David Ortiz offered some pregame advice for Mark Teixeira.
"Wear headphones," Ortiz said, his gap-toothed grin widening.
Mark Teixeira will make his 2009 debut at Fenway Park, which could have been his home this winter. Among other things, Teixeira said this afternoon that Terry Francona was one of the managers he respected most. Francona was a Texas Rangers bench coach in 2002 and met Teixeira, then a Double-A level player in the Rangers organization.
"He was a young kid," Francona said. "He was in major league camp, as a third baseman. Good kid. You could tell at an early age that he was real professional. You could tell him what to do, and he tried to do it. Heís always been a good kid. Because guys play for different teams, it doesnít all of a sudden mean you dislike their personality or you lose respect because they got more money or made a different decision. Thatís part of the game."
Parting with veterans is also part of the game, and it seemed the Sox might have to do that with Mike Lowell this offseason, when their pursuit of Teixeira reached its height. Lowell had given the Red Sox three solid seasons, including a 2007 World Series MVP performance. After his offseason surgery, the fact that the Sox wanted to cast him off in favor of Teixeira irked Lowell.
When the Sox appeared to near a deal for Teixeira, Terry Francona said he thought more about Lowell than about the free agent first baseman.
"That was a really hard one for me," Francona said. "I know whatís going on. But at the same time, and I was trying to be careful about this and I was probably walking a fine line because we had Mikey Lowell here. All the things we talked about about loyalty and this and that, I donít ever want to lie to a player. But at the same time, I donít want him to think that I donít care about him, either.
"I know Mikey felt it, and I understand it. Itís human nature. Thatís where more my feelings at the time was, how do we keep this going? Because this guy had done so much for us, and then he gets injured, I think itís human nature to get your feelings a little bit bent out of shape. I understand that. More of my thoughts were with that."
So far, you'd have to say keeping Lowell has worked out. He is batting .315, second behind Kevin Youkilis, and his 16 RBIs lead the Red Sox. Lowell's streak of having an RBI ended at seven games, three short of the team record.