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Bench coach Torey Lovullo: Red Sox looking for ‘lightning in a bottle’ off bench

09.30.13 at 9:21 pm ET
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Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo, on WEEI’s Road to October show on Monday night, offered insight into the nature of the team’s conversations regarding its final roster spots. While Lovullo noted that the Sox would need to wait until after it knows the winner of Wednesday’s wild card playoff game before they can finalize their roster decision, he suggested that the team’s level of comfort with its four postseason starters (Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz and Jake Peavy) would play into the decision about whether to carry 10 or 11 pitchers in the ALDS.

“The teams that go pitching-heavy, say four starters and seven or eight relievers, are typically the teams that might not have the starting pitching strength that we have. We feel very, very good about the four guys that are going to be getting the nod. Everybody knows that is clearly one of the strengths of our ballclub. So on the backside, we may not need eight guys in the bullpen. We may not need seven guys in the bullpen,” said Lovullo. “So I think that’s what they’re trying to define right now, if it’s going to be six, seven — I don’t think it’s going to be eight guys in the bullpen — because of how well our four starters can do. They can pitch very deep into ballgames.

“I know that the teams that have had the most success have used three, possibly four relievers. With the structured days off, these guys are going to be getting rest. So a heavy, thick, full bullpen may not be needed, but a pinch-runner, an extra pinch-hitter, an extra guy off the bench, a third catcher may be needed. So we’re trying to define that. We’re trying to define how many guys we need in the bullpen, and weigh that against what our needs are from an offensive standpoint.”

The Sox are trying to identify players who can make what Lovullo described as “magic” in terms of their impact off the bench, even in a limited role, suggesting that the team wants to identify players capable of changing a game rather than focusing on, say, defensive replacements on a team that ranked as one of the better teams in baseball in terms of turning balls in play into outs.

“You’re looking, five games, you’re looking for lightning in a bottle. You’re looking for magic coming off of your bench,” said Lovullo. “I think John Farrell was the first one to say it out loud to all of us, that when you’re carrying extra players, you need someone who is going to go in there and pop this game wide open. You’re going to go in there with somebody who is going to go in there, take one swing of the bat and make something magical happen to rewrite that day’s story. I don’t think you’re necessarily looking for a defensive replacement. I think the one specialty that you’re looking for is the guy that can steal a game. If there is a weak link on defense, then you do need a defensive replacement. But if you look, we’re pretty solid all the way through. I think we were a little bit above average in our fielding percentage in the American League. I think we’re a pretty tight team on defense. So what John said made a lot of sense: You’re looking for that quick strike. You’re looking for that three-run home run with somebody coming off the bench. Or if somebody is filling the need if there’s an injury, or if there’s a perfect match-up, you want that guy to come in there and thump the baseball.”

Lovullo suggested that while the team weighs the possible options for the 25-man ALDS roster, there is a sense that the team has options to address virtually any scenario with impact players.

“We have everything covered,” said Lovullo. “We have all of our needs in our clubhouse right now. It’s just a matter of spelling out what we think and what we project we’re going to need for these next five potential games against the wild card winner.”

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