Managers Terry Francona and Joe Maddon, along with Game 4 starters Tim Wakefield and Andy Sonnanstine, held Q&As with the media before Game 3 of the American League Championship Series this afternoon at Fenway Park.
Click the name of an individual below to see that transcript, as provided by ASAP Sports. Or click the “full entry” link below to see all of the Q&A’s.
Q: Over the years we’ve heard all kinds of knuckleball theories about wind blowing in, wind blowing out, indoors, outdoors, 3:00 in the morning, et cetera. Is there any real absolute for you in the center of all that stuff?
Tim Wakefield: No, there’s not. The best it works is in the dome, obviously, because of the controlled atmosphere. But other than that, no, to answer your question.
Q: What’s your biggest concern about the lay-off?
Tim Wakefield: I really don’t have a concern. I’ve been working hard with John between the last time I threw, which was the last game of the season here, threw a couple sides, played a lot of flat groundwork during the ALDS and have thrown two sides since then, so I feel like I’m ready to go.
Q: How difficult has it been through the years to find a catcher who can catch your knuckleball? And how has it been working out with Cash this year?
Tim Wakefield: Obviously I was with Doug for eight years, so it was difficult finding a catcher. And when Doug was let go, Cashy stepped in and picked up right before Doug left off. He’s done a great job so far this year, and I look forward to working with him tomorrow night.
Q: Considering your success and longevity, why aren’t there more knuckleballers? And do you know of any young ones that might be coming up that might be any good?
Tim Wakefield: The difficulty in that is it’s a hard pitch to throw, obviously. Not a lot of guys can do it. A lot of guys before me have done it, Charlie Hough, the Niekro brothers, Candiotti, guys like that.
I was lucky enough when I came up to have Charlie and Tom Candiotti both in the league at the same time, so I was able to talk to them.
Since then there’s been a couple guys that have tried. Obviously we have a kid in our Minor League organization, his name is Charlie Zink, that he came out and pitched a game for us here against Texas. He’s pretty good.
R.A. Dickey converted to a knuckleball. He did a good job for Seattle this year. Hopefully you’ll see some more come through. Charlie Haeger for the White Sox. I was in the minor leagues with him, so I’ve worked with him a little bit. He’s done a great job down there. Hopefully you’ll see some more.
Like you said, to answer your question, because I throw a knuckleball, I think I’ve been able to last a long time, been able to do multiple roles for the organization, and hopefully these guys can come in and fill my shoes one day.
Q: Can you tell early in the game if your knuckleball is going to be in command or controlled, or is that something that you get a feel for later in the game?
Tim Wakefield: There’s two sides to that question. There’s been times where I’ve come out of the bullpen thinking I was going to throw a no-hitter and I’ve lasted two or three innings. So I try not to use my pre-game warm-ups as a barometer of how I’m going to pitch. I’ve learned that over the past couple years.
There’s times where obviously you don’t try for this to happen, but you lose the feel for it in the middle of an inning or something and then all of a sudden something clicked and you regain it. You’ve seen me dominate for four or five innings and then one inning I throw a couple spinners that come back at me hard, and then all of a sudden I get back in the groove. There’s no set barometer that I look at to dictate whether I’m going to have a good one or not.
Q: Whether the knuckleball is going good or bad, are you constantly changing grips, or do you keep the same grip regardless?
Tim Wakefield: No, I hold it one way. I’ve held it that way for 15 years now, and that’s one grip that I use.
The change is in my delivery, or finger pressures. Obviously my mechanics, my margin of error is very small because I have to try to throw it without any spin. If I come out of my delivery at all, the ball is going to spin out of my hand, and that’s when it gets kind of ugly out there. But Cashy and John Farrell know my mechanics very well and are able to make adjustments from pitch to pitch or from inning to inning.
Q: You were telling us I think in spring training that when you pitched the ALCS against Cleveland last year, the next morning you couldn’t lift the bedspread off you, your shoulder was hurting so much.
Tim Wakefield: Right.
Q: Did you know then that you wouldn’t be able to pitch in a World Series, if they made it that far, or did that develop over time?
Tim Wakefield: No, that developed over time, obviously. I told you guys that I was in so much pain that I couldn’t lift the covers off me after the ALDS game, and I was hoping to try to go to the trainers and get some treatment and get some massages and hopefully try to make it better by the time the World Series started, if we had made it.
And once we obviously beat Cleveland in Game 7, I still hadn’t recovered as much as I would have liked to have, and unfortunately we had to make the decision to stay off the roster the whole Series last year.
