Francona speaks on team bonding trouble

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Francona speaks on team bonding trouble

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen

BOSTON Less than 24 hours earlier, his team had been bounced from what appeared to be a certain playoff berth after a hideous month of September.Thursday afternoon, Red Sox manager Terry Francona sat, stoically, to the right of general manager Theo Epstein as the two addressed the media.

Epstein will likely be one of the people who decides Franconas fate if Epstein stays with the organization. After his team started out the season despite grand expectations going 0-6 and 2-12, the Sox rebounded to enter September with the best record in the American League, at 83-52, behind only the Phillies. But, a horrid September, when the Sox went 7-20 amid abysmal starting pitching, shoddy defense, and lack of timely hitting, has left the Sox out of the postseason and clouded Franconas future with the team hes managed for the past eight seasons.

Francona, likewise, was noncommittal on his preference to remain with the Sox.

Theo and I talked today a little bit and I think well continue to talk tomorrow. he said. I think maybe its best today to stay with where were at. Its still pretty fresh and pretty raw. Its a fair question, just wed rather focus on the other stuff today, if thats okay. Its a fair question.

It was a challenging season for Francona. But was it his most trying?

Only because it's fresh in our minds, he said. Its easy to forget troubles in the past. Theres not a whole lot here that isnt trying, even in the best of times, because everything is so important to people here. And thats good. But, because its fresh and raw, it seems like this was the most challenging season. But there've been a lot of trying moments here. We just fought through them a bit better in the past.

Francona mentioned calling a team meeting earlier this month . . . ironically, after the Sox had won the night before, pummeling the Blue Jays, 14-0, in Toronto.

I think every teams obviously different. This team, I think, became challenging at the end, he said. I called the meeting because there were some things I was worried about. I thought we were spending too much energy on things that werent putting our best foot forward toward winning. And we spent a few minutes in the clubhouse that day talking about that. There were some things that did concern me. Teams normally, as the season progresses, theres events that make you care about each other, and this club, it didnt always happen as much as I wanted it to. And I was frustrated by that.

Asked if it were on-field or off-field issues that concerned him, Francona replied:

No, no, I just meant I wanted to make sure we put our best foot forward towards giving ourselves the best chance to win. Its hard to win, even with really good clubs. But I wanted to make sure that they understood. And there were enough guys in that room that knew what it was like to win. There were some guys in the room that had won with other teams. And then there were some people in the room that hadnt. Just wanted to make sure we put our best foot forward because nothing is guaranteed. I just wanted to remind them and tell them what I thought.

There are times when team bonding happens naturally, other times when it needs an assist.

Probably a little bit of both, Francona said. Ultimately, you dont need a team that wants to go out to dinner together. But you need to have a team that wants to protect each other on the field and be fiercely loyal to each other on the field. Thats what ultimately is really important.

Franconas relationship with John Lackey appeared to be difficult. Lackey would often roll his eyes or throw his arms in the air when he wasnt happy with a play by one of his teammates. Several times this season, he stared down Francona while the manager walked from the dugout to the mound to remove Lackey, who went 12-12 with a 6.41 ERA, from a game. Francona denied there were problems between him and Lackey.

I dont think you can put in a guys contract that hes going to make a certain amount of money he cant roll his eyes, Francona said. I dont think guys in the clubhouse have a problem with Lack, nor do I. I think we certainly wish it would have gone better on the mound. But Ive never had a problem with Lack at all.

But he acknowledges his team was lacking at times when it came to being loyal and protective of each other.

I think we fell short at times, he said. Thats what I think general manager Theo Epstein was talking about earlier. We noticed some things during the year . . . I respect the players a lot. Been around those guys for a long time. But to be the very best . . . theres got to be some extraordinary things that happen and I thought at times we didnt put our best foot forward and thats my responsibility. Thats why it bothered me.

Its still probably a little raw and fresh for me to kind of touch on it right now. Were speaking about 12 hours after a really tough loss. But I wanted us to handle things on the field a little bit better than we did and at times we just didnt get there. And it was very difficult.

And with that -- like Epstein -- come regrets.

