BOSTON (AP) — Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell isn’t ready to announce his rotation for the AL division series.
It would be a surprise, though, if Jon Lester didn’t pitch the first pitch in Friday’s opener at Fenway Park.
“We all gain confidence from every starting pitcher that goes out and keeps a game under control,” Farrell said Tuesday. “He’s done it very consistently, particularly in the second half. When he walks to the mound, we feel pretty good about our chances that night.”
Farrell is waiting until after the team’s simulated game Wednesday to settle on his rotation and roster for the best-of-five series. The Red Sox will face the winner of Wednesday night’s wild-card game between the Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Rays.
Lester’s strong finish helped the Red Sox to the best record in the AL at 97-65, one game better than the Oakland Athletics, and home field advantage throughout the postseason.
He was 5-1 with a 2.22 ERA in his last eight starts. After the All-Star game, he went 7-2 with a 2.57 ERA. He was 8-6 with a 4.58 ERA before the break.
“He’s been so great his last eight starts,” catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “He’s confident, he feels good, he has a good feel of where the ball’s going. And it’s a great time for that.”
Boston’s other four starters in the series are expected to be right-handers John Lackey, Clay Buchholz and Jake Peavy. Wednesday’s simulated game could give a clue to the playoff rotation.
“Jake and Clay will have multiple innings on the mound,” Farrell said, “so you can deduct from that what you wish. But, at the same time, we feel like with the number of days off, we’ve got to get a good portion of our relievers to the mound as well.”
Once that workout is over, the Red Sox can focus on the Rays-Indians game that will determine their opponent.
“There won’t be any fan in me pulling for either team,” Peavy said. “I’m going to face those hitters that I’m watching. So I’ll watch it a lot like I do homework tapes.”
After finishing at 69-93 last season, the Red Sox bolstered their lineup with players who have postseason experience — Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes and Stephen Drew.
“The playoffs truly is a different game,” Gomes said. “The rules are the same, the field’s the same, everything. But these guys’ll see 2-0 counts to leadoff hitters, the place will go crazy likes it’s a 2-0 count to the leadoff hitter in the ninth inning.
“The positives and the negatives are magnified that much more,” Gomes said. “But after 6 1/2 months of baseball, you can’t do anything different.”
Why would the Red Sox want to?
After posting their worst record since 1965 in Bobby Valentine’s only year as their manager, they found stability and consistency under Farrell. They were in first place for 158 days, most in the AL, and never lost more than three consecutive games.
Boston will be healthy and well rested for the division series and will have thoroughly scouted whichever team they play.
“I know that amount of scouting work we’ve done on every team that was in contention is not going to change because we’re going to find out (Wednesday) night,” Farrell said. “We’ve got meetings scheduled for Thursday morning and that would encompass any team that we’re going to play. The fact that’s not going to be determined until (Wednesday) night, we’re more than prepared to shift according to who it is.”
And that includes finalizing the rotation.
“I don’t think the rotation could set up any better,” said Peavy, obtained from the Chicago White Sox on July 31 just before the non-waiver trade deadline. “Jonny Lester’s been the horse all year. He’s made every one of his starts. He led this team in innings. He pitched as well as anybody in the second half in baseball, really.
“He deserves to be the guy going out there, and I think (Lackey) is right behind him. I think that the way that things are shaking out to set up, they’re the right way,” he added. “The Boston Red Sox have a way of doing things right.”