Q: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen your knuckleball do? Is there one that stands out where you just thought, I can’t believe the pitch did that?
Tim Wakefield: There isn’t one thing that stands out for me. There are some times where it makes me laugh. The hitters’ reaction, hitters’ facial expressions towards me kind of makes me laugh, but there isn’t one thing that really sticks out.
Q: If I read correctly, you were thinking about Byrd coming in in the 12th inning the other night, and if so — the question is what is the criteria to determine when someone is going to come in in a game like that, a guy that’s got to pitch until breakfast?
Terry Francona: Well, the fact that he has the ability, as you kind of said, to pitch until breakfast, and Timlin would not have that ability, nor would it be fair. So you take the guy that’s shorter depending on how the inning went. We may have tried to tried to send him back out for part of the next inning. I don’t know, depends on how much he labored to get through the inning and have the ability to get through, and then once that happened, we would have gone to Byrd, like you said, until breakfast.
Q: The question is why not Byrd, and what’s the difference between the 11th and the 12th at that time?
Terry Francona: Because we have no ability to make a change. If Byrd struggles, you can’t go to Timlin because you have basically one inning. If you have Timlin, and again, I understand if you struggle enough, the game is over. But if you struggle some and you have the ability to make a move, at least you have the ability to make a move. You can’t do it the other way.
Q: We haven’t seen the lineup yet. Is Cora in, and if so —
Terry Francona: Yes, A.C. is playing short, J.D. in right. I think that’s the only real changes from the other night.
Q: Wakefield has had tremendous success against the Rays career-wise, not quite as much this year. Is that a function of them being more patient at the plate this year?
Terry Francona: His career numbers are fantastic against them. That might be a function — there’s been some struggles this year at times. Part of that is the fact that they’re now at 97-win team as opposed to 67. Some of it is they have different players. Some of the career match-ups — Wake is always going to be a guy — you look at his match-ups, there will be some — he’s 2 for 30 and there will be somebody who’s 10 for 20. There’s always some interesting match-ups versus Wake.
Q: On your off-day, do you watch the National League series? Do you spend any energy doing that, or are you just all focused on your series right now?
Terry Francona: I watched a little bit of the game. I watched a little bit of the Patriot game. I watched a movie a little bit on TBS — not TBS, whatever. I just kind of went back and forth, and mostly slept. It’s one of those nights where you’re so tired, you fall asleep early, then you can’t sleep late. But I watched a little bit of the game, just because I like baseball.
Q: What’s the difference between this year and 2004 from a team trying to get to the top of the mountain to being on the top of the mountain that everybody else is trying to knock off?
Terry Francona: At this time of the year I don’t think there is anything difference. I think how you handle success, there’s something to that. And we discuss that every spring; okay, we were fortunate enough to win, let’s learn from that and try to be good again, because once the season starts, you’d be surprised at how very little the last year means to us. I think you can get other teams’ attention a little bit more by winning, so how you handle that is important. This time of year there’s four teams left; I don’t think it matters anymore.
Q: Jason Bay’s statistics speak for themselves. What are some of the intangibles that you have seen from him to this point, and how has that helped this club?
Terry Francona: Very good teammate, very good base runner, good outfielder, very good hitter. What he is is a really good baseball player, and we got him at a time where he was in a situation where — again, as a professional player, you’re going to always play the game towards the end. But he was excited about being in an atmosphere where every game meant so much. He was probably the perfect guy at the perfect time.
Q: Can you talk about the decision to start Cora at short today?
Terry Francona: Sure. Against some of the harder throwing right-handers, we did it against Anaheim, I guess it was Santana. Does that sound right? That’s, I think, the one night where we think A.C. gives us maybe a little bit better chance. With the bunch of lefties they have in their bullpen we can have Lowrie sitting over there, where that’s been his more successful side, maybe make them at least think about a change, or if they decide to make a change, maybe it can help us a little bit. I think the both of them combined are a pretty good player.
Q: What did you see in Kevin Cash that made you believe that he would be a guy cut out to handle Wakefield?
Terry Francona: His ability to handle Wakefield. (Laughter). I mean, that’s not — I’m being pretty serious. We saw John Flaherty retire. (Laughter). I mean, Flash came over to me that first game in Fort Myers, we were playing the Twins, and he looked like a deer in the headlights, and the next day he came and got me off the treadmill and said, I cannot imagine doing this every five days. And he retired.
