|“Spring training-ish” times||09.24.08 at 4:12 pm ET|
Now that the Red Sox are officially in the playoffs, a few elements will come into play that differentiate the next five games from the 157 that came before them. With the division all but sealed up by a Tampa Bay Rays squad, health is now paramount, a goal that comes before winning. To wit:
1) Rest for the rotation: the Sox are likely to scale back the mound time of some of their starters. The most notable target of a spot of rest is Jon Lester, who starts tomorrow. His 204.1 innings this year represent an increase of roughly 25 percent over his workload last year. But Lester and others are likely to have abbreviated starts of just a few innings that are meant to offer a time to recoup before the most important month of the season. “Even if it’s a shortened day, it can still be a productive day,” said Sox manager Terry Francona.
2) Rest for the bullpen: Francona will have something along the lines of a set schedule for the relievers over the next five days. The goal will be to have the members of the ‘pen maintain their feel for their pitches, but to allow them to recover from the rigors of the season. Francona noted that the health of the ‘pen is currently quite good, with the back-end of the bullpen (Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima, Justin Masterson, Manny Delcarmen, Javy Lopez) all in good shape at this stage of the season.
3) Rest for the position players: Jason Bay and Jed Lowrie are out of the lineup today. Others, particularly Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis, will receive some down time in the coming days. J.D. Drew, who returns to the team tonight, will not necessarily be asked to play nine innings. If Mike Lowell makes it back before the end of the year, he seems a good candidate for a day as the designated hitter or a shortened day in the field.
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