BOSTON -- After having Monday off and a light workout Tuesday, Wednesday offered a chance for the Red Sox to “get back to game speed,” said manager John Farrell.
The full-squad scrimmage is the busiest of the four days between the regular season finale and the opener of the American League Division Series, which begins Friday at Fenway Park. The game will last six innings and simulate, as much as possible, the atmosphere that the club will face Friday, at least in terms of time of day.
Farrell admitted that there was initial pushback when the idea of having a scrimmage was presented. Eventually, it was deemed a necessary step in the process.
“As we’ve gotten into the consecutive days off everyday players are, at least, wanting to track some live pitching if not take some normal at-bats and I think everyone understands the purpose of today and the need for it given the days off,” he said. “We’ll go through this. Even though we’re going up against one another, it’s still a game we can replicate in some way and we’ll make the best of the situation.”
In replicating game action, the Sox will showcase a style that will remain in place once the playoffs begin. That includes aggression on the bases and a reliance on depth and versatility to maneuver through whatever a game might present.
“I fully expect us to be as prepared if not more against our opponent in this series than we would be during the regular season,” Farrell added. “Through that preparation we’ve found ways or situations that we might exploit. We would hope that would continue to be the case. That’s a characteristic that we started day one of spring training and in my mind it would probably not be the smartest thing to go away from what a strength has been.”
* Farrell indicated he will be paying close attention to the contest between Tampa Bay and Cleveland on Wednesday night. He may not glean much from the Rays, as they are so well known to Boston. The Indians, however, are a vastly different team than the one that was about to sink below .500 when the Sox last faced them in May.
“Tampa, we have the benefit of 19 games under our belt this year,” Farrell said. “We know they’re going to pitch well. We’re likely to be involved in a low-scoring game. To control their left-handed hitters is critical from our standpoint, and that’s not to say that Longoria and Myers and other right-handers in that lineup can’t do damage. When they’ve scored a lot of runs it’s what their left-handed hitters have done.”
That plays into the decision to include left-hander Matt Thornton on the playoff roster. While that is not official, Farrell said he would have 11 pitchers for the ALDS, which indicates Thornton’s inclusion.
“With Cleveland it’s been probably three months since we’ve seen them. They’re a little different team now with [Lonnie] Chisenhall back to an everyday player for them, Yan Gomes taking over behind the plate on a daily basis. Some of the personnel has changed. You’ve got guys that are hot right now, obviously [Michael] Brantley’s swinging the bat very well, [Jason] Kipnis. And again, as much as you talked about controlling the left side of the plate against Tampa, the same for Cleveland. That’s a very good lineup to go up against right-handed pitching. And they’re playing with a lot of positive energy and they’ve answered the challenge every time they’ve walked on the field in September. Containing that momentum will start on the mound with us.”
* Farrell said he expects few differences in his managing style from the regular season to the postseason, but left the door open for some quicker decisions.
“There might be a sense of urgency that might cause you to look for a matchup, whether that’s go to a pinch hitter or the bullpen early,” he said. “I think our guys recognize, because we have a number of veterans who have been to the playoffs, they recognize that things can change, especially if there’s no tomorrow.”