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Orioles 7, Red Sox 6

Red Sox have decisions to make for postseason

Like the baseball, Felix Doubront’s postseason status is up in the air after a rough outing.REUTERS/DOUG KAPUSTIN
Red Sox6

BALTIMORE — The Red Sox have until Thursday to submit their Division Series roster to Major League Baseball and they’ll surely use all the time allotted.

The pitching staff is where the toughest decisions have to be made. The Red Sox initially planned to keep four starters and seven relievers but are open to the idea of going with a six-man bullpen for the first round.

That made Sunday’s final regular-season game a chance for general manager Ben Cherington and manager John Farrell to make some final evaluations.

For lefthander Felix Doubront, giving up five runs in a 7-6 loss against the Baltimore Orioles likely ended his season. Veteran Matt Thornton, who pitched in each of the last two games, had mixed results.


Outfielder Quintin Berry probably secured his spot with a home run, a bunt single, and a stolen base.

“We got everybody to the mound that we hoped to. We found some things out, at least in the short run,” Farrell said. “We’ve got some decisions to make.”

The Sox (97-65) will play Game 1 of the Division Series on Friday at Fenway Park. Their opponent is to be determined by two games this week.

Tampa Bay will play at Texas Monday night for the right to play at Cleveland Wednesday night in the one-game wild-card playoff. The winner of that game advances to face the Red Sox.

Which team the Red Sox play will influence how they select the final spots of their roster. Cherington and Farrell are most concerned with having the ability to match up to opposing hitters in the seventh and eighth inning.

There is faith in lefthander Craig Breslow, who threw a scoreless inning Sunday. Righthander Junichi Tazawa has struggled with command of his split-finger fastball in recent weeks but still has Farrell’s trust.


The Sox also believe veteran starter Ryan Dempster can play a role after being moved to the bullpen last week.

“I’m ready for whatever they need me to do,” said Dempster, who has 228 games of relief experience, three this season. “I made the adjustment and I feel fine. It’s an exciting time.”

Beyond that, it gets tricky for the Sox. Rookie righthander Brandon Workman was hit hard in Colorado Tuesday but looked strong Saturday. His spot is secure.

Lefthander Franklin Morales has appeared in only 20 games all season because of a series of injuries. But his high-velocity fastball makes him a late-inning weapon. Morales has done enough to merit a spot.

Thornton could be on the fence. He pitched a perfect inning Saturday but came in Sunday in the sixth with a runner on base and allowed a double by Brian Roberts. In previous meetings Roberts was 0 for 12 against Thornton.

“The little bit of the puzzling thing is that he’s had a lot of success against Roberts and he leaves a fastball in the middle of the plate,” Farrell said.

Thornton then threw a wild pitch that scored a run.

“Yesterday I made good pitches, today I made one bad pitch and got us in a jam,” Thornton said. “It’s out of my hands now.”

If Thornton is deemed expendable, the Red Sox could carry an extra position player.

Another factor in that decision is how closer Koji Uehara will be used in the postseason. Uehara pitched a perfect inning Sunday, only his second appearance in a week. Now he gets four more days of rest.


Uehara made nine appearances of more than one inning this season including three appearances that lasted two innings. He converted all four save chances that were more than three outs.

“We’re clearly willing to go more than a three-out save. Hell, there might be a six-out save at some point,” Farrell said.

Uehara has pitched so well and been so economical with his pitches this season that limiting him to the ninth inning seems almost wasteful. Uehara has allowed one earned run on 12 hits over 40⅓ innings since July 2. He has struck out 52 and walked two in those 37 appearances.

“What’s even more easing is the way he’s done it for a period of time,” Farrell said. “Not to guarantee that it’ll be a low-pitch four- or five-out save, but he has been so efficient that you can push that a little bit with him.”

The other important matter Sunday was getting a read on center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who had not played a full game since Sept. 5 because of a fractured bone in his right foot.

Ellsbury started the game with a long home run. He was 2 for 5 and went the distance. He has had 12 plate appearances since coming back from the injury and is ready for the postseason.

“Very pleased with how everything went. We’re excited to be moving on now,” Ellsbury said.


Farrell said he feels no need to carry an extra center fielder as insurance for Ellsbury. Whether that leaves Jackie Bradley Jr. off the roster hinges on the makeup of the bullpen.

For the Red Sox, who are in the playoffs for the first time since 2009, these decisions are relatively minor. They finished tied with the St. Louis Cardinals for the best record in the game and enter the postseason as a strong contender for the World Series.

“Couldn’t be more proud of the way we went through the regular season to put us in the position we’re in,” