The same day Rodriguez became the youngest player to hit 500 home runs, Francona talked about the man who has seemingly brought as much controversy to the Bronx as Reggie Jackson did when he arrived on the scene 30 years ago.
"I think he's been a little bit of a lightning rod, but I don't think he's underrated," Francona said. "I think everybody knows how good of a player he is."
Francona, who was a coach with the Rangers in 2002 when Rodriguez played in Texas, spoke guardedly about his relationship with the game's highest-paid player.
"My year I was with him, I enjoyed that," he said. "When you're in the same uniform, there's not too many times you don't enjoy people."
"That was a long year," Francona added about the Texas squad that finished 72-90. "We weren't very good."
The feel of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry returned shortly when Francona decided he'd talked enough about the best player in the Bronx.
"Being the manager of the Red Sox, I don't need to break Alex down," he said. "We just want to get him out."
Drew back: Outfielder J.D. Drew was back in the starting lineup Saturday night, his first start since July 28 in Tampa Bay. Drew missed the Baltimore series to be with his family following surgery on his 17-month-old son to repair a developmental displacement in his hips.
"The young guy's been a little tough on him, but we want to get him back in there," Francona said before the game. "You always hope something positive comes out of not playing. Maybe the one good thing is his leg got a little breather."
Drew is batting .245 with six home runs and 40 RBIs in 92 games in his first season in Boston.
Pedroia hot: Dustin Pedroia continues to hit. The Red Sox second baseman has knocked out seven hits in his last three games and is batting .379 (25-for-66) over his last 15 games to raise his season average to .323, ninth best in the American League. His .397 on-base percentage ranks 14th in the league.
Pedroia is also doing it with the glove, having gone 35 straight contests without an error. He also has just one error in his last 83 games.
On deck: The Red Sox close out their three-game series in Seattle on Sunday afternoon with right-hander Josh Beckett (13-5, 3.41 ERA) taking the hill. Seattle counters with righty Miguel Batista (11-7, 4.23 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 4:05 ET.
Chris Hester is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.