Francona urges patience with Ortiz situation

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.

“There’s a lot of things out there that nobody knows,” Francona said. “There’s not a lack of opinions, but there’s 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. It’s not easy to do, but it’s the only way to do it.

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“It’s tough . . . Nobody knows [why Ortiz failed the test]. I don’t know. But I’m certainly not going to go out there and say something that I don’t know. There certainly need to be answers. I think David is very adamant that he wants answers. And when we get those answers, we’ll 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 I’m 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, he’ll address it. We don’t have answers. I don’t know how much more explicit I can be. That’s where we’re 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

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“However many people tested positive, I’m 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 what’s in place now is good . . . maybe not perfect, but good. If we’re guilty of anything, it’s probably acting a little bit late as an industry, which we’re all responsible for.

“But for what’s happening now with these leaks, you’re talking about lawyers that are knowingly betraying an oath and a trust. I think that’s reprehensible. I’m not coming to the defense of someone who has done performance-enhancing drugs, but what they’re doing is reprehensible.”

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

“I think he’s okay. That makes me feel better. He seems okay,” Francona said. “We’re in a business that’s emotional anyway. You lose the game last night, it’s a tough loss, you feel like you lost a fight with your pillow. It’s part of what makes our game special.

“I think he’s okay. He knows he has a lot of people who care about him.”

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, there’s 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] didn’t 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 you’re 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 he’s swinging the bat. I thought our best opportunity was to allow Saito, with Tek back there, to act almost like it’s an 0-2 count. Because we have the open bases, we have the ability to expand the strike zone. We didn’t do that. That’s part of the game. That’s why they won.”

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

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

“But let’s 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 didn’t think that put the team in the best position to win. It didn’t work.”

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.

“Who’s pitching for us, who’s pitching for them, rest, production, health. There’s a number of things taken into consideration,” Francona said. “. . .We’ll catch Victor tomorrow [because Varitek is catching tonight and the Sox will have an early-morning arrival in New York]. It’s [John] Smoltz, who hasn’t been here for years and has that relationship with Tek etched in stone. Even though Victor’s new, Smoltzy is relatively new too. There’s 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 we’re tying to do is win, and guys are sacrificing a little bit of their personal stuff for the good of the team. I think it’s working out really well.

“There’s probably some comfort level with guys who Tek has caught here, and caught very well with success,” he added. “There’s 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, you’re prepared to make a change and have some balance in your lineup.”

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.

“We 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. It’s how you go from there that’s important. He understands that and wants to, and I think he’s actually in a good place.

“He looks terrific . . . He’s off the mound again in about a week. I know that’s a little bit of a slow progression, but I think we made some huge strides. The one thing we’ve done is we communicated, and we forced ourselves to communicate. It doesn’t mean it’s always going to be all fuzzy and hugs and stuff like that, but we’ve had some good honest communication, and that’s important. I think this will be better going forward.”