Craig Breslow's Playoff Blog: Standing at baseball's summit without looking down

October 22, 2013 - 8:35 pm
Red Sox left-hander Craig Breslow will contribute regularly to this blog throughout his team'€™s postseason run. In addition to his work on the mound, the eight-year big leaguer is also the founder and executive director of the Strike 3 Foundation, a charitable agency that heightens awareness, mobilizes support, and raises funding for childhood cancer research. To learn more about the Strike 3 Foundation, and its new Play It Forward program, click here. Little known fact: I have a World Series ring. A look at my statistical profile will say that, in 2007, I made 49 appearances for the Red Sox' Triple-A Pawtucket affiliate, and none in the big leagues. But I did get called up to Boston that year on Sept. 1. There was a young starter who was making a start for the Red Sox the next day, and the team wasn't sure how the start was going to go. They needed some extra coverage. As it turned out, Clay Buchholz threw a no-hitter. It seemed like they were all set in terms of not overtaxing their bullpen that day, and I was actually sent back down to Pawtucket the next day -- one of the few September call-downs in the history of baseball. Watching the World Series that year, I definitely felt disconnected from it. There were plenty of guys making contributions who I played with that season and the previous one. It was obviously pretty neat for the organization, and to be part of the organization was something I cherished, but I'd always thought that the next time around I would like to have a more significant contribution to the success of the team. Even so, the Red Sox were kind enough to give me a World Series ring based on those two days on the roster, so I do have one. But I don't wear it that frequently because I don't really feel like I was a part of what the 2007 Red Sox accomplished. Obviously, the experience of this October has been very different -- though it is worth noting that my sister told me that, when I've been pitching this month, her kids were watching the game but didn't recognize me because of my beard. Mistaken identity notwithstanding, I've still had the chance to feel very connected to what we've done thus far and what we're hoping to accomplish now. I don't even know if it's sunk in yet that we're one of the last two teams standing. Certainly, though, there's a distinct feeling around these games and Fenway Park, whether the volume of interviews on Tuesday's media day or the considerable increase in goods from vendors in the clubhouse. All of those elements offer evidence of the fact that we're moving on in this journey. Still, I'm not sure I will totally appreciate where we stand until perhaps Wednesday night or perhaps not even until it's all done. Part of me feels like if I were to stop and evaluate where I am, I might get lost temporarily. So I'm avoiding doing so, and much as has been the case throughout this month, focusing on preparing myself for the games. For the most part, I'm using these days as a recovery and cool-down from the last series while starting to gear up for the next. We'll go over all of our advance scouting information about the Cardinals on Wednesday, and I like to try to get that all done at one time when I can give undivided attention to it and move on. I will say that irrespective of the amount of information available to us about their hitters, the most important thing is to prepare myself physically for the series. I'll look at video of opposing hitters, but for me, the most important work to prepare for this series takes place on the field and in the training and weight rooms. In terms of the scouting work that goes into this series, my firsthand experience with the Cardinals lineup is limited. I've faced three of their hitters in a total of four plate appearances. But I don't necessarily need to rely on first-hand experience while looking at video. I'm comfortable watching other guys who feature somewhat similar stuff to me, and how the St. Louis hitters looked to approach those pitchers. I can find pitchers in the National League such as Eric O'Flaherty of the Braves or J.P. Howell of the Dodgers, lefties who challenge lefties on the inner half of the plate, to see how they attacked their hitters, and how St. Louis' hitters, in turn, approached them. While I'll use video, I'll draw a lot on the work of our bullpen coach, Dana LeVangie, our pitching coach, Juan Nieves, and from from catchers David Ross -- who has vast experience in the National League -- and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who does a ton of homework. For me, visual data is less important than just talking about what certain guys' approaches are and how they've been pitched to in the past. You can probably identify many similarities between the Cardinals lineup and ours. They're a patient bunch, one that's been successful by wearing down opposing pitchers. Obviously, they feature some thump in the middle of the lineup, with guys who can be aggressive in the strike zone but who are patient when you're working out of the strike zone. So I would draw a lot of comparisons to our lineup, which is probably one of the reasons why we're the last two teams standing. Though as a team we don't have a ton of familiarity with the Cardinals, I think a lot of the success that our bullpen has had, and our starting pitching has had, is not dependent upon opposing lineups. It's dependent upon the execution of our staff. Towards that end, we're excited about the prospect of seeing Jon Lester take the mound for Game 1 on Wednesday. He's successful because he's got great stuff, one of the premier left-handed starters in the league with a mid-90s fastball, a devastating cutter, the ability to spin a curveball and steal some strikes and a developing changeup. He's a guy who's aggressive on the mound and willing to challenge hitters, a guy who I think has matured through the course of this season, and become the ace we knew he could be. We have tremendous confidence in him to open the series -- just as we do in our team.