Expect a few lighthearted moments and lots of hugs when the Red Sox begin a three-game series against the Indians in Cleveland Tuesday night. That’s because former Red Sox manager Terry Francona will be leading the Indians against his former pitching coach and friend, John Farrell, at Progressive Field.
Farrell was expected to be Francona’s heir apparent in Boston whenever Francona decided to hang it up. But with no end in sight to Francona’s tenure, Farrell left to manage the Blue Jays in 2011.
Then, after a Red Sox collapse in September 2011, ownership decided that Francona’s run was over after eight years, as the team began to take advantage of his player-friendly style. Farrell had to wait, though, as the Red Sox hired Bobby Valentine, who lasted only one season.
Farrell finally became Sox manager last October after the Blue Jays agreed to take shortstop Mike Aviles in exchange for letting Farrell out of his contract.
Farrell remains a close friend of Francona’s, even with continued friction between Sox ownership and Francona, especially after Francona’s book brought out some unflattering things about the relationship.
At his pregame press conference Monday, Farrell said, “Before I came up, I had a text on my phone [from Francona] waiting, so I’m sure there’s some remark that will start three days of some bantering back and forth. But it’s always fun.
“It’s always fun, whether it’s the conversation before or after the game or the conversation what takes place inside it. I know one thing: They’ve got a very good lineup and they’ll be well-prepared.”
Farrell learned about managing from Francona while serving as his pitching coach for four years.
“His ability to blend the personalities that have come through this clubhouse door in the eight years he was here,” Farrell said, “he had such a knack and a way to connect with so many different people, and to bring them all to a common point.
“Players loved playing for him and they ran through a wall for him. He just had a way of making every player know or feel that he was behind them, supported them, and if there were any issues — and there were — they were handled in an appropriate way.
“He treated us great, so we wanted to do the best job we were capable of as well. He made you feel part of the team. He didn’t make anyone feel like they didn’t have a voice or an opinion or an ability to contribute to what we were trying to get accomplished.
“He’s just got a very good way with people to make them feel included.”
Farrell cautioned against thinking that the familiarity between the two would dictate the play between the teams.
“I probably wouldn’t go that deep into it because it’s still going to be what the guy on the mound is doing, what the players in the lineup are doing,” Farrell said. “The game situation will give us information on which to make decisions on.
“I think there’s an awareness of maybe the style of play that maybe he employs or what I employ, but still it’s going to be about the strengths of the roster we have. Not to always deflect back to the players, but this is still always about them.”
As diversity was celebrated on Jackie Robinson Day, Farrell was asked whether a gay player would be accepted in baseball.
“I think that goes back to creating an environment that’s accepting,” Farrell said. “There is going to be people from all walks of life. We respect the rights of every individual that walks into our clubhouse. The most important thing is that that respect is mutual and that we work towards a common goal, and our goal is clearly stated, and that’s to win a World Series.”
Asked to reflect on Robinson’s legacy, Farrell said, “Baseball, to me, without getting so philosophical, this is something that is — I don’t want to say a ‘testing ground,’ but it reflects society in so many ways, whether it’s a color barrier being broken down.
“In our clubhouse, we’ve got six or seven countries represented and you come together as a group of 25. You look to not only coexist but accept the individuality of every player that’s in there.
“And certainly the Robinson family and Jackie, he himself, may be one of the most significant situations in our country’s history. Breaking down segregation to the point of inclusion, I think that continues to happen in the game today.”
Lackey to throw
John Lackey (biceps tendinitis) will begin a throwing program Tuesday. “The symptoms have subsided,” Farrell said. “So any kind of range of motion that he’s going through or just a couple days where he felt a little bit of tightness in that bicep, that’s gone.” Lackey went 4⅓ innings in his first start of the season, April 6 against the Blue Jays, before getting hurt. An MRI revealed no tear but some inflammation. Alfredo Aceves has been inserted in Lackey’s slot and will make his second start Wednesday in Cleveland . . . David Ortiz (Achilles’) was scratched for the second straight game in his rehab stint at Pawtucket. He was seen riding a stationary bike in Pawtucket’s locker room and jogging in the outfield before the game. Ortiz is still scheduled to be activated when the team returns from Cleveland Friday for a weekend series vs. the Royals. It seems likely that rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. will be assigned to either Double A Portland or Triple A Pawtucket. Bradley, who batted ninth and played left field Monday, is hitting just .097. Farrell said Bradley has been handling the adversity “as well as can be expected.”
Just in case
The Red Sox decided to hold knuckleballer Steven Wright out of his scheduled start Sunday in Pawtucket as a precaution in case they needed reinforcements because of Joel Hanrahan’s hamstring ailment. “If we had a short start and we need to add some length to the bullpen, that was the reason for it,” Farrell said. As for Hanrahan, the Red Sox still aren’t committing to the disabled list . . . Dustin Pedroia, who scored the winning run Monday, has reached base in all 12 games this season, and 22 straight going back to Sept. 21.