BOSTON -- The Red Sox likely will have the same roster for the American League Championship Series as the one that defeated Tampa Bay 3-1 in the ALDS. Manager John Farrell said Thursday at Fenway Park in advance of a team workout that there was “a review” of the situation, but nothing that warranted any personnel changes.
As for the rotation, that remains a bit of a mystery. Farrell confirmed that Jon Lester will start Game 1 on Saturday, but would not set anything in stone beyond that. Farrell’s Thursday night TV viewing might have something to do with it.
“After [Lester] we’re undecided at this point,” Farrell said. “We’ll get a better read on it once we get through tonight and plan for who we’re going to play.”
[UPDATE: The Tigers beat the A's in Game 5 on Thursday night to advance to the ALCS against the Sox.]
What is most important in choosing who starts where or when?
“We’ll factor everything in that will be available to us and that starts with who we’re going to play.”
That final line at least suggests where Farrell might be leaning.
John Lackey, his Game 2 starter in the ALDS, has performed well in his career against Oakland (19-6, 2.90 ERA) and even better at home in 2013 (2.47 ERA at Fenway). If the Athletics advance by beating the Tigers, it stands to reason that Lackey would remain in line behind Lester. That would place Clay Buchholz, who has had a rocky career against Oakland (2-2, 7.90), in Game 3 on the road.
Lackey’s numbers against Detroit are more ordinary (6-3, 3.86), as are Buchholz’s. In that instance, Farrell may feel the urge to front-load the best he has to offer and start Buchholz in Game 2 against Detroit. That plan gains support when you consider that Buchholz has had some rough starts at Comerica Park (7.08 ERA in four starts).
Nothing is set in stone, but history gives Farrell some support in going Lester, Lackey and then Buchholz if the Athletics advance and Lester-Buchholz-Lackey if the Tigers reach the ALCS.
So where does that leave Jake Peavy, who was very good in 5 2/3 innings in the ALDS clincher Tuesday night? He would likely gain a Game 4 start (or maybe even Game 3 if the organization wants to push Lackey to Game 4) and could be a fine candidate for bullpen use in whatever games remain beyond his start. Peavy has made one relief appearance in his career, striking out seven in four scoreless innings for Chicago in 2011. Farrell simply likes the bulldog mentality of his right-hander, and thinks it might translate well to an intense late-inning situation in Games 5, 6 or 7.
“Certainly open-minded to [using a starter in relief], yes, but it’s going to be dependent on usage of guys leading up to that,” Farrell said. “If we get into an extra-inning game, who’s available the next day. All those things that we would typically look at in the regular season. If you asked Jake Peavy he would thrive on the opportunity to come out of the bullpen.”
So much of this forward thinking does depend on who wins the Detroit-Oakland matchup Thursday. Farrell sees challenges either way.
“Very good lineups,” he said when asked his thoughts on the Tigers and A’s. ”Very strong offensive teams. One does it a little different than the other. Oakland’s going to have the opportunity to match up and use maybe a full roster more readily than maybe Detroit, where there’s a stable or consistent lineup, either one no less potent than the others.
“Both have strong starting pitching. Either team we play is going to be another steep challenge.”