McAdam: Future for Francona may be up in air

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McAdam: Future for Francona may be up in air

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam

At the post-mortem press conference held Thursday at Fenway Park, it didn't take long for the topic of Terry Francona's job security to be broached.

"Obviously, it's a question you have to ask," acknowledged general manager Theo Epstein. "Tito and I spent some time talking today, just kind of catching up about the season and talking about what the next few days will look like. We're going to get together -- ownership, Larry (Lucchino CEO), I and Tito -- over the next few days and talk about the season and talk about the future.

"We're less than 24 hours removed from the end of the season, so we need some time to calm down, get objective and look at ourselves, look at 2011 and look ahead and make best decisions for everybody."

That wasn't exactly the most strongly worded backing for a manager believed to be on the hot seat. There was no declaration that Francona will indeed return for 2012, for which the Red Sox hold a 4.25 million option.

Instead, there was this:

"I can't answer that question without saying that we've already talked about it -- John (Henry), Tom (Werner), Larry and I -- and nobody blames what happened in September on Tito. That would be totally irresponsible, totally shortsighted and wouldn't recognize everything that he means to the organization and to all our successes, including, at times, during 2011."

More than once Epstein reiterated a similar show of support for Francona, but each time, parsed his words carefully. Each time, the point was made that Francona wouldn't be blamed for the spectacular face-plant the Sox performed in September.

"No one blames Tito for what happened in September," said Epstein.

Again, the qualifier: "In September."

But missing the playoffs for the second straight year? There was no absolution coming for that, as if that matter was still open for debate.

And perhaps it is, among Red Sox management and ownership. Perhaps the disastrous 7-20 mark in September that sent the Red Sox home for the offseason following a cruel 4-3 loss Wednesday at Camden Yards is being removed from the debate.

There were more tea leaves to read, too. There was Francona's body language, which was more than a little off-putting -- arms folded, brow furrowed, eyes frequently downcast.

If there was a place Francona would less like to be, it's hard to imagine one.

Answering questions about a failed playoff race and a premature start on winter can't be fun. But Francona looked like a man awaiting a double root canal.

Speculation about Francona's future with the organization actually began two weeks ago when Peter Gammons went on The Dan Patrick Show and talked about a growing "disconnect" between Epstein and Francona.

Epstein did his best to dismiss the rift when he spoke with reporters at Yankee Stadium last Friday. He insisted that the Red Sox were not dysfunctional and added that he and Francona had a good laugh over all the attention given to Gammons' comments.

There were no smiles Thursday, however, as Epstein and Francona performed the public autopsy of the late, not-so-great 2011 Red Sox season.

Meanwhile, the silence from ownership has been defeaning. More than once in the last three weeks, as the Red Sox' wild card lead seemed to shrivel almost daily, Francona was asked by beat writers if he had heard anything from ownership -- a text message, perhaps, offering support, or a phone call for morale-buidling.

Each time, Francona had the same simple answer: No.

Perhaps Francona himself had read the tea leaves. How else to explain his unwillingness to answer in the affirmative when asked if he wants to return for a ninth season in the Red Sox dugout?

"Theo and I talked today and will continue to talk tomorrow," said Francona. "Maybe it's best, today, to stay with where we're at . . . Fair question. I would rather focus on the other stuff today, if that's OK. It's a fair question."

More than fair, it may be the most relevant question as the offseason gets underway much sooner than expected.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam.

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox make 'outstanding comeback' vs. Rangers

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Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox make 'outstanding comeback' vs. Rangers

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers:

QUOTES

* “(Matt) Bush has tremendous arm, but what we’ve seen . . . I don’t know that there’s anyone that throws a hard enough to get it by Mookie [Betts]. Just lightening bat speed . . . The dugout erupted when he caught it.” - Farrell said on Betts’ ninth inning homerun.

* “It was an outstanding comeback. Just a tremendous character win tonight by our guys. The work that our bullpen did tonight was just outstanding. ” - John Farrell said following the comeback win over Texas.

* “Koji comes back after a couple of rough outings and was vintage Koji here tonight.” - Farrell said on Uehara striking out the side in the ninth to earn the save

* “The homerun. Without that homerun, you don’t get to that wild pitch.” - Jackie Bradley said on what the Red Sox dugout was more excited about in the ninth.

