Red Sox waiting four days before hosting ALDS
Boston Red Sox' Jacoby Ellsbury, left, runs toward first base as Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis reaches for a throw in the fourth inning of an MLB American League baseball game, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013, in Baltimore. Ellsbury advanced to second base on a throwing error by catcher Steve Clevenger, Jarrod Saltalamacchia scored on the play and Davis left the game with an injury. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Boston Red Sox' Will Middlebrooks walks to the on deck circle before an at-bat in the fifth inning of an MLB American League baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Baltimore Orioles' Chris Davis watches his solo home run in the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox, Friday, Sept. 27, 2013, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell walks off the field after pulling relief pitcher Matt Thornton in the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013, in Baltimore. Baltimore won 7-6. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Boston Red Sox' David Ortiz, left, fist-bumps teammate Jarrod Saltalamacchia after scoring a run on a sacrifice ground ball by Mike Carp in the first inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2013, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
BOSTON – The Boston Red Sox have decisions to make and plenty of time to make them.
After tying for the best record in the majors, they don’t play until Friday night when they host the opener of the AL division series.
Should they keep 11 pitchers in the best-of-five series? Or can they get by with just 10 and give the other spot to a spare outfielder. And what will be their rotation?
“We’ve got some decisions to make,” Manager John Farrell said, “and we’ve got probably beginning (today) to look at that more intently and get down to the number that we’re going to arrive at on Friday.”
The Red Sox won’t know their opponent until tomorrow night’s wild-card game in Cleveland between the Indians and Tampa Bay Rays, the winner of last night’s AL tiebreaker. The opponent could affect the roster composition, Farrell said, but not the rotation.
Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and John Lackey all had strong seasons and figure to pitch the first three games in some order. Jake Peavy is the fourth starter and the bullpen will have six or seven pitchers, anchored by closer Koji Uehara. He’s allowed one earned run and 12 hits in his last 40 1∕3 innings and has shown an ability to pitch more than one inning.
“We’re certainly willing to go more than a three-out save. There might be a six-out save,” Farrell said. “Hopefully, we’re positioned with a lead in the eighth inning that we can turn to him again.”
The Red Sox took yesterday off after finishing the regular season with their second straight loss, 7-6 at Baltimore. They plan three days of workouts, including a simulated game today.
That they’re in the postseason for the first time in four years seemed unlikely when the season started.
They were 69-93 in Bobby Valentine’s only year as manager, a winning percentage of .426 that was their worst since 1965. Valentine was fired, Farrell was hired and several free agents produced after signing short-term contracts. The result: a 97-65 record and a .599 percentage that is Boston’s best since 2004, when it won the World Series for the first time in 86 years.
“We were missing being in the playoffs the last couple of years,” star slugger David Ortiz said, “and especially after what happened last year, and to be in the situation that we’re in right now, I’m so excited.”
Ortiz led the Red Sox with 30 homers, 103 RBIs and a .309 batting average. The offense was balanced with Daniel Nava hitting .303, Dustin Pedroia .301, Jacoby Ellsbury .298 and Shane Victorino .294.
They were first in the majors in runs, slugging percentage and on-base percentage, second in batting average and third in walks. And they never lost more than three games in a row.
Ellsbury led the majors with 52 stolen bases despite being sidelined late in the season with a foot injury. But he played in three of the last four games and said he was ready to go.
“I’ll treat it like the All-Star break,” he said of the four days between games. “My timing and everything felt good after that. It shouldn’t be any different, and for a lot of guys it’ll be a good thing.”
Lackey had plenty of time off last year – the whole season, in fact – when he was recovering from ligament surgery in his right elbow. He was one of Boston’s best starters this season with a 3.52 ERA. But he got little run support and finished at 10-13.
Like his team, he heard plenty of cheers instead of jeers.
“To hear games now where he walks off the mound to a standing ovation, that probably hasn’t been the case for a few years,” Farrell said. “And I think, in some ways, it mirrors what this whole team has gone through from year to year.”