Francona feels 'a little awkward' in first visit with Red Sox

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Francona feels 'a little awkward' in first visit with Red Sox

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- As Terry Francona stood in front of the home dugout at Jet Blue Park Thursday afternoon and answered questions from reporters as his former players took batting practice, there was no escaping the obvious.

"It's a little awkward for me,'' acknowledged Francona.

Francona was at the ballpark in his new role as ESPN color analyst, getting ready for a telecast which involved the Red Sox, the team he managed for the previous eight seasons.
"Everything right now is a little different,'' said Francona. "If I sat here and said, 'Yeah, this is just another day at the office . . .', that wouldn't be true. I'm excited to do the game. But I'll be glad when the day is over.''

In his first few weeks as a professional broadcaster, Francona is still learning on the job.

"I'm just trying to do the best I can," he said. "It's the same thing as being a manager -- you wake up and try to be prepared. It's certainly different. But I've enjoyed it.''

In his new role, he said he'll be careful about what he says on the air -- about the Red Sox and others.

"I don't think I've ever set out to be critical of anybody,'' he said. "I think there's a way to say what's going on without being a bad person. I'll just be myself.''

Francona took some ribbing from reporters who heard that, while driving colleagues Dan Shulman and Claire Smith to dinner Wednesday night, he ran out of gas and. He and Shulman had to push the car down an off-ramp from Interstate I-75.

Asked to put his departure from the Red Sox last fall into perspective, Francona said: "When you go 7-20 in September, you open yourself up to criticism. You probably deserve to be criticized. I thought I tried to take some responsibility in that last press conference. I thought there things that needed to be done and it wasn't necessarily my voice that was doing the best job at that point. I thought I was pretty open and honest about that.

"What happened after that (including a story in the Boston Globe that divulged some off-field issues), hurt me a lot. It probably always will. But the best thing to do is try to move on. But I spent eight years there and we did a lot of good stuff. So that hurt me a little bit.''

In analyzing the American League East race, Francona said the season would "come down to whatever pitching staff stays the healthiest . . . That's a lot of good teams in one division.''

Francona still harbors a desire to return to the dugout, but won't rush back for any opportunity.

"My passion is being on the field,'' he said. "But I think it will be really healthy for me to step back and look at baseball without as much emotion. I think that will be good for me. I was pretty worn down by the end of last year.

"There's not too many managing jobs out there. But if it ever comes about and it makes sense, I would certainly (consider it). But it would have to make sense. I don't want to manage just for the sake of managing. I said that last time after being fired in Philadelphia. But I got this Red Sox job and it was a good one and it lasted a long time."

Youkilis weighs in on Valentine possibly being Japan ambassador

Youkilis weighs in on Valentine possibly being Japan ambassador

Among the reactions to the news that Bobby Valentine was possibly being considered to be the US amassador to Japan in President Donald Trump’s administration was this beauty from Kevin Youkilis. 

Valentine famously called out Youkilis early in his stormy tenure as Red Sox manager in 2012. Remember? "I don't think he's as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason," Bobby V said of Youk at the time. 

The Red Sox traded Youkilis to the White Sox for two not-future Hall of Famers, outfielder Brent Lillibridge and right-hander Zach Stewart, later that season.

Youkilis, now Tom Brady’s brother-in-law by the way, had a 21-game stint playing in Japan in 2014 before retiring from baseball. 

 

Mitchell rising fast but somehow totally unaware of fantasy football

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Mitchell rising fast but somehow totally unaware of fantasy football

FOXBORO -- It seems unlikely that a 23-year-old who has spent much of his life around sports would be unaware of how fantasy football works. But Malcolm Mitchell insisted on Friday that he was that 23-year-old. 

Over the last seven days, Mitchell has been the second-most added player in ESPN.com fantasy leagues behind only Steelers tight end Ladarius Green. The rookie wideout went undrafted in many fantasy leagues before the start of the regular season, but his production has spiked over the last three weeks making him one of a hot commodity for people headed into the fantasy playoffs.

In wins over the Niners, Jets and Rams, Mitchell has caught 17 passes for 222 yards and three scores. 

"I have family members mention it, but I never know what they're talking about," Mitchell said when asked if he was asked about his newfound popularity among fans of fantasy football. "I'm not sure how that works. If someone said it, I'd probably have no idea what it means."

A fewer lockers down from Mitchell is the stall of rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who cut into Mitchell's back-and-forth with reporters joking, "I've got him on my team!"

Mitchell's confusion over the phenomenon that is fantasy football seemed to be genuine as he asked questions about how teams operate and what fantasy free-agency means. 

Those who've picked him up probably don't mind that Mitchell is in the dark on the subject -- and the same goes for the Patriots coaching staff, it's safe to assume -- as long as he continues to do his job as well as he's done it in recent weeks.