Lugo gets time to shape up; Francona chats with Ortiz

NEW YORK – Terry Francona played the father-figure and/or psychologist with both Julio Lugo and David Ortiz yesterday. The end result is that Lugo will likely get a couple of days to work on his conditioning after struggling to come back from knee surgery which he had on March 17, while Francona also said he won’t abandon Ortiz, who is in an epic slump.

“I spoke to Lugie today,” Francona said. “He came back quick. I don’t think he’s moving yet like he’s going to. I told him to take the next day or so and meet with (strength coach) Dave Page because I think putting him out there is a little unfair. He got himself put in situations where plays were hard for him to make. He will get there. But in the meantime I’m trying to balance it. We’re looking out for our guys and we’re winning games. We’re going to communicate with the both of them (Nick Green, who was in the lineup last night) and that’s the only way I know how to do it. But I thought I had a good talk with Lugo.”

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Asked to clarify whether it would be two days off, Francona said, “‘Well not officially. I should never make out the lineup tomorrow. Someone pulls a hammy tonight he’ll be in the fourth. The idea is to let him get some of that athleticism back.”

Francona said he was offering Ortiz support.

“We kind of visited today a little bit. I’ve been standing there for five years patting him on the fanny, driving in all those runs and wining games. Now when he needs a little help, I don’t want to be the one to abandon him. He’s had a tough month and he acknowledged that and he’s frustrated and wants to do better. We need him. So now it is my turn to be there for him and help him and that’s what I’ll try to do. By being impatient or giving up on someone, is not the answer to what we’re trying to do,” the manager said.

In other matters:

Francona said Mark Kotsay, trying to come back from back surgery, suffered a setback pulling a calf muscle in Pawtucket yesterday.

“He hit a ground ball yesterday in his second at-bat and he was trying to shift into another gear. He felt it. He pulled up a little bit. I spoke to him about an hour ago. He’s going to get treatment. That’s all he’ll do today. When we get home we’ll evaluate him. It’s a setback. He didn’t do it like he did in Florida (extended spring training). He was a little frustrated. I understand. It’s not at the point where it was last time which is good,” Francona said.

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A day after allowing eight stolen bases to the Tampa Bay Rays Francona said he wasn’t as shook up as “the rest of the world.”

“I’m not as concerned about the running games as maybe, the rest of the world. Yesterday was not a real good day for us. There’s a lot of things to consider in stolen bases – pitch outs, covering, when not to cover. You’re sacrificing by pitching out or slide stepping – just not as shook up as the rest of the world is,” Francona said.

His first impressions of Yankee Stadium: “It’s beautiful. We’re all routine-oriented and I’m worse than anybody here. I wanna know where I’m going and I have a lot of comfort in that. The thing that’s noticeable to me right away is when you walk out of the dugout, the upper deck is not on top of you. I enjoyed that part, but I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of good games in this ballpark. We all get into that routine and there’s a comfort level there.”

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On Alex Rodriguez and the book that came out today in which he’s accused of steroid use as a high schooler and of tipping pitches to opposing players: “I don’t have any knowledge of what’s going on. I spent my whole day with Lugo and David. That’s what I really care about. I don’t want any team to beat us, but I also don’t wish tough times an anybody. What I care about is when he comes back I hope he makes outs when he plays us.” Francona coached A-Rod in Texas and has always liked him.

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