base-stealing threat necessarily that B.J. is, but you have the opposition thing of two things: Do I need to throw a fastball to keep B.J. from running or throw a breaking ball and disregard B.J. running. I think it feeds into both players from that perspective.

As a base runner you have to get a feel for when they're going to throw a breaking ball. There's different things you can look at, trying to peek it, watching the catcher's throws, et cetera, and it's your best guess. I think they feed into one another as to what they can do, whether it's stealing a base or hitting a ball in the gap or over the wall.

Q: With the inconsistency Scott has shown, how patient are you going to be with him tonight, depending on what kind of a start he gets or doesn't get?

JOE MADDON:
It's always a feel thing. The other day you saw it. He had a tough first inning, but then he settled in and threw a lot of strikes after that.
My best answer is I just have to see what it looks like and what I'm thinking or feeling at that particular moment, how the game seems to be going.

Again, he's shown that where he's had -- you all know that. It's no big secret; he's had some problems in the first inning. But it seems to be in the first or second inning on the consistent basis, and the other teams wouldn't score a lot of runs. It's just a feel thing based upon what you're saying, and I do think he's going to settle down or not based on how he's commanding his fastball.

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