"I know it's been done in other organizations, but some of it's [because] I don't have an office here," Francona said. "I've always done this, but it's always been done on the field. I've never not gotten with somebody before camp started. We just made these a little bit more [formal], set up a time and had Theo and John in there, and part of it is because John is new. I thought it was a great idea, and I thought I got something out of it. And I think it was very, very worthwhile."
Saturday's meeting with newcomer Brendan Donnelly provided a good example of the value of such a sit-down.
"We had a real good feel for everyone coming in," Francona said. "We do our homework on these guys, and we know he's a very aggressive, confident kind of gutsy guy and it's probably his demeanor on the mound. I think we had a good feeling going in and there's nothing in having that meeting that made us feel differently."
Then there was the case of lefty Jon Lester, who is making a comeback from large cell lymphoma. Saturday's meeting gave the Red Sox a chance to talk about the specifics of Lester's attempted comeback and find out where he stands as camp opens.
"It went very well," Francona said. "I think the best way to put it is that he is mainstream with all of the other pitchers. As we do with all of the other pitchers, but certainly with Jon, we will keep an eye on and monitor -- I don't think health is the right word -- but the way he bounces back from things, because he is a 23-year-old pitcher who we are going to take care of.
"We have to recognize what he has been through this winter, but in saying that, we're also not going to penalize him for being an extremely hard worker. His perseverance through this thing has been, I think, a lesson for us all. We're really pleased for him. To be able to talk about baseball about Jon is pretty exciting."
As pitchers and catchers reported for physicals on Saturday, there was an air of optimism since the staff is mixed with playoff-tested veterans and rookies, all of whom appear to be feeling strong.
"It's real easy to be confident today," Francona said. "No one's gotten nicked up and we're not in the middle of a pennant race. I certainly hope that doesn't happen, but you never know what's going to happen. Some things are unforeseen. You want depth, but I don't know if anybody could have had [enough depth] last year. We've tried to dig a little deeper this year because of what happened last year."
Call to arms: The first mound session of the spring takes place on Sunday morning at the Player Development Complex. Pitchers and catchers will take the field to warm up at 9:30 a.m. ET, with mound sessions beginning approximately 30 minutes later.
The five projected starters -- Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jonathan Papelbon and Tim Wakefield -- will headline the first group, along with reliever Hideki Okajima. Other pitchers scheduled to throw off the hill Sunday include Abe Alvarez, Kason Gabbard, Lester, Kyle Snyder, Bryan Corey, Devern Hansack, Travis Hughes and David Pauley.
Body By Schill: Schilling arrived in camp on Saturday, one day before he takes the mound for the first time this spring in Florida.
"I didn't pull his shirt up," Francona said of his greeting to his ace. "We're semi-close. We're not getting that close. I've been around him a long time. He kind of admits he doesn't have the body of a decathlete, but he can stay out there and pitch a long time."
Dustin down: Projected starting second baseman Dustin Pedroia was asked by the Red Sox to slim down and tone up in the offseason and get lean. Judging by his appearance Saturday at the Minor League complex, mission accomplished.
"He looked good, didn't he? Noticeably different," Francona said. "He said he was going to make a commitment to changing his diet. I know he's always been a hard worker, but it was very obvious he looks different. We asked him [to change] and there's some responsibility coming with what he's going to do, and he seems to understand that."
Spatial considerations: Francona, recognizing the increased media presence around camp, made a plea to the media following his briefing on Saturday.
"Obviously, there's a lot of media, more than normal. If you could be somewhat respectful of the barriers, it would really help," he said. "We understand why you're here, and I understand. Believe me, I respect it. If we could not have cameras running out to the outfield to try and get a picture, I would really appreciate it."
Francona said the barriers would likely be five feet further away, but that people would still be able to watch the sessions.
"We just need to get our work done," Francona said. "We'll certainly try to be cooperative, but I just don't want to not get our work done."