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Red Sox pregame notes: Some playoff decisions come into focus

09.29.13 at 1:31 pm ET
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BALTIMORE — With the Red Sox having clinched the best record in the American League and, consequently, home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, the team made the decision on Saturday to replace John Lackey as the starting pitcher with Allen Webster. The team will feature a number of reserves, with Xander Bogaerts, John McDonald and Quintin Berry all getting starts.

The reasoning behind replacing Lackey with Webster was twofold. First, given that the right-hander has logged 189 1/3 innings after not pitching at all in 2012 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, the team felt that he could benefit from rest. At the most, once the Sox clinched home-field with Oakland’s loss on Saturday, the team anticipated that Lackey would work no more than a few innings, but the 34-year-old felt, according to manager John Farrell, that he could “remain sharp with some of the work between now and when we line him up to pitch in the postseason.”

Meanwhile, the Sox need to see a number of pitchers work out of the bullpen, some of them in outings of more than one inning. For instance, the team wants to see Felix Doubront enter out of the bullpen and the Sox want him to throw two innings to get a read on whether he might look comfortable contributing in that role in the playoffs. Ryan Dempster, too, will likely need to make a bullpen appearance.

Beyond the ongoing effort by the team to get a read on the possibility of how those two starters might be able to contribute in bullpen roles in the postseason, Farrell offered a few hints about some of the roster decisions that remain in front of the Sox:

— Lackey owns a 6-3 record and 2.47 ERA in 13 starts at Fenway, and a 4-10 record and 4.48 ERA on the road. Farrell said that disparity would be part of the decision-making process in aligning the rotation.

“It’s clear, it’s evident, and it’s something we’re factoring into it. In the coming days, we’ll have that outlined, who and where they’re going to start,” said Farrell.

He added that the ALDS opponent will not impact how the Sox align their rotation. However, the last spots on the Red Sox bench or bullpen could alter depending on who the team is slated to face in its forthcoming series.

— While Farrell had expressed previously that the Red Sox were likely to take 11 pitchers into the postseason, but on Sunday morning, he suggested that there remained ongoing conversation about whether to take 10 or 11 hurlers into the ALDS.

— The Sox feel that Jacoby Ellsbury has come back from his foot injury with sufficient health that the team will not need to build roster protection into its ALDS squad.

“We fully expect him to be good to go. As of today, we wouldn’t think we’d have to carry another center fielder just to protect against Jacoby’s foot,” said Farrell.

— Farrell said that the team will be comfortable having Koji Uehara appear in stints of more than three outs in the postseason. It’s hard to blame them, given that in his nine regular-season appearances of more than three outs, he has permitted a run in just one (his first of the year; he put up nothing but zeros in his last eight multi-inning outings of the regular season), with a 0.63 ERA in outings of four or more outs.

“We’€™ve done it. We’€™re certainly willing to go more than a three-out save. Hell, they’€™re might be a six-out save at some point,” said Farrell. “Going forward, yeah, we’€™ve done it before. Hopefully we’€™re in positions with a lead in the eighth inning where we’€™ll turn to him again.’€

— Farrell said that David Ross could “absolutely” end up starting games in the postseason, noting that the veteran was Atlanta’s starter in the one-game wild card contest between the Braves and Cardinals last year.

— Dempster has embraced the idea of contributing out of the bullpen for the playoffs. Doubront, in conversations with the team, has approached such conversations from a somewhat different vantage point.

“Felix believes in himself, probably thinks that he’s worthy of being a starter,” said Farrell.

Farrell did note that, given that Doubront needed a late-season breather for the second straight year in order to recover his mechanics at season’s end, the team has had direct conversations with him about changing his offseason program in order to position the talented left-hander to be able to make it through a full season with health.

“He needed some downtime, so yeah, [the workload] did catch up to him,” said Farrell. “This is his second year in a row where he’€™s had to take that little bit of a breather late in the season. That’€™s where adjustments are already in place and planned for this offseason to hopefully avoid that.’€

“There’s got to be a greater foundation laid before spring training starts,” he added. “The talent is there. … You see more in there.”

— The Sox will work out on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, with a simulated game on Wednesday, in an effort to remain relatively sharp as they prepare for the postseason.

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