For all of us who are going to be getting to write about Jon Lester for the first time, can you talk a little bit about his courage and his determination he's shown?
TERRY FRANCONA: Yeah, I'd love to. I think before he even picked up a ball this spring, his year was already a success. It's a really good story. I also think that when he steps on the mound, the other team is not going to really care what he has battled and conquered, and I think Jon actually probably understood that before anybody, even when he took the ball in Cleveland. I think he really understood really maturely that, hey, I've got to go win, and all the other things, having mom and dad there was special, and family and everything, but he had a job to do, and I thought he understood that really well from a kid that's that young and what he's been through.
I don't want to get too far ahead, but can you talk about possibly some of the challenges your outfield is going to have playing in corners with the expanse?
TERRY FRANCONA: Well, I think in the past that would be a bigger obstacle. My first couple years here when we went to a turf field or a place that was pretty big, we had tendencies to run into trouble because we were big and slow, and now I think in the outfield I think we're better suited. J.D. is out there, Coco or Jacoby, so I think we can cover some more ground. I don't think that will be an issue, unless they're hitting 15 balls in the gap and they're running all day.
I'm not going to ask you what you're going to do about the DH, but can you talk about how you're going to weigh defense, how you're going to weigh the batting order, just sort of what that thought process will be when you get to Denver?
TERRY FRANCONA: Sounds like you're asking me (laughter).
If you want to give it up, that's fine.
TERRY FRANCONA: All those things you kind of just alluded to. When it really comes down to the reality of it, two out of the three play, and it's really disappointing because we like when all three of them play. They've all been mainstays in our lineup. They all do different things. There's going to be some things we have to think about that we don't know yet, and it's no big secret because we're not there.
David has some issues with his knee. That is certainly important and we have to at least pay attention to it. If we play Youkilis at third and Ortiz at first we're playing two guys at out of play position, which isn't real good, either. So again, there are some things we need to think about.
As far as the batting order, depending on who doesn't play, that's something we're going to have to figure out because whoever is not playing, as a whole, it's going to be a guy that's been out there every day all year that we won't have in the lineup so we'll have to make some adjustments.
In each of these last two years Kevin Youkilis has had a much better first half than second. This year we know he had a wrist injury in September, but was the fatigue, in your judgment the reason for the decline in the last two years, and why are we seeing what we're seeing now? And then just kind of the evolution of his defense, are you surprised that he's become as accomplished as he has?
TERRY FRANCONA: That is quite a bit. Last year when the second half happened, I thought there was a chance that it was his first full year in the Major Leagues, which happens to a lot of guys.
This year I think sometimes the way he beats himself up can lead to him -- I don't know if wearing down is the right word, but he takes every at bat like it's the last at bat. That's part of the reason he's good. But I also think it does weigh on him at times. Then he got hit in the wrist, he had the forced rest. I don't think his wrist felt good. I think it was great for his body He comes back now, he's got a lot of bat speed. He's having terrific at bats. His evolution as a third baseman, this kid comes up and has a reputation of being a kid that's probably going to have to work to be a Major League third baseman. Shifts to first base, which I don't think guarantees you're going to be good just because you can play third, and ends up being one of the best first basemen in the league. I think it's a tribute to his work ethic that he has become this good, and he is that good.
Sometimes numbers can be a little bit deceiving, but he never doesn't not try to make a play. You see sometimes first basemen are a little bit stationery and make errors. Youk attempts to not make errors.
How often do you think Manny baits pitchers into throwing the pitch he wants late in the game? And can you also go into the things that make him sophisticated?
TERRY FRANCONA: I think Manny, however you put it, I think he is one of the -- if not the very best at that that I've ever seen. It's amazing to me. I know where you're going and I agree with that. As far as being a sophisticated hitter, actually I think you guys have enough access to the clubhouse, I'd love for you guys to be able to see what he does pregame. The thing he is able to do with his mini Hula Hoop that has balls on it that are numbered, he does it every night before a game, and his ability to recognize, it's a joke.
When we watch the way he does it, just the fact that he could catch it surprises me, and the fact that he can recognize when somebody calls out a number of a ball he'll grab it. There's a reason. There's some things that he can do that other people can't do. But he also spends a lot of time watching pitchers, and he's got an unbelievable idea of what people are going to try to do against him.
How does he bait guys into throwing him pitches?
TERRY FRANCONA: How about when the season is over, or maybe they won't do it.
Back when the Red Sox hired you, part of the reasoning was that you're in sync with the front office philosophically, and I think it's turned out to be ahead of its time. It's more the model now in terms of front office and manager being in sync philosophically. How much have you enjoyed the collaboration with Theo and the rest of the front office?
TERRY FRANCONA: I do agree with that. I agree that I think you can get yourself in a bind if you go through the interview process and you tell them something that you don't believe in, you might have a good interview, but then when you actually have to live out the season, it wouldn't work. So I promised myself coming in that I would tell the truth, tell them how I feel, and if that worked out, good, because if it didn't I didn't want to be the guy anyway, didn't want to be the wrong guy.
Theo and I -- there's a lot of other guys down there, too, but we have a great working relationship. We have the ability to argue, to disagree, to move on the next day, and that's important because you get into these positions, you have to have a strong opinion or you don't survive But his opinion is always welcome and respected, and he knows that.
I have a one track mind today, sorry. A lot of people in baseball seem to have the idea that the power of the corners is very essential. Did you ever believe that, and has Kevin Youkilis changed your thinking on that?
TERRY FRANCONA: I think I need to answer that in a little bit more general terms. You need to have power in your lineup. I think what you're alluding to, and I probably agree, is Youk isn't the prototype corner bat. But he's got about a .400 on base percentage, he works pitchers, hits second. You can have your corner guy hitting second if you have somebody else in the middle, and we have David, Manny and Lowell.
Again, if we didn't have those guys, it might not work as well. But kind of the line we use a lot about keeping the line moving is what we believe in, but you do need to have guys in the middle that can hit the guy out of the ballpark.
Talking about coming again and taking every at bat seriously, obviously he does it, Manny does it. You would think everybody would do it. Is it the case that over .500 at bats in the season he can't do it, and why is he able to?
TERRY FRANCONA: Well, again, everybody is different. I think our ballclub has been very successful at that, part of the reason we're still playing. But everybody's human nature is different, and Youk's ability to never give at bats away is phenomenal. Again, it's human nature, some guys are better at it than others, just as they are maybe a better thrower, better fielder. The mental part of it is also a tool.
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