We saw a very good backup catcher in Josh Bard get beat up. And Josh Bard was still a very good catcher, and it was hard to handle Wake. That’s why Mirabelli, he had an unbelievable ability to catch that ball. It’s not easy. Some days — there’s balls that are going to go to the backstop. That’s just part of the way it is. There are going to be stolen bases, there’s going to be wild pitches. There’s going to be fastballs, but the good part of that is you look up in the seventh and he usually gives you a chance to win.
Q: Many times in baseball people down-play the results of spring training, managers do, players do, but you guys had a great spring training. How important was it for you guys this year?
Andy Sonnanstine: I think it was really important. You know, we came out and set the tone with a good record and came out and really kind of bought into what Joe was selling. We were kind of chuckling about the 9 = 8, but it really turned out to be true. And as long as you have the key guys like Cliffy and Percival backing it up, we all just kind of followed.
Q: You didn’t get a chance to pitch a whole lot against the Red Sox, but you had those two big starts in September. I believe both were against Beckett, too. How much did you kind of get up for those games in terms of pitching opposite Beckett? And just how much is the tension of a low-scoring game like that where any pitch could be the difference in your game at any time, how much does that feed into your execution and just kind of feed into your mindset?
Andy Sonnanstine: Any time you go up against Beckett, he’s such a good starting pitcher, that you know it’s going to be a dog fight, and you know that runs are pretty precious. As far as building it up, that’s one of the things that I think I do well is just keeping even-keel and just go about my business and stay to my game plan and work towards my strengths.
Q: First question is how much will those September games be of benefit to you going into the environment here tomorrow?
Andy Sonnanstine: It should help me a lot. You know, build up my confidence a little bit, knowing that I can come in here and do well against the Sox here and Tropicana Field. So I know in my mind that it can be done. I think it was pretty essential for my confidence.
Q: Since you’re such a man of many words, can you describe Joe Maddon for us from your perspective?
Andy Sonnanstine: From my perspective? (Smiling) Well, he’s one of the most intelligent managers I’ve ever had. I was a little worried last year about him being so positive. It was a rough year, and he stuck with it and kept our heads up, even though it was a real rough season. He stayed the same this year. Positivity kind of ran through the clubhouse, and he’s a very infectious person. Like he wants you to do well, and he gives you confidence. You can tell when he goes out and talks to J. P. Howell that it helps him out a lot, too.
Q: How inspiring has what Rocco has gone through been for you personally and been for the team in general?
Andy Sonnanstine: It’s amazing. You know, something, an issue like that, it’s completely out of his control. I’ve had talks with him and Ruggiano in spring training when he was thinking about stepping away from the game, and that was a pretty tough time for him. You know, he did everything he could to see as many doctors as he could and try to figure this situation out.
When I saw him come out and play in Safeco, it was awesome. It was like watching a son go out and play, everything he’s been through and dealt with. It’s just amazing. It speaks a lot about his character to just get through it and persevere and get back to playing.
Q: I’m not suggesting there’s any repertoire similarity or anything, but in terms of youthful presence in the playoffs, Price’s debut as opposed to what you saw from Frankie Rodriguez six years ago.
Joe Maddon: Actually, I thought it was a little bit closer to John Lackey in a sense. Johnny although tried to pitch with us longer during the season. The difference primarily with him and Frankie, Frankie was a relief pitcher. Frankie was a relief pitcher all the way through. I remember he came up in September and we were apprehensive to put him in some games, but then when we did, we kind of liked what we saw. Then eventually he did what he did in the playoffs. But I think with David, of course, using him out the pen is one thing, but he resembles John to me more than Frankie. Frankie you could use him on a more consistent basis. He was used to that up-and-down, that kind of stuff, and with David I want to be a little bit more cautious. But again, having that kind of option is incredibly important for us.
Q: Do you think it helps having Wakefield in your division, that your hitters have seen him more than guys outside of the division?
Joe Maddon: For a long term it hurt us. He was like 17 and 2 or something like that in Tropicana Field. I don’t know. When that knuckleball is on, it doesn’t matter how often you see him, it’s very, very difficult.
We’ve had a little bit better success more recently against him, and I really don’t know why. I have so much respect for that man and how he competes and the consistency of that pitch. And furthermore, the catcher; I know Cashy is catching him, and that’s just very difficult. I don’t know the answer with this thing because when that thing is righteous and on, nobody hits it on any given day. We’ve done a little bit better against it recently.
Q: Speaking of the knuckleball, I was going to ask you, you’re a former catcher. Do you have any anecdotes about how difficult that thing is to catch?
