Reunions for Francona, Johnson

July, 1, 2011
7/01/11
8:04
PM ET
HOUSTON -- There were a couple of family-type reunions at Minute Paid Park on Friday that left Boston manager Terry Francona a little uncomfortable and Red Sox first base coach Ron Johnson trying to muffle his parental pride.

The three-game series against the Astros gives Francona an opportunity to catch up in person with Brad Mills, his former bench coach in his managerial stops in Philadelphia and Boston. It’s a little bittersweet, admitted Francona this time around. This time it isn’t an exhibition game, as it was when the duo squared off in the spring.

This one counts, as MLB likes to say. As Francona noted, he and his Red Sox will be trying their best to beat Mills and his Astros, and Mills and his Astros will be trying their best to beat Francona and his Red Sox.

“It’s not optimum. He’s one of my best friends not just in baseball, but anywhere,” said Francona of the personal/professional matchup. “But what are young going to do? I saw Millsy today and got to visit with him but this is just a little different.”

Mills has to be on the hot seat in Houston. The Astros, in Mills’ second season, are saddled with the worst record (29-53) in the majors by far. Francona was asked if he had given Mills any advice.

“I don’t need to give him advice,” said Francona. “I probably learned as much from him as he learned from me. He can handle anything. He’s real solid. They’ve got the right person for the job.”

Johnson, meanwhile, said he will be careful with his emotions even though he is “beaming with pride” over the fact that Houston’s starting third baseman is his son, Chris Johnson. Chris is hitting .244 with 6 homers and 34 RBIs.

They saw each other in a spring training game, and, in the more relaxed exhibition atmosphere, there were some outwardly emotional moments between the two. That won’t happen during this series, said Johnson.

“It will be a much more businesslike situation than it was in the spring, where you’re a little giddy,” said Johnson on Friday afternoon after doing the rounds of interviews with Chris for the local media.

“Here, we’re trying to win a ballgame, and he’s trying to do well and win a ballgame for himself,” said Johnson. “It’s different. Out of respect for everybody, you’re not going to see smiles and waves and that kind of stuff that we saw when we were down there [in the spring]. I’m not going to say I’m not going to say something to him when he’s running across from third, but I won’t be making fun of him if he strikes out like I did during spring training.”

Inside, though, Johnson still will be Chris’ dad, even if they do wear different uniforms.

“[I’m] very proud. Beaming with pride, just to go out there and watch him out there, see him play, see his name,” said Johnson.

“You know when I really got excited? This morning, I picked up the local paper, and they have this layout, the comparisons, this player, that player -- and it said Kevin Youkilis and the next box next to it was Chris Johnson. I was like, ‘Hot damn, that’s my boy!’ Is that here [in his heart]? Absolutely. But that’s going to be covered until we get done, and then I’ll look at the paper tomorrow and get excited again,” he said.

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