Farrell hints at Lester as Game 1 starter

Farrell hints at Lester as Game 1 starter
September 18, 2013, 10:00 pm
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(AP Photo)

BOSTON - A playoff spot has yet to be clinched, but already, the Red Sox are cautiously casting an eye toward October.

Manager John Farrell, in an interview with WEEI Radio on Wednesday, said that the choice for a Game 1 starter in the Division Series is
"a no-brainer,'' though he declined to reveal that choice.

Later, in meeting with reporters for his daily pre-game media session, Farrell backed off his "no-brainer'' remark, and suggested
instead that he had "an idea'' in mind for his first playoff starter.
      
Regardless of his degree of conviction or certitude, it would seem that, for now at least, Farrell's Game 1 choice is Jon Lester. Lester has been the team's best second-half starter and has the added advantage of having pitched two playoff series openers in 2008 and 2009.
      
Since the All-Star break, Lester is 6-2 with a 2.38 ERA in 11 starts. He's pitched at least seven innings in five of his last six starts and appears to be peaking as the post-season draws closer.
      
The fact that Farrell initially labeled his internal decision "a no-brainer'' would seem to eliminate the chance that he was referring to Clay Buchholz, who missed just over three months with neck and shoulder woes.
      
Buchholz has been impressive in two starts since returning, allowing just one unearned run over 11 innings, though his command was spotty on Sunday night when he issued four walks in six innings.
      
Still, there's more to see still from Buchholz, who was on a strict pitch count in each of his first two starts. His arm strength isn't yet 100 percent and he's yet to pitch past the six innings.
      
If Buchholz had allowed just a run or two over his first four starts, then Farrell might have been talking about Buchholz, having seen all he
needs to see. But after just 11 innings, it's impossible to think that Farrell would already be committed to Buchholz.
      
The safer choice -- for now, anyway -- it to go with Lester in the opener with Buchholz in Game 2, which sounds like Farrell's intention.
      
Farrell also indicated that he was leaning toward having 11 pitchers in the first round.
      
Eight of those 11 spots would seem claimed -- four by starters (Lester, Buchholz, John Lackey and Jake Peavy) and four at the back end of the bullpen (Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow and Brandon Workman).
      
That leaves three spots, with assured of being a lefty. The safe bet for that role would seem to be Franklin Morales, who is throwing better and harder (96 mph at times) than he has all season.
      
That leaves two others, one of whom will be one of the two discarded starters, Ryan Dempster and Felix Doubront. The Sox need someone stretched
out in the event that one of the four starters has a poor outing and is knocked out of the game early. But the Sox will want to get more than "emergency length'' from that pitcher, and because Dempster has far more experience and success in relief, he gets the edge.
      
That, in turn, leaves Drake Britton, Rubby de la Rosa and Matt Thornton competiting for the 11th and final spot.