Francona optimistic about Papi, Lowell

Concerned about the health of David Ortiz and Mike Lowell?

Red Sox manager Terry Francona offers two words of advice: Don’t be.

“I don’t think David is a question mark. I think that he’s healthy and in good shape and I think that’s exciting,” Francona said while chatting with reporters this morning at the Red Sox’ spring training complex in Ft. Myers, Fla. “I don’t think Mikey Lowell is a question mark, either.”

Ortiz went on the disabled list twice with wrist problems last season and finished with just 23 home runs, his lowest total since joining the Red Sox in 2003. He did drive in 89 runs in 109 games, batting .264. Lowell played with a serious hip injury before having surgery during the postseason. He batted .274 with 17 homers and 73 RBIs in 113 games


“I don’t see those guys as question marks,” Francona reiterated, noting that he expects Lowell to be completely ready by Opening Day. “I just think we have to use common sense.”

Francona said he liked the club’s offseason moves, which including signing pitchers Brad Penny, Takashi Saito, and John Smoltz as well as outfielder Rocco Baldelli. “We have reason to be optimistic,” Francona said. “There are no guarantees, but I think we’ve positioned ourselves where, ‘OK, lets go prepare for the season, and let’s see how good we can play.’ ”

Not that he expects it to be easy, especially in the loaded American League East.

“Our division is a killer,” Francona said. “Tampa Bay got better, and they were already really good, New York got better. It’s not an easy division to play in, but we really like our team a lot and now we’ll get a chance to go prove that.”

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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