It's become a staple of every news conference with Terry Francona: After the questions about injured players and the questions about the pitching staff and the obligatory quip or two, he fields the inevitable question about Nick Green.
Every reporter who covers the Red Sox has written the obligatory Nick Green story. Every single one. It's pretty much at the point where there's not a single question you could ask the guy he hasn't already answered. (Not convinced? Try this, this, this, this and this on for size.)
Francona, to his credit, doesn't miss a beat when talking about the shortstop who has performed as well as anyone could have expected given that he really should have started the season -- and spent the season -- at Triple-A Pawtucket. He praises the way Green has hit the ball; he praises the way Green has played in the field.
"He's more than held his own," he said on Friday for perhaps the 1,324th time. "I don't know that, at the end of spring, you can lose two shortstops and think, 'We can replace this guy with a guy that's going to drive in 100.' That's probably not realistic. But Nick's done a pretty good job."
He's not far away from the end of those questions. That's because he's not far away from the return of Julio Lugo.
The Red Sox shortstop, who tore cartilage in his right knee in spring training, made his first rehabilitation appearance at Triple-A Pawtucket on Thursday and will stay with the PawSox for their trip to Lehigh Valley over the weekend. He'll then join the Red Sox in Cleveland on Monday and, if all goes well this weekend, be activated and get out on the field.
"Lugo is probably days rather than even weeks or months (away)," Francona said.
And don't worry about Nick Green going anywhere. He's going to stay with the team as a do-it-all utility infielder at least until Jed Lowrie comes off the disabled list.
One reporter asked Francona this evening about how the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry has changed for him since he first arrived in Boston.
"I was a little naive when I first got here," he said. "I tried to do my homework, but until you live through it -- the first couple of games, there was a little extra emotion. When you do something enough, it's not that you lose interest -- because I don't; I love it -- but you get used to it. The games really are still exciting because there's a lot of good players on both sides."
As a follow-up, someone asked Francona what rivalry he'd experienced that best approximated the intensity of Red Sox-Yankees.
"Birmingham-Huntsville," he deadpanned. "We always had fireworks."