Joe Maddon: I only did it once in the Minor Leagues in Santa Clara, with I think the guy’s game is Tracy Harris. I used my regular glove just because I didn’t want to use a big glove. It’s a little bit more difficult, you’ve got to stay back a little bit more. Obviously it’s very unpredictable. And it makes throwing out runners a lot more difficult because you have to wait so long. Even though Wakefield can be quick to the plate on a clock, from a catcher’s perspective, you’ve got to stay back for that last little moment because it can do absolutely anything.
When you’re catching it, there’s a lot more angst involved. The knuckleball pitcher understands you’re going to miss some things, so thank God that they do have some form of understanding. But it’s not a good feeling, and especially when that thing is moving, it’s very, very difficult. But I think also the advantage goes to the running game sometimes because of that.
Q: It’s looking a ways ahead a little bit, but who are you going to start pitching-wise in Game 5?
Joe Maddon: Today is Game 3, that’s — we’ve got Garza, then we’ve got Andy tomorrow, then we’re supposed to pitch Shieldsy on that game.
Q: Any issues with Dan Wheeler today? He’s free, ready to go?
Joe Maddon: I have to check in with him. He’s been out there running around, trying to flush it all out. He’ll be playing catch in a little bit. We will determine that. That’s a lot of pitches in a lot of innings for that, although he had plenty of rest coming into that. It’s something he has not done. So you always have to look at the fact that it’s unusual for him to do those kind of things. Primarily my personal history, when guys throw 30 or 40-plus pitches, you normally like to give them two days off as opposed to one. But knowing Danny, I really have to wait and see because I don’t want to make this decision well in advance of talking to him. I have a lot of respect for him as a veteran, and I know he’ll be straight up with me, so we’ll figure that out right prior to the game.
Q: Taking you back a little bit, years ago you coached for the Boulder Collegians. What is the most striking about those days? I’m from the Denver Post.
Joe Maddon: You are? Did you know Bauldie at all?
Q: No, I didn’t.
Joe Maddon: Bauldie Moschetti is the owner of that team. That’s where it all began for me. I played there in 1975, won a national championship, and then I coached for them in 1980. And on that team we had Joe Carter, Spike Owen, Mark Langston, Tony Gwynn. It was a pretty good ballclub. Bauldie Moschetti owned half of Boulder, which is difficult to do. He started with one coal truck when he was a kid. It was a tremendous experience. What I remember is I had the chance to work with those kind of players. I don’t know how many guys were drafted in the first round out of that particular team. I was a player/coach and actually got a chance to pinch-hit for Joe Carter in the NBC World Championship at Wichita that year. Jim Dietz was the manager. I had no idea I would do something like that.
But working with those guys, it really helped me a lot as a young coach. Jim gave me a lot of leeway with it. And eventually when I made it to managing in the Minor Leagues and being a scout with the Angels, it was an invaluable experience for me.
But Boulder, Colorado — and I don’t want to get too long-winded about this, but that part of amateur baseball no longer exists. And that was a tremendous program between Alaska and Kansas and Colorado, and I wish that would come back. That was really a great training ground for a lot of young players that became very good Major League Baseball players.
Q: How much of a confidence carryover do you think a win like you had in Game 2 can give you, especially coming into an atmosphere like Fenway Park for a young team?
Joe Maddon: Honestly, the confidence drives from the fact that we’re 1 and 1, and we feel much better about that as opposed to being 0 and 2. But it comes down to the pitching. Their guy tonight is very good and he has been very hot. Our guy also has got very good stuff and is very capable of equalling it or surpassing it. It just comes down to your starting pitching, and that’s where momentum lies on any given night in baseball, so we’ll just see how this game begins. We have to pitch equally well with them. And regarding momentum, I just know I’m in for a better plane flight and a better day off.
Q: Do you think that the game has slowed down for your guys with greater intensity in the playoffs, or is that maybe going to take more time?
Joe Maddon: No, I think we did well. I mentioned I agreed with Papi on the first day that maybe we didn’t have the right look, but also I said in return I thought they looked a little bit differently, as well. I thought the last game, yesterday’s game — the day before — whenever that was, everybody looked kind of normal. So I think, again, when you come here, though, for us, they’re going to really lay it out there for the opening ceremony here, whatever. Everybody on the line is going to be, I’m sure, quite expressive. So once we get beyond that moment, having played as often as we have, we’ll be able to slow the game down a lot more quickly.