ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Jake Peavy, who will pitch Game 4 Tuesday if necessary, joined the Red Sox for the final two months and can attest to the team's tight-knit personality.
"I have had some incredible experiences,'' said the veteran pitcher, "and I couldn't ever think of feeling any more like a family or like I belonged in San Diego . . . And even in Chicago (with the White Sox), I had some great teammates and coaching staff and great memories.
"But the day I walked into [the Red Sox] clubhouse, I felt like I was home. I felt like this is where I was meant to be. I belong with this group of players, with this group of coaching staff and front office and with this group of fans. This is where I belong.''
Peavy's feeling is another indication of the way the team changed the culture in the clubhouse during the offseason.
"The one thing [these players] bring,'' said manager John Farrell, "is the thought that the game (on a given night) is the most important thing. And that's their priority. It's not about what they do individually, but what we set out to accomplish as a group. And they've all bought into a team concept."
The Sox went out of their way to bring in not only talented players, but also the right personalities for the clubhouse. That approach has worked.
"Maybe we're more proud of how we're doing it as opposed to not just what we're doing,'' said Farrell. "And we're doing it with a bunch of guys that buy into this team's concept. They support one another. They have a lot of fun here as well -- that's evident by the beards. So there's room to have an individual personality. But at the same time, they're bound by a team concept that is trying to do something special.''
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The only real change in the Sox lineup for Game 3 -- other than Jarrod Saltalamacchia returning behind the plate after sitting out Game 2 -- was the addition of Daniel Nava in left field.
Jonny Gomes had started the first two game of the ALDS with the Sox facing left-handed starters. With righty Alex Cobb going for the Rays in Game 3, Farrell went with Nava in left.
Over the course of the season, the switch-hitting Nava hit .322 against righties and just .252 against lefties.
"He was not one of our bigger names coming into the season," said Farrell, "and maybe, as a result, hasn't received the notoriety. But you can't deny the performance and the production. The one thing that stands out from our end, as far as how we look to manage inside a game, is his defensive flexibility. And we've been able to match up with other positions and move Daniel around to cover up the replacement for a pinch-hitter in certain situations.
"So the one thing that Daniel has never fallen prey to is that he can't do something. If someone has challenged him, whether it's learning a new position (as he did with first base this past spring) or improving from the right side of the plate, he's handled those challenges in a positive way."
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Farrell was asked, hours before first pitch, the mood of his team on the verge of potentially wrapping up the series.
"Eager," he said. "Kind of chomping at the bit, even with the off-days, whether it was prior to the series opening up or even on the off-day [Sunday]. Guys are eager to get back on the field. And their focus is about the one game. It's not about the end result of a series. It's about tonight and certainly, not getting far ahead of ourselves in any way.''