NEW YORK (AP) — Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona is too busy worrying about his team to fret over his own job status.
Boston held a nine-game lead over Tampa Bay in the AL wild-card race on Sept. 4 and seemed set to glide into the playoffs. Then a 4-14 skid left the Red Sox two games in front of the Rays.
Francona is in the final guaranteed year of his contract, and the Red Sox hold an option for 2012 and 2013. Some have suggested his job status is uncertain.
“I guess I better address that a little bit, so I don’t have to address it more,” Francona said before Friday’s game against the New York Yankees was postponed by rain. “I don’t feel any different than I ever have. The organization not only has the right, but it’s their obligation to get the right person, the person they think is the best. If at some point they think it needs to be somebody else — other than that, I think it’s disrespectful for me to spend one waking moment thinking about my situation. We need to win games, so that’s how I intend to do it.”
Francona was hired by the Red Sox for the 2004 season and managed them to their first World Series title since 1918. The Red Sox won another championship in 2007.
After peaking at 31 games over .500 (82-51) in late August, the Red Sox have dropped seven games back of the Yankees, who already have clinched the AL East for the 12th time in 16 seasons.
“It doesn’t really matter to me,” Francona said of the job speculation. “I feel like I feel, and I won’t change how I feel regardless of whether it’s a story or not. I have a job to do that I care a lot about. And like I said, if I spent any energy on me, that would be a disservice to the organization, and I don’t plan on doing that.”
Speaking in the third base dugout before the rainout, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein said Francona’s status wouldn’t be addressed until the Red Sox are done playing for the year.
“We’re going to take the same stance that we do with players who have options. This is an offseason issue,” Epstein said, according to the Boston Globe. “We’re struggling to turn this around, and we’re going to turn this thing around. That’s the focus, on the field. That’s how Tito would want it. That’s how I want it.”
Epstein denied an assertion by the MLB Network’s Peter Gammons on “The Dan Patrick Show” that there was “an increasing disconnect between the manager and the GM.”
“We’re all on the same page,” Epstein said.
With the postponement, Jon Lester (15-8) was pushed back to Saturday’s 4:10 p.m. game, when the Yankees will start Freddy Garcia (11-8).
Tim Wakefield (7-7) and John Lackey (12-12) will start Sunday, with A.J. Burnett (10-11) and Ivan Nova (16-4) going for the Yankees. Both managers were unsure who would start in the 1:05 p.m. game and who would be held back for the 6:30 p.m. makeup.
Lackey is 0-3 with a 9.12 ERA in his past five starts. Francona considered using Alfredo Aceves but decided to keep him in the bullpen.
“The balance for me is can we probably use Aceves maybe five out of the next six days, as opposed to one day where he’s not totally stretched out, and if he pitches good, the guy we’re going to want to get to is Aceves,” Francona said.
But staying in routine also was a factor.
“Trying to be consistent I think is huge,” Francona said. “Now, saying that, you certainly want to learn from what’s gone wrong, or you’re kind of missing the boat.”
Barring more rain, Boston’s season will come down to six games in five days. A month ago, such pressure was inconceivable.
“We don’t have any excuses, not an excuse in the world,” Epstein said. “It’s time to step up and show what we’re made of. This is a stretch of disappointing play, and we own that. We can’t run away from that. It’s certainly not too late.”
NOTES: Because of the rainout, Lester is likely to pitch Wednesday’s regular-season finale at Baltimore on three days’ rest. ... RHP Clay Buchholz, who hasn’t pitched since June 16 because of a stress fracture in his lower back, threw 40 pitches before the game in a session moved to a batting cage from the bullpen due to rain. He threw 17 pitches with batters not taking swings, then 23 to hitters. “The next thing is probably a game,” Francona said. ... OF J.D. Drew (left shoulder) hit in a cage and 3B-IB Kevin Youkilis (sports hernia and hip bursitis) batted off a tee. Drew hasn’t played since July 19, and Youkilis since Sept. 15.