Red Sox

Farrell and Francona 'have time for friendship' after Red Sox-Indians series

Farrell and Francona 'have time for friendship' after Red Sox-Indians series

CLEVELAND - Terry Francona and John Farrell have been friends since they were teammates with the Cleveland Indians, in what now seems like a lifetime ago.

Later, they crossed paths again when their playing careers were over, and when Francona, managing the Red Sox, needed a pitching coach after the 2006 season, Farrell was his first call.

A few years later, when Francona's time in the Boston dugout came to an end, Farrell was the franchise's first choice as Francona's replacement. When prying Farrell from the Toronto Blue Jays proved impossible, the Red Sox went elsewhere -- only to come back for Farrell a year later.

And last year, when Farrell was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, it just so happened the Indians were in Boston when Farrell began his chemotherapy treatments. Francona, naturally, accompanied his long-time friend to the first couple.

The two have been inextricably linked for decades. During the season, they text each other frequently and find time for the occasional conversation via phone.


On Thursday evening, for the first time, they will manage against each other in a playoff game, with Farrell and the Red Sox facing off with the A.L. Central champion Cleveland Indians, managed by Francona.

That convergence has left each in a delicate spot. There's the awkwardness of competing against a close friend. But what pains both managers is the fear that their friendship, played out on a national stage, will make them the story, rather than the game itself.

And for two baseball lifers, that's unacceptable.

"The one thing I think I need to be cognizant of," Francona said last weekend when a post-season meeting with Farrell and the Red Sox became assured, "is the players have worked so hard -- both sides -- to get to this. I can't let my personal feelings ever get in the way or take away from what they've done.

"So, whatever my feelings are need to remain my feelings, and let the players [have the spotlight]. They've worked so hard for this. It needs to be about them."

"This game is always going to be about the players,'' echoed Farrell. "How we execute is paramount. Setting aside the additional subplots, this is going to come down to how we play, how we execute. Yes, there is some familiarity across the field because of relationships past and present, but that should really have no impact on how this game is played."

Still, the pair can't deny their history. They can't forget the World Series they shared when in 2007, Farrell's first year with the organization, or the pennant they almost won 12 months later before coming up a run short at Tropicana Field.

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And there are years of stories, of common experiences, of victories and disappointment.

As much as they would like to ignore their bond, that's impossible. "It's tough when you're going to compete against one of your best friends," Francona acknowledged. "That's actually kind of hard, but I am so proud of him and happy for him, what he's accomplished. I kind of consider it an honor to actually compete against him."

Dropping his guard some Tuesday, Farrell alluded to their long history.

''We've shared a lot of things," Farrell said. "Teammates, on the same coaching staff, have worked in non-uniform positions, as well. We've shared a lot of experiences here in Boston. I cherish my friendship with him, to the point where you confide in one another, even in the darkest moments during stretches of the season where things aren't going well.

''I can't say enough about the guy I've spent a lot of time with in many different settings. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him, and the teams he puts together. But we'll have time for friendship later."

Indeed, whatever feelings the two have for one another, they must be suspended for the next week.

There are goals to reach, and only one of them can advance to the American League Championship, and, perhaps, the World Series. By this time next week, one will be preparing for the next post-season series and the other will be headed home for the winter.

In time, the texts and phone calls will resume, and the friendship will re-ignite.

But for as many as the next five games, business on the field will take precedent.


Red Sox, Yankees working to play in London in 2019

Red Sox, Yankees working to play in London in 2019

Mookie Betts and Aaron Judge are about to go global.

Red Sox CEO Sam Kennedy on Monday confirmed the Sox are interested to play the Yankees in London during next year's regular season. Bloomberg reported the clubs are nearing an agreement to play two games there in June 2019. Discussions are indeed taking place, but a deal is not done.

MORE - Sox signal they'll keep Swihart, may trade Marrero or Holt

“We would love to participate in a series in London against the Yankees but this is a decision that MLB and the MLBPA will make," Sox CEO Sam Kennedy said.

Bloomberg reported the games would be played at London Stadium, which was the main facility for the 2012 summer Olympics.

MLB has not played any games in Europe before. The Red Sox have made trips before, including to Japan before the 2008 season.


Red Sox signal they'll keep Swihart, may trade Marrero or Holt

Red Sox signal they'll keep Swihart, may trade Marrero or Holt

Blake Swihart’s strong spring seems to have the Red Sox more inclined to deal one of their natural utility infielders, such as Brock Holt or Deven Marrero, rather than Swihart, a converted catcher with high upside who's getting a look in other roles.
"Sounds like they’re holding Swihart to open," a rival executive said. "More likely to move a utility guy."
A true utility guy, that is.


The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo reported Sunday that Marrero has been drawing interest from other teams.

"We do have depth with our middle infielders," Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Monday. "However, [I] would not get into potential trade discussions."
Swihart, who turns 26 on April 3, is most valuable as a catcher. But he could still be useful in a bench role for the 2018 Red Sox, and a win-now mentality may be the driving force here. (It is possible, as well, that there is nothing available via trade for Swihart that has piqued the Sox’ interest. Marrero or Holt wouldn’t require as much in return.)
The potential drawback is that Swihart won’t grow much if he’s not playing every day -- and in particular, if he's not catching every day. But the Sox may be be at a juncture where they feel his bat is a worthwhile experiment off the bench, at least for this season. They can figure out his future -- and their future at backstop -- later.
"He’s a great athlete," Cora told reporters on Sunday. "We’ve seen it in the batter’s box. It’s not only the results, but the way he’s driving the ball to left field as a left-hander, the quality of at-bats as a right-hander. [On Saturday], as a pinch-hitter, that kid was throwing 99 and he throws a breaking ball and squares a ball up."
Swihart entered Monday with a .283 average in Grapefruit League play, with a .905 OPS and a pair of home runs. But he does not have the infield experience that Marrero or Holt has, and the Red Sox essentially have to carry one of those two to start the year. 
Eduardo Nunez, the temporary replacement for Dustin Pedroia, is coming off a knee injury, and a sure-handed infielder -- Marrero’s glove is particularly good -- is a must. Rafael Devers is still coming into his own at third base. 
Tzu-Wei Lin is available in the minors too, and the Sox could see some redundancy with him, Holt and Marrero. Lin, unlike Marrero, has minor league options remaining. Lin also has some limited outfield experience.
The way the Sox roster looks now, they have two spots available for the three guys: Marrero, Holt and Swihart. Health can change that. Holt, despite being the most veteran of the group, has minor league options remaining, so he theoretically could go to Triple-A to start the season. But if the Sox don't see a role for him on this year's team any way, they'd be wiser trading him, considering he's due to make $2.225 million. It also would be kindest choice for Holt, to let him have an opportunity elsewhere, if one exists.


Swihart has played first base, third base and left field in addition to catching this spring. Perhaps, in time, there will be a way to work Swihart in behind the plate for the Sox. At the least, retaining him would be insurance if Christian Vazquez or Sandy Leon do not perform well offensively.
There was a clear personal-catcher system for the Red Sox in 2017. Leon was Chris Sale’s guy, for example. Manager Alex Cora said he is not taking that approach. As an auxiliary effect, moving away from a personal-catcher system might make it easier for Swihart to receive more time behind the plate, if called on.
"Whoever I feel comfortable with that day behind the plate, he'll catch," Cora told reporters in Florida. "Christian already caught him. Sandy's going to catch him today. And then the next turn, Christian's going to catch him. Everybody's going to work with everybody."