Francona, Schilling off-day interview

Francona, Schilling off-day interview

Can you give us an update on Dustin's condition?

TERRY FRANCONA: Oh, you mean just -- he's fine. Shoulder. He's fine. He's out there hitting now. Actually expected him to be a little bit more tender than he was.

He's out taking BP, and it's not something that will get in the way of him playing, which is great from our standpoint. I think we all expected him to be a little more tender than he was.

Before Manny's homer, you had Lugo running with Pedrola at the plate. In that situation how far out do you play the scenarios and did you do it knowing that first base could be open when Ortiz would hit, et cetera et cetera?

TERRY FRANCONA: You know what, you don't know what the other team's going to do. You get late into a game like that, we were hitting and running. We weren't stealing. We were trying to make it be first and third to give us multiple opportunities to score. Because we know who was coming in the game, potentially, and try to limit some of their options.

Pedrola did a good job to get on top of the ball just to get Lugi to second. And you still make them make a choice, and that's why it's so good to have multiple good hitters.

Can you talk about when you guys got in this morning and are you surprised that half your club or more than half your club showed up?

TERRY FRANCONA: I almost didn't show up. We got in late. I think the Angels got in about the same time we did. So it's the same for both teams. You just do the best you can. Game times and the travel, some of it's -- we have to play the Angels. That's the way it is. Game times I don't think are based on teams getting the utmost rest. I think there are other things that probably come into play that we have to make the best of it.

I think we got to the hotel about six or so. That's just the way it is. You sleep in the winter.

Last night, in Manny's press conference -- I'm not sure I ever expected to say those words, but he made mention of the fact that he hadn't felt right for much of the year. Do you know what he was talking about beyond the oblique? He later said something about timing, too. But have there been other issues with him that he would be referring to?

TERRY FRANCONA: I did not watch the press conference. But, no. Again, I'm not real comfortable with "he said this" because I didn't watch it. I know earlier in the year we talked about him getting the front foot down in time and having some timing and things like that. But I don't necessarily know quite what he was talking about.

You probably mentioned this a few times before, but Schilling 10 years ago when you were at the Phillies versus Schilling today, is there something you see when it gets to a big game like this that you flash back?

TERRY FRANCONA: No, he's a different pitcher and we're a different team, fortunately. He had the ability back then the day he pitched to make us a good team because he was so dominant. I think he struck out 300 two years in a row. Now he is a different pitcher. But I think he's gotten to a point where he's comfortable when I say comfortable in his skin, I mean the way he's going about preparing for a game.

He doesn't have to look up at the gun anymore and hope that maybe you'll see a 94, 95. He's pitching at what he is, and he can still be very effective.

And I think that it's taken a while for that transition to give him a little bit of a comfort zone. But I think he's there.

Going back to last night's game for a second. When you made the switch from Okajima to Papelbon, two outs, bases empty, was there anything specific about that matchup you didn't like or did you feel like

TERRY FRANCONA: Kendrick hitting?

Yes.

TERRY FRANCONA: We had two outs and we got to a guy who we felt was a dangerous hitter. We got to our bullpen a little earlier than we would have liked, but because of the way Delcarmen pitched, it allowed us to catch up a bit. And we were able to somewhat match up. Once we had Pap up, we were hoping that he could pitch the remainder of the 8th and the 9th. If I would have held him out just hoping to get to the 9th and Kendrick hits a changeup over that wall, I would have had a hard time living with myself.

So we had Pap rested. I would have had a hard time justifying myself with that.

Can you tell the difference that you see in Okajima since he's been back and some of the effects that strengthening program has taken?

TERRY FRANCONA: I'm sorry. Other people are talking. Go ahead.

Can you tell the difference since Okajima's been back from his strengthening/rest program and just some tangible evidence from him?

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TERRY FRANCONA: The only thing that we saw a couple times was he wasn't locating quite as well. I think from the day we've seen him in spring training or at least in the regular season until yesterday, his fastball has been 88, 89 every time he throws it.

