Francona tells team to keep it simple

October, 10, 2009

BOSTON -- The Red Sox returned to Fenway Park Saturday with the same rallying cry they departed Anaheim with: Keep it simple and win the next game.

Those were the words of manager Terry Francona, who along with Game 3 starter Clay Buchholz, Jason Bay, and Dustin Pedroia met with the media Saturday afternoon to talk about Boston's daunting task of trying to come back from a 2-0 deficit in their best-of-five American League division series against the Angels.

Here are some highlights:

As he commonly does, Francona kept it light. Asked how the Red Sox would reverse their fortunes, he quipped, "If I had that answer, we wouldn't have lost the first two [games]. What's happened has happened. Now we'll show up tomorrow and do what we always do on early games: Have 12 pieces of bacon, a Red Bull, and go get 'em."

Francona said he'd use the same nine batters from Games 1 and 2 for Sunday's noontime start, but might shuffle the order with left-hander Scott Kazmir throwing for Anaheim.

Third baseman Mike Lowell, who snared a rocket off the bat of Juan Rivera in the seventh inning Friday night, did not come in for treatment, which Francona took as a good sign.

The Red Sox did not take batting practice Saturday but will come to the ballpark early Sunday to do so. A handful of pitchers, including Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka, did some throwing in the afternoon.

Francona said Lester, who allowed three runs in six innings in losing Game 1, is on pace to start a potential Game 4 Monday night at Fenway Park. He was scheduled to throw a side session Saturday.

"He's definitely on track for hopefully, like you say, Monday," Francona said. "As far as a side goes, I think he's going to go flat ground and then maybe a short box, where he works from the front of the mound for touch and feel."

Pressed on potentially bringing back Lester on three days rest, something the Sox have rarely done with any of their pitchers, Francona said it sets the team up best moving forward.

"Maybe you're missing the point here," he said. "It's not just bringing back Lester on short rest. That's actually probably not in our best interest. It's been proven out there that guys normally aren't stronger early. We know that. But it also gives us the ability to bring Beckett back on regular rest [for a potential Game 5]. So if we're fortunate enough to go five games, Beckett and Lester will pitch four of them. That's the whole idea."

A reporter tried to bait Francona by relaying a quote from Angels outfielder Torii Hunter, who said, "You have to kick somebody when they're down and that's what we're doing."

Replied Francona: "I appreciate you saying hi. Hello back. I don't care. Torii just wants to win. I don't really think we need to have a response to that. They would like to win. He's a very emotional player. He's a great kid. Nice try, but we'll pass."

Bay came to the podium carrying his young daughter, Addison, and like Francona, opened with a joke: "This was part of the deal for the off-day."

Bay was asked how the Sox could break out of their offensive slump and what the Angels have done to neutralize Boston's bats. The Sox have just one run and eight hits over the first two games.

"They haven't done anything drastically different," said Bay. "You know, just pitching well. We faced a lot of good pitching in this division and throughout the entire year. We've been able to scratch and claw a few more runs. We just haven't been able to do it [in this series].

Bay was asked whether Sunday's early start time could effect either team, particularly with both squads traveling from the West Coast. The Angels practiced Saturday in Anaheim and weren't scheduled to arrive in Boston until after 8 p.m.

"I guess it's kind of like the weather," said Bay. "Both teams are dealing with it. Maybe us a little bit differently, you get a little time change and what have you. I think with the atmosphere and the attitude and stuff, I really think it's going to be a nonissue. "
Pedroia was asked about the mentality of the Red Sox and how they've been able to overcome similar deficits in past years. He cited the 2007 American League Championship Series, when Boston trailed Cleveland, three games to one.

"It was the worst feeling ever," said Pedroia. "You have that kind of same feeling now, obviously. You have that terrible feeling in your stomach that you don't want the season to end. We know we have a great team. We just haven't played well the first two games. So we have to go out there and kind of take baby steps. You have to try to win every inning, every pitch, and hopefully that leads to games."

Pedroia was asked if anyone spoke up on the plane ride back to Boston after Game 2.

"Not really," he said. "Everyone is obviously upset. Everyone on our team cares so much. That could have hurt us the first couple of games, guys trying too hard, wanting to do so well and wanting to win. Because we know we have a great team and sometimes that backfires on you, especially in the playoffs. Your heartbeat gets jumping a little bit. But we need to settle down and play our game."



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