Terry Francona is in his 14th season as a major-league manager, and he won two World Series championships with the Boston Red Sox.
Francona also played for 10 years, and he even managed Michael Jordan at Class AA Birmingham in 1994.
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He knows the game.
Now managing the Indians, I approached Francona with some reservations when Cleveland was playing the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field last week. Having gotten to know him a bit through the years, I correctly anticipated his response to the question: "Are the Sox markedly better than last season?"
"You've got to be careful," he said. "As the opposing manager, you don't ever want to evaluate the other team. I mean, I've got my hands full managing this team."
But Francona understands how the media can work, and he did offer some quick -- and important -- White Sox analysis.
"They're better," he said. "They're better. They did some really good things. They got a bona fide power hitter, and they got a speed guy at the top. When you add one hitter in your lineup, it's amazing how everybody else looks better.
"When you add two, especially with different qualities, it's a huge, huge change in your lineup, even with the other guys being the same. Adding new hitters, quality hitters like they have, it takes a little pressure off some of those guys."
Francona was referring to first baseman Jose Abreu, the bona fide power hitter, and center fielder Adam Eaton, the speed guy.
Abreu has made the biggest impact on the Sox, and he was back in the lineup Monday night in a 5-2 loss to Los Angeles at Dodger Stadium after coming off the 15-day disabled list with left-ankle inflammation.
Expected to be rusty after the layoff, Abreu grounded back to Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw in his first at-bat, but he hit a home run (No. 16) his next time up, a 2-run shot in the fourth inning.
It wasn't an easy road back for Abreu.
Batting in a simulated game at the Cell on Saturday morning, he was hit above the left elbow by a pitch from minor-leaguer Bradley Salgado. And before Monday night's game, Abreu reportedly was struck in the left-chest area by an errant throw.
Abreu might have been feeling better after taking Kershaw over the left-field fence, but the White Sox were a collective mess in the sixth inning when errors by second baseman Gordon Beckham and third baseman Conor Gillaspie led to 5 unearned runs.