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03/05/08 7:36 PM ET

Francona to welcome Torre

This time around, Sox skipper will greet friend as a Dodger

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Joe Torre makes his return to City of Palms Park on Thursday, and for the first time in more than a dozen years, it will not be as manager of the Yankees. Which is OK with Red Sox manager Terry Francona. Francona has known Torre since he was a kid, and his father, Tito, was teammates with Torre on the Braves in the late 1960s.

"I'm glad," Francona said of seeing his friend in a uniform other than the Yankees. "Me and Joe actually talked about this a little bit. It just gets so out of whack, the whole [rivalry] thing. I like Joe so much, but at the same time, you want to beat each other's brains out -- that's just what you want to do. I'm glad he's in the National League. I feel like I can go put my arm around him tomorrow and nobody's going to start yelling at me."

Francona said he would not mind greeting Torre with a hug on Thursday, which he avoided in previous seasons when Torre was wearing pinstripes.

"I never went out there to the batting cage," Francona said. "Not just because of me. I just didn't want to put him in that position. People don't want to see that."

Although Torre is no longer in pinstripes, Francona knows the rivalry with the Yankees will not diminish.

"I don't think anything affects it," Francona said. "It's going to go on. Again, the game is so good, there's so many good players and the games end up being so interesting, for the most part, that the stuff that happens before and after, that doesn't matter. It's a headache and you end up having to answer things, but the games are so good. That game in '04, when [Derek] Jeter went into the stands [at Fenway Park to snare a foul ball]. ... It's hard to find games better than that. I wish we'd have won, but it's hard to find games better than that. The game where they came to our place and Billy Mueller hits the walk-off, that's pretty good baseball."

Regarding the rivalry, Torre told The Associated Press: "It's fun, especially the way people perceive the Red Sox and the Yankees, that they hate each other. As a rule, the players had a great sense of respect for each other.

"I talk with Terry, and he'll say, 'Aren't you glad to be done with this?' As passionate as those games are, every game is a season. The game is over and you are totally exhausted."

Torre, 67, began managing in the Major Leagues in 1977. Francona, who turns 49 in March, contemplated managing at that age.

"I don't know," Francona said. "I guess if somebody wanted me and if I felt like I was ... the thing I'm worried about is losing energy. I don't know how well you can do this job without having energy for the day. Again, how you feel health-wise. This job wears on you, so I don't know."

Thursday could potentially be the last managerial trip to City of Palms Park for Torre, who signed a three-year contract with the Dodgers, who next year move from Vero Beach, Fla., their Spring Training home for 61 years, to Arizona.

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.