By Phil Perry
Terry Francona has been in professional baseball for almost 30 years, but he's still excited for the start of his next spring training in a little less than a month.
Of course it helps that this year he has two new All-Stars -- Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez -- to work with.
"It's exciting," Francona told CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Sean McAdam from the 72nd annual Boston Baseball Writers Awards dinner. "When you talk about getting one hitter and what it does to your lineup, it's exciting. But when you talk about two guys that are going to impact our lineup in vastly different ways . . ."
Francona could hardly keep up with himself, understandably.
When Gonzalez was acquired in a trade for prospects, and then Crawford signed a 7-year 142 million deal with the Red Sox as a free agent, his lineup drastically improved over the course of a few days.
"Crawford is hopefully going to create a lot of havoc," said Francona. "And you got a guy in the middle of the order Gonzalez that is hopefully going to be taking advantage of that havoc. It's going to thicken out our lineup and make it a lot more productive."
The Red Sox front office also made deals to improve the team's bullpen, most notably acquiring relievers Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler.
"When you lose that many games late, it's hard," Francona said of last season's bullpen woes. "Too many walk-off losses, too many come-from-behind, on-the-road losses. When we had it all lined up, we were fine. But on those nights that we didn't, we ran into some problems. Hopefully that'll be a little easier this year."
Francona also discussed the health of players like Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury, saying they should all be ready to play without restrictions during spring training.
Francona inferred Gonzalez could be slowed by a shoulder that required offseason surgery, but he remained upbeat about the start of the season.
"I think our ownership and our front office has done an unbelievable job just putting the team together," Francona said. "I think it's on our guys in uniform now to go down to spring training and make sure these guys are ready to play baseball the way we want them to because we should be good. You never know what's going to happen, but we should be a good team."