Post-scrimmage notes: As rotation takes shape, might Felix Doubront still claim a bullpen role?
|10.02.13 at 6:18 pm ET|
After a scrimmage meant to keep his team sharp in the middle of a four-day layoff leading into the American League Division Series, Red Sox manager John Farrell announced his ALDS rotation of Jon Lester in Game 1, John Lackey in Game 2, Clay Buchholz in Game 3 and Jake Peavy in Game 4. It’s an impressive group that had a combined record of 41-23 (.641) with a 3.33 ERA for the Red Sox this year.
“We’re deep. We’re talented. Guys have been very consistent for the better part of the entire season,” said Farrell. “Each guy that takes the mound we’re very confident will put together a solid game.”
Lester was the team’s most dominant pitcher in the second half, going 7-2 with a 2.57 ERA in 13 starts after the All-Star break to conclude the season with a 15-8 record and 3.75 ERA to earn the Game 1 responsibility.
“He’s been outstanding in the second half, and the last eight starts that he’s put together for us, he’s been very strong, and he’ll lead the way for us from a starting standpoint,” said manager John Farrell. “When you look at the year overall, there was probably about a six- or seven-start period where he was a little bit less than [his standard for the rest of the year]. Other than that, he had a very strong and productive year for us, and we’re hoping that continues through October.”
Lackey’s dominant performance at home (6-3, 2.47 in 13 starts) and relative struggles on the road (4-10, 4.48 in 16 starts) played what Farrell described as a “major factor” in the decision to have him start Game 2 at Fenway, rather than Game 3 or 4 on the road.
“His home-road splits are pretty clear, and he feels comfortable and confident pitching here at Fenway,” said Farrell.
While Buchholz suggested that, all things being equal, he’d rather get a chance to start in front of the home crowd, he also expressed his far-reaching enthusiasm and respect for Lackey’s comeback performance this year.
“To see him fight through the adversity of all the fingers being pointed at him the last couple years and come out and be who he was, who he has been throughout his major league career, it’s been fun to watch,” said Buchholz. “I’ll pitch whenever they want me to. It’s the first game on the road. The last couple of years, I’ve felt comfortable on the road. Obviously I’d like to pitch in front of the fans here but you’ve got to win in both places anyway. Hopefully we can do well in these first two games here and take it from there.”
Peavy, meanwhile, is positioned for his first playoff start since 2006. The veteran, who went 4-1 with a 4.04 ERA after the Sox traded for him, was dominant in Wednesday’s scrimmage, spotting his pitches well and getting a number of swings and misses in his three innings of work.
OTHER SCRIMMAGE NOTES
— While left-hander Matt Thornton and right-hander Junichi Tazawa threw on the side prior to Wednesday’s scrimmage, Felix Doubront worked an inning at the end of the contest. That, in turn, raised the possibility that the Sox could round out their 11-man pitching staff with Doubront instead of Thornton. Right now, in addition to the four starters, the Sox bullpen is expected to carry closer Koji Uehara, left-handers Craig Breslow and Franklin Morales and right-handers Tazawa, Brandon Workman and Ryan Dempster.
Farrell described the decision about the 11th pitcher thusly prior to the scrimmage:
“This is going back and forth with [GM Ben Cherington] and others on what is the 25th player, who is it, how do I envision, how do we envision that person being used. You start to get multiple moves down the line and then you begin to weigh what’s more important,” said Farrell. “To me, protecting the downside of something unforeseen happening on the mound, pitching-wise, I wanted to shore up that.”
Given his season in the rotation, of course, Doubront would open the door to the possibility of long innings or even, if needed, a spot start in the postseason. (Remember: Before winning all three of the Red Sox’ postseason clinchers in 2004, Derek Lowe was in the bullpen, shifting to the rotation only after the team needed to press Tim Wakefield into bullpen duty during the American League Championship Series.) Thornton has typically pitched an inning or less at a time this year, though given Farrell’s suggestion of the importance of shutting down the left-handed options in both the Rays’ and Indians’ lineups, a case for Thornton could also be made.
So: Doubront’s participation in the workout could mean nothing, or it could mean something.
— The Red Sox’ sixth-inning infield defensive alignment featured Jarrod Saltalamacchia at third base, Will Middlebrooks at second and David Ross at first. Saltalamacchia has never appeared in a big league game at third; Ross has never played anything but catcher in the big leagues. Another first: Ross made a visit to the mound when Breslow was on the hill.
— Saltalamacchia drove in the only run of the game with a first-inning double off Buchholz, while Jackie Bradley Jr. collected a pair of singles and both Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Carp had doubles.
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