CHICAGO – Terry Francona returns to Fenway Park as a manager on Thursday for the first time since he was fired at the end of the Red Sox' disastrous 2011 season after eight seasons as the manager of the Red Sox, winning two World Series.
Francona is in his first season as the manager of the Indians. Manager John Farrell, for one, is looking forward to Francona’s return. Farrell served as Francona’s pitching coach with the Sox from 2007-10, winning a World Series in his first season.
“I think it’ll be a special day when the series kicks off tomorrow,” Farrell said. “I would fully expect that he gets a great welcome, a great ovation and deservedly so. It was eight incredible years that he spent here, and looking forward to playing against him tomorrow. They’re playing exceptionally well, playing with a lot of confidence and he has a lot to do with that, but they’ve been a very good team.”
The Indians are at the top of the American League Central and one of baseball’s biggest surprises this season.
“They’ve pitched very consistently,” Farrell said. “I think they’re starting rotation is as they’ve gotten Ubaldo Jimenez on track, they’ve certainly added to that. [Justin] Masterson has been outstanding. A guy like [Zach] McAllister and [Corey] Kluber, those are guys that that keep games under control and they’ve pitched a pretty high number of innings. And they’ve got a very good bullpen. And seemingly they get on a little bit of a roll and they’ve won some games late in many different fashions. So they come to us probably feeling pretty good about themselves.”
Asked if he thought Francona might have any added motivation, considering his ignominious dismissal, Farrell replied, “I’m sure this is a unique situation he’s coming back to. But knowing Tito, I think he looks at every game as being important and every series as being important. But this‘ll be a different setting, I’m sure. And I’m sure in a lot of ways he’ll reflect upon the time spent here and hopefully have good thoughts.”
The scheduled pitching matchups for the four-game series are:
Thursday: RHP Ryan Dempster vs. RHP Zach McAllister
Friday: RHP John Lackey vs. RHP Justin Masterson
Saturday: LHP Jon Lester vs. LHP Scott Kazmir
Sunday: LHP Felix Doubront vs. RHP Corey Kluber