There is some deception there and there's some real good command when he's right. But the big pitches, obviously display of the changeup, the variation of it, because it gives him so much deception. If he commands his fastball, you see the swing and misses or maybe the surprise, maybe a little finish on his fastball.

But I didn't actually ever think -- you didn't look up and see 82 and say uh oh. We just tried to stay with him. When it got to a certain point one day we thought, okay, you know what because I actually stated probably time and time again I don't think he's fatigued. And I really didn't.

And then when it became evident that he was starting to, we were trying to beat it to the punch rather than overdo it. I think we could have got away with pitching him. I don't know that it would have been the smart thing to do.

Do you ever feel like your offense ever really clicked this year the way it was capable of?

TERRY FRANCONA: Probably not. I think in the short term, when we threw a three game series in Chicago or four games, actually, between some health issues and some inconsistencies from different parts of the order, different times, no, I really don't. But in saying that, after 162 games, maybe that's what your offense is.

I do think some of the guys we're sending out there, other teams aren't dying to always face them. But by the time you're done with a full season I think you ought to probably be realistic and make decisions based upon what you did rather than maybe potential. Start getting towards Thanksgiving, time to -- that's probably what you're going to score.

With Delcarmen, were you planning to take him out after he pitched to Guerrero before he hit him, and also can you talk about --

TERRY FRANCONA: Yes.

And can you talk about the job he did up until that point?

TERRY FRANCONA: Yes. Again, getting there a little earlier than we certainly wanted to. We were trying to piece it together where we could keep the score right where it was and hopefully, again, come back and not only tie but take the lead like we did.

And we had it pretty much set up. Even if he gets him out, he's coming out of the game there. Garret Anderson is too dangerous a hitter. And, again, you're trying to not use people too much and they have to get it -- when they get him out it certainly works a lot better and our guys did a great job of that. We were very fortunate, though, when you get to the bullpen that early, if somebody has a hiccup, you can run into a problem. Nobody did.

With Ellsbury, are you surprised at his poise and performance this year? And looking back, did you expect to have him with you at this point in the season?

TERRY FRANCONA: I think we're really pleased with his poise and his performance. I don't think surprise is probably the right word. Some of the local guys, they've heard me talk about it in the past. Our player development people and our front office actually in meetings this spring kind of mapped out the possibility that he could be here at this time helping us.

It was the same with Buchholz. It didn't mean it was going to happen, but in some scenarios they could see that happening. That's why like with Clay towards the midsummer when he went to pitch in that Futures game and they put him in the bullpen a little bit to try it out, to slow down some innings, I think they also felt like Ellsbury could be a factor if things weren't right. And they certainly did. He played great baseball.

And he continued. When he came with us, Manny went down, it lessened the burden of not having Manny. Because the way this kid played left the way he ran the bases and the way he hit.

Is it a baseball cliche, are these the games that are the toughest when you know you have a chance to close them out and not give them any life? I know you were on the other side in 2004 against the Yankees. Just the one little light and all of a sudden you start getting rolling?

TERRY FRANCONA: We start what?

You start getting rolling as far as Dave Roberts stealing the base and it's history?

TERRY FRANCONA: Hopefully that will be us and not them. You know what? I don't think we spent any amount of energy or time thinking like that. It doesn't help. Our job will be to win tomorrow's game, and to do anything different would not help. I think we're really good at trying to stay in the moment and trying to play the game at hand. That's really the only thing we can control.

Start thinking about things that happened last week or next week, it doesn't really help.

Can you talk about last night, how and when you found out the way the game ended and where you were at?

CURT SCHILLING: Well, we were delayed taking off. And our phones and our ability to follow the game went out right after J.D. drove in the first two runs.

We got an update. It was 2-2. Then we got a 3-3 update. We were trying to follow the Cleveland New York game as well. I think we got an update that it was 3-3 in the sixth. Then we got an update it was 3-3 in the seventh. So we were trying to figure out what happened.

