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Winter Meetings interview with Terry Francona

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Q. Chris has talked a lot about the continuity of your roster. You have some key free agents, but what is that feeling knowing the size of the group that you do have coming back?

TERRY FRANCONA: I mean, we've had that core. This will be our sixth year together, which in baseball is a lot. I think it's an advantage. How many times have you heard me say it. Whatever we do, we try to turn it into an advantage. If it's a new guy, you want to get to know him well, and they fit in quick. The guys that we've had, you want it to not be where it's, okay, same old, same old, same old. We're together. We know how we want to do things, we can get after it and actually maybe do more in less time because everybody knows what's expected.

Q. You know you have a lot of guys. Some of them not sure where they might end up playing. Cherny said yesterday it's not challenging because you like what you do have, but it makes it a little bit complex. Have you started in your mind formulating ideas?

Q. Chris has talked a lot about the continuity of your roster. You have some key free agents, but what is that feeling knowing the size of the group that you do have coming back?

TERRY FRANCONA: I mean, we've had that core. This will be our sixth year together, which in baseball is a lot. I think it's an advantage. How many times have you heard me say it. Whatever we do, we try to turn it into an advantage. If it's a new guy, you want to get to know him well, and they fit in quick. The guys that we've had, you want it to not be where it's, okay, same old, same old, same old. We're together. We know how we want to do things, we can get after it and actually maybe do more in less time because everybody knows what's expected.

Q. You know you have a lot of guys. Some of them not sure where they might end up playing. Cherny said yesterday it's not challenging because you like what you do have, but it makes it a little bit complex. Have you started in your mind formulating ideas?

TERRY FRANCONA: Ideas, but we don't know. Like with Kip, what we know is, when healthy, we have a really good player. We don't quite know where he's going to play yet. So what we need to do is get our house in order, let Chris and Cherny and those guys do their thing, and then communicate to Kip, because that's fair to him, so he can get ready for the year. And that's what we always do.

Normally, guys are pretty receptive when you're honest and you talk to him, and not just talk but, listen, they're usually pretty receptive.

Q. It's easier with guys who have been around a long time who you know well?

TERRY FRANCONA: I think that -- we've been together now, like I said, going on our sixth year. I think they always know we're going to be honest with them. It's the same thing coming back. Not everything is rosy, and you have to deliver tough messages sometimes or guys are going down, but the guys that we're talking about, whether it's Kip or Tom or Brantley, the guys, we know them too, and we value them a lot. They're honest. They try hard. Like Cody and Andrew, if you have a problem, you talk to them. It's easy.

Q. I think you talked about this before, but this time of year names get brought up and certainly a lot of rumors out there. Do you ever worry that the wrong message might get sent to a player if his name gets brought up in a conversation or a rumor or a report or anything like that. Do you ever feel the need to reach out and maybe reaffirm somebody or at least communicate on some level?

TERRY FRANCONA: Sometimes. I don't see everything that's out there because I don't look. Maybe I should. There's been a time or two where I think I've reached out to guys, just if I knew that it was, one, going to bother him; and, two, it wasn't remotely true. But for the most part, I think players are savvy enough now. They've come up in this era of Internet and all this stuff, the social media. They're more savvy with it than I am. So not really. I think our guys are okay.

Q. It seems like every year we hear about trade rumors involving your rotation, and understandably so, but how hard would it be to trade away from that aspect given it's kind of the backbone of your team?

TERRY FRANCONA: How many trades have you seen? None. Yeah, I wouldn't blame teams to come to the meetings and ask us about our pitching because we think we have pretty good pitching. But you haven't seen any of them leave either. We value it a lot. Unless somebody just knocks your doors off, we plan on keeping it.

Q. Tito, Mickey has gone to try very hard to make a good impression with the Mets. Comes across as very nice, caring about the players. I'm wondering from your perspective -- he says he's not always like that. From your perspective, do you remember him having kind of an edge or being more of a harder guy than I comes off as?

TERRY FRANCONA: No, I think he's a great guy. We all get competitive during a game, but I don't think that ever makes you quit caring about players. Sometimes you have to deliver a tough message. He can do that. That doesn't mean you don't care. I think that's why you do it.

I think Mickey's a star. I think, once he made it known he wanted to manage, it was a matter of time until we lost him. Take the five years we had with him and be happy for it because we're all better for it, but he's going to be terrific at whatever he does.

