It's showtime for Red Sox prospects

BOSTON -- Having three rookies in the starting lineup in a September game against the second-place team in the American League East isn't exactly what the Boston Red Sox were planning on.

The Sox are desperately holding onto hopes that somehow, some way they can get back into the pennant race. That appears very unlikely at this point, though, so Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein will use the remaining games to give some of the organization's top prospects a chance to experience the big leagues in the fall.

"Obviously, this isn't the way we drew it up -- to have so many young guys on the field at the same time -- because it should be a closer pennant race than it is, but there's still something good that can come out of it for those guys," Epstein said.

The Red Sox dismantled the Tampa Bay Rays 11-5 on Wednesday night at Fenway Park, and a lot of the help came from Josh Reddick, Ryan Kalish and Lars Anderson -- both at the plate and in the field.

Anderson was called up from Triple-A Pawtucket on Monday and quickly thrust into the lineup. The first baseman finally notched his first big league hit and posted his first RBI on Wednesday.

"Huge sense of relief after I saw it go through," Anderson said of his single off Rays starter Matt Garza in the bottom of the fourth inning. "I felt it wasn't something I wanted to wait around for too long. I was ready to get a knock."

How about his RBI in the bottom of the seventh inning that scored Reddick?

"The infield was in, so I had a chance to jam a ball through the infield. It was nice," Anderson said.

Anderson said he feels comfortable at this level because he's been able to play with the players he has come up with through the Red Sox's developmental system.

"It's been a funny trend this year with guys coming up from Pawtucket, with [Daniel] Nava, Kalish and [Yamaico] Navarro all getting hits in their first at-bat," Anderson said. "I obviously didn't do that, but it's cool having them here. You always dream about coming up with the guys you start playing with."

Reddick, who made his major league debut last season, also was called up Monday. He posted three hits, including a pair of singles and a double, and scored a run against the Rays on Wednesday night for a career high. Still, he was happier for Anderson to finally get his firsts out of the way.

"I was happy for him. I've been happy for everybody," Reddick said. "From watching Nava's grand slam in Pawtucket's locker room, to see Kalish bust his tail up here, it's just amazing how much the adrenaline rush can get you going. I'm glad [Anderson] got it out sooner rather than later because then you start pressing, and that's never a good thing."

As for his own stats, Reddick finished the season strong for the PawSox and continued to tear it up in Boston on Wednesday. He led the International League with seven homers, 12 extra-base hits and 52 total bases since Aug. 23, and posted a .388 average (26-for-67) with 15 RBIs in that 15-game span.

"I'm going to ride this groove I'm in as long as I can, and hopefully it'll keep me going to the end of the year and I'll get some consistent playing time," Reddick said. "If that doesn't work out, hopefully I can just come in and help these guys win a little bit."

Kalish went 1-for-5 with an RBI double Wednesday night and has been a solid contributor since his arrival last month.

Given the circumstances of the entire Red Sox season, with a postseason berth unlikely, having a youthful spark in September can energize a club.

"There always should be energy with young guys," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "It's something we actually talk to them about. I don't care if the score is spread out or not, if they're coming in to pick somebody up, it's an honor to be playing here. I hope they always treat it like that."

"When you have young guys who do it the right way, it's really good," Francona added.

No matter how the season ends for the Red Sox, come spring training 2011, these prospects will have a completely different understanding of what it takes to succeed at the big league level, especially in Boston.

"It'll prove to be a valuable experience for those guys," Epstein said. "It's hard to perform when you first come up. There are a number of guys who get that out of the way in September and they get to see what it's really like in the big leagues and have all winter to think about it and make the adjustments, so next time when they come up and play in a meaningful game, they're going to be that much better for it."

Before Wednesday's game, Epstein welcomed Anderson to the big leagues, and his advice was the same as it is for all September call-ups. The GM told Anderson there's no pressure and to just go out and play his game and not think of this as an audition.

But that's how the players take it. And they should.

"Professional baseball is all an audition when you're working your way up," Anderson said. "I'm not going to think about it that way, but in a certain sense, yeah, how can it not be?"

Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox and Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.