* “Winning, to me that’s everything. I definitely want to go out there and throw the baseball better. I want to win myself. But at the end of the day I want the Red Sox to win.” - David Price said following the Red Sox win, despite his inability to keep the game close throughout the duration of his start.

NOTES

* David Ortiz extended his hitting streak to 10 games with his fourth inning single. He’s now 12 for his last 36 during his 10-game hitting streak.

* Sandy Leon’s ninth inning double was his 12th hit of the year. He’s now 12-for-22 (.545) to start his 2016 campaign. Four of his hits are doubles and he also has four RBI. 

* David Price’s 2.1-inning start is his shortest with Boston yet. The lefty gave up a season-worst 12 hits -- the most hits he’s given up since May 8th last season in a 6.1 inning start.

* Hanley Ramirez’s two-run homerun marks his third in the last ten games.

* The Red Sox improve to 22-3 when Jackie Bradley Jr. hits a homerun following his 13th homerun of the season.

STARS

1) Mookie Betts

Betts had over three hours between his two base hits, but his second proved the most important. He launched a 2-0 fastball into left center, tying the game in the ninth.

2) Jackie Bradley Jr.

Bradley laced a homerun into the right field second deck to put Boston in striking distance at 7-4. In addition to knocking in two runs, he scored in the ninth after he walked, starting the ninth inning comeback. 

3) Koji Uehara

Despite struggling of late, Uehara was called on to close and struck out the side to seal the win. He was the final piece of the 6.2 innings of relief from the bullpen that came in one of Boston’s biggest wins of the year.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter: @ngfriar

First impressions of the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers

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First impressions of the Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Rangers

First impressions of the Boston Red Sox’ 8-7 win over the Texas Rangers:

Boston’s offense is always in striking distance.

The Red Sox had an uphill battle from the get-go thanks to David Price’s tough outing.

But somehow they took advantage of Texas’ equally bad pitching—that just happened to be more spread out than Boston’s bad pitching.

If Jackie Bradley Jr. doesn’t earn a walk, or Sandy Leon doesn’t fight tooth and nail for a two-out double in the ninth, that Mookie Betts homerun can’t happen.

The Red Sox need another long outing from Steven Wright.

Obviously they’d prefer a strong performance -- but the knuckler may need to bite the bullet if he’s off Saturday night.

Boston’s bullpen has been used and abused of late, and needs some rest following the Chicago series and a 2.1 inning outing from Price.

Price continues to struggle against the Rangers in his career.

Even when he was able to walk out of the first with just the one run after a bases loaded double play, but couldn’t clamp down with two outs.

The biggest reason he struggled wasn’t his velocity—although it seemed down most of the night—but his location. He left a lot of pitches up in the zone and Texas is not the team you can do that with.

Although Price was bound to have a rough start, this start went worse than anyone could’ve anticipated. To say this was a bad start is putting it nicely.

Texas gave him a nice wake-up call. He still has room to grow.

Matt Barnes had a solid performance.

It wasn’t his best, but given the situation, he did well. First off, the Rangers are a very hot team and swing early in the count. Barnes left the ball up time after times, but only surrendered the one run.

Additionally, he entered the game far earlier than he’s used to -- in the midst of a blowout where his team was on the wrong end. That’s not an easy thing to walk into for a reliever, especially one who’s used to pitching late in tight ballgames.

He gave Boston a chance when the offense started to gain momentum.

Hanley Ramirez’s power continues to show.

Although he’s not hitting at the rate he did to start the year, Ramirez laced another homer against the Rangers Friday night.

This homerun may have been his most impressive, coming on a 1-2 slider away, driving it to straightaway center -- the deepest part of the ballpark.

Boston just saw what they look like when they almost blow games.

All season the talk around the league has been how explosive the Red Sox lineup is.

Well, the Rangers offense is right there with them. The league’s hottest team didn’t waist any time scoring, and had 15 hits before Boston pitching recorded an out in the fifth inning.

Although the Red Sox outslugged Texas late, they saw what a potent offense outside the AL East can do -- and how bad pitching can undo all of that.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter: @ngfriar