Q. When, in your mind, did you think you had something special there with him?

TERRY FRANCONA: When we interviewed him. Because I didn't know him. He grew on us quickly, and myself, and in the first year he had more confidence than a first year pitching coach should, and it wasn't by mistake or wasn't -- it's just the game slowed down for him. He was confident in his abilities. And he did a really good job, and it just continued.

Q. So you told him, if he needs any help with anything or has questions throughout the season, whenever, to reach out. Just how much fun has it been for you kind of walking him through the process of everything he'll go through?

TERRY FRANCONA: It's fun to see guys go through their firsts. We just came back from a golf tournament at Pebble where we were together. We had four days where we don't talk about much other than baseball. To see him so excited, he's going through the honeymoon phase, which is good. He's excited, and everything is rosy. But it's exciting to see him feel that way.

We're all proud of him. You go from not knowing a guy to then almost feeling like he's your brother a couple of years later. That's a good feeling.

Q. Have you thought about having a Cora, Kapler, Roberts, Cash, guys that played for you now managing the big leagues?

TERRY FRANCONA: Guys like Cora and Gabe -- Cashy coached with me, and those other guys didn't. I think they were -- you could see, by the way they went about the game that, if they wanted to stay in the game, they could. You just don't know -- in today's game, if guys maybe want to put up with the aggravation that it takes to become a manager because of the money they made. But some of the guys are kind of shortcutting the -- you know, it's not necessarily the route that some of us took, but it doesn't mean they won't be really good because they're obviously really qualified.

Q. What are your options at third base right now?

TERRY FRANCONA: Right now? It could be Jose Ramirez, could be Yandy or Urshela. Nothing's really changed from the last game of the season, but we don't know until we fill out our roster, and then we'll kind of figure out where are we best suited. Are we best suited keeping Jose at second, put him back at third? Put Kip at second? Those are things we will answer. We haven't answered yet. It's nice to know you have some flexibility.

Q. Yandy really started to blossom down the stretch. Started to show some things. Was that a confidence thing? Was it just experience? What do you think?

TERRY FRANCONA: I would think some of it's confidence. That's why it's so hard when you -- it's hard to communicate with guys when they're that limited in English and I'm that limited in Spanish, because you really can't always answer the questions like you'd like. You're a little bit at arm's length, and I hate it. You've heard me say it before.

He's a really good hitter. The rest of his game is catching up. It's not quite as advanced as his hitting. But when a guy can hit like that, you certainly like to try to take the time to let his game catch up because of his value just as a hitter.

Q. In a perfect world, where do you see Salazar, in the bullpen?

TERRY FRANCONA: Rotation.

Q. Rotation?

TERRY FRANCONA: Yeah. And we've seen him do it not just -- how many times, like when cube letter won the Cy Young, okay, great, you've got to do it again, and he's turned into that guy. Five years in a row, and he goes out there, 200 innings, it's pretty impressive.

Carrasco has started to do that now. Trevor started to do that now. We're still working through that with Danny. He shows at times what he can do, but we're still trying to get to the consistency where we know we can put his name in and go get 'em.

Q. Do you feel with Danny similar to the way you did with Carrasco at one point where you said you would need to trade him and see him blossom somewhere else? Do you have a similar feeling with that?

TERRY FRANCONA: We've certainly had our frustrations at times, but if you get too frustrated and send him somewhere else and he ends up being the guy you were hoping because you weren't patient enough, that would be troubling.

Q. Do you think you need two or three guys to fill what Shaw did in the bullpen, but just how do you feel about the guys you have already just in place?

TERRY FRANCONA: We have some good guys in place. We've got Cody and Andrew that have done it and have been terrific. Guys like Otero that are sort of under the radar, Zach McAllister. We have guys that can do it. We are going to have to add some more guys before we start the season.

Losing Shaw is a big loss for us, not just in volume, but in volume and guy being good.

We have guys that can do it. We're not done.

Q. Obviously, Alex has played in Boston. What advice would you give him about managing Boston?

TERRY FRANCONA: I don't think I would. I don't think guys need advice. There's a reason that somebody hired them. They felt like he was ready, and he's been there. Part of the fun of this game is you do things how you want to do it, not like he thinks I would want him to do it.

I think there's a reason guys become managers, because they keep their eyes open a lot already, and you kind of take what you want in. You don't need to sit and listen to somebody tell you how to do things.

