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Farrell offers few clues on playoff rotation

BOSTON -- After days of doing his best to thwart questioning that involves the playoffs, Red Sox manager John Farrell is beginning to open up. Just a bit.

Farrell mapped out a large portion of his upcoming rotation and revealed the trio in the final series of the season at Baltimore, which would end five days before a possible Division Series opener at Fenway Park on Oct. 4.

Felix Doubront, who threw a simulated game Tuesday, will return to the Red Sox rotation Saturday against Toronto, Farrell said, slotting between Jon Lester on Friday and Clay Buchholz on Sunday. The club then visits Colorado for two games, which will feature Ryan Dempster and Jake Peavy on the mound, and then ends the regular season with three games at Camden Yards.

John Lackey, Lester and Buchholz each will be rested and ready to go in that season-ending series, potentially in that order. However, there are also two days off in the mix, giving Farrell plenty of wiggle room as he maps out the order for the Orioles series with an eye toward the first round of the playoffs. Who starts Game 1 is the question on everyone’s mind, but the Sox skipper stopped short of giving any answers beyond his Baltimore plans.

And even those remain up in the air.

“As the rotation kind of plays out over the next three series prior to Baltimore, those three guys are going to be rested and available to pitch in that series,” Farrell said Tuesday afternoon at Fenway Park. “We haven’t mapped it out who’s going to start Saturday or Sunday there. We also have to balance two off-days next week and then the potential for those four days off [before the playoffs start] as well, and not have a guy get too far away from a start.

“I mention those three guys because they’re all going to be eligible and rested going into Baltimore. What rotation they fall under, that’s yet to be determined.”

If Buchholz, who improved to 11-0 on Sunday night against the New York Yankees, is Farrell’s pick for a Game 1 start, he could conveniently stay in order and pitch Buchholz in the season finale and then again five days later in the Division Series opener. If Lester is the choice, it is an easy swap for Farrell, who might be inclined to give Buchholz more time between starts and make him the Game 2 choice.

Either way, with the Sox on the cusp of clinching the American League East and possessing a 3 ½-game advantage for the best overall record in the AL, it is obvious that the wheels are beginning to turn in the direction of a decision, even if Farrell is doing his best to put up roadblocks.

“We haven’t even looked at it that close. We don’t know who we’re playing so it can’t be matchups at this point,” he said when asked if reward or matchups is the bigger factor in deciding a Game 1 starter. “We’re going on those three guys rested enough to pitch in Baltimore and we’ll be sure that we get everybody to the mound prior to the end of that weekend to make sure that we get the most recent action leading into what might be following that. We’ll delve into that more once that gets closer.”