Red Sox manager Terry Francona made his weekly appearance on the Dale & Holley show Wednesday afternoon and talked about the team's philosophy heading into the final days of the regular season with a playoff berth highly unlikely.
"It changes, but the philosophy of our games certainly don't change," Francona said. "Regardless of who plays, you try to play the game right and you try to win. Obviously, we're incorporating some younger kids in the lineup, and we're trying to get them to understand what a huge honor it is to play in these games. If you're a Lars Anderson and you're playing a couple of games instead of a Mikey Lowell, he needs to understand that, 'Look, man, this guy has had a long career and you're taking some of his at-bats, so get after it.' And I think they're doing that."
Francona praised the work of Ryan Kalish, suggesting that he viewed the 22-year-old as "a true center fielder" who is "a better outfielder than I ever thought he would be." He could not say whether Kalish would be an everyday player for the Sox in 2011, but suggested that his time in such a capacity might not be far off.
"He’s done a great job. And he probably got here a little quick because of all our injuries," Francona said. "I think the at-bats he’s getting are huge in his development. I don’t know if he’s ready to be an everyday center fielder on our team next year — maybe he is. But even if he’s not, this six weeks is going to be huge for him. And at some point in his career in the not-too-distant future, he’s going to impact our team. This is a keeper."
At the beginning of the season, when David Ortiz struggled through a miserable April, there were calls for the Sox to sit the slugger. Francona was asked if he now felt vindicated for sticking with the veteran, who hit his 30th home run of the season Tuesday night.
"I think we've stood by people when we think that that's the best thing to do," Francona said. "And I believe in loyalty, believe me. But there's a difference between being loyal and not being very smart. When we felt like [Jonathan Papelbon] should replace [Keith] Foulke, we did it. But when I feel like somebody's struggling, and to make a knee-jerk reaction, that's not, to me, a good manager. That's just making a reaction. You've got to let these guys play a little bit. David's a great example of that. He's maybe the only one who believed in himself. And I'll be darned, you look up later, he's got 30 home runs, he's going to drive in 100 runs. Good for him."
Francona gushed about the contributions of Jason Varitek, who made his first start Tuesday night since returning from his broken foot. "He's been the captain," Francona said. "He's never once not been there for somebody. He supports everybody. He's vocal — he's probably more vocal than he used to be. He's done a terrific job being the captain. He's worked hard to get himself back to being available. … He's taken all his positives and all his attributes and he's taken them into his therapy and his rehab. And the way he helps the players, it's fun to watch."
Asked if Varitek can contribute next season, Francona said: "Certainly. Certainly. He was having a very good year as far as a backup catcher. And then he got hurt. He got a broken bone. That happens. This wasn't something out of old age or something. He just got a broken bone. I think he wants to play."
The Red Sox' 2011 schedule was released Tuesday, and Boston will open the season in Texas before welcoming the Yankees for the home opener. "I love opening on the road," Francona said. "I think there's so much going on, the first couple of games, all the pageantry and all that stuff. I love doing that on the road. Then you get all that stuff out of the way. Then you can come home and play. I've got no problem with that. I don't care who we open with. I don't care who we play. You're going to have to play [the Yankees] a certain amount many times, I [couldn't] care less when we play them."
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