ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Managers Terry Francona and Joe Maddon held Q&A’s with the media before Game 7 of the American League Championship Series Sunday night at Tropicana Field. Follow the links below to watch video highlights, or view the full transcripts, as provided by ASAP Sports.
Francona on Lester’s Game 7 start
Maddon on playing in a Game 7
Q: I asked this to Joe just a few minutes ago. This is your job and you take it seriously, but is there a fan in you that can step back and say, this is cool, this is Game 7? Or is the job-at-hand just too important to do that?
Terry Francona: What did Joe say? (laughter)
Q: You don’t want to know what he said.
Terry Francona: I enjoy the heck out of it. I don’t think I have the ability, I hope, to stand back and look at it like a fan. But there’s a lot of things that go through you during the day. There’s some anxiety, you get nervous, you get excited. But I love it. I don’t know that you can sit and — it’s not all like giggles, but it’s thoroughly enjoyable, yeah.
Q: What do you see — how do you see your role in the clubhouse in these series where you’re facing a lot of elimination games? Do you make speeches or not say anything to guys? Is it individual? And has that changed over your time as a manager?
Terry Francona: I don’t think it really has changed a whole lot. I try to gauge where our ballclub is at all the time and be consistent. We have some really good leaders in there, and we use that. I think on good teams — that clubhouse, that’s our clubhouse. And we lean on the guys a lot. The other day we talked for a minute just because I thought we needed — it wasn’t a big Knute Rockne speech, but I think consistency is the biggest thing.
Q: You’ve had all the wins in all these elimination games building on each other. I know there are different teams involved, but how much of a feeling gets built up about the team expecting good things to happen when you get in these situations?
Terry Francona: Well, there’s nothing else to really feel. Once you kind of dig yourselves in a hole, you either win or go home. And we’ve been fortunate, and they’re all different cases because they’re different teams. But all the teams have that same kind of common denominator that they don’t stop playing, and they dig deep. To this point it’s been good enough. Now, again, this will be hopefully a very exciting night.
Q: There was some sentiment after Game 3 that maybe Jon Lester had shown some signs of fatigue in that game, and he’s thrown 230 innings this year. I think it’s almost 70 more than he’s thrown before. Do you buy into that? Have you seen any evidence of that whatsoever?
Terry Francona: No, I really don’t buy into it. He made some mistakes and he paid for it, but he struck out seven, he walked two, he made three mistakes that cost him some runs. But no, I think he’s very strong.
He hadn’t given up a run to that point, and when you give up a run, there’s got to be a reason. No, I think he’s fine.
Q: You’ve had your fair share, maybe even more than your fair share of Game 7s. I’m just wondering one or two things that you may have learned from previous Game 7s that help you in your approach tonight.
Terry Francona: I don’t know that — you try to learn from everything, but I think the word we used before in a different question was being consistent. Just try to be consistent. We know where we’re at as a ballclub. We’ll take one more inventory on our bullpen arms when we go out for batting practice, and then go play the game. We understand the significance of it, but that won’t get in the way of us playing. Just play the game and do the best you can to win.
Q: Jon Lester is still a very young pitcher, but do you feel with his maturity and the things he’s been through in life that he’s maybe more well equipped to handle the pressure of a game like this than most guys his age?
Terry Francona: Yeah, oh, yeah. I think he was equipped anyway. He was a really mature young man, then what he went through and had to deal with I think certainly has added to that. He’s got a great attitude towards competing. And the more he pitches, the more experience he gains, you’re seeing that develop more and more, which again, if you’re good enough, I think that’s what you expect out of young players.
Q: Joe Maddon referenced the job Okajima has done in this series. Can you talk a little bit about that, and is he available tonight?
Terry Francona: He’d better be (laughter). He’s done a phenomenal job. In a batting order they have the ability to turn guys around. Hell, they have Floyd, Gross, Aybar. Having the ability to have a left-hander to come in and face a lefty and then get the right-handers out, and he has pitched multiple innings, because the couple games he’s come in, if he has hit a roadblock, we would have had to go to somebody else a lot quicker than we’ve wanted to. He’s kind of restored order to that bullpen and given us chances to win.
Q: Though the results haven’t always been there, is anyone swinging the bat for you better right now than Mark Kotsay?
Terry Francona: He’s hit more balls to center field than — no, he’s been on everything. It’s good. When players are standing in the middle of the field and squaring them up, generally they’re seeing the ball pretty well. He’s had some hits, but not as many as he probably deserves. Hopefully that will even out tonight, but he’s been on everything, I agree.
Q: You said you enjoy the heck out of Game 7s. What about this series in general with all the twists and turns it’s taken? Have you enjoyed that?
