Francona comfortable entering showdown vs. Yankees
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
Terry Francona knows he will be judged on the result of this year's ALCS. (Chris Carlson/AP)
NEW YORK -- The lights have been bright all season for the first-year manager of the Red Sox. But as Game 1 of the American League Championship Series was getting ready to start on Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium, Terry Francona surely knew that the spotlight was about to reach its peak.
During this best-of-seven series between ancient rivals who play in the two toughest baseball media markets in the country, every move Francona makes will be dissected to the utmost.
Francona was at peace with this as the series everyone has been waiting for was nearing its first pitch.
"Nothing really changes," said Francona. "Your outlook on how you approach the game, it really pretty much stays the same. Things are more magnified, but they pretty much stay the same."
Former Red Sox manager Grady Little, who managed his final game on this overly magnified stage last October, often said that it wasn't his decisions that got second guessed, but "the results" of those decisions.
The way Francona looks at it, if his results don't turn out as he plans, it won't be for any lack of thought or preparation.
"As far as the scrutiny in Boston, from the beginning I just felt like I would prepare my hard hardest to do the right thing, or what was right in my opinion," said Francona.
The reason? Francona didn't want left-handed hitters David Ortiz and Nixon to hit back-to-back.
When you consider the way things were going earlier in the season, it would have been hard to picture Millar and Nixon occupying a significant part of the meat in the order.
Millar was battling a woeful slump, producing just 21 RBIs the first three months of the season.
"For our team to kind of hit our stride, I thought Millar had to hit better," said Francona. "Then we made the trade for [Doug] Mientkiewicz and he was going to get some of those at-bats, but Kevin swung the bat so well that I didn't really want to get it him out of there."
As for Nixon, it just wasn't realistic to think he would be healthy enough to be a starter at this point of the year. But the gritty performer proved nearly everyone wrong.
"What he did was pretty miraculous," Francona said. "It was amazing he was able to do what he did. It was a big lift."
Pedro Martinez / P
Weight: 180 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
Pedro declines interview room: Just as he did the day prior to his Game 2 start against the Angels, Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez opted not to accept an invitation to the interview room on Tuesday. There will be no fine from Major League Baseball.
"Pedro is invited to appear in the interview room," said Phyllis Merhige, the senior vice president of club relations for Major League Baseball. "It isn't mandatory, and Major League Baseball has always taken the position that if someone didn't want to appear here, there's no point in forcing the issue. What's the point of having somebody sit here stone-faced if he doesn't want to be here?"
According to Merhige, the Baseball Writers Association of America has filed a complaint with the Commissioner's Office. Red Sox team spokesman Glenn Geffner said that Martinez has assured him he will hold a press conference following Game 2, win or lose.
Francona wasn't concerned about Martinez not performing his media duties.
"He's going to show up on the mound, that's what I care about," said Francona. "I don't personally care. I want him to pitch really, really well."
Crowded bullpen: The Red Sox had all kind of options in the bullpen for Game 1. Three-fifths of their starting rotation (Tim Wakefield, Bronson Arroyo and Derek Lowe) was available for action.
In particular, Wakefield -- the starter in Game 4 -- would benefit from the work. He last pitched on Oct. 1.
By adding Ramiro Mendoza as the 11th pitcher this round, Francona feels as if he'll have more flexibility with his other relievers.
"It's not just Derek, but we can use [Curtis] Leskanic maybe for a hitter or two," said Francona. "With [Mike] Myers, we can match him up and not worry so much about getting caught short. We're just trying to be able to maximize our pitching and I think this helps us do that."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
The following are trademarks or service marks of Major League Baseball entities and may be used only with permission of Major League Baseball Properties, Inc. or the relevant Major League Baseball entity: Major League, Major League Baseball, MLB, the silhouetted batter logo, World Series, National League, American League, Division Series, League Championship Series, All-Star Game, and the names, nicknames, logos, uniform designs, color combinations, and slogans designating the Major League Baseball clubs and entities, and their respective mascots, events and exhibitions.