Girardi: Sox-Yanks 'means more to us'

NEW YORK -- A few hits from New York prior to the first game of this four-game set between the Red Sox and Yankees:

-- Yankees manager Joe Girardi said the series probably means more to the Yankees than it does the Sox, who began the night 5 ½ games ahead of Tampa Bay in the AL East, while the Bombers are 2 ½ games out of a wild-card spot.

“It means a lot -- it probably means more to us because of where we are in the standings,’’ Girardi said. “They (the Sox) got a little cushion. If you’re in their shoes, you’re fighting for home-field advantage.’’

-- The Yankees are 7-3 since the Sunday night game in Fenway (Aug. 25) in which Sox starter Ryan Dempster hit Alex Rodriguez with a pitch, for which Dempster was slapped with a five-game suspension.

Girardi, asked if it was plausible to credit an incident like that for banding a team closer together, didn’t seem too sold on the idea. “I don’t know. Maybe you can. It fired the team up a little bit, not that we weren’t fired up.

“Sometimes an incident like that can change things. I’m not saying it did, but it can.’’

-- Red Sox manager John Farrell said he had not been approached by MLB officials or the umpiring crew cautioning against a resumption of hostilities. “We haven’t heard anything to date,’’ Farrell said. “If something is said at the plate, we’ll find out prior to game time.’’

Asked if he expected any retaliation, Farrell said: “If there is to be retaliation -- I don’t think there will be -- but you never know. This game has a way of taking care of itself. If that is to be the case, we’ll play the game.’’

-- Farrell confirmed what has been obvious for some time, that Clay Buchholz will be inserted into the starting rotation next week, assuming his third rehab start Thursday night for Triple-A Pawtucket proceeds without a hitch. He insisted the club has not met internally to discuss who would come out of the rotation, nor has he had any discussions with any of the team’s starters about who might be dropped. Beginning next week, the Sox will have three consecutive Mondays as off-days, giving Farrell the option of shortening the rotation even more should he choose to do so.

-- Sox reliever Andrew Miller, who has shed his crutches and gets around on his own with his surgically repaired left foot in a boot, said he is at a point where he can begin rehabbing the injury. The most encouraging thing, Miller said, is that he should be able to fully participate when spring training opens next season.

Miller said he spoke with Daniel Bard, his teammate at the University of North Carolina before the pair was reunited with the Sox, and said Bard was excited about going to the Chicago Cubs and a chance for a fresh start. Miller said that the spotlight should be much less acute on Bard with the Cubs than it was with the Red Sox, where even his minor league appearances drew a media crowd, making it that much harder to hit the reset button. The attention was understandable, Miller said, given the success Bard had with the Sox in previous years. With the Cubs, Miller added, Bard won’t attract anywhere near the same degree of interest as he makes his way back. “He’s healthy, he feels good,’’ Miller said.

-- The Sox tied an AL record when seven different players combined to hit eight home runs in Wednesday night’s 20-4 win over the Detroit Tigers.

-- Men of La Mancha: The Sox have already won 15 more games than last year (69-93). That’s the biggest improvement in a non-strike year since the “Impossible Dream” Sox of ’67 went 92-70, a swing of 20 games from the previous year (72-90).

-- With Mariano Rivera recording a four-out save Wednesday for his 41st save, one night after notching save No. 40, Girardi said he wasn’t certain Rivera would be available Thursday night.

-- The Red Sox have not been caught stealing since Jacoby Ellsbury was picked off first in the first inning by Royals pitcher Bruce Chen on Aug. 8 in Kansas City. The Sox have stolen 24 bases in 24 games since. The breakdown: Ellsbury 11, Shane Victorino 5, Dustin Pedroia 2, Will Middlebrooks 2, Stephen Drew 1, Jarrod Saltalamacchia 1, Jonny Gomes 1, Mike Carp 1.

-- Saltalamacchia is still receiving treatment on his back but was able to throw Friday and is expected to catch at some point this weekend, Farrell said.