ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Good team chemistry can manifest itself in many ways. For the Red Sox, it's evident on their chins and cheeks.
Most of the Red Sox have stopped shaving and beards are sprouting across the clubhouse. It's such a trend that even the usually well-groomed Jacoby Ellsbury is wearing a week's worth of scruff.
It started in spring training when Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes grew beards. David Ross joined in, as did Dustin Pedroia. Now all four are looking like Civil War generals.
"I was trimming mine for a while and they made me stop," Ross said. "Now it's all bushy. The umpires are always asking me about it. But I like it, outside of the gray hair that's in there."
All nine players in the batting order against the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday had some sort of beard. Only six of the 25 players on the active roster can be classified as clean shaven. The holdouts for now, include Jon Lester and John Lackey.
"Too young," said Jose Iglesias, rubbing his smooth chin. "But maybe."
A few players have just joined the wooly bunch. Stephen Drew is now sporting the makings of a beard and Daniel Nava was carefully checking his chin before Wednesday's game against the Rays.
"Oh, it's happening," Nava said. "I'm not shaving. I'm in."
Craig Breslow is a few days in and isn't sure whether he will continue.
"I'm comfortably on the fence," he said.
Manager John Farrell was asked to join the fun and respectfully declined.
"Not me," he said. "I've never done that before."
Several Red Sox — David Ortiz and Andrew Miller, most notably — were bearded before it became the thing to do. Miller looked like a tall version of Jim Morrison in spring training before getting a trim.
"I was ahead of the curve," he said. "Now everybody is doing it."
The beards aren't why the Sox are in first place in the American League East. But it is further evidence that this group of players genuinely gets along.
"It really is a fun group of guys," Ross said. "It's been that way since spring training. You feel good about coming to the park every day and we've played well as a group."
Caution for Clay
The Red Sox had tentative plans to start Clay Buchholz against the Orioles on Sunday. But now it appears he will not pitch until Tuesday at the earliest.
Buchholz left his start on Saturday in the seventh inning because of a stiff neck. He played catch on Wednesday and still felt some discomfort.
"Nothing bad, but it's still kind of stiff after not doing anything for a few days," Buchholz said. "We'll see how it goes."
Farrell said Lester would start on Sunday if Buchholz does not show "marked improvement" by Thursday afternoon.
"The fact that he's still feeling some stiffness, we've got to factor that in," Farrell said. "This would only be two additional days . . . We'll go when he is ready."
Farrell said that decision would have to come early Thursday afternoon so Lester could start preparing.
Buchholz has made only one start since June 2 because of assorted minor injuries. He had one start delayed because of a sore AC joint in the front of his right shoulder. Then came the neck issue. Buchholz believes they are related.
Buchholz is 9-0 with a 1.71 earned run average and the Sox are 11-1 in his 12 starts. They don't take any risks with the pitcher who has become their ace.
"If there's any question with Clay, Jon will start on Sunday. That's where we are right now," Farrell said. "We're not going to take any chances."
Farrell called Bruins coach Claude Julien to wish him well in the Stanley Cup. The two spoke for several minutes . . . As expected, reliever Jose De La Torre was optioned to Triple A Pawtucket to make room on the roster for Alfredo Aceves, Wednesday’s starter. De La Torre pitched 3⅓ innings against the Rays on Tuesday and threw 52 pitches . . . The Red Sox could be able to trade infielder Pedro Ciriaco, who was designated for assignment on Monday. At least three teams have expressed an interest. The alternative for the Sox would be losing him via waivers and not getting a player in return. Ciriaco has hit .287 in parts of four seasons with the Pirates and Red Sox . . . Pedroia has started all 67 games this season. Perhaps the streak will end on Tuesday when the Sox play a day-night doubleheader against the Rays? “I don’t know,” Farrell said. “At some point.” Farrell joked that everybody would know when Pedroia does sit because his complaints would be so loud.