"And there's some guys there, too." Francona said. "[Dustin] Pedroia, and that group of guys, [David] Ortiz, [Jacoby] Ellsbury. There's a group of guys there that I'm pretty fond of, and John's one of my closest friends, not just in baseball, but in life."
Indians infielder Mike Aviles, a member of Red Sox Nation from 2011-12, hasn't yet spoken with his former teammates, but he's going to.
"I plan on reaching out to guys like [Will] Middlebrooks, Pedroia and Papi, just because I talk to them quite a bit," Aviles said. "They're good friends. I didn't get a chance to talk to them, but I'm happy they made it in, because I know what everybody went through last year. It's always good when you can go from last to first."
Farrell's Red Sox entered Saturday at 94-61, good enough for the Majors' best record. He is the seventh manager in Boston history to steer the club into the playoffs during his first year in charge.
Given his respect for Farrell, Francona -- who won a championship in his initial season in Boston -- wasn't very surprised by that accomplishment. Francona expected Farrell to succeed, despite Boston's last-place finish a year ago.
"I always felt that way," Francona said. "I just thought there was an immediate buy-in from the best players on that team, the guys that were already there that knew him. And guys I've mentioned -- [Jon] Lester, [Clay] Buchholz, Pedroia -- I guarantee you they were excited when he was hired. That immediately got them back to where they were going to be, not only relevant, but really good."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.