The Sox' pitchers and catchers underwent their first day of formal workouts Tuesday at the player development complex. Francona, for one, was chomping at the bit to get back out there. But he knows from experience how important it is to balance the excitement with a need to go slow.
"The challenge after that is to keep that enthusiasm throughout," he said. "Everybody, the first couple of days, they're all going to have that extra something. They'll be a little sore the next couple of days. It's hard to cover first, at home, during the winter. As much as you prepare, on the field it's different."
Francona himself conducted the rag ball drill, which sees him smash balls that have a soft covering at pitchers. He joked about seeing how many guys he could hurt on the first day. Realistically, he values these days before position players take up too much of his time.
Once games begin, Francona is on the bus, often with many of the same position players and only those pitchers who are chosen to go in that day's game. The rest of the staff stays behind to get in work at the complex.
"I love it. It gives me a chance to spend 15 minutes with the pitchers, guys I know, guys I don't know, watch them compete," Francona said.
Prior to the day's activity, Francona and pitching coach Curt Young addressed the collection of arms before splitting them up for the day's activities. They reinforced that it is only day one and nobody needs to be a hero just yet. It's all about a process that slowly builds arm strength.
Of course, nestled in that process is plenty of mental preparedness, something that is even more necessary a year after Red Sox pitchers threw the ball around the field a bit much. In fact, Boston's staff led the majors in errors with 21. Only two other American League teams had as many as 15.
"Those are things that we'll talk about because we were sloppy," the skipper said. "We made too many errors. Too many things happened that doesn't help you win games."
There were a few instances in 2010 where balls near the mound would be rushed to first base and thrown down the line. Francona said that some of those cases could've been clean plays if the pitcher just remembered to set his feet and make a balanced throw.
It sounds elementary, but there were obvious needs for a reminder after last season's messiness. That's what spring training is all about, and it began in earnest on Tuesday morning.