Blakely: Deep bench should pay dividends for C's

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Blakely: Deep bench should pay dividends for C's

BOSTON There's no shortage of bodies for Doc Rivers to choose from when trying to figure out who to put on the floor this season.

But even with a roster that could legitimately go double-digits deep in players used almost every night, Rivers said his rotation strategy this season won't be altered that much from past seasons.

"We're not going to go that deep," Rivers said. "We'll go the same."

Rivers starts most seasons off by playing 10 or so players, depending on how they perform and whether the C's can maintain enough healthy bodies.

That means most games will feature a few players who won't see action that could conceivably contribute.

While the Celtics' goals of another deep playoff run will come down to the performance of their top eight or nine players, Rivers understands all too well the value of having depth during the season.

Because Boston has arguably the deepest bench in the league, that should pay huge dividends for the C's during the regular season when they can essentially wear down teams on a nightly basis.

Not only does that make it tougher for opponents to game-plan against Boston, but it also affords Rivers a greater opportunity to keep core guys such as Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett even fresher for the playoffs.

"Coming off the bench, our job is to make things easier for the starters," Celtics backup center Darko Milicic told CSNNE.com. "We do our job, we'll be OK."

Part of doing their job is developing continuity both among themselves as well as with the starters who at times they will be on the floor with as Rivers continues to mix up his lineups.

"The continuity is pretty good right now," said Boston's Courtney Lee. "But this team, we're not satisfied with anything we do. Even when we do something well, we know we can do it better. That's what this team is about, always trying to be better."

And that involves developing a rotation that players understand, will shrink in some fashion come playoff time.

"That's what's so great about this team," Lee said. "Doc has so many options to choose from, and the competition for minutes is there. That's only going to bring out the best in you as a player. And that's only going to help the team. So you can't look at that as anything but a positive."

Lee is expected to edge out Jason Terry for the starting job at shooting guard. Joining Lee in the starting unit will be Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The fifth starting spot - at least for the season opener against Miami on Tuesday - is expected to go to Brandon Bass.

That leaves the C's bench rotation to start the season consisting of Terry, Milicic, Jared Sullinger and Jeff Green. If Rivers plays 10 players, that 10th player will likely fluctuate between Leandro Barbosa, Jason Collins and Chris Wilcox.

Avery Bradley remains out until at least the middle of December while recovering from surgery to both of his shoulders. Rookies Kris Joseph and Fab Melo are unlikely to see much action early on this season.

Rivers is hesitant to heap too much praise on his second unit - especially with them having not played a single game yet together - but he acknowledges that this team does have the kind of depth that gives him more options than he has had in past years.

"I don't know after 10 (players), we'll see, or 11," Rivers said. "But I'm not worried about that, honestly. I'm more worried about that top-9 or 10. Because those are the guys that are gonna win."

Monday's Red Sox vs. Orioles lineups: Ortiz back from sore foot

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Monday's Red Sox vs. Orioles lineups: Ortiz back from sore foot

David Ortiz makes his return to the Red Sox lineup after being a late scratch on Sunday due to a sore left foot is sore after getting hit by a pitch Saturday. However, Hanley Ramirez is getting the day off, with Travis Shaw getting the start at first.

The lineups:

ORIOLES:
Adam Jones CF
Hyun Soo Kim LF
Manny Machado SS
Chris Davis 1B
Mark Trumbo DH
Jonathan Schoop 2B
Nolan Reimold RF
Ryan Flaherty 3B
Caleb Joseph C
--
Tyler Wilson P

RED SOX:
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Travis Shaw 1B
Blake Swihart LF
Ryan Hanigan C
Marco Hernandez 3B
---
Steven Wright P

Red Sox haven't allowed opponents to break out the brooms

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Red Sox haven't allowed opponents to break out the brooms

Through the first sixteen series of the season, the Red Sox are 9-5-3 (two ties coming from two-game sets) en route to their AL East leading 30-20 record.

Boston’s only mustered up two series sweeps -- taking two in Atlanta and three from the Yankees at Fenway -- but they’ve avoided the dreaded broom in each of their five series losses.

In fact, in four of their five series losses the Red Sox earned their lone victory in the final game, with Sunday being the most recent instance.

None of the series finale, sweep-defying wins were cakewalks either. Three of the four were decided by three runs or less -- the other being decided by four.

Boston’s MLB-leading 5.9 runs per game offense scored below its average each time -- so Red Sox pitching didn’t have the same gigantic cushion it’s used to.

Prior to his injury, Joe Kelly was the first savior, chucking five innings allowing two earned runs against a Baltimore Orioles team that was undefeated at that point in the season’s youth. Fast forward to the series at Yankee Stadium and Steven Wright nearly through a shutout, holding the Yankees to one run through nine innings.

In the two most recent cases, David Price’s turn came in the lineup -- and he’s answered the call. Boston’s ace held down both the Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays -- on the road -- limiting both offenses to two runs each. Both starts have come the day after one-run losses, too.

So while Price’s “stuff” hasn’t been at its best, admitting Sunday it usually isn’t against the Blue Jays, he’s displayed the intangible aces are supposed to have – guts.

Now on any other team, they might be in trouble given Boston’s offense is the best in baseball. Because a bad scoring day for the Red Sox is better than almost half the league’s average day. But they aren’t on any other team, so that’s not the issue.

For all the struggles the Red Sox’ starting pitchers have dealt with, they’ve managed to get the job done when they’ve needed it.

Those wins add up, too.

If the Red Sox are swept in these four series, they sit at 26-24 right in the middle of the AL East -- and this season has an entirely different feel to it.

In an age where numbers have become the central focus of the game, Boston’s starting pitchers have managed to lock-in when the club needs it most -- and must continue to do so.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter @ngfriar.

Monday, May 30: Sullivan reminisces about coaching Thornton

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Monday, May 30: Sullivan reminisces about coaching Thornton

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while honoring and remembering those that paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freed on this Memorial Day.

*Here’s a hockey column from Mark Madden, which kind of proves his dopiness when it comes to pucks. He writes about Pittsburgh’s excellent shutdown pair of Ian Cole and Justin Schultz, who have averaged a whopping 15 and 13 minutes of ice time respectively in these playoffs. Yeah, that’s not a shutdown pair. That’s called a bottom pairing.

*PHT writer Joey Alfieri with another chapter in hockey’s version of the Never-ending Story: John Scott wants to make his own World Cup team with Phil Kessel.

*Mike Sullivan reminisces about coaching Joe Thornton, and playing for the San Jose Sharks, as his Penguins ready to take on San Jose in the Stanley Cup Final.

*In the interest of self-promotion, here’s me wondering what the heck the Bruins are doing on Sports Sunday last night on CSN.

*Apparently Alex Semin is going to stay in the KHL for this coming season. I don’t think anybody is too heartbroken around the NHL about this given the way things ended for him.

*Buffalo’s Mike Harrington says that Sidney Crosby returns to the Stanley Cup Final with a new kind of hunger

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mike Zeisberger goes 1-on-1 with Joe Thornton, who says that the cat likes his Hillbilly Jim playoff beard.

*For something completely different: I haven’t yet read this Joe Posnanski piece on the play Hamilton and his daughter, but I’ll include it because everybody says that it’s great.