Notes: Clement gets Game 1 start
Sox starters enter postseason on their regular schedule
BOSTON -- The biggest side benefit of not having to play a one-game playoff against the Indians on Monday is that the Red Sox will enter the postseason with a fresh starting rotation.
While Matt Clement would have made the winner-take-all start on three days' rest, he will instead take the ball for Tuesday's Game 1 of the Division Series against the White Sox on his regular fifth day.
It will be a return to Chicago for Clement, who pitched for the Cubs the last three years.
David Wells will follow Clement and pitch Game 2. Tim Wakefield (Game 3) and Curt Schilling (Game 4, if necessary) will start when the series moves to Fenway Park.
Last year, the Red Sox clinched earlier and lined up their rotation so Schilling and Pedro Martinez could open the postseason, but they had no such luxury this year. And, in actuality, with this year's rotation less top-heavy, there wasn't as much of a need to.
"The guys are on their normal day," said Francona. "To be very honest with you, lining them up, I'm not sure [that helps]. We're looking for big efforts from everybody. Wakefield has been tremendous. When Boomer is healthy, he's very good. But keeping them in order, I think will make them better than maneuvering for a certain guy to pitch somewhere else or in a different place."
And Bronson Arroyo, the team's fifth starter, will pitch out of the bullpen. That move for Arroyo -- who led the team in quality starts -- hardly represented a demotion.
With Arroyo's ability to warm up quickly and the fact that he has a resilient arm, Francona thinks that he can boost the bullpen.
"Bronson deserves a start. But Bronson can impact our ballclub in a lot of different ways out of the bullpen," said Francona. "You watch, when this is all said and done, he'll be a big part of what we're doing. He has the rare ability of being able to start all year. He'll go down to the bullpen and he'll probably get loose every game."
Manny's monster finish: In a story that went largely unnoticed, Manny Ramirez finished the regular season with a mammoth flourish. He belted nine homers in the last 12 games, and 12 in the final 22 games, including a three-run rocket on Sunday.
Ramirez finished with a .292 average, 45 homers and 144 RBIs.
The superstar slugger belted two majestic home runs in Saturday's game, which traveled a combined distance of roughly 930 feet.
How long ago does May 27 seem, when Ramirez was hitting .224?
"Manny Ramirez is such a good hitter," said Francona. "When he struggles, it's big news. I understand that. All hitters go through it. And all good hitters get to that level where they're supposed to be. It's just sometimes it's backwards."
Ramirez wasn't just doing it with his bat down the stretch, but also seemed to ratchet up his intensity in terms of baserunning and fielding. In fact, it was Ramirez who set the tone in Sunday's game, fielding a liner off the Green Monster and firing a strike to second to nail Derek Jeter.
"The last couple of weeks, he played some pennant-winning baseball," said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. "His baserunning was fantastic, his defense was much improved. He grinded every at-bat. He set the tone for the team with his workmanlike approach and intensity. It was something to watch."
Boomer's swan song? Wells continues to drop hints that he might retire at the end of the season if the Red Sox win the World Series. This, even though he would make a minimum of $4 million next season, and as much as $9 million if he makes 30 starts.
"It's something that, like I said, I was going to sit down and talk with my family afterwards. I've said it for four years that I'm probably going to retire," said Wells, 42. "What a way to go. If you win it, that's great. It's easier for me. I'm not getting any younger. I'm having a lot of fun. I still get fired up for these games. For me, I'm just going to take it one day at a time. I'll let you know after we win 11 games."
Roster moves: While the Red Sox don't need to make their postseason roster official until Tuesday morning, it appears all but certain that infielder Kevin Youkilis has recovered well enough from his fractured right ring finger to be on board the rest of the way.
Youkilis, who suffered the fracture on the tip of his finger on Sept. 18, played third base in the late innings of Sunday's game.
The one big question concerning position players is who the Red Sox will take as their fourth outfielder. They could go with Adam Hyzdu or Alejandro Machado, the latter of whom offers versatility as an infielder and a pinch-runner.
As far as pitching, the Red Sox must decide whether to take 10 or 11. Nine spots are set, leaving Lenny DiNardo, Craig Hansen and Jeremi Gonzalez on the bubble.
Glad not to see you: As fond as Francona is of Indians general manager Mark Shapiro, he was glad not to have to see him on Monday for a one-day playoff.
"I exchanged voicemails with Mark Shapiro [recently]," said Francona. "He's such a dear person to me. I talked to his secretary and just said, 'Tell him I called.' And she kind of chuckled. I said, 'Don't tell him I said good luck.' I said, 'Just tell him I called.'
"He's one of my close friends in baseball, and he sent me back a very nice message, which was not surprising. It was basically the same thing. You know, what do you say? 'Hey buddy, we want you to win instead of us.' No, you really don't. But I care about him a lot. He knows that."
Francona worked with Shapiro in the Indians front office during the 2001 season.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.