Terry Francona: Some of them (laughter). The ones that seem to be going up. It takes it out of you. There’s a lot of late travel, and I think when it’s all said and done, everybody collapses, but not until. There will be no one single part of me that would ever want to complain about a late night. I mean you’ve worked so hard to get here, to not enjoy it I think would be a big mistake.
Q: You referenced the bullpen inventory. Are you anticipating that you’re going to have your full relief corps available, just a matter of how long some of these guys can go for you?
Terry Francona: That’s the hope, and starters, also. You start getting to this point where Daisuke will certainly be available, even if it’s nothing — not nothing more, but to anchor a bullpen so we know we can use everybody else, and then we’d have somebody in the back end to pitch multiple innings if we need that.
Q: Papelbon during this playoff run has thrown almost as many pitches as he did in the month of June. Can you just talk about the workload he’s had and just what he’s meant to the team in this entire run?
Terry Francona: Yeah, he’s pitched a lot. Again, the guys that are around us all year know that we try so hard, and it’s not always easy, to keep an eye on their innings and their workload. So when there comes a point when we need to lean on them, it’s there, and he’s answered the call. He’s done a terrific job. Everybody has. Sometimes you have to. You’ve got to dig deep, and sometimes you have to make something up. But their willingness to compete is very evident.
Q: Let’s get back to the rock & roll today. It’s getting down to the nitty-gritty. Did you have The Stones a little louder this morning?
Joe Maddon: Pretty much the same decibels. I started with The Stones and moved on to The Four Tops today a little bit, a little Motown, also, so we’ll see how that works today.
Q: You talked to us about your different pitchers dealing with them on days they pitch. How are you dealing with Matt Garza today?
Joe Maddon: Garza you can talk to, also. He’s been bebopping around the clubhouse. You can throw different thoughts with him, but primarily he does a nice job preparation-wise. He gets a lot of info from both Hickey and Brian Anderson, so they’re doing their thing right now. With Garza, he’s pretty much the same guy.
Q: This is your job, and you take it seriously, but is there a fan in you that can step back and say, wow, Game 7, this is cool? And is the job-at-hand and the work-at-hand just too important to do that?
Joe Maddon: I hate to disappoint the hard-liners, but I really can step back. I actually was taking my bike ride today, and you just look out over the water and you think about Game 7.
When you’re a kid in the playground or in the backyard playing, you’re always playing Game 7. Even in instructional leagues and in the Minor Leagues when you’re setting up different situations for your players, you always refer to Game 7. Well, here it is; it’s Game 7.
For me it’s a wonderful opportunity for us to grow. It’s a difficult moment based on the last couple days. However, it’s a growth moment for us as a team and as an organization, to get out there and get it done tonight would mean a whole lot to us. I like the idea of Game 7. I would have preferred it didn’t happen and we had won earlier, no question. But we’re here tonight, and it’s the epitome of the competition within a lot of different sports, not just — of course, it happens in hockey, happens in basketball, et cetera.
Q: Did you ever lose Game 7 in your backyard?
Joe Maddon: Never. Never did. The other time I’ve been involved professionally, I think, was the 7th game of the World Series.
Q: I don’t know if this comes under the manager’s bailiwick or what, but was it your decision to have Zim throw out the first ball tonight? And I’m just also wondering, have you guys considered above and beyond that, maybe having everybody rub his head (laughter)?
Joe Maddon: First of all, I did not. That was not my suggestion. I think actually that was Stu’s. From what I understand Stu is the one that approached him on it. I think it’s a wonderful idea, and I’m really happy that Zim decided to go ahead and do it. I think it’s great for us and obviously for him. Actually I’d prefer that we would rub his belly. I think that would be even more in tune to what’s going on.
Zim is wonderful. He’s been a tremendous influence on all of us on a daily basis. For me, the thing about Zim that I think gets overlooked sometimes maybe, in my past dealing with the gentlemen that had been here before, most of the time they’re here to help you in regard to evaluation, the guys that have played in the past, maybe 20 or 30 years ago. But Zim not only is good at evaluation, but he’s really good in game management and understanding different thoughts within the game and suggestions, and he’s really helped me a lot with that. He’s given me different ideas, different thoughts. So again, most of the time the guys that stay involved like he has, it’s been primarily to evaluate. But he’s very contemporary in his thoughts regarding today’s game, too, and that’s part of the upside of having him here.
Q: Is Percy here? And if he is here, is it sort of like chicken soup, it can only help you having him around?
Joe Maddon: Yeah, I haven’t seen him yet. I talked to him yesterday, and like I said, he was still out in California. We talked about him getting back out here, but I have not seen him yet. But he is. He’s great to have in the dugout, even when he’s not playing. He hangs out with the coaching staff, and I know he works the bench. He’ll come upstairs, talk to somebody if necessary. It’s great having him around even when he’s not playing, but I have not seen him yet.
Q: Can you just talk about the mentality of coaching in a Game 7? Is it different? Is it all-hands-on-deck type thing?
