Tito talks Farrell, Papi
The Red Sox open the 2016 season against a familiar face in Indians manager Terry Francona, who guided Boston to World Series titles in 2004 and 2007.
Francona is always all-business once the games begin. But he was expansive on his close friend John Farrell as well as David Ortiz during Sunday’s news conference.
This will be Farrell’s first regular-season game since undergoing chemotherapy treatments for cancer last summer. Francona accompanied Farrell to his first treatment and has been in constant contact with his former pitching coach.
“Once the game starts, you want to win so bad that you don’t really care who is over there. But certainly seeing him, I saw him earlier today walking to the clubhouse, certainly seeing him healthy and smiling and laughing is more meaningful than any game we’ll ever play. Once the game starts, we want to win bad. So do they. But seeing him happy and healthy and smiling is better than anything else.”
He’s one of my best friends so I’ve talked to him a lot. I don’t think he ever doubted this would have happened this way. I don’t think, as a friend, I would have doubted it either just because I know him. I know the care he was getting. That was really something to see. One of the things I was happiest about is that I knew Larry Ronan was watching out and was in charge of everything that was going on with John. I was really grateful for that. If you’re going to have something that’s serious, you can’t be in better hands.”
Francona has never downplayed how vital Ortiz was to the two World Series rings he owns. There will be a lot of attention on Ortiz in this, his final season. Francona thinks the gregarious slugger deserves all the accolades he gets.
“I know what he’s meant to Boston. He went there and some guys kind of shrink in that atmosphere and he just blossomed. It brought out his true personality and he embraced it. He’s been through a lot there. He’s certainly the face of the Red Sox, or one of them, and probably the same goes for the face of baseball. He’s got that big smile that when you walk in the room, or when somebody walks in the room, he can disarm you just like that. I don’t care who you are. He’s a big teddy bear.”
Then, Francona displayed the humor he is known for.
“I think all things considered, because it is his last year, I think he should take the next three days off and just enjoy Cleveland and we’ll honor him at home plate, but he should probably not play.”
Francona realized early on in his time in Boston that Ortiz was not only an impact figure on the field but also off of it.
“Early on when I got there, I realized real quick you could go to him if you got something you needed to get done, which is important, real important. And we had a lot of guys like that. David transcends languages, colors, things like that. If you were in his uniform, that was what mattered. That meant a lot to me. David and I went through a lot. Good. Some tough, The pinch hitting one year. He’s a proud man. That was hard for him. Hard for me. But we fought through it and that’s what’s more important.”