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Jim Bowden on D&C: Red Sox hitters ‘have to alter your game plan’ vs. talented Tigers pitchers

10.11.13 at 10:10 am ET
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ESPN and MLB Network baseball analyst Jim Bowden checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Friday morning to preview the American League Championship Series between the Red Sox and Tigers.

Justin Verlander and the Tigers head to Boston after knocking off the Athletics in the ALDS. (AP)

Justin Verlander and the Tigers head to Boston after knocking off the Athletics in the ALDS. (AP)

Detroit advanced with Thursday’s 3-0 victory over the Athletics in Game 5 of the American League Division Series, and Bowden predicts an ALCS that will live up to its billing.

“I think absolutely it will,” said Bowden, a native of Weston who spent more than two decades as a major league executive. “We’re talking about the elite starting pitching in the league, you’re talking about the two elite lineups, you talk about two teams with a lot of guys that have been there. You can’t build a better scenario than what’s going to take place at Fenway Park tomorrow night.”

Reigning Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander did not have a standout 2013 season, but he bounced back to finish the regular season strong and he’s been sharp in the postseason, including Thursday night’s blanking of the A’s.

“I talked to Alex Avila, his catcher, a few days ago, and he told me the velocity was always there, the stuff was always there, the curveball was there all year. He said he just couldn’t command it. he couldn’t put it in the exact spot that he wanted it all year. Is it a little mechanical issue? Maybe. I don’t think anyone’s been able to tangibly put their finger on it. But as you mentioned, he’s locked in now and it doesn’t matter. Because right now you’re getting the Cy Young guy from a year ago.”

Red Sox hitters are known for their patient approach. However, Bowden cautioned that too much patience could come back to haunt them against the caliber of pitchers the Tigers possess.

“You have to alter your game plan,” Bowden said. “Because Game 1 you’re going to face [Anibal] Sanchez, who won the ERA title. Then you’re going to face [Max] Scherzer, who [is going to win] the Cy Young. And then you’re going to face their best pitcher, Justin Verlander. So if you sit there and just work the count and try to get them out of the game, you’ll probably have a lot of zeros up. Because with those three guys, when they throw you that one mistake, when they throw you that one pitch that you can handle, you’ve got to make sure you’re hitting that pitch. Whether it’s pitch one or pitch seven of an at-bat, it doesn’t matter when it comes, but when it comes, you’d better be ready for it.

“If you go up with a game plan, ‘Well, I’m just going to take,’ then you’re right, what’s it going to be — 0-1, 0-2? And then good luck. Because now I’m going to throw that nasty breaking ball a little bit out of the zone and now you’re going to have to chase to not strike out.

“I think when you face the elite pitchers, you’ve got to make adjustments and you’ve got to be looking: ‘I don’t care when I get my good pitch, but if I get one good pitch in an at-bat I’ve got to take advantage of it,’ whether it’s pitch 1, 5 or 7.”

While both teams are loaded with quality starting pitching, Bowden said there are some concerns about the bullpens.

“The only thing that worries me with both teams is what production are you going to get if the starter gets knocked out, what production are you going to get in innings six, seven and eight, and how will you match up?” Bowden said. “I look at [Joaquin] Benoit and I look at [Koji] Uehara and I say both those guys will be able to do it, they’ll solve it. Do we know for sure what [Junichi] Tazawa‘s going to do, do we know for sure on the other side what the Tigers are going to get from the [Drew] Smylys and the [Al] Alburquerques? That, to me, is the big question. A lot of times that’s what settles the series.”

Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury is nearing free agency, and he’s boosting his stock with a stellar postseason.

“When you look at Ellsbury, he’s a real difficult guy to talk about in the board room,” Bowden said. “Because you’ve got the history of injury that’s a factor. You’ve got a guy that doesn’t have power, because the one year he hit 30 was an aberration based on what we’ve seen every other year. So it’s difficult, and yet he’s such a great player and he’s only 30. So a five-year deal, he’s still going to play at 34 years old. So even if there’s some decline, it shouldn’t be significant.”

Added Bowden: “I’m guessing five years, [$]95 million is where he plays out. And I think it’s a tough call for a GM. Because I think there’s risk involved with injury. But at the end of the day, it’s still Jacoby Ellsbury. He’s a pretty good player. And the Red Sox revenues are so good that they can afford it. So, do you want to pay market value? That’s the question. If not, somebody else will.”

To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page. For more Red Sox news, visit the team page at weei.com/redsox.

Read More: Jacoby Ellsbury, Jim Bowden, justin verlander,
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