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Francona's take

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  October 22, 2008 12:34 PM

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On Josh Beckett's performance in Game 6:

"I don't know if I can [put it into perspective]. He was beat up probably in a lot of different ways. He was coming back from a lot of timeouts this year -- the shoulder, the oblique, it started at the beginning of the season with his back. There were a lot of interruptions. And he was really beat up. Everybody knew what he was featuring out on the mound. But there's such a belief [in Beckett]. If I got defensive a little bit on Game 2, it was just because of who it was. When we scored those runs [to take the lead in the fifth inning], I fully expected him to go out and figure out a way to get them out. And maybe sometimes my belief in these guys is too much. But I'm not sure I really want to apologize for that."

On the tired state of the pitching staff at the end of the series:

"To get to where we wanted to go was tough, and I thought it was tough on Tampa, too. I mean, there's no way to describe the way that kid [David Price] bailed them out in the last game. They were obviously a little hesitant to go to [Grant] Balfour. and [Dan[ Wheeler and the lefty [J.P. Howell], they had asked a lot of them, and it was starting to show. Same thing happened to us. We dipped into our bullpen a lot. [Hideki] Okajima and [Justin] Masterson were doing a phenomenal job."

On the comeback from a late seven-run deficit in Game 5:

"I don't know how to describe that. We were going quietly, and then, bam. We have a rare ability to do things like that. I don't know if I've ever seen a place like Boston or like the Red Sox where you have Fenway Park and the zaniness of that crowd and the talent of those player to pull off something like that."

On the struggles of David Ortiz and Jason Varitek:

"Well, I think it's been chronicled what David's gone through this year [in terms of injuries]. He missed probably 45 days with the wrist injury. He came back and I think handled things like it was expected. Maybe it wasn't his best year, but he came back and was a huge presence in the middle of our order, and only missed a couple of games when he felt like he needed time off. So I think we'll be okay there. David was actually in [Fenway] today working out, which was not a surprise. He'll be ready and the time off will do him a world of good. You know, Tek, it was tough for him a lot this year, especially lefthanded. It was difficult. He means so much to us, and offensively there were a lot of difficulties this year . . . and again, I felt we were better off with him catching than a lot of other teams in the league, but it was tough. We actually moved him to the ninth spot in the order, we ended up pinch hitting for him in the playoffs, it was tough sometimes . . . [Telling him we were pinch hitting for him] wasn't really something I enjoyed. I don't know if there's a player in that locker room that I respect more than Tek, and he deserves that. At the same time, when I have to have a discussion with a player, rather than go through the media, I called him in to talk about it, and we actually did it a couple of times. It's tough. You get to where you rely on people, and what I didn't want him doing was looking over his shoulder, because I didn't think that would help us win. So you're kind of fighting a double-edged sword there."

On how much the Sox missed the injured Mike Lowell in the ALCS:

"[That probably hurt us in terms of flexibility] more. I mean, Youkilis did a phenomenal job at third, and I thought [Mark] Kotsay did a great job [at first], and he swung the bat better than his stats will show in the playoffs. But again, our bench wasn't what it could have been in Lowell was here. But you know, that's the way the game goes. You play to the end, and if you're good enough, you're good enough. We were good enough to beat the Angels. We weren't good enough to beat Tampa."

On whether David Ortiz's skills have begun to decline:

"There's a normal progression as guys age, and David certainly set the bar high a couple of years ago, but I do think that with a renewed offseason program and some general health in his wrist, he can be a huge presence in the middle of our order. He still was this year,. even when things weren't going perfect . . . You saw it in Game 5. You make a mistake, and with one swing, he can get you right back into the game with one swing. He has that ability . . . It's going to be important for his offseason program to be extensive. He'll do that."

On whether Justin Masterson's immediate future is as a starter or a reliever:

"He can probably do whatever the organization needs. I think there are differing opinions. I probably lean more towards keeping his impact in the bullpen. I think if you talk to John Farrell, he thinks he can go either way and impact the team. I think when you talk to the front office, they'd say, 'What pitching is available?' [and that may determine how] he can impact the team. I think the good news is, wherever we pitch him, he's probably going to get outs."

On Jon Lester's increased workload this season:

"That's certainly something we need to be cognizant of because of all the struggles he went through physically last year, and then he was so healthy this year and so good that his innings jumped up significantly. We need to be aware of that. Saying that, I do think he's one guy who can handle it. He stays in his delivery, he's strong, he has no arm problems . . . We're excited about his future, but his innings did jump, so we need to be aware of it."

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