Bass: 'We've got to be able to maintain the lead'

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Bass: 'We've got to be able to maintain the lead'

BOSTON -- In a shortened season when managing minutes and preserving energy is a priority on a veteran team, the ability of the Celtics bench to maintain the starters lead is critical.

Following Sundays loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Paul Pierce expressed frustrations about not playing more minutes in the fourth quarter.

On Tuesday night in Cleveland, the Celtics starters needed to stay in the game to close out a tight win.

It was different on Wednesday, though. The Celtics beat the Toronto Raptors 100-64 in a well-balanced attack in which none of the starters played more than 27 minutes.

Weve got to stay ready, said Sasha Pavlovic (6 points, 22 minutes). We talked about that before the game and before the season. Weve got to stay ready and bring even more energy when they come out. Thats what were trying to do and were getting there.

Preserving a lead has been emphasized to the reserves. Its a role which they take seriously.

A lot of emphasis, said Brandon Bass (12 points, 9 rebounds, 31 minutes). Its just something we have to improve on. As a whole, to be honest with you, first group and second group, weve got to be able to maintain the lead, finish games, and thats what weve been trying to do of late.

Every active player appeared in Wednesdays game and recorded at least one basket. Rookie JaJuan Johnson scored a career-high 11 points in just 10 minutes off 5-for-5 shooting.

It was great, he said. Thats what Doc (Rivers) tells everybody, when you come in youve got to be ready to bring energy to the team, raise the level of what the people had in before, and I think the second unit did a good job tonight. ... Were going to need everybody for the year and in the playoffs. Its important that the bench is able to maintain leads and it helps for the longevity of the starters this whole season.

Drellich: Devers is a keeper, even with the addition of Nunez

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Drellich: Devers is a keeper, even with the addition of Nunez

BOSTON -- The cherub stays.

There's no way Rafael Devers is headed back to Triple-A before the homestand starts Friday, right, Dave Dombrowski? Not for the newly acquired Eduardo Nunez, who's a fine player but has nowhere near the offensive upside of Devers, the 20-year-old phenom you just rushed to the big leagues.

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You probably weren't really considering sending Devers straight back, were you now, Dave? Sometime in the 3 o'clock hour Eastern time on Wednesday morning (after a 13-inning, 6-5 loss to the Mariners), you did tell reporters in Seattle that you would need to sit down with manager John Farrell to figure out the plan at third base from here.

Likely, you're just making sure your ducks are in a row. That Nunez himself has a chance to shake hands with you, and gets to hear straight from you what he'll be doing.

That's fair. But let's be doubly sure we're on the same page.

As long as something else doesn't happen between now and then -- no other trades for third basemen, no injuries -- Devers must at least platoon at third unless he shows he can't handle it. Nunez bats right, Devers left.

But it wouldn't be crazy to let Devers have the bulk of the playing time, either, and use Nunez to spell Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia. Or simply have him come off the bench.

Devers didn't look overmatched in his very first big-league game Tuesday night. On the contrary, he was patient at the plate, drawing the walk that started a sixth-inning rally against Felix Hernandez. (King Felix is quite the draw for a someone making his major-league debut, we should note.) He looked like a happy kid, and sounded like one after the game.

"For me it's just going out there and playing my brand of baseball and having fun out there," Devers told reporters through translator Daveson Perez. "That's what I was trying to do and I think I did that."

Devers finished 0-for-4 with a pair of walks, one strikeout and a run scored. He didn't make any errors and looked smooth and quick, his athleticism shining through some baby fat.

Dombrowski spoke during the last homestand about the lack of league-norm production at third base. Nunez can bring that, if nothing more. He is, at a position that's had no certainty, some form of certainty. A stable piece that can help out around the infield and has valuable versatility.

But Nunez is not what the Sox need most: A bopper.

Devers has pop. The chances he blossoms this year are not in his favor because he is the youngest player in the majors. But it would be a most strange and almost cruel choice to call the kid up for two days and then decide you don't need him because of Nunez, who entered Tuesday with the same OPS as Mitch Moreland (.745).

If you're the glass-is-half-full-type, the first four-game losing streak of the season for the Red Sox was numbed by a third-base situation that's been upgraded twofold. Let's assume the Sox know how to best deploy the two from here -- in the big leagues together, until shown a reason to change course.