We landed and we knew that the Indians had won the game on the way to the hotel. Our phones ran out of power at the end. And we literally stepped out of the car in front of the hotel and looked into the hotel bar and on my phone it said "Manny put the ball in play," and I looked at the TV and Manny had his hands up.

We walked in the bar where there were a bunch of Angels fans sitting, and I was acting like a two year old, I was just screaming. I don't think they were all that excited.

But that was literally, stepped out of the cab and Manny hit the ball. So it was pretty wild night.

For somebody who has had the success you've had in the postseason, how much have you missed performing on that stage since 2004 and just your general thoughts about tomorrow afternoon?

CURT SCHILLING: Well, it really -- the cliche in spring training does hold true. It's what you play for. I think what every player that aspires to do something in the game plays for is this October stuff. Because in October you can make one play, one pitch, you can do one thing that people will never forget. It can happen literally in a matter of seconds.

As a starting pitcher, I can remember being -- one of the things that I got told early in my career was that when you go on the road as a starting pitcher in the post season, you have the ability to shut up 50,000 people.

And there's nothing like it from an adrenalin standpoint. And when you are someone that carves a niche for doing well in the post season, I take pride in that. And you're always, from the time you're little playing the game, coming up with scenarios that are fun. It's always about winning the World Series and doing something great to win the World Series. And then you get in the position and you realize it's a whole lot funner to do it than to think about it. And '04 was special in a lot of different ways, and it was magical in a lot of different ways.

It seems like it's been a long time since I've been able to take a ball in a game like this. It's exciting. Very nervous. But it's exciting.

Having missed the last two years, they didn't get to you in '05 and the team didn't get there last year, what was it like watching instead of participating? Second question, what about your sort of transition that you're going through? How do you feel that translates now to October versus how you used to pitch in October?

CURT SCHILLING: Well, the first part, it's disappointing. '05, I was very disappointed I didn't get a chance to pitch in that series. I've always felt like no matter what you do in the regular season, the post season changes all the rules and changes everybody.

And I remember in, I think it was '02, I struggled in September. R.J. ended up getting the ball in Game 1 and I came back and pitched Game 2. I don't think they were confident in me pitching well. I thought I went out and threw a pretty decent game. And I thought the same in '05. I thought I'd get the ball and make a difference in that series. It was disappointing because I didn't get the chance because I was -- again, I feel like that's -- in that scenario and that stage at this time of the year, that I'm better than everybody else. And you can say what you want, but you still have to go out and put it up and prove it. And so it's disappointing to have taken this long, especially given the teams we've had here the last couple of years.

Now we get to tomorrow and part of I think the nerves on my end are I am a different guy. I do have to pitch differently. But I feel like I've done everything. I've had 12 days to prepare for this team. In my mind we were going to play these guys 12 days ago. So I really started to put together a game plan to the point where I feel like I'm where I was in '01, '02, '04 from a game planning standpoint. You can give me an at bat, a pitch, a situation, and I can tell you what I'm going to throw right now. So I think I've taken care of everything but the execution part of it. That's really what, in my mind, it comes down to. But we'll see tomorrow, we'll win the series. If I don't, it will be hard.

How much consideration, if any, have you given to the fact that any number of these games could be your final ones in Boston?

CURT SCHILLING: Not much. You think about it. After the fact, I think, after my last start in Fenway, when we made the decision to not pitch on Sunday, I think it crossed my mind a day or two later, wow, I might have made my last start here. But there's so much going on now. It's really hard to think about anything else because this requires so much of your effort, mentally and physically, to be great at this point of the year. So it really isn't something that I've been thinking about.

How much of a benefit do you think the 11 days of rest is going to be going into that start?

CURT SCHILLING: I know how I feel today. I feel very, very good. Ball's coming out of my hand exceptionally well today. I think as good as it has since early on in my rehab.

As far as sharpness, I think I've thrown enough in the last couple days to feel very good about my stuff. Now you go out there and with the game plan and hope that Brian's (Runge) back there calling a consistent plate.

And if Brian is calling a consistent plate, then I feel very good about my chances to execute our game plan.

