BOSTON -- Though the Division Series roster does not need to be submitted until Thursday, Red Sox manager John Farrell sounded as if he already knew how his 25-man roster alignment would look.
The one thing he confirmed Wednesday afternoon was that the Red Sox would go with 11 pitchers. In previous years, the Red Sox sometimes deployed just 10 pitchers in the Division Series.
Why 11 instead of 10?
"It's more staying with what our strengths have been," Farrell said. "This wasn't in reaction to Texas being eliminated. This is going back and forth with [general manager] Ben [Cherington] and others on what is the 25th player, who is it, how 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, and to me, protecting the downside of something unforeseen happening on the mound, and pitching-wise, I don't want to disrupt that."
That means the Red Sox will go with five bench players. The definites would seem to be David Ross, Mike Carp, Jonny Gomes and Xander Bogaerts. Quintin Berry, who is known for his speed, is likely to be the final bench player.
The defensive versatility of Carp, Daniel Nava and Bogaerts made it easier for the Red Sox to go with an extra pitcher.
"The one challenge for the roster is we're heavy in outfielders, and I will tell you that," Farrell said. "That's where a lot of the decision-making centered around, is that extra player and knowing that either a pinch-runner or pinch-hitter, they're outfielders. We were just making sure that we weren't too thin on the infield."
The Red Sox will go with a four-man rotation and seven relievers. Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow, Ryan Dempster and Brandon Workman are all but certain to make the roster. The bubble candidates in competition for the final two spots? Lefties Franklin Morales, Matt Thornton, Drake Britton and Felix Doubront.
Lester tabbed for Game 1, Lackey to start Game 2
BOSTON -- The Red Sox started their season with Jon Lester on the mound back on April 1. So perhaps it's only fitting that the lefty also opens the second season -- the one everyone will be watching.
Manager John Farrell has tabbed Lester to open Friday's Game 1 of the American League Division Series at 3 p.m. ET on TBS against either the Cleveland Indians or Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park.
When you combine Lester's experience in October and the way he has pitched down the stretch, the decision was a no-brainer for Farrell. In his 13 starts since the All-Star break, Lester is 7-2 with a 2.57 ERA.
"It's probably been assumed by many that he would go Game 1 for us, and he'll do just that," said Farrell. "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."
John Lackey, who has pitched far better at Fenway this season (6-3, 2.47 ERA) than on the road (4-10, 4.48 ERA), gets the nod in Saturday's Game 2.
Clay Buchholz, who put up glittering numbers in his abbreviated season, will pitch Monday's Game 3 on the road.
"I'll pitch whenever they want me to," said Buchholz. "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."
Jake Peavy, the bulldog righty who was acquired just prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Ddeadline, starts Game 4 if necessary.
Honored and excited about getting the nod for Game 1. Is it Friday yet? LETS GO!!!!! #NVRQT- Jon Lester (@JLester31) October 2, 2013
"I think the rotation couldn't set up any better than the way it sets up," said Peavy. "Jonny Lester's been a horse here all year. He made every one of his starts, he led this team in innings, he pitched as well as anyone in the second half in baseball really. He deserves to be the guy going out there. And I think Lack right behind him, I think that the way that things are shaking out to set up is the right way."
Dress rehearsal draws nearly 4,000 fans at Fenway
BOSTON -- For one day, the Red Sox were divided into the visiting "blue" team and the home "red" team.
Clay Buchholz pitched against batterymate Jarrod Saltalamacchia and gave up an RBI double in the top of the first. Jake Peavy struck out the side in the bottom of the first, capped by a fastball he blew by David Ortiz.
The Red Sox invited fans to their intrasquad competition on Wednesday, which started at the precise time (3:07 p.m. ET) that Friday's Game 1 of the American League Division Series will begin on TBS. The game lasted 5 1/2 innings.
With four days off between Sunday's regular-season finale and Friday's Game 1, this was a way for manager John Farrell to try to keep his team at gamespeed.
"We had our lineup see live pitching," said Farrell. "We got the guys to the mound that we needed to get full speed work, and they were able to accomplish that."
Despite the fact the intrasquad contest was played in the middle of a work day, about 4,000 fans came out to Fenway to watch.
Fan saw Quintin Berry, likely to earn the 25th spot on the roster, make a tremendous diving catch in right field. They also saw several of the team's key pitchers get some work, including Koji Uehara, Craig Breslow, John Lackey and Ryan Dempster.
Franklin Morales and Felix Doubront, who are competing for spots in the bullpen, each threw an inning.
"It was funny, hitting and looking around, we had nine on each side, that's 18. We have 18 good ballplayers," said Jonny Gomes. "This team is pretty deep. I think you saw that today."
They also have a passionate fanbase that revels even in watching a practice game.
"Our fans have been with us since Jump Street," said Gomes. "It's cool that they took some time out of their day to watch us play. They got to see a little behind the scenes today. That was pretty cool."
Playoff spotlight to finally shine on Breslow
BOSTON -- One thing that happens in the playoffs is that vastly underrated players start to get noticed. Perhaps no one on the 2013 Red Sox has done more and gotten less attention for it than lefty reliever Craig Breslow.
In 61 appearances this season, Breslow has a 1.81 ERA while holding opponents to a .228 batting average.
Breslow bounced back and forth from the Minors until 2008, but he has been one of the more consistent lefty relievers out there the last few years.
This is the first time Breslow has been on a postseason team.
"Beyond knowing that I wanted to play in the postseason, I didn't really think about how long it would take," Breslow said. "I thought about the commitment the organization was willing to make to me, the commitment the organization was willing to make to get things going in the right direction and the core group of players and how quickly I felt that they should be able to turn things around."
Though he does not get the accolades of many of his teammates, Breslow -- who was acquired by the Red Sox on July 31, 2012 -- has played an important role in that turnaround.
For the Red Sox, it was a no-brainer to sign Breslow to a two-year deal this winter.
"He's experienced in Boston," manager John Farrell said. "You look at his career numbers, his track record, he's been a very consistent reliever. He hasn't been just a situational type of lefty. There's a lot of dependability in the person and the performer. All of those things added up to make it a very clear decision to include him and bring him back on the contract that he is."
Well-rounded Victorino a revelation for Farrell
BOSTON -- Judging by the fact the Red Sox signed Shane Victorino to a three-year, $39-million contract over the winter, the team obviously thought he would be a good fit. But manager John Farrell acknowledged that Victorino had even surpassed his expectations.
"The way he plays the game, yes," Farrell said. "That's something that, in a short look, you can see the flash of defense or you can see the bat speed in an at-bat. The decision-making inside the game and how he responds to execute in those situations says a lot more about the guy that you can only get a feel for over time.
"That's to see him in different types of game situations where typically he's going to make the right decision and execute to that. And he's got a skill-set that's complete. He can run, he can throw, hits for average, hits for power. He's had a very good year for us."
Victorino has given the Red Sox dependability in the No. 2 spot in the batting order and in right field. And he has played through a barrage of nagging injuries, never complaining about them.
"He's added a grit to this team that we've seen repeatedly with the pain threshold in which he's played with," Farrell said. "He's been banged up for a lot of the year, but it hasn't forced him out of the lineup for really extended periods, and he gives us a well-rounded player both offensively and defensively in that 2-hole. He can play the small game. We've seen his ability to drive the ball out of the ballpark. He's a smart baseball player. He keeps things lively in the clubhouse, as I'm sure you all have seen. He's been a very good addition to this club."