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At lunch, Francona gets a taste of the job

For a guy who has yet to be officially named Red Sox manager, Terry Francona was acting managerial yesterday.

Francona, in town for a physical, was invited to lunch with Keith Foulke, the free agent closer the Sox are attempting to sign. Francona, who as bench coach of the A's last season wore the same uniform as Foulke, rounded out a party that included Sox general manager Theo Epstein, not-yet-official pitching coach Dave Wallace, and Foulke's agent, Dan Horwits.

Before trying to catch a plane back home to attend his daughter's birthday party last night, Francona never mentioned that he'd been to lunch with Foulke. He said he spoke briefly with Epstein, who "was going 100 miles an hour. He's got a lot of stuff going on."

Indeed. After two days of wooing Foulke, who reportedly is torn between returning to Oakland and taking the plunge with the Sox, Epstein boarded a plane for Arizona, where he is scheduled to meet today with Diamondbacks ace Curt Schilling in an effort to persuade Schilling to waive his no-trade clause.

Epstein was to be joined in Arizona by Sox CEO Larry Lucchino, who was in San Diego for the holiday week. Lucchino was CEO of the Orioles when they traded in 1988 for then-minor leaguer Schilling as part of the Mike Boddicker/Brady Anderson deal, and also when Schilling was dealt in 1991 to Houston as part of a deal in which the Orioles parted with Schilling, pitcher Pete Harnisch, and outfielder Steve Finley for first baseman Glenn Davis, a bust in Baltimore.

It was unclear last night whether Epstein and Lucchino would be joined in Arizona by Sox owner John W. Henry. On Monday, Schilling said he spoke by phone with Henry. The 37-year-old righthander, who says he wants to pitch until he is 40, is scheduled to be paid $12 million next season, and it is expected to take a three-year extension to close the deal. The Sox have until 5 p.m. Friday to strike a deal.

Francona, who is expected to officially be named manager of the Sox at a press conference next Tuesday, insisted yesterday he has not been informed he is the club's choice. Asked if the Sox had sought his help in recruiting Schilling, who said Francona's hiring will be a big factor in whether he decides to come to Boston, Francona said, "I'm still the bench coach for the Oakland A's. They'll do what they do. They'll be fine."

Francona, who underwent numerous surgeries last winter because of a series of blood clots, underwent a physical yesterday administered by team doctor Bill Morgan, another indication that he is the Sox' choice. He said he was "the picture of health."

"It was more of a routine physical, making sure everybody was on the same page," he said, adding with a laugh, "my body's not that great, anyway."

Fossum waits

Casey Fossum found himself in a familiar position last night, waiting to find out whether reports of his pending departure from the Sox were true. The soon-to-be 26-year-old lefthander (his birthday is Jan. 6), whose name has been a part of numerous trade rumors during his term with the Sox, will be sent to the Diamondbacks, along with righthander Brandon Lyon, lefthanded prospect Jorge de la Rosa, and outfielder Michael Goss if Schilling waives his no-trade clause.

"It's kind of the same thing every year," Fossum said by phone from his home in Texas. "I thought having surgery might put a damper on everything, but it wasn't that bad a surgery and my rehab has been going really well, so I'm right back to where I've been the last three years.

"It's everywhere on TV, but until it happens, I'm not going to worry about it."

Fossum, whom the Sox refused to part with last year in proposed deals that included Bartolo Colon, was 6-5 with a 5.47 ERA in 19 games last season, including 14 starts, before shutting down his season after a one-inning relief stint on Sept. 6 with tendinitis.

"I had an ongoing, nagging pain in my shoulder, and I couldn't get rid of it," he said.

Two months ago, he had surgery -- performed by Birmingham, Ala.-based orthopedist James Andrews -- to clean out his shoulder. The procedure involved shaving off frayed fibers in his rotator cuff.

"Pretty minor," Fossum said. "I'm going to start throwing in a couple of weeks. I feel like I'm making progress every day. My shoulder is pretty much 100 percent, and I'm working out with a strength coach in Dallas for my overall conditioning."

Fossum said he has not been contacted by any Sox officials about the possible trade.

"It's kind of weird because Arizona drafted me out of high school," said Fossum, who did not sign with the Diamondbacks, choosing instead to go to Texas A&M, where he was drafted by the Sox as the 48th pick overall in the '99 draft.

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