It was an awkward moment for Terry Francona. Red Sox reliever Mike Timlin, a folk hero of sorts in Boston, has struggled mightily over the past year, and many believe it may be the end of the road for the 41-year-old reliever. Yesterday, Terry Francona called the embattled reliever into his office for a heart-to-heart talk. Call of the Green Monster bugs picked up the entire conversation.
“Skip, you wanted to see me?” Timlin said.
“Yeah, Mike, have a seat,” Francona said.
“What’s up?” Timlin said.
“Well, first of all, how about putting the rifle down,” Francona said to the avid hunter.
“Oh sure,” Timlin said. “I’m just getting ready for a hunting trip on my off day.” His face was painted in full camouflage.
“No problem,” a nervous Francona replied. “Uh, bow and arrow on the floor too.” Timlin complied. “Listen, Mike, this isn’t an easy conversation, but I think it may be the end of the line for you. You just can’t get people out any more.”
“One-two-three inning last night,” Timlin replied.
“Yeah, but an 11-0 game, and the balls were all shots hit right at people,” a sad Francona said. “It pains me, Mike, because you’ve meant so much to the organization. You’ve been the heart and soul. Every time we called on you, you’ve been there. But I think we’re getting close to goodbye.”
Timlin reflected for a moment, then learned in close. “I don’t know how much you know about the…uh…other work I do for the team,” Timlin whispered. “You know, covert type stuff. Lucchino got me into it.”
“I’ve had my suspicions, but go on,” an intrigued Francona said.
“Well, all the injuries to the Yankees, for instance,” he said. “Coincidence? I think not. And believe me, I could intensify that work if my pitching load were taken away.”
“Let’s just say that Roger Clemens could end up with a lot more than a fatigued groin,” Timlin said with an evil grin. “How about the old bugger never walks again? How about Steinbrenner suddenly goes missing? How about ARod? Oh, what I could do…”
“I don’t think we need to get that extreme,” Francona said. “But on the other hand, I see no reason why this kind of work couldn’t continue. I, of course, will admit nothing.”
“Glad to still be with the Red Sox, then,” Timlin said with a smile.
“Great! Couldn’t be happier,” said a laughing Francona.
As Timlin left his office, a suddenly panicking Francona called him back. “Mike, just to clarify, there’s no hard feelings, right?”
“No, none at all.”
“No,” Francona repeated nervously, “but if there were, you’d talk to me about it, right? You wouldn’t…you’d talk to me first? We’d have a discussion.”
“Sure, skip,” Timlin said.
“Good, good,” said a relieved Francona.
“See ya, skip,” Timlin said, with a grin, “I’ve got some work to get started on.”