"Well, compared to the end of last year," Francona answered, "I'd say yeah, a little refreshing."
There were no lightning strikes in the area after Francona made his statement, but it didn't take long before the team had to report some bad news.
During batting practice, the Red Sox announced that scheduled starter Tim Wakefield, five months into his best season since 2005, would be scratched in favor of Julian Tavarez. The diagnosis: a sore back.
Then, right-fielder J.D. Drew left the game after fouling a ball off the top of his right foot during a nine-pitch at-bat. The diagnosis: a contusion of the right foot.
He was replaced in the field by outfielder Bobby Kielty, who had not played since Tuesday with back pain.
Speaking of backs, left-fielder Manny Ramirez, out since the Yankees opener on Tuesday, had an MRI before Friday's game, "just because we want to see the amount of fluid in that area," Francona said.
Technically, Ramirez strained his oblique muscle, on the side of the abdomen.
The results of the MRI were not yet in. When the team chooses to play Ramirez again, nevertheless, will depend on whether the risk of further injury has subsided.
"How long is the guy going to be out?" Francona said. "I don't think anybody knows. I don't know that it's going to be today or tomorrow, though. I don't think that's fair to Manny to expect that. These types of things can be a week. They can be two weeks. You don't know."
Said David Ortiz, "Everybody has to stay mentally strong."
Cashing in: Meanwhile, the Red Sox await the return of backup catcher Doug Mirabelli from a strained right calf.
In his stead, new backup catcher Kevin Cash has handled Mirabelli's duties, which include catching Wakefield, "about as well as you can," Francona said.
Cash remained in the lineup on Friday to catch Tavarez, despite Wakefield's injury.
"I don't think it's any coincidence that when he went in there," Francona said, "he brought some of our personality of our team out."
What kind of personality?
"Not to be hokey," Francona said, "but that kind of 'all for one' [attitude]."
September eve: Fortunately for the Red Sox, help is almost certainly on the way.
Francona declined to say before the game whom the team will bring up when active rosters are eligible to expand from 25 to 40 players on Sept. 1.
He did say Boston will call up two or three players for Saturday's game, then call up more help after the Triple-A season concludes on Sept. 3.
"But I don't think I'm supposed to tell you who it is," Francona said, "until we do."
Bedard out: Francona reacted with some calculated chagrin when asked how he felt about a strained right oblique injury to Erik Bedard, who will miss his scheduled start against the Red Sox.
"Heartbroken," Francona said.
The Orioles ace leads the Majors in strikeouts, with 221.
Joking aside, Francona said, "you don't want to ... talk about somebody's health not being good," especially with young pitchers.
"Because this kid's a rising star in our league," he said. "But are we sad we're not facing him? No. No. This kid's tough."
On deck: Clay Buchholz will get the call for his second Major League start, Francona announced after Friday's game. Jon Lester, who will also be called up when the rosters expand, had already been slotted to start on Sunday. Garrett Olson will get the start for the Orioles.
Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.