After the Red Sox were swept by the Angels in the ALDS, Terry Francona took full responsibility for the decision to walk Torii Hunter to face Vladimir Guerrero in Game 3. The manager said on WEEI that he would "do that again every single time," The Boston Globe reports.
Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon gave up a two-out, two-run single to Guerrero in the ninth inning that put the Angels ahead to stay, but Francona has no regrets.
"Vlad hadn't done much in that series,” Francona explained on WEEI last week. “I feel like we executed pitches. Torri Hunter swings with a lot of violence and makes me nervous. I thought it was the right thing to do."
While Francona's willingness to shoulder the blame took some heat off Papelbon, questions about the pitcher’s dominance remain. There even have been rumors about trading the closer.
But pitching coach John Farrell doesn’t think Papelbon has lost his intimidation factor. Farrell stated that Papelbon's string of dominant seasons is “absolutely not” over. Every pitcher struggles through difficult times, and Papelbon is no different. Farrell likened him to Yankees legend Mariano Rivera, a future Hall of Famer who has gone through some struggles at points in his career.
Whatever the future holds for Papelbon, Francona supports him. When the manager — whose contract with the Red Sox runs through 2011 — was asked again about his decision to walk Hunter and load the bases, thus making Papelbon's margin for error smaller, Francona didn’t waver.
"Yes, it was a factor, but it wasn't enough of a factor to make me not want to do it," said the skipper, continuing to stand by his closer.
It is the latest example of the coaching methods that have made him so popular among his players.