Red Sox manager Terry Francona had his weekly chat with WEEI's "Dale and Holley Show" this afternoon. Naturally, the brunt of the conversation concerned the struggles of David Ortiz and how Francona is handling them. Here are some of his comments:
Francona: "I talked to David after the fiasco in Anaheim and he was understandably down and we talked about us -- and again, it's easy for me to talk to David and I hope for him to talk to me because we've been together for a long time and I think there's some trust there -- and it was obvious he needed some time off, and probably not just a game. And the thing that I was worried about was that I was a little slow pulling the trigger, that if I had gotten him out of there a little earlier it might have helped. But we were facing some righties in Anaheim, I thought some pretty good matchups [for Ortiz] and I thought that might get him out of it, get him hot, a good place to hit. So we got to Seattle and I knew he wasn't going to play. I didn't necessarily make it known right away that he wouldn't play the whole series, but I didn't think I needed to, because you don't really want to give someone the competitive advantage. Saying that, it kind of went the way I thought it would. You know, the first day, it kind of looked like he hadn't slept a whole lot. His eyes were puffy . . . The second day, he was in the cage hitting all day, which was good, the third day, the same thing. In the ninth inning [that night], he came out and said, 'Hey, I'm ready,' which was what I'd been wanting to hear. Had we gotten to the next inning, we were going to have him hit for Rocco [Baldelli]. Unfortunately, we didn't get there."
On whether the break helped him:
Francona: "Yeah, I do . . . The timing maybe isn't perfect [Ortiz faced lefthander Brian Tallet last night and will face another lefty, Brett Cecil, tonight]. You give a guy a day off or two or three days off, you'd love to press a button and have him go 4 for 4. That's not necessarily going to happen, and it may not happen tonight. But I do think the time off was good for him."
On the factors Francona considers before moving a player in the batting order:
Francona: "Oh boy, there's probably . . . well, not a million things, but a lot of things. First and foremost is how can we be the best team. And I don't just mean be the best team tonight, but be the best team when this is all said and done. We [will] need David desperately before this is all said and done. I think as a manager you can really make mistakes by doing thing too quickly. Do I think I have all the answers? No . . . but until I know something is going to help, I want to give the players the benefit of the doubt, and again, this is a guy who has been one the best in baseball. He's going to get hot. How hot? Well, let's find out. And when it does happen, I don't want him hitting eighth. Again, we set this up [the lineup] for a reason, and we want to see this through. If it gets to the point where we have to make a change, I will certainly do that. And I've told David, David and I have had this talk, and that's not a problem. I'm probably the one hanging on to this, I want this to work where it is."
On what the downside would be to switching Ortiz and No. 6 hitter J.D. Drew in the batting order:
Francona: "Well, part of it is, hitting David sixth . . . what we need him to do is get hot. And you know how strongly David has felt about having protection in the middle of the order. If he chasing balls out of the zone in three-hole, how do you think it will be in the six-hole? J.D.'s been a guy who will take his walks -- that's why we've hit J.D. in the leadoff spot a number of times, because we value his on-base percentage. So there's a lot of things to think about. We get [Kevin Youkilis] back tonight. That's good. If we lengthen out that lineup, we have more opportunities to score. And the one thing I don't want David to do -- or any of our players -- is to look over their shoulder. I want them to feel like they're fearless. Again, I understand my responsibility, but I don't want them to feel like they're walking the gang plank either, [to feel like they're going to get] two at-bats before they're demoted, I want them to feel like they're fearless. We walk a line there, but I've been pretty honest with David, and he knows that, and I think he knows how we feel about this."
On why Francona believes Ortiz will get hot:
Francona: "Because players do. Even not-so-great players get hot. And David's been an elite player . . . he's not going to go all season hitting .207 with no home runs. When he gets hot, where's it take him? Well, let's find out. I want to live through that before we get too crazy here."
On the possibility that Ortiz has lost it:
Francona: "No, I don't feel that way. You can go back and go a long way, because I've done some research, and look at Yaz. He had some injuries, and he went, what, 56 games one year. It was a pretty good dry spell, and he had what, 10 years in the major leagues and everyone thought he was done. I mean, everyone thought [Dustin] Pedroia was done before he got started. I understand, I see what I'm seeing too, and it's not been real pretty all the time. But if I react too quickly, it's not in the best interests of our team."