Q. How nice is it to see Cora and Kapler get the jobs? How tough is it to see John Farrell go through what he did?

TERRY FRANCONA: Well, it happens to most everybody. That wasn't their fault. In this case, you have a chance to be told to move on. I've always felt like owners, not just their right, but it's their -- to have the guy they think is the best for that team. Sometimes it's not you.

Most people go through difficult times. It's just the nature of the job.

Q. Tito, how much better are you the next time around when that happens?

TERRY FRANCONA: A lot of it depends on who the players are. I don't know that I view being a good manager with your won-loss record. Major League Baseball is so -- it's not an even playing field. So you see guys like Millsy when he was in Houston. I thought Millsy was a good manager. His record wasn't very good. Probably outworked everybody in the league. You see Kevin Cash in Tampa, he's a good manager. They haven't had the talent to stack up yet with the other teams.

So I don't necessarily think, because you have a losing record means you're not a good manager or you don't know what you're doing.

Q. Is there more tasks of a manager now than when you started?

TERRY FRANCONA: Yes. There's more to pay attention to, and if you don't, shame on you because, if you're asked to make a decision, there's more to look at now so you can make a decision not based on guessing. You're always going to rely on people because that's part of what we do, but there's just so much good information out there, it helps make your decisions.

Q. Tito, you're familiar with Carlos Santana's numbers. What kind of guy is he? What kind of presence does he bring?

TERRY FRANCONA: Rarely, at least in my time, do you see guys change in the middle of their career. He could get kind of surly at times and get a little consumed with how he's doing. And about the halfway mark of the last couple years, he's a better teammate, better person. He turned himself in to a very good first baseman. He's hard not to like, lovable. You see him, before the games, come up and kiss me on the head, get handshakes with everybody. He's a great kid.

He's going to be a great kid whether he's in Cleveland or Boston or New York. That's just -- I think he's worked at it, and I think it's really paid off.

Q. If he isn't back, do you think you have the guys to play first?

TERRY FRANCONA: We've got Edwin we can certainly put there. We can put Lonny there if we want. We have guys we could. I think we'd probably like to sign somebody.

I think these meetings, everybody's in one place, so everybody expects everything's going to happen. That's not always the case. Sometimes it is, but sometimes you build some beginnings of things that maybe it happens now, maybe it happens later.

Q. With Jose, he obviously good at third. He was good at second. Do you have a preference?

TERRY FRANCONA: In my opinion, his best position is second. He's always -- he's a good third baseman. So I think what it comes down to is: Where's our best team? Because he can handle both. But if you just press me on it, I would say his best position is second.

Q. Do you feel like, if Kip moved to left and played the outfield, him doing that, the offense that he contributes, and you look at his offense at second base, which translates really well, if you moved him to a corner, do you think, if healthy, him doing that is --

TERRY FRANCONA: I think, rather than worry about that -- Kip is going to be in our lineup somewhere.

Q. Right.

TERRY FRANCONA: I guess I look at it more in team numbers. As a team, you have to score a certain amount of runs. Whether he's at second or left, I get your point. Some guys don't profile maybe, but he's in our lineup regardless. Whether you get it at second base or catcher, you've got to get it, and it's got to add up to a certain amount.

Q. Tito, talk about all these -- your former players who are now managing around the game. Every one of these guys did you see at some point when we were playing and you saw that ability in them?

TERRY FRANCONA: Oh, boy, I remember when Cashy was playing, I was hoping it would start like now (laughter). Every time I hit him, I thought, man, I wish he was a coach. No, they all paid attention.

I was probably tougher on Cora than a lot of other guys because I expected him to be on time, to be where he's supposed to be, because that's the type of guy he was. But he always paid attention.

I rode Cashy hard, but I also loved when he was catching. You lose Varitek for a week, Cashy could go out there and he might not get any hits but your team might go 6-1. That wasn't by luck. So a lot of the guys have different characteristics even though they're different people.

Q. How proud are you to have them all managing?

TERRY FRANCONA: Very, very proud. They've all grown up and moved on, but in this game, when you move on, it doesn't mean you quit caring about people.

Q. Tito, earlier you talked about today's player and how savvy they are. How savvy were you walking into your first major league clubhouse in 1981?

TERRY FRANCONA: Not very. But there wasn't social media either. There was so much less to be consumed with. There was the Baseball Weekly or whatever they called it then. Didn't have cell phones. It was easier. It was easier to be young than it is now. I think in general, not just in baseball. But I would say I was not very savvy.

Q. You had great hair, though.
TERRY FRANCONA: Thanks. Can't say that anymore either.

Cleveland Indians