Red Sox pregame notes: Sox plan to continue to lean on depth against Tigers; defining Jake Peavy's role; Mike Napoli's timing challenge

October 12, 2013 - 2:58 pm
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The Red Sox' success this year relied not just on a core of stars but also on the supporting scaffolding afforded by considerable depth. Throughout the season, the Red Sox were comfortable flipping around their lineup to incorporate players like Mike Carp and Jonny Gomes to take advantage of platoon splits and favorable matchup histories (while trying to avoid unfavorable matchup histories). That strength, suggested manager John Farrell, will very much play into how the Red Sox approach their lineup construction in the American League Championship Series against the Tigers. "The depth of our roster and the depth of our players has been a main contributor to our success this year," said Farrell, "and we'€™ll look to take advantage of that, best we can." The first demonstration of that notion came in Farrell's Game 1 lineup, where Farrell elected to put David Ross behind the plate instead of Jarrod Saltalamacchia based on how Ross and Lester worked together in an early September start against the Tigers. More changes to the regular order are likely on Sunday in Game 2 in deference to the fact that Detroit Game 2 starter Max Scherzer represents a well-nigh lethal matchup for right-handed hitters, having held them to a .165/.219/.275 line during the regular season while punching out 31.6 percent of all right-handed hitters he faced. Given Scherzer's performance, Farrell said on Friday that the Sox would consider their options at a couple of spots in the lineup, likely including Will Middlebrooks at third (1-for-6 with four strikeouts against Scherzer) and Mike Napoli (1-for-13 with a single, one walk and five strikeouts against Scherzer) at first. Farrell said that if he does have someone start at first base in Napoli's absence, it would likely be Carp (rather than, for instance, Daniel Nava). But there is a very real chance that the Sox will find starts in the series for 13 of their 14 position players -- with perhaps four of the position players who aren't in the Game 1 lineup potentially getting a start at some point, even with the Tigers featuring four right-handed starters. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is expected to start most of the games behind the plate. Jonny Gomes could see a start -- perhaps against Scherzer, against whom he is 2-for-6. Xander Bogaerts could start in place of Middlebrooks. Carp seems a realistic option at first base against Scherzer. In other words, a Sox team that featured a deep assortment of players who saw regular playing time in the regular season likely will remain committed to that construct in the postseason. OTHER RED SOX NOTES

  • The Sox put up stronger numbers during the regular season against right-handed starters than they did against lefties, a reflection of the fact that key contributors like Stephen Drew, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Daniel Nava, Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz were considerably more productive this year against righties than lefties. In theory, then, the Sox should benefit from the fact that they will face only right-handed starters in the ALCS. But when the right-handed starters in question are Game 1 starter Anibal Sanchez, Scherzer in Game 2, Justin Verlander in Game 3 and Doug Fister in Game 4, the Sox aren't exactly counting their fine fortune. "We have fared better against righthanded starters. The numbers bear that out. But still we're going up against some righthanders that are the best that the game has to offer," said Farrell. "How we maintain that approach that has been so successful for us, whether that's fighting off tough pitches to continue to build a pitch count against them, we're going to lean on Stephen to David to Ells to Nava -- all the guys that have been there -- and yet we know there are some matchups, like in Nava's case against Scherzer, that's not been a good matchup for him, so how we look to tap into our depth, that's where we are with that."
  • Farrell said that Jake Peavy is available out of the bullpen, but suggested that the Sox won't have him leapfrog pitchers with established roles in the bullpen. "Out of fairness to jake, and in fairness to all, we'€™ve got guys who are familiar with certain roles and while there wouldn'€™t be hesitancy to use a starter, it would have to be a specific situation," said Farrell. "In other words, I'€™m not jumping him ahead of [Junichi] Tazawa or maybe even [Brandon] Workman in a certain situation.'€
  • Mike Napoli is still managing the plantar fasciitis in his foot that prompted the Sox to rest him at intervals in September. He had one cortisone shot during the regular season, but to this point, he has not had another injection to manage what he's described as the stabbing pain in the appendage. While the physical issue remains one that he has to contend with, however, Farrell said that it doesn't appear to be impacting him negatively either on the bases or at the plate. "I wouldn't say it's getting worse. He's shown that there's a pretty substantial pain threshold that he's able to deal with. Even when he had that rest through the end of the season, that last week of the season, I thought he ran the bases pretty aggressively in the final series against Baltimore and then against Tampa," said Farrell. "If there's something being felt, he's not letting on with the way he's running the bases" Napoli went 2-for-13 with four walks and four strikeouts in the ALDS against the Rays. Farrell attributed some of the unevenness of his plate appearances to the challenges created by the halting schedule of the postseason. "He's got maintenance in that swing, so he lays off for a week, gets a couple of games back, and then we shut down for another four days," said Farrell. "He's a guy that needs regular at-bats to find that timing, to hone it, and to capitalize on the power that he has."
  • Farrell on having someone as intelligent as Craig Breslow on his team: "He uses words in a normal conversation that I'm not used to.  But I think the intelligence clearly plays out on the mound.  This is someone who's been a very good performer for us, whether it's against right'€‘handers, left'€‘handers, and because of his ability to keep things emotionally under control on the mound is another reason why he's so trusted, by all of us, late in the game and some high leverage situations," said Farrell. "But yeah, I think there's some comments down in the clubhouse that probably are better suited for other places than here, when he starts to speak, and some guys might not think along with him."
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