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Pregame notes from Fenway Park

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff  May 19, 2011 05:38 PM

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With the Chicago Cubs set to make their first visit to Fenway Park in 93 years, dating back to Game 6 of the 1918 World Series, naturally Terry Francona would be asked about the historic matchup between the Cubs and Red Sox. However, with a game still to be played against the Detroit Tigers and righthander Justin Verlander, Francona naturally was reluctant to look ahead.

"I'm not good at that,'' Francona said. "It's hard for me to talk about a series coming up because we got Detroit tonight.''

But Francona quickly relented, though, telling a reporter, "Go ahead, what do you want?''

Asked about the historical significance of the game, Francona said, ``I think this is a great series for the fans. You're right, there is some history there, I understand that. I think it's going to be a big ticket. I think from where we look at it, it's an opportunity to win a game. We got a team coming in that we'd like to beat. That's why I'm hesitant to talk about a team that's coming in, because right now the Tigers are in our sights and we got our hands full tonight and we don't want to ever overlook that.''

Asked to recall his time with the Cubs in 1986, Francona chuckled.

"It wasn't very good,'' he said. "I always seemed to hit when it was a quarter to six, about the eighth inning, and there were always shadows. I lived north of the city, so I fought the traffic in and fought the traffic home, and didn't get very many hits.

"It's a cool ballpark, though,'' Francona said of venerable Wrigley Field. "I think back then it seemed like the worse we played, the more lovable the Cubs [became]. I'm not sure that feeling is still quite there as much, because I think they're looking to win. You had Harry Caray there, and that was enough. People enjoyed going to games and sitting in the bleachers and that was enough. I don't know if it is anymore.''

Asked about his thoughts on Fenway and Wrigley, Francona admitted, "I always liked Fenway a little bit better. The dugouts at Wrigley make it really hard to watch a game. You're really stuck in there. I love Wrigley, because I think all the new ballparks are trying to get the feeling of Fenway and Wrigley, with just the new amenities, but I've always liked Fenway better.''

In other pregame topics Francona discussed:

  • On the life of Jonathan Papelbon's fastball being reminiscent of his 2007-08 velocity: "I don't think I disagree with that. I guess I look more at his command. I thought there were times last year when he was throwing hard but he didn't quite know where it was going and he had to reel it back in. I think it's got good finish on it, but I think his location has been really good. Pap competes about as good as anybody. The bigger the moment, Pap has a pretty good way about slowing things down. I know he sort of beats to his own tune, but when the game's on the line, it's not going to speed up on him."
  • On whether he's encouraged by the offense he's beginning to see from catchers Jason Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamacchia: "Yeah, they're both doing a little bit better. Again, neither one of them need to hit third [as former catcher Victor Martinez did a year ago for the Red Sox]. I mean what Victor did, that's pretty special. You don't see too many teams do that. But they're both working hard and whatever they give us is certainly welcomed. Two nights before, Tek gave us some big hits [in a 2-for-4, 2 RBI performance in an 8-7 victory over the Orioles Monday]. Last night, Salty was really the only big hit, but it helped to win the game. So, yeah, we'll take offense anywhere we can get it."

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