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Balancing act for Red Sox in the season’s final week

David Ortiz greeted teammates Wednesday before an at-bat. Ortiz was playing first base as Mike Napoli sat for the fourth consecutive game.David Zalubowski/Associated Press

DENVER — The Red Sox have made finishing with the best record in the American League a goal because of the advantages it brings in the postseason. But manager John Farrell is balancing that with the need to rest some key players.

“It’s important for us to prioritize the health of our guys first,” he said. “That’s where our depth continues to play out.”

First baseman Mike Napoli was out of the lineup for Wednesday night’s 15-5 win over the Colorado Rockies to continue resting his sore left foot. It was his fourth consecutive game off.

Napoli has been dealing with plantar fasciitis for roughly seven weeks. He said he would be playing under different circumstances.


“I told [Farrell] I could play, but this seems to be the best thing we can do,” Napoli said. “It’s going to help me a lot.”

Napoli was out of the lineup for three games from Aug. 17-19 and again Aug. 23. He has hit .329 since with a 1.201 OPS and 21 RBIs over 23 games.

“We’re hopeful this has the same results as the last break,” Farrell said. “He came back and he swung the bat like he did the first five or six weeks of the season. When he’s in those stretches, we’re a completely different offensive team.”

Farrell expects Napoli to start at first base against the Orioles in Baltimore Friday. Counting the team’s scheduled days off, he’ll have had six consecutive days off.

Farrell also has been careful with lefthanded reliever Craig Breslow, one of the key set-up men for closer Koji Uehara. Breslow threw a clean inning Wednesday after not having pitched since Sept. 18.

Before that, he had appeared in 12 of the previous 25 games.

“We had been going pretty hard for a while, a lot of volume,” Breslow said. “I was finding a way to get myself ready knowing what was on the line. We were playing for a lot. But once we clinched the division, they were able to give me some time.”


Breslow said the rest is helpful to both body and mind.

“It can be mentally draining, too, to pitch almost every single day,” he said. “To know you’re off a few days gives you a chance to relax.”

Breslow never has pitched in the postseason before. But he believes the time off will serve him well come October.

“I hope so. That seems to be the case,” Breslow said. “I feel very good right now.”

Farrell has tried to work with the individual players on what schedule will suit them best.

“This little break will help [Breslow],” the manager said. “He was clear when we sat down and talked about it. The situations when he’s been brought in were high leverage. He has to pitch rather than just rely on stuff. There’s as much of the mental side as the physical for him. The break was warranted.”

Helton honored

The start of the game was delayed for 12 minutes as the Rockies honored first baseman Todd Helton, who will retire at the end of the season.

Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, his wife and his daughters eyed the horse he was given before the game as a retirement present. In his final game at Coors Field, Helton homered and had three RBIs.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Helton has played 2,244 games for the Rockies, 1,074 more than second-place Larry Walker.

He also leads the franchise in runs, hits, doubles, home runs, RBIs, and walks.

After a highlight video, Helton was introduced to the crowd and tipped his cap to all corners of Coors Field before catching a first pitch thrown by one of his daughters, Tierney Faith.


The Rockies then presented Helton with a horse for his ranch. The horse, named A Tru Bustamove, is a champion American Paint Horse.

Helton took the lineup card out to home plate. When the Rockies ran out on the field, they held back and Helton went to first base alone. That merited another cheer from the crowd.

The real drama came in the second inning. When Helton came to the plate for the first time in the game, the crowd rose to its feet cheering and he tipped his helmet.

Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, in a classy move, went to the mound to speak to pitcher Jake Peavy so the cheering could continue.

Peavy’s 1-and-1 pitch to Helton, a cutter, was hammered over the wall in right field. It was Helton’s 369th career home run, his 227th at Coors Field.

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, Helton’s football teammate at the University of Tennessee and a close friend, was at the game.

In good company

Saltalamacchia’s two-run double in the first inning was his 39th double of the season. That tied him with Carlton Fisk (1978) and Jason Varitek (1999) for the most doubles for a Red Sox catcher in a season. Saltalamacchia’s 53 extra-base hits are the most among American League catchers . . . The Orioles have Chris Tillman (16-7, 3.62 ERA) tentatively scheduled to start Sunday. But with the game meaningless for the Orioles, they could give their ace the day off. Tillman is 3-1 with a 1.95 ERA in five starts against the Red Sox this season.


Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.