Joe Maddon: Well, I think in regard to the coaching, you don’t want to do anything different. You just have more players available. With us, we have pretty much all the pitchers available tonight. Of course, all the players are on a nightly basis. You just have a few more pitchers available to you than you would normally have. If you get into the latter moments of the game, you’re probably going to work with your normal guys because they’ve done it before. I think the extra guys are more permanent something very early or something very late, like extra innings. You really want to guard against trying to become too smart or trying anything radically different. You just have more pitchers available to you tonight.
Q: I know you want to win as soon as possible, but is there a silver lining in going to Game 7 given that the Phillies are going to have a week off before the World Series?
Joe Maddon: Well, the silver lining — obviously winning is the silver lining. We would have been happy to do it in four. But to get to this particular juncture now and all the adversity that we’ve faced — I’m talking baseball adversity, too, just the different adversity we faced during the course of this year, to get it done now, like I said, after getting on top and them coming back and then to finally get it done at the end, I think really teaches yourself a lesson. You find out that it can be the most difficult and you’re able to rebound and perform at that particular moment.
So for us, it’s been — beyond all that, just talking about Game 7 tonight just to put the entire season, it’s been a wonderful year to get to this particular juncture, and coming out of spring training, to say that we’re one game away from the World Series, we’d all be happy about that. But we really have a chance to teach ourselves an invaluable lesson tonight.
Q: It has been such a long journey, but now, a few hours away from Game 7. What makes you confident the Rays will win Game 7?
Joe Maddon: Well, I really believe in our guys, period. I believe we’re very good. I believe we have a lot of talent. I believe we have a very good pitcher going into tonight. We play the game, I think, in a very fundamental way. We’ve gotten a lot better in that regard. Fundamentally mentally, fundamentally physically, we’ve gotten so much better. We’ve been through some difficult moments, like I said, over the course of this past month and this year, and again, I just think we’ve been very resilient. So I’m very confident that our guys will play our best game tonight, and I’m very confident we can beat the Red Sox tonight. And of course, if you didn’t feel that way, why even do it in the first place. We’re doing a lot of things well. We play a pretty complete game, and I think we can beat you in a variety of different ways. But then again, it’s going to be reduced to pitching and defense like it always is for us, but I know in just talking to the guys briefly in the clubhouse before I came out and I worked them on the field a little bit, I think our guys are in a good place, and I’m looking forward to tonight’s game.
Q: Is Baldelli strictly because Jon Lester is a lefty or did you consider him in the last couple nights, as well?
Joe Maddon: I did consider him. The thing about Rocco, though, to get him to play on a consistent basis in the outfield, we can’t get that done all the time. He’s not able to do it on a nightly basis.
You looking at last night to tonight, also, it was a consideration for last night, but then he would not be able to play tonight if necessary. So there’s a whole bunch of different variables involved in the way he’s used. I’ve been doing it for the last month and a half or two months, something like that. So when we’re trying to gauge how to use Rocco, it’s a little bit different than how you gauge everybody else. Looking ahead, not that you always look ahead, but I was happy with last night’s lineup, and then I knew that if it got to this point, that he would then be able to play the outfield, which would permit Willy to be the DH.
Q: Were there times last night, I know you were facing a lot of good pitchers out of their bullpen, but were there at-bats last night where you thought your guys were trying to win it with one swing or trying to overextend a little bit?
Joe Maddon: I didn’t really glom onto that, to be honest with you. We’ve been swinging the bats really well. I think two things happened last night. Beckett kind of pitched differently in a sense. He threw a lot more soft curve balls, and the velocity was down like we had seen. And he was only there like for five innings, too, and we just could not get it done. I thought Okajima, to me, has really been pitching well. He’s just not an easy guy to hit a home run against, period. He pitched well against us I think all year actually, and I know he’s had a little bit of a struggle at different times this year, but he’s been very impressive to me. So I don’t know that I necessarily saw it. I thought Beckett did a good job of keeping us off balance, and even though he hung some curve balls, but then again, he made a great pitch with a curveball. Again, he is who he is, he’s a very competitive man. But I thought the left-hander was very vital to their success last night. I don’t know that we got away from our plan as much as that they pitched well against us.
Q: You mentioned last night that Grant Balfour was not on top of his game. Have you seen anything different with him this series, his fastball command?
Joe Maddon: Yeah, just command overall. Walking a couple guys. As I said, I just want to see him a little bit more angry. I like when he’s a little bit more animated out there, so I’m going to have a talk with him about that.
Physically he looks pretty much the same. Velocity has been pretty good. I’ve been seeing him 95 up in Boston, 96, upwards in that area. I just want him to go out there and just be Grant, which is kind of angry. So I’m just going to talk to him about that a bit. So overall it’s not that entirely different, I just think he’s been off a bit.