The day after clinching the American League East title, Red Sox manager John Farrell began the process of getting extra rest for some of his regulars. Conflicting with those plans, however, is the team’s desire to finish with the AL’s best record and get the home-field advantage in the postseason that goes with it.
Farrell’s biggest challenge Saturday was convincing Dustin Pedroia he should take a day off. That plan lasted 6½ innings.
Farrell said before the Red Sox’ 4-2 loss to the Blue Jays that this had already been planned, but when asked about it, Pedroia said, “I didn’t know I wasn’t playing until I saw the lineup. I walked in and talked to John and I said ‘OK, you’re the manager.’ ”
Pedroia finished Friday having played in 154 games and making 700 plate appearances, both major league highs. He hates to sit. The only game he has not appeared in came on June 16 in Baltimore when Jose Iglesias got the start at second.
On Saturday night, John McDonald got the start and Pedroia got some rest. Farrell joked that he felt Pedroia might get so chatty on the bench that the manager might be forced to send him into the game just to gets some relief. It was all good-natured.
The Red Sox trailed in the seventh inning, 3-1, when they scraped together their second run on a throwing error, wild pitch, and ground out. With two outs and the bases empty, Pedroia pinch hit for McDonald. He struck out swinging then took over at second.
Pedroia, who went to the batting cage looking to take his usual 150 swings, said he’s not worried about there being too much downtime down the stretch.
“I don’t like it because I want to play,” Pedroia said. “The timing shouldn’t be affected because we take so many swings every day. If it were a week or something like that you might worry about timing, but not a day.”
Is he sure it won’t be more than a day?
“We have four days off before we start the playoffs so there’s plenty of time to rest. We have two offdays next week, too,” Pedroia said. “We’ll just get this over with and then start a normal routine.”
Pedroia said he feels fine though he did spend some time in the trainer’s room on Thursday, which is unusual for him.
McDonald, who turns 39 on Tuesday, has played on four teams this season, his 15th in the majors, but has only appeared in one postseason (2011, Arizona). He doesn’t know what the Red Sox have planned for him for the playoffs, or if he’ll be on the playoff roster, but the assumption is he’s in because he can play the middle infield and third base.
Will Middlebrooks got the start at first base against Toronto on Saturday night, as Farrell rested Mike Napoli. Although Middlebrooks has been working out at first for many weeks, it was his first time playing the position in the majors. Still, he said it was an easy transition from third base.
“Playing third and first are similar,” Middlebrooks said. “It’s not that hard for me.”
Middlebrooks said he was only worried about holding a runner.
“That was like my biggest [concern], which way do my feet go?” he said. “Whatever, it seems pretty easy. I’m just going to play it how I thought it was played, so we’ll see.”
Ellsbury on target
Jacoby Ellsbury is picking up the intensity of his baseball workouts. Ellsbury, who did some harder running on Saturday, has said he will be able to play before the end of the regular season.
Ellsbury, who last played in a game Sept. 5, has been out with a nondisplaced fracture of the navicular bone in his right foot.
Dempster in relief
Ryan Dempster, who made 29 starts this season, worked out of the bullpen for the first time this season. Farrell would like to give regulars such as Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow, and Koji Uehara some rest.
Although Dempster has spent most of his career as a starter (351 starts in 16 years), he saved 85 games for the Cubs from 2005-07. Dempster had made 189 consecutive starts.
Dempster came into a 3-2 game in the eighth. After getting the first two, he allowed a single and a walk before striking out Moises Sierra .
Farrell also indicated that John Lackey may pitch out of the bullpen for an inning at some point since he’s not scheduled to start again until the final weekend.
Schedule in progress
Farrell said that the Red Sox have a “rough draft” of how they’re going to handle the four-day respite leading to the playoffs. If the Red Sox secure one of the top two records, they will play their first ALDS game Oct. 4 at Fenway. Game 162 will be played in Baltimore next Sunday . . . Stephen Drew led off for the Red Sox for the first time. However, he is familiar with the role, having 1,015 plate appearances there. He showed as much with a 2-for-4 outing with a run scored . . . Catcher David Ross threw out three runners for the first time in his career. The last time that was done by a Red Sox was April 30, 1998, by Scott Hatteberg . . . The Red Sox named lefthander Henry Owens (11-6, 2.67 ERA) their Minor League Pitcher of the Year and second baseman Mookie Betts (.314, 36 doubles, 15 homers, 65 RBIs) as the Offensive Player of the Year. The team also recognized catcher Blake Swihart (defensive player) and shortstop Deven Marrero (base runner), while Steven Wright won the Lou Gorman Award for dedication and perseverance.