Francona on Ortiz: Guys need time

MINNEAPOLIS -- Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona expanded Wednesday morning on remarks he made the day before on Boston sports radio station WEEI regarding struggling slugger David Ortiz, who was back in the lineup for Wednesday's game.

Francona had said in his weekly radio interview that you can't look at players as "chess pieces.''

"I guess I've always felt like that,'' Francona said Wednesday. "It's not fantasy baseball, it's not like chess pieces. Certainly you like to have strategy and things like that. I think players, I think they appreciate letting them go play.

"That's why in spring training we work on what we want to work on so they know where they're supposed to throw it so we don't have to stand up every inning and tell them what base to throw it too. I mean, they're good players.

"This is kind of the same thing. I think if I fall into, you know, whether it's two, five, seven games into a season, pulling the trigger ... any time I've done something like that, I've been pretty sure how I feel. Whether it was the year we moved Pap into the closer's role, I kind of knew how I felt. So we didn't wait around.''

Jonathan Papelbon replaced Keith Foulke as the Sox closer three games into the 2006 season.

"Guys need time, the team needs time to settle in. If I do not allow them time to settle in, it's just going to prolong what we're going through.''

Someone mentioned how Francona stuck with second baseman Mark Bellhorn during the 2004 ALCS, and was rewarded with his patience when Bellhorn homered in Game 6 against the Yankees.

"I guess I kind of been asked so many times this week, well, you're loyal to a fault. I'm not really sure -- I'm not perfect, I don't mean that -- but I'm not really sure when that hasn't paid off," Francona said. "If you look back, our patience, I think, has paid off. [Dustin Pedroia] didn't go to Triple-A [after a slow start in '07], we won the World Series.

"Sometimes guys just don't play well all the time. That's just part of it.''

Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here.