Red Sox notes: Ross gets the nod; planning for Price

Red Sox notes: Ross gets the nod; planning for Price
October 5, 2013, 3:30 pm
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BOSTON -- As expected, the Red Sox made a minor change in their lineup from Game 1, with David Ross replacing Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the plate.

"It's a small sample size,'' said John Farrell of the move, "but he's had a few at-bats (five) well against [Tampa Bay starter David] Price (with two homers). I think he and John [Lackey] have paired up well and we want to keep him in the mix. He's important to us.

"These are the situations why we signed him -- against a left-handed starter, a good one and we're taking advantage of David's abilities.''

Farrell also noted that Ross might help Lackey control the Rays' running game better. Ross threw out 41 percent of all opposing baserunners during the season.

"There's a few things that went into this,'' he explained.

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John Lackey, the Game 2 starter, managed to pitch 189 1/3 innings for the Red Sox despite coming back from Tommy John surgery and being sidelined for a few weeks in April following a biceps injury. That Lackey was so durable surprised the Red Sox.

"He probably exceeded [expectations],'' said Farrell. "It's almost a distant memory now that he walked off the mound (injured) in start No. 1 in Toronto. But once he returned from that, I think that start in Tampa (when he lasted just 4 1/3 innings on May 14) might have been the shortest start of the year and to think that he's been that consistent and effective -- that somewhat exceeded what we thought we'd get out of him.

"Even thought we thought he could make as big an impact on this team as anybody, he's done a hell of a job.''

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The Sox know they have their work cut out for them against David Price, who has always pitched well against them (10-6, 2.93 in 20 career regular-season starts; 2-2, 2.48 in five starts this season).

"We'll adjust accordingly,'' said Farrell. "If he's pounding the strike zone early in the count, we can show the ability to swing the bat a little bit earlier (in at-bats) rather than wait around and be in negative counts. That might be the case again today. But good pitchers are damn good pitchers and we have our hands full.

"He's pitched extremely well here at Fenway and extremely well against us. We know we're going to get a lot of power stuff thrown at us. We know we're going to see a lot of strikes. We know that we're in for a challenge here today.''

But Farrell rejected the suggestion that Price is perhaps in the Red Sox hitters' heads.

"We respect every guy that walks to the mound,'' said Farrell. "But I can't say that because he's had success (against the Sox) that we fear him. We may look to manufacture runs a little bit earlier because of fewer potential opportunites, but we'll see how this one unfolds.''

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The Sox played more ''small ball'' in September, which might come in handy in the postseason, where runs are at more of a premium.

"We've shown the ability to be a little bit more diverse, rather than just [stay with]) one approach,'' he said, "which is by design, whether it's running the bases a little more aggressive.''

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Farrell said he heard suggestions about the Red Sox running up the score against Tampa in Game 1, with some stolen base tries and hit-and-run plays.

"I heard about it,'' he said. "When they're holding our runners later and still [throwing over], that's an indication to us [to] play it out.''

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Koji Uehara hasn't pitched in a game since the final weekend of the season, six days ago, but Farrell wasn't concerned about rust.

"He pitched an inning (in the simulated) game Wednesday,'' noted Farrell, "and he took that like a game situation. If we're not in a sizable lead like we were [Friday], he's probably got the ninth. But wanting to not push him for an inning and then four of five outs [Saturday] . . . it was as much about preserving the potential length.''

With an off-day Sunday, however, Farrell will be able to get more of Uehara Saturday.

"[Saturday] is a unique opportunity,'' said Farrell, "where we have a little bit more flexibility. If we're in the eighth inning and trying to preserve a lead, everybody's ready to go.''