Red Sox manager Terry Francona announced today something he has known since May: He will undergo back surgery this offseason, most likely in the coming weeks. He’s going to see a doctor today to determine when he will have the operation and precisely what it will be.
This season was a physically draining one for Francona, with a trip to Japan and the Manny Ramirez saga piled on to the usual viper pit that is managing the Sox. He’s looking forward to taking care of that, starting the evaluation process, and taking in some of the World Series. Maybe. “I don’t know,” he said, cracking a thin smile. “If ‘Prison Break’ isn’t on.”
The second most interesting thing that came out of Francona’s season wrapup news conference was probably the fact that if the Red Sox had entered the ninth inning of Game 7 leading, Jonathan Papelbon may not have pitched. Papelbon was throwing in the 91-92 m.p.h. range in Game 6, about 3-4 below his standard. The two innings he threw in Game 5 – the seventh and eighth – drained him more than people assumed, Francona said.
Francona said he never would put a player in an “unfair” position, even in a game of such magnitude. Even as the late innings approached, he was unsure if he would have been able to call on Papelbon. As it turned out, no one pitched the ninth.
Also, while we're here, a few leftovers from yesterday:
-The Red Sox will open talks with several players about long-term contract extensions, general manager Theo Epstein said. He declined to mention any specifics, but Jason Bay and Jon Lester are two logical possibilities. Bay is a free agent after 2009; Lester is not arbitration eligible.
-While Jason Varitek is the most urgent free agent concern, the Sox must also decide on Alex Cora, Sean Casey, and Mark Kotsay. Both Cora and Casey expressed a desire to return and an understanding that their status remains, for now, uncertain.
“I really enjoy it here,” Cora said. “Just coming to work here has been a pleasure. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. For me personally, I don’t know what the future holds. Just seeing a few guys that are leaving, it’s just hard. You might be here, you might not. You don’t know. Hopefully we can come back.”
Said Casey: “I don’t know. I’d love to stay in Boston. But I’m going to look at the offseason, see what’s going on, and take a deep breath here and get back with my family. But, jeez, this is one of the funnest years of my career.”
It seems likely Kotsay will end up elsewhere. He will be a free agent for the first time, and he has indicated his desire to occupy an everyday role, something not likely to happen with the Sox. Shortly after he was traded to Boston from Atlanta in late August, Kotsay was asked if joining the Sox was a career-altering decision.
“I hope not,” Kotsay said. “This decision was to play on a winning club the last month of the season, not to change my role as a player. There’s going to be opportunities for me to play center field every day on a club next year.”