When team officials first thought of using Jonathan Papelbon in different roles in the eighth and ninth innings, Francona approached 41-year-old Mike Timlin about coming in after Papelbon on certain occasions and not necessarily being a setup reliever.
"I told [Timlin] that this spring," Francona said on Saturday. "Pap doing what he can do is great, but if you can't get through the ninth, it doesn't help.
"We can get as creative as we want or think outside the box, or however you want to [say] it, [but] if players don't understand it or aren't willing to execute it, it doesn't work. We're fortunate to have players who are willing to put the team first."
Timlin, working his way back after straining his left oblique in Spring Training, made his second appearance on Friday night, retiring the Angels in order in the ninth.
"First game, I thought he had the normal jitters, left a changeup up to [Richie] Sexson," Francona said of Timlin's first appearance, on Tuesday, in which he allowed two runs. "In a perfect world, we'd like to give him a couple of games like the ones we were fortunate enough to have. We want to get him into that routine of pitching in the seventh and eighth and know what you're getting. But I don't think it's fair to expect that until he gets his legs under him."
Day of rest: First baseman Kevin Youkilis missed his first game on Saturday, giving way to Eric Hinske, who is hitting a perfect 1.000 on the season. Hinske has hits in both of his at-bats this season.
"[If] guys go too long, it's not fair to expect any production," Francona said. "We're trying to pick some spots. Sometimes the perfect day comes and goes with weather. Hinske's swinging the bat pretty well, and we want to keep that going. We can't play 10 guys. We'll mix and match a little bit.
"One of these days coming up, we'll probably move Youk to third and let Hinske play a game at first or play Hinske at third, we'll see. Wily Mo [Pena] needs to play pretty soon here, too. We've just got to figure out the days. We don't want to do all of them in the same day."
Youkilis said that being hit by a Chris Bootcheck fastball on the right forearm on Friday had nothing to do with him sitting, which Francona confirmed.
"I was pretty sure [Hinske] was playing anyway," Francona said.
Patience, patience: Francona isn't about to give up on Coco Crisp, despite the center fielder's recent struggles. Crisp was in the starting lineup again on Saturday despite hitting just .121, with just four hits in 33 at-bats.
Crisp's frustration reached a peak on Friday night, when he slammed his bat to the ground after a strikeout.
"I've only had a couple of at-bats and I got very frustrated [on Friday] because I'm having no success, and it kind of built up," Crisp said. "It's still early. If I'm hitting what I'm hitting through a couple hundred at-bats, then it would be different. I would probably say it's about time to put somebody else in there, because I would. It's still early. I've got to battle through it and figure out what's wrong and fix it."
"It seems like he's hitting 0-2 or behind in the count a lot," Francona said. "It's a lot of factors. You miss a pitch you should have hit. It never fails to go that way. But it'll turn around. Sometimes you'd love to hit for him, you want him to get a hit so bad. I think the best thing you can do is not make a big deal out of it. I know he's scuffling. I see that, and I feel for him. But I'll keep throwing him out there and playing him again."
Francona also cautioned against reading too much into the day when Pena starts in center.
"There's going to come a time where Wily Mo plays center regardless of how [Crisp] hits, because we need to get Wily Mo in the game," Francona said.
Crisp -- who along with David Ortiz and third-base coach DeMarlo Hale will wear No. 42 on Sunday -- said that he would like to honor Jackie Robinson in a special way.
"If I'm on base [on Sunday], there's going to be a smile on my face," he said. "And then whatever happens after that is OK."
Coming up: Josh Beckett (2-0, 1.50 ERA) looks to remain perfect as he makes his second start of the homestand against Angels ace Ervin Santana (1-1, 6.35 ERA) on Sunday. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET.
Mike Petraglia is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.