Most of Sox's lineup gets night off
Francona giving regulars rest with playoffs around corner
BOSTON -- Despite the oversize fans blowing from opposite ends of the Red Sox's clubhouse, and the early morning ministration's of a cleaning crew, the scent of a celebration still hung in the air Wednesday afternoon, a reminder of the team's reaction to the Rangers' loss to the Angels in Anaheim giving Boston its third consecutive playoff berth and six in the past seven seasons.
Manager Terry Francona was not among the celebrants, though. He left Fenway Park -- uncharacteristically quickly -- after Tuesday's loss vs. the Blue Jays to fly to Virginia for his son Nick's graduation from the Marine Corps' TBS school and promotion to the rank of lieutenant.
Francona acknowledged it was odd to be away from his team for its celebration, but it was also important for him to be at his son's event. He was pleased that almost all his players stayed at or returned to the park for the celebration.
"I think it's great," Francona said. "I think it's fantastic. I don't think people -- maybe people that are around the team understand it, and maybe they don't. It's just a long year. And for them to let it loose like that together, I like it. I think it's good for them. Winning should never get old. Everybody in that room knows this is not our ultimate goal, but it is still an accomplishment and you enjoy it and then you move on."
Francona, who learned of his team's playoff clinching when his plane landed early Wednesday morning, returned to the park just minutes before meeting with reporters and had not yet had a chance to check in with his team. But he and bench coach Brad Mills had been in contact and had already made contingency plans, including different lineups for Wednesday, depending on whether the team had secured a playoff spot.
Wednesday's lineup, with only designated hitter David Ortiz and shortstop Alex Gonzalez among the starters, gave Francona a chance to rest his other regulars.
"I think for a couple guys it was important [to get rest] -- [second baseman Dustin] Pedroia and [center fielder Jacoby] Ellsbury, especially," Francona said. "They played a lot this last. They hadn't had [a break]. Everybody else had kind of gotten a blow this last week, but those two hadn't."
While everyone else would be available to pinch-hit, if needed, Francona said "this might not be a night to use the entire roster."
Francona has not decided what his playoff roster will be, and won't until meeting with his staff and the front office Monday.
"We won't make our roster out until after that meeting," he said. "We need to have a meeting. There's a lot of good stuff, give and take, and ideas thrown around. [I] want everybody to have a chance to give their ideas going into that meeting."
Although Francona had not yet decided how many pitchers the club will carry, he had good news to report on Josh Beckett, who was scratched from his Monday start with back spasms. Beckett threw 62 pitches in a bullpen session Wednesday "and everything went great."
Francona was hopeful Tim Wakefield, whose back has been ailing, would pitch well in his start Wednesday.
"I think the biggest thing we hope is that he can pitch and kind of pitch and not limp," Francona said. "He can pitch, that's the biggest thing. There's no guarantees what the knuckleball's going to do or if they're going to hit him. But if he can go out and pitch, that would be terrific."
Despite his team being mired in a five-game losing streak -- and loser of seven of its past nine games -- Francona said momentum, good or bad, matters little going into the playoffs.
"Zero," he said. "I hope we play good, because that's why we show up today. Every time we play I want to play good. I want to first win, and hopefully we win clean. If we win and someone hits a three-run homer and someone makes a couple errors, OK. They can play good baseball, but come next week -- the next five games are kind of cosmetic. I hope our record's better than it is worse. But these games will have no bearing on what we do next week."
Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.