Sox will be watching Tribe-Rays with close eye

rays alex cobb 041313

Sox will be watching Tribe-Rays with close eye

BOSTON -- The Red Sox finished with the best record in the American League, at 97-65, tied with the Cardinals for the best record in baseball. For their accomplishment, they will have home field advantage throughout the postseason, and will face the winner of Wednesday’s one-game wild card playoff, either the Rays or Indians, on Friday in Game 1 of their AL Division Series at Fenway Park.
 
“I think more than anything, we’ve put ourselves in a very good position and that’s over a course of 162,” manager John Farrell said. “Our guys have earned that. We’re in a little bit different format because of the number of days off. It’s rewarding for all of us to say we won a division and we’ve been able to maintain home field advantage. Those are two things, that I think as we begin this postseason, sit well with us. I know by Friday this group will be chomping at the bit to get in the field.”
 
In addition to four days of rest, the Sox’ accomplishment  also means they are the last team in baseaball to know who their Division Series opponent will be.  Farrell was asked if there are any disadvantages to that.
 
“None that I can state right now,” Farrell said. “Only because I know that amount of scouting work we’ve done on every team that was in contention is not going to change because we’re going to find out [Wednesday] night. We’ve got meetings scheduled for Thursday morning and that would encompass any team that we’re going to play. The fact that’s not going to be determined until [Wednesday] night, we’re more than prepared to shift according to who it is.”
 
Farrell has not announced his roster or Game 1 starter yet, preferring to get through today’s workout and simulated game before making any information public. The Sox’ opponent may have an impact on those decisions to some degree.
 
“There’ll be some of that involved,” Farrell said, “but the one thing that I want to be clear at is that we’ve set a pretty clear approach to how we’ve used all of our position players throughout the course of the regular season. To make a drastic shift from that  I don’t know that that would be putting guys in the best position to succeed.
 
“So, this is a team that we’ve had a couple of situations where we’ve pinch-hit before, or we’ll use a pinch-runner, we’ve demonstrated that. So to say that we’ll look to do something completely different because we’ve got a five-game series with two offdays in it, I think that would be running from what our strengths have been established all year.”
 
Farrell, like his staff and players, will be watching tonight’s game, just as he has watched playoff games in the past.
 
“Every year, yeah,” he said. “Even those years when you’re on the outside looking in, personally I have a strong interest in the game. You like to see how things unfold and what decisions are made based on certain things that come up in a game. You think along the game as it’s happening even though you might not be there.”
 
The Red Sox will all be watching tonight’s game, but with a different perspective than most viewers.
 
“There won’t be any fan in me pulling for either team,” said Jake Peavy, “I was talking to my father about this, the way I watched the game [Monday] night [between the Rays and Rangers] was so different than he and my mother and brother and everybody else. I’m watching pitch sequences, and how guys are setting up and what guys are trying to do in certain situations. And that’s certainly the way I think we’ll all watch the game [Wednesday] night, with an idea that we’re going to face one of those teams. I’m going to face those hitters that I’m watching. So I’ll watch it a lot like I do homework tapes.”
 
“I’m in a good situation to where I can watch it,” said Jonny Gomes. “It doesn’t matter who wins. It’s not like baseball-sized tears at the end of the game. Just watch it as a fan. And they got 162 games under their belt too. They’re not going to reinvent the wheel [tonight]. So just watch the game as a fan.”
 
Neither the manager of any of his players expressed a preference for who they might face in their Division Series. In six meetings between the Rays and Indians, Tampa Bay won four, going 2-1 both at home and at Cleveland. The Sox finished 6-1 against the Indians, but have not faced them since May, when they were a much different team. The Sox finished 12-7 against the Rays, 6-4 at Fenway, 6-3 at Tropicana Field, and know Tampa Bay as well as any team.
 
A scout who has followed both the Rays and Indians gave his thoughts on the potential matchups:
 
“I think if Cleveland plays Boston, I don’t think Cleveland will match up well at all. I think Boston will kill them," the scout said. "Cleveland’s bullpen is really weak right now. If Boston plays Tampa, because of familiarity I think Tampa has a legitimate shot at staying competitive. However, I still see Boston winning either series rather handily. For me, right now as an outsider, I would have to say Boston is a clear-cut favorite to win  the whole thing.”

Ortiz: 'A super honor' to have number retired by Red Sox

Ortiz: 'A super honor' to have number retired by Red Sox

BOSTON —  The Red Sox have become well known for their ceremonies, for their pull-out-all-the-stops approach to pomp. The retirement of David Ortiz’s No. 34 on Friday evening was in one way, then, typical.

A red banner covered up Ortiz’s No. 34 in right field, on the facade of the grandstand, until it was dropped down as Ortiz, his family, Red Sox ownership and others who have been immortalized in Fenway lore looked on. Carl Yazstremski and Jim Rice, Wade Boggs and Pedro Martinez. 

The half-hour long tribute further guaranteed permanence to a baseball icon whose permanence in the city and the sport was never in doubt. But the moments that made Friday actually feel special, rather than expected, were stripped down and quick. 