Is there a common denominator that ran through '93, '01 and '04 for you, the success you had, if that's something that can carry over to this point as well?

CURT SCHILLING: Well, I think one of the main ingredients to being good at this time of the year is part of your internal makeup, I guess. I'm not afraid to make mistakes. Not afraid to fail. And I want to -- I've always wanted to be great on this stage, because the post season is just so different in how I think I perceive it, how people look at it.

Great example is you look at what Alex has done this year in New York. One of the single best seasons in the history of the game. And the media there couldn't wait, couldn't wait for six at bats. He's 0-for- 6. They had three hits yesterday. The focal of the New York media is that Alex has screwed it up again. We know as players that's not how it works. But there's a perception in October that from a player's perspective, that's different than you guys.

When you can be thought of like a Josh Beckett and those guys that succeed on the game's biggest stage, the biggest moments, to me it's always told you something different that's maybe not visible, they have some different makeup. It's comforting to know that you've got guys on the team with that makeup in them. This is the time that makes people see that.

So like I said, I've answered every question I can from a preparation standpoint. I'm as ready to go as I've ever been for a game. I'm as prepared as I've ever been for a game. I'm pitching against a team that's fighting for their life. That's going to be a challenge. There will probably be some things that will happen tomorrow that people will not forget and you want it to be in a good way when it comes to you.

Francona was talking about your transition. I know that's been a theme all year. How different is it and how tough has it been --

CURT SCHILLING: It's been especially tough playing for him. I mean, being the nightmare as he has been as a manager. You know what, it is what it is. The challenge for me was getting to that acceptance part of it.

Understanding that feeling good, bad or indifferent was borderline irrelevant now in that when I got to the mound I had there's many times in the second half when we were walking out of the bullpen and Johnny would look at me and say, how are you feeling? I feel like crap, but the beautiful part is none of those pitches count.

The game starts and you have what you have. And I thought one of the keys was that I started -- I thought I was very consistent for the most part. And consistent not in that I was pitching well every time up but I felt I was consistent every time out. I had three, four, five pitches that I was armed with, and when you look at going through lineups now and your weapon, it's like Josh goes through a lineup with a bazooka for the most part and Daisuke is like a machine gun and I've turned into a guy who has to use a sniper rifle, pick my spots and pick my targets and execute perfectly.

That's one of the challenges of October that I love is this is about literally being perfect. And we hold ourselves to that standard realistically a lot of times, but this is one of those times where I think it is realistic. I've got to be perfect tomorrow.

I know what I want to do. I know how I want to do it. I know when I want to do it and I know who I want to do it to and I'm gonna do it. And that's fun. It's a huge change from I'm not feeling sharp today but I'm throwing 97 so I'll get away with some stuff. And I like that.

What was your reaction when you had to wait until Game 3? Did it matter to you?

CURT SCHILLING: No. No.

What was your reaction to Beckett and his bazooka in Game 1?

CURT SCHILLING: I thought it was probably the most dominating game I'd ever seen from a pure pitcher standpoint. I think he threw 82 strikes, 24 balls or something like that. And I can remember multiple times during that game when you would see a change in their approach that was accounted for on our side of things.

He went hard early in the count and the minute they decided that that was probably a bad recipe to take they began to get aggressive. And Josh immediately started -- Josh started throwing soft early. You look at the 82 strikes. I would guess probably maybe 55 of them were actually in the strike zone. Another 15 to 20 of those were strikes that they threw balls when they knew they were swinging.

And as has been the case in all the post season games for the most part, the strike zone has been very small and hard to work within. The fact that he was that efficient was a testament of how dominant his stuff was. And there's some numbers out of that that might blow you away, but to me they're just incredible. I mean, he's thrown two shutouts in his career in the regular season and three in six starts in October. That's pretty awesome. It was one of the most dominant games I've ever seen pitched at any level and it was a huge, huge lift. And on a personal level to me it was a bar setter.

He did that. And now just so I don't have to hear him talk on the back of the plane, I'd like to go out tomorrow and do something better and be able to throw it back at him. It was fun to watch.

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