BOSTON -- Indians general manager Chris Antonetti did not have to make the trip to Boston this week. Cleveland manager Terry Francona is glad he did.
Antonetti spent much of Thursday and Friday at Francona's side at Fenway Park, offering support in the manager's return to Boston. Francona managed the Red Sox for eight seasons, won a pair of World Series titles, but had an ugly exit in 2011 that veered away from the fairytale script.
It was an emotional return for Francona, and he was Antonetti was there with him.
"More than anybody will ever know," Francona said. "I know he's getting ready for the Draft and I know he's busy, and I know why he came. That meant a lot to me. I know why he did it. He didn't say anything about it, but he came up for moral support. He knew I had some anxiety."
Francona has been treated to a handful of ovations from the Fenway faithful over the past two games. After the first inning on Thursday, the Red Sox showed a tribute video that featured highlights from his tenure in Boston.
Prior to Thursday's game, Antonetti stopped Francona before the manager took the field and told him to soak in the night's events as much as possible.
"He grabbed me before I went out," Francona said. "I think he knew I was kind of pacing a little bit. He actually kind of grabbed me and said, 'Hey, enjoy the moment. Take a minute and enjoy it.' And I started to kind of give him a look, and he said, 'No, seriously. Take a minute to enjoy it.'
"The fact of where I'm at with the Indians allowed me to probably enjoy it more. It kind of showed me that you can have something good and enjoy the past. It's not a knock on the past. Some of it was wonderful -- a lot of it was. I kind of found a pretty nice play for the future."
Despite slump, Giambi still valuable to Indians
BOSTON -- The Indians are not overly concerned that veteran Jason Giambi is mired in one of the worst slumps of his storied career. The aging slugger was not brought in to compete for a batting title. He is on the roster to offer experience, advice and the occasional clutch hit.
Indians manager Terry Francona has stressed that point since the start of Spring Training.
"Before he steps in the batter's box, he's already valuable," Francona said. "I know he's not happy with where his batting average is, I get that, but he's smart enough to know what he can do. He's not going to sulk around here.
"You watch. He'll get some hits and he'll help us win a game. He just has to put up with the aggravation of looking at his batting average right now, which he's strong enough to do."
Entering Saturday, the 42-year-old was stuck in an 0-for-24 slump that dates back to May 9. It marks the third-longest drought of his 19-year career. Giambi went 32 at-bats without a hit from July 11, 2004-Sept. 17, 2004, and 25 at-bats without a hit from Aug. 24, 2003-Sept. 3, 2003.
Through 18 games with Cleveland, Giambi is batting .150 (9-for-60) with two home runs and 12 RBIs.
"His contributions go way further than just what you see in his stat line," Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "He knows his job on this team. He wasn't brought in to hit .400 with 40 bombs. The guy is a good lefty power option off the bench, but what he also brings to the team is his experience and leadership. His knowledge that he passes along throughout the game, it's like having another coach on the bench.
"If he's 0-for-1, he might see something or pick up something on the pitcher that leads to hits for the younger guys. He doesn't have to do it all himself. His experience is what helps us the most."
Francona laughed when asked if Giambi's slump was the result of the veteran's age.
"No," Francona said. "I'll tell you what. Ask me that when he's 44. I actually think he's got himself in position lately where his bat speed is better."
Francona thinks adding a fifth umpire could help
BOSTON -- Indians manager Terry Francona does not have all the answers for solving the ongoing discussion about umpiring and the use of instant replay in Major League Baseball. Francona does, however, have an idea.
Francona believes having a fifth umpire at the ballpark could address several issues.
"I'm not a proponent of slowing the game down," Francona said. "And I do like the part about humans being involved in it. I think that's great. I just think one more human might make it even better."
Francona feels having a fifth umpire would create a built-in off-day of sorts for one member of the crew, helping in cases where an umpire is hurt or fatigued and might need a day off the field. Beyond that, the Tribe manager believes the fifth ump could serve as an official scorer or, at the very least, have access to video to aid in replay or provide feedback for how the strike zone is being called.
"He could also have monitors in front of him, the same ones that we have access to," Francona said. "So he's seeing exactly what we see. There's a lot of games where both dugouts are [complaining] about the plate. You could have communication on the field, whether it's as a teaching tool, or after the game the guy could say, 'Your zone wasn't very good tonight,' or, 'Hey, they're [complaining] about nothing.'
"You know what I'm saying? You could tell him after an inning, 'Hey man, you better tighten up your zone.' It's win-win. You've got the umpires getting the same view we are, and if there are [controversial] plays, I don't know how it would work, but it seems a lot easier where you'd have a little more communication like, 'Hey, you got the call wrong.'"
Francona believes the concept of a fifth umpire could help, but the manager knows it is probably not the entire solution to a complicated situation.
"I know they're talking," Francona said. "I guess that's where I would hand the baton to people smarter than me and say, 'Figure it out.'"
Quote to note
"I think it's a fairly obvious statement that everybody respects him as much as you can. And he deserves every bit of that. He may be right now a player-manager. He just doesn't have that title."
--Francona on Giambi
• With left-hander Jon Lester slated to start for the Red Sox on Saturday, Francona stacked his lineup with right-handers. The only pure left-handed hitter in the Tribe's batting order was left fielder Michael Brantley, who was in the eighth slot. Regulars Michael Bourn and Jason Kipnis were given a day off from starting.
• Cleveland entered Saturday ranked fourth in the American League with 161 walks, and catcher Carlos Santana ranked second in the AL with 30 free passes drawn. Kipnis (4.32), Santana (4.30) and Mark Reynolds (4.27) ranked third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the AL in pitches seen per plate appearance.
• The Indians stole three bases in Friday's loss in Boston, giving the Tribe 27 stolen bases in its last 32 games. That is the third-most steals in the Majors over that span. Cleveland has posted a 16-8 record this season when it has at least one stolen bases in a game.
• Left-hander David Huff, who was designated for assignment by the Indians on Thursday, was claimed off waivers by the Yankees on Saturday. Huff was selected 39th overall in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft by Cleveland.