Dustin Pedroia’s not one to belabor many points, never been the most effusive guy around. (He’d probably do well on a newspaper deadline.) The second baseman spoke right before Ortiz took to the podium behind the mound.

“We want to thank you for not the clutch hits, the 500 home runs, we want to thank you for how you made us feel and it’s love,” Pedroia said, with No. 34 painted into both on-deck circles and cut into the grass in center field. “And you’re not our teammate, you’re not our friend, you’re our family. … Thank you, we love you.”

Those words were enough for Ortiz to have tears in his eyes.

“Little guy made me cry,” Ortiz said, wiping his hands across his face. “I feel so grateful. I thank God every day for giving me the opportunity to have the career that I have. But I thank God even more for giving me the family and what I came from, who teach me how to try to do everything the right way. Nothing — not money — nothing is better than socializing with the people that are around you, get familiar with, show them love, every single day. It’s honor to get to see my number …. I remember hitting batting practice on this field, I always was trying to hit those numbers.”

Now that’s a poignant image for a left-handed slugger at Fenway Park.

He did it once, he said — hit the numbers. He wasn’t sure when. Somewhere in 2011-13, he estimated — but he said he hit Bobby Doerr’s No. 1.

“It was a good day to hit during batting practice,” Ortiz remembered afterward in a press conference. “But to be honest with you, I never thought I’d have a chance to hit the ball out there. It’s pretty far. My comment based on those numbers was, like, I started just getting behind the history of this organization. Those guys, those numbers have a lot of good baseball in them. It takes special people to do special things and at the end of the day have their number retired up there, so that happening to me today, it’s a super honor to be up there, hanging with those guys.”

The day was all about his number, ultimately, and his number took inspiration from the late Kirby Puckett. Ortiz’s major league career began with the Twins in 1997. Puckett passed away in 2006, but the Red Sox brought his children to Fenway Park. They did not speak at the podium or throw a ceremonial first pitch, but their presence likely meant more than, say, Jason Varitek’s or Tim Wakefield’s.

“Oh man, that was very emotional,” Ortiz said. “I’m not going to lie to you, like, when I saw them coming toward me, I thought about Kirby. A lot. That was my man, you know. It was super nice to see his kids. Because I remember, when they were little guys, little kids. Once I got to join the Minnesota Twins, Kirby was already working in the front office. So they were, they used to come in and out. I used to get to see them. But their dad was a very special person for me and that’s why you saw me carry the No. 34 when I got here. It was very special to get to see them, to get kind of connected with Kirby somehow someway.”

Ortiz’s place in the row of 11 retired numbers comes in between Boggs’ No. 26 and Jackie Robinson’s No. 42.

Red Sox claim RHP Doug Fister off waivers, sign INF Jhonny Peralta

Red Sox claim RHP Doug Fister off waivers, sign INF Jhonny Peralta

BOSTON — They have the right idea, if not yet the right personnel.

Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has brought on a pair of former Tigers in an effort to help the Red Sox’ depth.

It’s hard to expect much from righty Doug Fister — who mostly throws in the 80s these days and is to start Sunday — or from Jhonny Peralta, who’s going to play some third base at Triple-A Pawtucket. Fister was claimed off waivers from the Angels, who coincidentally started a three-game series with the Red Sox on Friday at Fenway Park. Peralta, meanwhile, was signed as a free agent to a minor league deal.

Neither may prove much help. Fister could move to the bullpen when Eduardo Rodriguez is ready to return, Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said. The Sox hope E-Rod is back in time for the All-Star break.

That’s assuming Fister is pitching well enough that the Sox want to keep him.

But at least the Sox are being proactive looking for help, and it’s not like either Peralta or Fister is high-risk.

"Doug has been an established major league pitcher," Dombrowski said. "We’ve been looking for starting pitching depth. Really traced an unusual situation, because coming into spring training at that time, [Fister was] looking for a bigger contract guarantee at the major league level, and we didn’t feel we could supply at the time because we didn’t have a guaranteed position. We continued to follow him. ... we sent people to watch him workout and throw batting practice in Fresno where he lived. We continued to stay in contact with him. 

"We finally felt we were going to be able to add him to our major league roster, we made a phone call and he had agreed the day before with the Angels on the contract. They said he was in a position where he had made the agreement and signed a major-league contract, agreed to go to the minor leagues, but he had an out on June 21 if they didn’t put him on the big league roster. We scouted him two outings ago. One of our scouts, Eddie Bane, had seen him pitch before, recommended him, felt he could pitch in the starting rotation at the major-league level, that we should be interested in him."

Fister, 33, threw 180 1/3 innings last year with the Astros, posting a 4.64 ERA. He hasn’t been in the big leagues yet this season.

Said one American League talent evaluator earlier this year about Fister’s 2016: “Had a nice first half. Then struggled vs. left-handed hitters and with finishing hitters. No real putaway pitch. Has ability to pitch around the zone, reliable dude.”