I regret the way the month turned out, Francona said. I dont regret the way we worked at it and kept plugging away. We spent too much time and were too prepared to say that not a lot of things didnt work out very well. But, no, I can live with myself on the intensity and the work we put in.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Moreland homers again, Red Sox tag A's to avoid four-game sweep

Moreland homers again, Red Sox tag A's to avoid four-game sweep

OAKLAND, Calif. - A five-run ninth inning for the Red Sox that lasted more than a half-hour derailed any chance Eduardo Rodriguez had of getting his first career complete game.

Not that the left-hander was complaining.

After a bitter loss to Oakland a year ago when he allowed just one hit over eight innings, Rodriguez was more than happy with the way things turned out.

Rodriguez earned his second straight win, Mitch Moreland homered in his third consecutive game and Boston beat the Oakland Athletics 12-3 on Sunday to avoid a four-game sweep.

"I wanted to go back out there but they hit the ball pretty good in that inning and I know I had to get out of the game," Rodriguez said about the long wait. "I'll take it because we score more runs, I have a chance to win. If every inning's like that, I'll get out of the game after five."

Rodriguez (3-1) allowed three runs over eight innings. He struck out eight, walked one and retired 14 of his final 15 batters.

"Where he was with the pitch count, it'd be nice for him to go out there for the ninth inning given where he was and how well he was throwing the baseball," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "But at that point you're up nine, probably about a 35-minute inning, didn't want to take any chances."

Hanley Ramirez and Christian Vazquez had three hits apiece to power a Red Sox lineup that tallied 15 hits. Every player in Boston's starting lineup had at least one hit, and eight of the nine drove in runs.

Chad Pinder homered and drove in two runs for Oakland.

Boston, which hasn't been swept in a four-game series since July 2015, trailed 3-2 before scoring 10 runs over the final five innings.

"It felt we had them on the run a little bit," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "They get the lead and then we come back and take the lead again and you feel pretty good. But they were pretty persistent today."

Pinder went deep in the fourth, his fourth home run in eight games and fifth overall.

The A's committed three errors, giving them a major league-leading 42.

BRADLEY'S DEFENSIVE GEMS

Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts gave the A's trouble with his running and defense. Betts scored twice from first base and also made a pair of strong defensive plays. He made a sliding catch on Mark Canha's sinking liner in the eighth and then slammed into the wall after catching Khris' Davis fly to end the inning.

"This place during the daytime plays very difficult," Farrell said. "What Mookie was able to do a couple times in right field, those aren't easy plays. To be able to stay with it, go up against the wall a couple of times, we played very good outfield defense here today."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: Brock Holt continues to deal with lingering symptoms from vertigo and isn't yet ready to come off the disabled list, according to Farrell. Likewise, Boston plans to keep third baseman Pablo Sandoval in the minors to get consistent at-bats while recovering from a right knee sprain. ... Farrell said LHP Drew Pomeranz, who took the loss Saturday, will start against Texas on Thursday.

Athletics: Yonder Alonso (sore left knee) sat out his fourth straight game but could be back in the lineup Tuesday when Oakland begins a two-game series against Miami. ... Sean Doolittle (strained left shoulder) threw on flat ground before making 15 pitches off the mound. The plan is for the former closer to throw 25 pitches on Wednesday. ... Melvin said the team has applied for an extension on Chris Bassitt's rehab assignment. Bassitt underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello (2-5) faces Texas on Tuesday in the opener of a three-game series at Fenway Park. Porcello has lost three of his last four decisions.

Athletics: Following an off day, RHP Jesse Hahn (1-3) starts against Miami on Tuesday at the Coliseum. Hahn leads the majors in fewest home runs allowed per nine innings at 0.19.

Sandoval goes 1-for-3, plays first game at third base for Pawtucket

Sandoval goes 1-for-3, plays first game at third base for Pawtucket


Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval played five innings at third base and went 1-for-3 (a single) in his second rehab start for Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday.

Sandoval, coming back from a right knee sprain, had a hard-hit single up the middle in the PawSox' 5-3 victory in Buffalo. After DHing in his first start Friday night (0-for-3), Sandoval handled a pop-up and started a double play at third on Saturday.

Red Sox utility man Brock Holt was the DH for Pawtucket on Saturday in the 13th game of his rehab assignment as he comes back from vertigo. He went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts.