Foulke went on the DL on June 12, when he was shut down with right elbow tendinitis. In the process of working his way back from that condition, Foulke experienced back woes, which is something he's dealt with for most of his career. But he turned a corner the last few days, enabling his return.
"I'm really hoping he catches fire and gives us that added bonus, because if he does come in and throw like he's capable of, boy, what a big addition," said Francona. "I don't know that anyone could sit here and guarantee that's going to happen, but I am really hoping that's the case."
Though Foulke hasn't been a dominant pitcher since 2004, Francona would be happy if the reliever could get back to the form he displayed in April, when he was particularly useful in retiring left-handed hitters with his changeup.
The Red Sox have not had a lefty specialist for most of the year, and even though Foulke is right-handed, he can help fill that role if he's throwing the ball well.
"He was our left-handed go-to guy for the first month of the season; he was very successful at it," Francona said. "I've got to see how he's throwing. It depends on how he's throwing. I always prefer to have him face more lefties than righties, if possible, because I think it's an added advantage when he's pitching. If he's pitching well, he'll get lefties and righties out. If he's not, he probably won't. That's the case with most pitchers."
More rest at corners: One of the biggest values of the acquisition of Eric Hinske is that the Red Sox no longer need to run corner men Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis into the ground.
Ever since J.T. Snow was designated for assignment in June, the Red Sox haven't had much at all in terms of a reserve corner infielder.
"Youk took a ball off the forearm or the elbow," Francona said. "Mike Lowell had hit three or four balls in a row off his shin. Those type of things, I think, were more [of an issue] than fatigue. I think both guys are everyday players. But they got beat up a little bit a couple of weeks ago, and we really couldn't do much about it."
More urgency: Francona admitted before Game 1 that he was not treating this doubleheader like he would earlier in the season. In other words, he was going to rest guys where necessary, but he was not going to empty his bench just for the sake of doing it.
"This isn't necessarily an early-season doubleheader, where you try to take advantage of the 18 innings to try to get guys at-bats," Francona said. "This is a little bit different circumstance, so we'll treat it accordingly."
Youkilis, Mark Loretta, David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Hinske and Coco Crisp all started both games. Youkilis played first in the first game and third in the nightcap. Hinske played the first game in right field and started the second at first base. Lowell, Javy Lopez and Alex Gonzalez all got breathers after starting the opener.
Familiar foe: Francona managed Bobby Abreu for three years, and he now sees him in the opposing dugout in baseball's fiercest rivalry. Abreu has essentially done exactly what Francona thought -- and feared -- he'd do for the Yankees.
"Everything he's doing for the Yankees is what I think what we thought he could do and what we hoped he wouldn't do," Francona said. "He's a good player. And I don't think he has to hit the ball out of the ballpark to be a great player. But he gives you such quality at-bats in an already pretty talented lineup. When he leaves the batter's box, the game is just beginning. He can steal a base, he can go first to third."
Sure enough, Abreu announced his presence in a big way in Game 1, going 4-for-5.
Coco's confidence: Crisp has looked like a different player over the last week or so. After stumbling to find a groove in his first two months off the disabled list, Crisp has come closer in August to emerging into the player the Red Sox thought they were getting.
"I think his confidence is growing," Francona said. "I still don't think he's to the point where you will see him probably next year. This has been a very difficult year for him. It's been frustrating. He is doing better. When he gets a mistake, he's hitting it. He was fouling them back a couple weeks ago. The offspeed stuff now -- even the good pitches -- he's fouling them back and keeping himself alive, as opposed to swinging and missing and striking out."
Coming up: Following the exhaustion of Friday's day-night doubleheader, a compelling pitching matchup is on tap for Saturday afternoon (a 1:20 p.m. ET start on FOX) when Josh Beckett faces Randy Johnson in a battle of former World Series MVPs.