Francona excited to begin with new additions

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Francona excited to begin with new additions

By Phil Perry
CSNNE.com

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."

Big Papi's Papi was taken by surprise at retirement announcement

Big Papi's Papi was taken by surprise at retirement announcement

BOSTON - David Ortiz may be masterful in the clutch and one of the more charitable athletes in the city, but much like anyone else, Big Papi doesn’t always inform his own Papi of news right away -- even if he plans to announce it to the general public.

“He actually didn’t tell me [that he planned to announce his retirement],” Enrique Ortiz, David’s father, said through a Red Sox’ translator on Saturday before the next-to-last regular-season game. “I was in the Dominican Republic when he announced it in the states.

While Enrique would explain -- humbly -- how proud he was of his son, he’s not so sure announcing his retirement before the season was the correct move.

“If I was [in America], I would have told him not to announce his retirement,” the elder Ortiz explained, “just because there’s so many things that can happen in a season. Or you might have a change of heart after the season.

“If I were here I would have told him to stay neutral so his options were more open. So I wouldn’t have told him to retire.”

Although dad wasn’t on board with his son’s announcement, he’s done what any good parent does -- bite their tongue and let things play out.

“I haven’t told him anything about why he's retiring because I know it’s coming from him and it’s his decision,” Enrique said. “But when I look back to 2013, I remember coming here and I see him with what looks like two cats on his feet. And I’m like ‘What happened to my boy? Did he get into an accident or something?’ And what he told me was, ‘This is how you son is making this money, doing all of this stuff before a game.’ So [him retiring] is not a surprise to me.”

Saturday's Red Sox-Blue Jays lineups: E-Rod on mound, Bogaerts back to 2-hole

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Saturday's Red Sox-Blue Jays lineups: E-Rod on mound, Bogaerts back to 2-hole

The Red Sox (93-67) look to close in on the No. 2 seed in the A.L. playoffs and home-field advantage in the Division Series with the Cleveland Indians (92-67) with a victory over the Toronto Blue Jays tonight at Fenway Park.

The Red Sox send left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez (3-7, 4.68 ERA) to the mound against left-hander J.A. Happ (20-4, 3.20). Rodriguez is expected to pitch either Game 3 or 4 of the Division Series against the Indians next week.

If both teams finish with 94 wins, the Red Sox hold the tiebreaker over the Indians, based on Boston winning the season series, 4-2. The Indians may have to play a makeup game Monday with the Detroit Tigers.

The Jays are a game behind the Baltimore Orioles for the top A.L. wild-card spot and hold a half-game lead over the Detroit Tigers for the second wild-card spot. 

Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts moves back to his customary No. 2 spot in the batting order after hitting sixth Friday night. Right-handed hitting Aaron Hill is at third base and Christian Vazquez catches for Boston.

There will be the second of three ceremonies this weekend to honor retiring Red Sox DH David Ortiz before the game.  

The lineups:

RED SOX
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Mookie Betts RF
Hanley Ramirez 1B
Chris Young LF
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Aaron Hill 3B
Christian Vazquez C
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Eduardo Rodriguez LHP

BLUE JAYS
Devon Travis 2B
Josh Donaldson 3B
Edwin Encarnacion 1B
Jose Bautista DH
Russell Martin C
Troy Tulowitzki SS
Melvin Upton LF
Kevin Pillar CF
Ezequiel Carrera RF
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J.A. Happ LHP