BOSTON -- Another day, another series of playoff-related questions fired at Red Sox manager John Farrell, who on Wednesday at Fenway Park revealed a few more nuggets about the makeup of a playoff roster while backing off earlier assertions that he was sold on his Game 1 starter.
Farrell said he will probably have 11 pitchers in the first round of the playoffs, a spot the Red Sox are close to clinching. The team has held 12 pitchers for much of the season, but with the need for only four starters in the playoffs and with two days off in the best-of-five series, bolstering the bench makes sense.
“There’s going to be ample rest for whoever’s starting Game 1 to come back and pitch in Game 5,” Farrell said. “So it’s just by looking at the starter needs is that we can reduce by one.”
Barring any injuries to others, Ryan Dempster and Felix Doubront are likely the two starters who will not be in the postseason rotation. Both have experience in the bullpen, and both could be utilized in that role in the playoffs, but Farrell has yet to make any concrete decisions on that matter. In fact, he has yet to determine if and when Dempster pitches again. If the rotation stays in order, Dempster would get a start during the two-game series in Colorado next week, but with days off on either end of the series and a potential need to test both Dempster and Doubront in relief roles prior to the playoffs, decisions are on hold.
“If [a start for Dempster] presents itself, yeah,” Farrell said. “We’ve got Tuesday, Wednesday are the two games that we have to look at because they’re going to be in advance of ... trying to look at the Baltimore series as keeping guys on line. It’s going to build in extra rest because of the off days. The Tuesday, Wednesday in Colorado, those are the ones that we’ve got some flexibility with.”
Managing the situation without interrupting a starter’s routine is tricky.
“It depends on who the pitcher is,” Farrell added. “For instance, Clay’s going to pitch on Sunday. He threw a good, long bullpen today, he’ll throw another one on Friday, his normal bullpen. So his case is a little bit different than let’s say Ryan Dempster’s, where the added rest right now and one bullpen might be more beneficial to him.”
Farrell indicated on WEEI earlier in the day that he has a solid idea as to who will be the Game 1 starter, but stressed a little more than an hour later that there is still some wiggle room.
“I just responded to my initial thought,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of internal discussion to go through before we begin to identify that and work backward from that on when those starts might take place in that last weekend or the last two series.”
Jake Peavy starts Wednesday against Baltimore, followed by John Lackey in the series finale Thursday. Jon Lester, Doubront and Clay Buchholz are scheduled for the weekend set against Toronto. Beyond that, nothing is set in stone.
* If David Ortiz (94 RBIs) stalls out in the run-production department and if Jon Lester (14 wins) fails to get a victory in his last two starts, then this will become just the fifth Red Sox team since division play began in 1969 to have no hitters with 100 RBIs and no pitchers with 15 wins.
The previous four teams to do so averaged just 79.5 wins, while the current crew is on pace for 98. That speaks to the incredible depth of Farrell’s squad. He has been asked about the solid contributions of part-timers many times during the season. On Wednesday, he indicated some of it has come as a shock.
“To a certain extent, yes,” he said when asked if the quality of the club’s depth has surprised him. “And I say that because while we have always liked a guy like Mike Carp and the swing that he’s had, he’s come in and he’s flourished in this role. There might be individual performances to date that have exceeded what we expected, but as a group, that’s not been the total surprise. The depth that we didn’t have a feel for were the guys that started the year in the minor leagues that have come up and contributed, whether it’s [Brandon] Workman, [Drake] Britton, a Brandon Snyder who was brought in the last day of spring training. Guys that work maybe on the forefront that have stepped in and done a very good job.”