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Francona urges patience with Ortiz situation

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  August 5, 2009 04:52 PM

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Red Sox manager Terry Francona, speaking with Michael Holley and guest co-host Tom Caron on this afternoon's "Dale and Holley Show" on WEEI, expressed frustration regarding the demand for information about the circumstances surrounding David Ortiz's failed test for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003.

Ortiz has said he is waiting for further information about what caused him to test positive, and he has not spoken publicly about the subject since the story broke last Thursday. Francona urged patience and said he has a hard time dealing with those who have rushed to judgment.

"Thereís a lot of things out there that nobody knows," Francona said. "Thereís not a lack of opinions, but thereís a lack of informative opinions. What we need to do is to be patient and let the process . . . [we need to] go about it properly. Itís not easy to do, but itís the only way to do it.

"Itís tough . . . Nobody knows [why Ortiz failed the test]. I donít know. But Iím certainly not going to go out there and say something that I donít know. There certainly need to be answers. I think David is very adamant that he wants answers. And when we get those answers, weíll deal with them."

When asked if he was surprised that Ortiz still hasn't spoken or received the information he says he needs, Francona bristled:

"What do you want him to say?" Francona replied. "We were very honest. We need to let this process play out. There are things that Iím sure are happening that are way over my head, that Major League Baseball, the union, lawyers are taking care of. David said when he has answers, heíll address it. We donít have answers. I donít know how much more explicit I can be. Thatís where weíre at."

Francona said he feels it is "reprehensible" that names of the 104 players who tested positive in 2003 are being leaked, noting that the leaks are illegal. He didn't respond directly to question about whether all 104 names should be disclosed, but he did indicate he feels like the MLB is headed in the right direction with its testing program

"However many people tested positive, Iím not coming to their defense," he said. "But it was done for a reason. It was probably done too late. But it did get done, and whatís in place now is good . . . maybe not perfect, but good. If weíre guilty of anything, itís probably acting a little bit late as an industry, which weíre all responsible for.

"But for whatís happening now with these leaks, youíre talking about lawyers that are knowingly betraying an oath and a trust. I think thatís reprehensible. Iím not coming to the defense of someone who has done performance-enhancing drugs, but what theyíre doing is reprehensible.Ē

Francona added that Ortiz has been his usual outgoing self during the ordeal.

ďI think heís okay. That makes me feel better. He seems okay," Francona said. "Weíre in a business thatís emotional anyway. You lose the game last night, itís a tough loss, you feel like you lost a fight with your pillow. Itís part of what makes our game special.

"I think heís okay. He knows he has a lot of people who care about him.Ē

During the interview, Francona also explained in detail his thought-process in pitching to Rays star Evan Longoria in the 13th inning last night. Longoria hit a two-run homer off Takashi Saito to give Tampa Bay a 4-2 win.

"In my opinion, we were running on fumes," Francona said. "To ask a guy like Saito, who was going to be up north of 40 pitches, to walk the bases loaded, thereís absolutely no wiggle room to make a pitch. I understand Joe Dillon [who would have been the batter had Francona chosen to walk Longoria and Ben Zobrist with two outs] didnít have a lot of at-bats. He was 5 for 10 off of righthanders coming into the game, in very limited at-bats. I think youíre putting somebody in an unfair position. I respect how good Longoria is. I respect how good the guy behind him is, too -- Zobrist, the way heís swinging the bat. I thought our best opportunity was to allow Saito, with Tek back there, to act almost like itís an 0-2 count. Because we have the open bases, we have the ability to expand the strike zone. We didnít do that. Thatís part of the game. Thatís why they won."

Francona said there was some concern as to how many pitches Saito had left.

"He is a guy weíve tried to protect more than anyone on this staff," Francona said of the 39-year-old righthander. "He pitched two innings on Sunday. So youíre asking a guy to come in and execute pitches when weíve pushed him harder over the last three days than at any point in the year. My opinion is, letís give him a chance to expand the zone. If you fall behind, you can always walk him.

"But letís give Longoria a chance to get himself out. He had done that a couple of times earlier in the game. He also hit another home run. The safe thing is for a manager to walk people and go to Joe Dillon. I didnít think that put the team in the best position to win. It didnít work.Ē

One thing that Francona believes will work is the split in playing time behind the plate with Jason Varitek and newcomer Victor Martinez. Francona explained some of the factors that will be considered when he decides who will catch on a particular night.

ďWhoís pitching for us, whoís pitching for them, rest, production, health. Thereís a number of things taken into consideration," Francona said. ". . .Weíll catch Victor tomorrow [because Varitek is catching tonight and the Sox will have an early-morning arrival in New York]. Itís [John] Smoltz, who hasnít been here for years and has that relationship with Tek etched in stone. Even though Victorís new, Smoltzy is relatively new too. Thereís a level of cooperation that needs to go on here right now, which I think our guys are doing a great job of. Ultimately what weíre tying to do is win, and guys are sacrificing a little bit of their personal stuff for the good of the team. I think itís working out really well.

ďThereís probably some comfort level with guys who Tek has caught here, and caught very well with success," he added. "Thereís a lot of things that go into it. We try to use good judgment. We try to look ahead and have somewhat of an idea, and when things crop up, youíre prepared to make a change and have some balance in your lineup.Ē

Francona also noted that Daisuke Matsuzaka, who is working on conditioning and strengthening his shoulder in Ft. Myers, is progressing steadily. More important, he seems to be on the same page with Francona and the Sox staff.

ďWe had a pretty good conversation on the phone the other day, but like he said, we need to have a face-to-face," Francona said. "We had a tough week. It was a good meeting, a real productive meeting. I stressed that we all make mistakes. Itís how you go from there thatís important. He understands that and wants to, and I think heís actually in a good place.

"He looks terrific . . . Heís off the mound again in about a week. I know thatís a little bit of a slow progression, but I think we made some huge strides. The one thing weíve done is we communicated, and we forced ourselves to communicate. It doesnít mean itís always going to be all fuzzy and hugs and stuff like that, but weíve had some good honest communication, and thatís important. I think this will be better going forward.Ē

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