Francona: 'Nothing to complain about'

February, 20, 2011
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Boston Red Sox conducted the first live batting practice session of spring training on Sunday and everything went well.

It’s a drill that the pitchers enjoy, but the hitters hate. Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz and Tim Wakefield all tossed brief sessions.

“There’s nothing to complain about,” Francona said. “It’s 80 degrees, it’s beautiful and everybody looked healthy. All the pitchers went through what they were supposed to. It was a nice productive day.”

* When Francona met with catcher Jason Varitek at the start of camp, the two discussed the fact that the veteran would have to work with knuckleballer Tim Wakefield this spring, so it was by design that the two were working together during the first live BP session of camp.

“That was the one thing we talked about in his meeting,” Francona said. “That’s the one guy we always kept him away from, but we want both catchers to have the ability to catch Wake, so we don’t ever feel like we’re boxed in if he comes out of the bullpen, or something like that.”

Varitek has embraced the possibility of catching the knuckleballer because he knows it’s best for the club. Wakefield, Francona and Varitek are all comfortable with the battery pairing, it’s just a matter of the catcher getting his reps.

“If you’re not catching him [on a consistent basis], it’s not an easy thing to do. [Varitek] can catch anything,” Francona said. “That won’t be an issue.”

*Francona has been impressed with newcomer Alfredo Aceves. The Sox signed the 28-year-old right-hander as a free agent on Feb. 8. Due to a bevy of injuries, the former New York Yankees pitcher was granted free agency this winter and it was thought he would miss the entire 2011 season, but the Red Sox took a chance and signed him.

“He’s extremely driven and very motivated,” Francona said. “He says he’s completely healthy and has done nothing off the mound to show that he’s not. He’s not behind. We were prepared to ease him in and he does not want to do that. I think he’s driven to show what he can do.”

*It was a good sign to see Red Sox first-base coach Ron Johnson on the field and in uniform. “RJ” missed the final two months of the season last summer to be with his 11-year-old daughter, Bridget, whose left leg was severed when a car hit her while she was riding her horse near the family’s farm in Morrison, Tenn. She recently was fitted for a prosthetic leg and is doing well.

Johnson has received a ton of support from Red Sox players since the accident, so during the team’s first meeting of spring training, Francona asked Johnson to be the last to speak to the team.

“He knows he has our blessing anytime he needs to deal with his family, he knows he has our blessing,” Francona said. “Everybody introduces themselves during our first meeting, and we let him go last and talk to the players. It was important to him, and it’s nice [to have him back]. He had a long year last year.

“It was touching for everybody.”

Joe McDonald

ESPN Staff Writer



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