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Sunday, February 13, 2011
Tito on Drew, Ellsbury, the 'pen and more

By Gordon Edes

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox manager Terry Francona touched upon a number of topics Sunday, ranging from Jonathan Papelbon and Bobby Jenks coexisting in the bullpen, the health of outfielders J.D. Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury, the competition for jobs in the 'pen, and the value of the running game. A few highlights:

*On whether there is concern about Drew and his troublesome left hamstring, which prompted visits to noted orthopedist James Andrews in Alabama and to the team’s medical staff in Boston:

“We’re going to try and not let it, but it’s something he has voiced some concern about. I don’t think he’s real concerned about it, but it’s been there. I don’t think we want it to be a concern. So we’ll certainly monitor it.’’

*On Ellsbury’s recovery from fractured ribs:

“He’s healthy now. He says he’s doing everything without limitations. It’s going to be fun to watch Els. A year ago, we were talking about him being our left fielder, being the leadoff hitter and being the game-changer. Now we've got a game-changer playing left field [Carl Crawford] and can move Els back to center and hopefully allow him to continue his development.

Terry Francona
Terry Francona said Sunday that on-base percentage can be more important than speed at the top of the lineup.
“He missed a lot of time. Early on, does that slow him down? We’ll see. If it does, then we’ll have ways to take the pressure off him. We can hit him lower in the lineup. We’ve been pretty open about that. If he’s feeling good, we’d love for him to lead off. If he’s not, we can protect him a little bit.’’

*On taking a slow approach with Jenks’ preparation this spring:

“He’s one guy, he’s been long-tossing, he’s not been off the mound yet. That’s just the way he always does it. I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t see him in a game the first week [of exhibitions]. He doesn’t need to be. He’s always been extremely slow in spring training. No reason to rush it.’’

*On the improved condition of John Lackey and Josh Beckett:

“Lackey looks like he’s really worked. He’s thin. Even in his face. Beckett looks strong. Regardless of who you are, a lot of pride comes in with this. Both guys obviously went home and got after it. Hopefully it’ll pay dividends with their ERAs and won-lost records.’’

*On having a potential closer controversy with Papelbon and Jenks:

“I don’t think this is as much of an issue for Paps as maybe it was for people talking about Paps. He knows where I stand on this. I don’t think it’s much of an issue.

“There may be various reasons why he wants to bounce back, I’m not sure I care. Whether it’s financial, that’s up to him. I just want him to get a bunch of saves. It looks like he’s in great shape.’’

*On whether Papelbon will be motivated by this being his free-agent year:

“I think it will motivate him. I don’t think he’s ever been real hesitant to say that he aspires to be one of the high-bar, however you say it [highest-paid closers]. That’s OK.’’

*On whether he thought Jenks, who has only closed, will be comfortable as a setup man:

“I don’t think he would have signed here if he wasn’t comfortable. We tried to go to Bard too much last year, or wanting to go to Bard. [Jenks] is another guy you don’t have to match up because if he’s throwing the ball the way he can, he can get lefties and righties. That should really help us. There were too many games we either lost or had a chance to win because it got away from us in the seventh and eighth innings.

“Bard is probably the ultimate weapon in the bullpen. He has the ability like no other reliever in the league -- I might be leaving out a guy or two -- but he has that ability to finish an inning and go back out [for another] and we’ll use that to our advantage. He doesn’t mind it. I think he actually thrives on it.’’

*On speed vs. on-base percentage at the top of the order:

“Speed is good. You want ‘em to score runs. But in my opinion on-base percentage is more important than stolen bases. Sometimes your guys who can run are better off at the bottom of the order because they can run more free, rather than making outs with your better hitters up.

“You try to use good judgment. If you have a guy leading off and stealing 70 bases, that’s a weapon. If he’s not getting on base, that’s not much of a weapon. Carl Crawford said to me when we were in Houston that stolen base percentage is more important than anything, and I agree.

“We don’t want to rein them in, not if we’re going to be fast. I’d love to use it. But making outs on the bases doesn’t help you win.’’

*Francona also said that Tim Wakefield will be stretched out as a starter in camp, and that may be the approach with as many as 11 pitchers, including left-hander Felix Doubront. He also said that Jed Lowrie’s versatility might allow the club to carry just one extra infielder, although that will depend on health.