Francona: ‘I don’t see it happening’

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Red Sox manager Terry Francona, appearing with Charlie Steiner and myself on XM Radio moments ago, said he doesn’t believe Manny Ramirez will be traded.

“I don’t see it happening,” Francona said when asked about the likelihood of a deal. “Everyone hears the whispers. I don’t think it’s any big secret that there are times of the year that he feels Boston is closing in on him.

“But he still shows up to play. You put that bat behind David [Ortiz], that’s when we’re rolling. That’s the biggest part of the devastation of our lineup. Rather than doing something different, you have to swallow, turn your head, take a deep breath. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good. We all have warts, we’re not perfect.”

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That’s a definitive statement as to where the Manny talks stand after two days here in the winter meetings. The Dodgers haven’t talked to the Sox since yesterday, and one baseball official whose team has been involved in Manny talks dismissed all the talk about three-way deals involving the Nationals with the (choose one) Angels, Mariners, or Giants.

“The Nationals are putting that out,” the official said.

Remember, as I keep repeating, these situations are very fluid, but if a deal were close, Francona almost certainly would have danced around the question instead of predicting Manny will be back. In his media session just before going on the radio, he also was very careful not to criticize Ramirez, and said he did not share the concern Curt Schilling expressed on the radio last week that the Sox thought Manny might lay down (that’s a paraphrase of Schilling’s quotes) if he’s back next season.

Hey, do I think he still could be traded? Sure, if a team buckles and decides to give the Sox all they’re asking for. But it seems like the probabilities have shifted toward Manny staying.

More from Francona in today’s media interview:

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On Jon Lester’s health:

“Jon Lester received great news. He is going to have one more treatment and then he’s done. So from where I sit, the meetings are already a success. And he told me I could speak to the media. He did request that he knows that he needs to talk to you guys. He would like to do it as a group once and then if, you know, and I know just about everybody’s been pretty good about respecting his privacy. If we could continue that for a while, I know he and his folks would really appreciate it as well as I would.”

On the possibility of Manny getting traded:

“I just don’t feel comfortable talking about a guy that could get traded. That could be anybody on our team. You know, if there’s a time when somebody on our ballclub gets traded, anybody, I’m sure I’ll sit and answer all the questions, and be happy to, but until something like that ever happened, I just don’t think it is a very good thing for me to do. Not very respectful to the player. I wouldn’t want to have a manager sit and talk about trading me if I was on the team. That doesn’t seem like it make a lot of sense…

“You know, Manny doesn’t run to first every time as hard as he should. Okay? I don’t want to bench him. I’d rather just talk to him and say, “Manny, next time let’s pick it up a little bit,” because we want his bat in that lineup.

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“This isn’t the NFL where guys go game by game. We are signing guys to long term deals and you want to get the most out of them, so that’s what we try to do…

“Manny’s got great production. I mean, I think it was pretty obvious when we didn’t have him on the field, what, the last six weeks, we weren’t close to being the same team. See, I also see a different side of Manny, too. I mean, again, I see some of the things you’re I understand the questions. But I also see the guy that shows up at 10 in the morning and is lifting every day, you know. So there’s a side of him that I do get to see that probably other people don’t…

“You know, if Manny sneezes, you know, it’s a big deal. I understand. There’s a lot of passion in Boston and people care and, you know, he’s got his quirks, and again, my position is not to point out those quirks, it’s to try to get the best team that we can. So I’m gonna do the best way I know how and for starters, it certainly isn’t leaving a guy out and hanging him to dry in front of the media. That wouldn’t be a real good start, so, I won’t do that. If I have something to say to any player, I’ll tell them how I feel and then we move on.”

On Matsuzaka:

“I’ve actually watched video — we went through a stretch, several, where we were watching a lot of video on a lot of guys and I don’t want to get too deep into this, just because of the — I want to let Theo do his thing with Scott and get it done.

“But he’s got a lot of pitches that he commands: He’s got velocity on the fastball, he’s got two breaking balls, he can elevate the fastball, but I think the thing that I’ve noticed that I like the best is the ability to throw a changeup any time it counts, that it is not every day you go out there and you feel your best. When you have a changeup like that, Keith Foulke was a great example, you know, when he was good, he was kind of the equalizer and he’s got that one, it is kind of an old fashioned screwball which you don’t see too much anymore. That pitch, to me, is legitimate. All of his pitches are legitimate but that is a pitch that makes you a big winner and from what everybody talks about, the bigger the situation, the more he responds, the more he likes to pitch.”

On Dustin Pedroia playing second base:

“I think we are pretty much — you know, again, things change but I don’t think any of us are afraid to make a commitment to him playing second. I think having Cora there to help him would be terrific. I think not having to hit him leadoff, having the ability to maybe have a team where you can hit him down in the order would help. He is going to have to make some adjustments. There’s a lot of things about this kid that we really like and I don’t think any of us have a problem giving him a chance to play. We just have to be realistic and be patient because whatever number he ends up being, career wise, you may not see that in April or May. So we have to be smart enough to know that.”

On Wily Mo Pena’s playing time:

“Some of that’s going to depend on how our ballclub is shaped. That’s going to be a really interesting name. The best way for us to find out how good Wily Mo can be is to get 550 at bats. Finding out how to do that is another story. I personally don’t think Wily Mo, is a guy that you just play once or twice a week and expect him to hit. So, you know, we may line up next year and he may be the fourth knocker coming out. I don’t know. Saying that if that is the case, I also think we’re crazy if we don’t think he is going to get at bats.”

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