It didn't hurt, by the way, that Cora had produced game-winning hits the past two games.
"[We are going to] play AC today and put Pedroia back in there [Sunday]," said Francona. "Just to maybe help us win today and give him a couple of more at-bats and give Pedroia a day to take some BP with [hitting coach Dave Magadan] and get him back in there against the lefty tomorrow."
Pedroia is hitting .158 over his first 38 at-bats and is still looking for his first RBI. Francona senses that Pedroia might be squeezing the bat a little too tightly.
"I think that's human nature to press," Francona said. "We all do or did. When it starts hurting your at-bats, though, you have to find a way to channel that into a positive, and it's hard. You start seeing guys stride too far, or want to swing too hard. We've all done it. He has to get through it."
Francona seemed to have faith that Pedroia will.
"He knows he has our support," Francona said. "He does work hard. He has a lot of things in his favor. He's just having a little bit of a tough time at the plate right now."
As a former player, Francona can completely relate to what Pedroia is going through.
"You line out or you hit a ball hard to shortstop, then you think 'Well, I've got to hit it harder.' You can't really do that," said Francona. "The biggest thing is consistency. If you hit enough balls on the nose, they'll find holes."
Protecting Papelbon: By not pitching closer Jonathan Papelbon for a third straight day on Friday, Francona showed his commitment to keeping the righty healthy all year is more than just lip service.
"I think Pap could have saved that game last night. I don't have any doubt," said Francona. "I don't think it would have been the right thing to do."
Besides, it gave the Red Sox the unique chance to watch Hideki Okajima save his first Major League game against the teeth of the Yankees' batting order.
"When I went out to bring in Hideki, [Mike] Lowell looked at me and he goes, 'Who's coming in?' I said, 'Okajima.' He said, 'What's wrong with Pap?' I said, 'We didn't want to bring him in.' He started laughing," Francona said. "You can either win or lose. It would be good to win. I just think if you're not afraid to have confidence in other people it can only help."
Facing A-Rod: Francona is fully aware of how hot Alex Rodriguez is. But with a lineup as strong as the one the Yankees have, the manager typically doesn't see the luxury of giving Rodriguez a free pass.
"I kind of laugh when you hear people say, 'Just walk him.' If you walk guys enough, Jason Giambi is going to hit one out of sight," Francona said. "If the situation arises where we think it does more good than harm, we might walk him right now because he's in that zone. But there are times when you have to get good hitters out to win the game."
Lester en route: Lefty Jon Lester will make his first trip to Fenway Park this season on Sunday, when he comes in to throw a side session and meet with Francona, general manager Theo Epstein and pitching coach John Farrell.
Lester made his final start for Class A Greenville on Friday, giving up six hits and three runs over five innings. He struck out five.
"By his terms, it was just OK," said Francona. "He got through it and he'll fly up tomorrow and throw a side and we'll sit down and talk to him a little bit and get him going in the right direction."
Lester is expected to make his next start at Triple-A Pawtucket on Wednesday in Rochester.
On deck: Daisuke Matsuzaka makes his official initiation into the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry when he pitches the Sunday night finale of this three-game series. The Yankees counter with rookie left-hander Chase Wright. First pitch is scheduled for 8:05 p.m. ET.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less