By Art Martone
Worried about the loss of Victor Martinez?
Don't be. Terry Francona isn't.
"It never fails. General manager Theo Epstein and those guys in the Baseball Operations department, they'll find a way to put a team together that we feel good about," Francona said Tuesday on WEEI Radio, talking with Michael Holley and Dale Arnold after news broke about Victor Martinez agreeing to a four-year, 50 million contract with Detroit.
"For all the hoopla last year about not enough offense and everything . . . a lot of things went wrong and we won 89 games. Eighty-nine games wasn't good enough, but I think you understand my point. We're not going to go away.
"Our guys in our Baseball Ops, they'll figure out a way to put a team on that field. And when we go down to Fort Myers, we'll be excited."
Francona is already excited about Jerrod Saltalamacchia, the only catcher left now that Martinez is gone and Jason Varitek is in the never-never land of free agency. Francona wouldn't commit to handing him the starting job, but he's intrigued with Saltalamacchia's potential.
"He's a really interesting kid," Francona said of Saltlamacchia. "He's been through a lot. He's been injured, he's had some trouble with his throwing. Saying that, he's been the Rangers' Opening Day catcher the last two years. That's how much they thought of him.
"Switch-hitter with power. I think we view him potentially as somebody who can really fit the bill, as maybe even an everyday catcher for us.
"Now, saying that, I don't known if we want to just, because of everything he's been through, hand everything to him April 1 and say, 'Go get 'em.' Sometimes you're helping set somebody up to fail. We don't want that to happen. We want to help this kid progress because we really like what's in there. But you also want to help him get there."
Which is not to say, however, that Francona won't miss Martinez . . . on and off the field.
"Nobody's ever questioned what kind of person he is," the manager said of his former catcher. "When he came over from Cleveland a couple of years ago, he immediately made an impact. And just because a guy's going to leave doesn't mean all of a sudden that all those things you meant, you don't mean anymore. He's going to take that to a new team. Fortunately, it looks like it's not in our division."
But he says he understands, and respects, the organization's decision not to match the Tigers' offer.
"Being the manager's a little different . . . than having to be the caretaker for the organization and looking at it four years down the road," he said. "I try not to lose sight of that.
"Wanting to have Victor in the lineup next April is a no-brainer. But when you have to make the decision and you're talking 40, 45, 50 million dollars four years down the road, that's not quite as easy.
"And I respect that."
Art Martone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.