Terry Francona visited with the hosts of WEEI's "Dale and Holley" show this afternoon, taking questions from the hosts as well as calls and texts from listeners. Sounding refreshed and answering with some candor, here are a number of topics the Red Sox manager addressed.
On the candidates to replace Brad "Millsy" Mills as the bench coach:
Francona: "We interviewed last week, and I don't think it's any big secret, Ron Johnson, our Triple A manager, who was very deserving of the interview. And Tom Goodwin, who has been coordinating our baserunning and our outfielders in the minor leagues. [He was] very, very impressive -- not very experienced, but very impressive. Gary DiSarcina's a guy that's certainly in the mix. Rob Leary is a name that's come up, and he needs to be in the mix. Some of that's going to depend on . . . we have [third-base coach] DeMarlo [Hale], we have Bogie [first base coach Tim Bogar], how we move guys around, we're just trying to have the best staff we can, and one decision may affect the next."
On whether it's an advantage for a potential bench coach to know the personnel already:
Francona: "Yeah, I do think that. [Johnson] actually mentioned that of the players on our 40-man roster, he's had I think 22 of them the last couple of years . . . which, sure, that's helpful. What's helpful is that we want to hire from within. I've been here long enough now . . . we need to promote from within when we can . . . and so we're certainly going to try to do that."
On whether coaching may be in Jason Varitek's future:
Francona: "Ooh, I don't think yet. I wouldn't approach him, and I don't think he would like that one. I saw Tek the other day, and I think he's in a good place. I think he's going to do a good job. I've said this a lot of times, he has the C on his jersey for a reason. Victor [Martinez] is going to catch the majority of the games. How much we don't know. I think Tek can be an unbelievable backup catcher. Because his body can't handle catching 140 games anymore, that doesn't mean that if you run him out there less than that, he can [contribute], especially from the right side. When July rolled around [last season], he had 13, 14 home runs."
On whether he expects Jason Bay to re-sign with the Sox:
Francona: "I know I'm not in the minority when I say I hope so. I don't want to make [general manager] Theo [Epstein's] job harder. That doesn't help Theo do his job. . . . You have to be patient, as fans, as the manager, you want things to happen now. You want your team in place now. But that's not going to happen. Things take time. He has earned the right to be a free agent. This is his first time, and he wants to see it through. You know we're going to be a major player. We always are. Do I hope it gets done? Yeah. I bet you Jason Bay hopes it gets done. But he's going to have other options too."
On whether he recruits free agents:
Francona: "We've actually done some of that in the past, just a little bit more under the radar. John Farrell and some guys went down to the see [John] Smoltz, and during the [Mark] Teixeira thing, it happens a lot more than people realize, we just don't necessarily publicize it."
On whether the Red Sox' priority should be adding a pitcher or a power hitter:
Francona: "Every time Theo talks to me, I always say, 'Get a pitcher.' I know we need to score runs. But when you don't pitch, you certainly make life more difficult for the whole team. When you have a well-pitched game, even if you don't hit, you go into the seventh, eighth inning, you've got a chance. When you don't pitch, the game looks sloppy. . . . When you have solid pitching, and past solid into spectacular, that's when your team really has a chance, and not only in the regular season, but that carries over in to the postseason."
On whether he's interested in signing Angels free agent John Lackey:
Francona: "Oh, boy . . I don't know if I'm allowed to say that or not. [Holley assures him that he can.] You don't even know. I'll tell you what: John Lackey is one of the best. Every year, there's a couple guys that seem like they can sway the fortunes of an organization. I think he's that type of pitcher. Now, to get that type of pitcher, you're going to have to make quite a commitment. That's something that makes our organization a little bit uneasy. It doesn't mean a guy can't come in and help you win, but if there's an injury along the way, that can set your organization back quite a bit. So there's a lot to think about besides just the year 2010. You're possibly talking about 2015. That's a lot of years."
On whether he considers Lackey an ace:
Francona: "Yeah, probably. I probably do. He's missed a little bit of time, but when he's out there, I think their team feels like they're going to win. He can match up against Beckett, Lester. He can go head-to-head with the better guys in the league and hold his own. Yeah, I would say so."
On whether he wants shortstop Alex Gonzalez to return:
Francona: "You know what Gonzi did? At a time of the year when we had a lot of moving parts at shortstop, he came in and was really a stabilizing force. When the ball was hit, you're out. And nobody more than myself . . . I appreciated a lot, because we had a lot of moving parts over there. Going forward, to have him back, from our front office's side, if they can get him back at the right price, yeah, we would enjoy that. The thing to remember with Gonzy, what he did the last six weeks of the season was really helpful. When you look at that .310 on-base percentage, for a full year, if that's what you're going to go with, you've got to recoup that somewhere else. So it's just something to think about."
On what he expects from David Ortiz in 2010:
Francona: "What David's going through is what a lot of guys go through. He's getting older, he's a big guy, and he's been injured. And when that happens, your work ethic or your workload has to increase over the offseason, or time starts catching up with you a little bit. That's just the way it is. It's not fair. Wake and I have had this conversation every year since I've been here. If you want to keep playing or pitching, you've got to work harder because you're getting older. That's just the way it is, especially with big-body guys who have been injured, they have to get after it. To David's credit, he's been in the ballpark every day since the season has been over. He looks terrific. And he's going to have to, because again, he's got big shoes to carry, and if he can't, if you have a DH who's not whacking the ball all over the ballpark, it kind of puts you in a tough spot. We're so used to David hitting those 40, 45, 50 home runs. We got used to that. If he's hitting 18, it makes us a different team."
On how much he values the RBI statistic:
Francona: "I understand your point, but I think there are some things that can be skewed. I grew up in an era where, if you hit .300, you were a good player. Well, you know what? That's not the telltale. I was the perfect example. I could hit .300. I never helped our team. I hit all singles, I never walked, I wasn't fast enough to score any runs. It was kind of cosmetic. You know, getting on base is a very important stat. It doesn't mean we have nine guys up there trying to walk. But it means that if they're seeing pitches and working counts, they're going to become more dangerous hitters. If they're on base . . . we talk all the time about keep the line moving.You have to have a good enough team to do that. If you have four or five guys who are taking their walks, and four or five guys that can't hit, that's not going to work. But if you have a balanced team, which we try to do, and you have that approach, it's going to work."