Some idle chit chat about the Terry Francona shuffling his lineup turned into a funny story about David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez and the third spot in the order.
It was as few years back, and Francona was trying to decide which player to put in the three-hole.
Typically, in doing his due diligence, Francona said he’ll look at lineups and numbers and figure out what makes sense. “But I also don’t think you hit players where they feel uncomfortable,” he said.
It was a rule he learned from Don Zimmer, who had Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg when they were both Cubs. Zimmer’s logic when it came to finding Sandberg’s place in the order: “Why would I hit the best player in the league somewhere where he’s not comfortable.”
Made sense to Francona, so he decided to do the same with Ortiz and Ramirez.
He called them both into his office at the same time.
Francona said, “One guy hits third. One guy hits fourth. You help me.”
They both said third. To this day, thinking about it makes Francona shake his head.
“I think David understood it,” Francona said. “I don’t think Manny did.”
He tried again, saying, “OK, from there, let’s go a step further and get one guy fourth.”
By Francona’s logic, it made sense to hit Manny fourth because he’d take walks regardless of who followed him in the order.
“I wanted to get David hitting third and wanted to have Manny hitting fourth,” Francona said. “But I wanted them to feel good about it.”
He ended up convincing Ramirez by showing him the numbers. A larger lesson did come out of it all for Francona though.
“As a manager you can do what you want and it can be the right thing on paper,” he said. “But if your players don’t buy into it, it might not be right.”
****With Mike Lowell on the DL with a sore hip, Francona said it’s unlikely that the Sox will be able to settle into a lineup until after the all-star break. David Ortiz will hit fourth today.
The goal is to secure some sense of consistency, which is difficult.
“If you can get some sort of consistency I think the players appreciate that,” Francona said. “I think it makes them easier for them. … You’re trying to mix rest and production and guys that are a little banged up, so you’re going to have some different lineups.”
****Francona said Lowell will start hitting of a tee tomorrow, and he’ll talk to the third baseman about possibly getting at-bats in Pawtucket.
“Whatever’s in his best interest we’ll do,” Francona said. “When you get to a veteran player, he’s got a pretty good idea how he feels about playing and what he needs. I don’t think too many guys down there are going to refuse at-bats if they need them. Guys are pretty good about that.”
****The PawSox will play a double header today thanks to yesterday’s rainout, and Jed Lowrie will only play the first game. “I think doing more now might be a little bit of a reach,” Francona said.