Pregame interview with Terry Francona

Pregame interview with Terry Francona

Give us a lineup for tonight.

TERRY FRANCONA: You don't have it?

No.

TERRY FRANCONA: Really? Okay. Pedroia, Youkilis, Ortiz, Ramirez, Lowell, Drew, Varitek, Crisp, Lugo. Kind of lineup we've been shooting for for a while and haven't been able to get to.

Over the years a number of the Red Sox fans and even some in the Red Sox organization had developed kind of an underdog persona. The Red Sox have the best record in baseball for the first time since I think '46. Do you sense that changing not to an overdog mentality, but the expectation level; it's no longer a surprise when you do well?

TERRY FRANCONA: I was under the impression you had to do well. I don't know about the underdog mentality in the past, but I think since I've been here I have felt from a lot of different areas that we were supposed to win. I know it's important to win.

You kind of touched upon it, but just if you could sum up the last couple of days the workouts and how they went. Also of having that lineup intact really for the first time in quite a while?

TERRY FRANCONA: I mean, the last couple days went fine. We had the optional workout on Monday, which is what we intended. We had a little more turnout than we expected. Yesterday went well. We tried to get to a point where today we would have our lineup and pitching staff in order. Doesn't mean you win, doesn't mean you lose. But it means we send out our team the way we envisioned it and let them go play.

It wasn't easy to get to a couple weeks ago. Kind of took our lumps for a while.
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But we've remained together and strong and united in our vision of what we wanted to attempt to do and we did it. So now we can go play. And again, put that lineup out there that we haven't seen for a while.

Locally around here there was a big debate on whether the team should get healthy or play to win the division and get home field advantage. Well, you were able to get healthy and get home field.

TERRY FRANCONA: But not be the manager. Go ahead (smiling).

Sorry about that?

TERRY FRANCONA: That's all right.

Statistically they say having home field doesn't make a significant difference. But what does home field mean to you, having a potential Game 5?

TERRY FRANCONA: We've been a better team at home. I think the Angels have been a better team at home. Most teams are. Saying that, whoever plays better is going to win. But if you had to ask me which I would prefer, I'd rather play home. For various reasons: We get to hit last. I think there can be some magic here at Fenway. This is our ballpark and we've played 81 games here. This place can get crazy late when things start happening. We know the field, we're supposed to be better here. But batting last is big, should be an advantage, even just setting up your pitching.

A lot of talk about the Angels' running game. Your running game has certainly developed in the last couple of years, you have some guys that can run. What role does it play in your offense?

TERRY FRANCONA: We enjoy -- I think if you ask any manager, I think this is a little bit of a misconception around here. Everybody likes to be aggressive. It is a fun way to play baseball. But when you have guys like Ortiz and Ramirez, when you leave them standing in the batter's box, that's not necessarily the smartest way to play the game. Sometimes our biggest strategy is to not have open bases, so they can pitch around those two guys. Getting through those two at times can be very difficult.

Saying that, we have guys that can run, Ellsbury, Crisp, Lugo, and we try to take advantage of that. I think we're about middle of the road in baseball in stolen bases. You try to, I think you try to manage the people you have, and put them in the best position where they can do or play their best baseball.

Daisuke made a great reputation for himself in Japan. He performed extremely well on the World Baseball Classic. So are you now kind of curious and interested just to see what he looks like, if you're going to see anything different about him in this stage?

TERRY FRANCONA: I'd say more than curious. I think that that has not been an issue with us. I think we have enjoyed watching the way he has handled certain things that have been thrown to him. And we've all seen the bumps in the road, the hiccups in some of the outings. But being intimidated or shrinking from a challenge won't be one of them. We feel that is really one of his strengths. And he's got a lot of them, but I think this stage will be a good place for him to show what he can do.

Obviously you've made it very clear that you're a living in the present guy.

TERRY FRANCONA: You're going to ask a Yankee question, aren't you?

No, no. I'm going to ask a Phillies question.

TERRY FRANCONA: Oh, okay. That's even worse (laughing).

But obviously you've referenced your time with Philadelphia lots of times with us here. There were a lot of really compelling pennant race, division race, wildcard race stories, and the Phillies penned a pretty good one. Did that evoke any feelings for you, positive, negative or otherwise?

TERRY FRANCONA: I think I spoke about it the other day. Somebody asked me when you go through four years like we did there, and they were tough. I mean, we didn't win very many games. And when you don't have very much success, the manager takes the brunt, a lot of that which is not a lot of fun.

But you go through some tough times with some really good people, I just hate to leave out names, but Bill Giles was right at the top of that list. There is nobody, I mean, nobody that I would want to have -- because I bet you when they won that last game, the smile on his face made me feel good.

Frank Coppenbarger, the clubhouse guy that used to be there through a lot of tough times. Sure, I was thrilled for a lot of those people. The feeling may not be reciprocated on all avenues, but there were some people I was really happy for.

When you were making your roster decisions yesterday, particularly with Wakefield, how much of a role did that new rule play that you could substitute, but then the guy would have to sit out the next series?

TERRY FRANCONA: We sat down and spoke to Wake about that right before I came up to speak to the media. Because as the day evolved, we knew that we were going to put Wake in an unfair position. You know, if we ask him to go pitch, he wasn't going to be ready to pitch, and then if we had to take him off the roster, we would lose him for the next round if we're fortunate enough to get there. So it definitely played a part in our thinking. Sometimes getting to the right answer is not very easy. You know, I think we needed to get to that answer, just we were all struggling with it.

As long as you bring up the Yankees (laughter). The team that you're about to play against here has given them all kinds of fits, for several seasons in a row, including a couple of times when they showed them the door in the postseason. You guys really haven't had that kind of trouble with them. Any idea what it is about the way that your ballclub is built or where you guys play or your style that you think makes you better suited to facing them than New York?

TERRY FRANCONA: I hope that you're correct in that assessment. I know in the past.

Record wise I mean.

TERRY FRANCONA: We've won more games than we've lost, which to date has been terrific. Tonight it won't matter. I don't think it will matter to them either. I hope the trend continues, that will be good for us.

You know what, I also know the Yankees have beaten Cleveland, what, six times. And Sabathia's pitching tomorrow? I bet you Cleveland feels good. This whole stuff takes its own personality. Every game will be different. And the Angels won't care about '04 or May or April. Neither do we. I think you try to learn from everything and move on and play your best baseball, but I think that's about all it means.

Courtesy of FastScripts by ASAP Sports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.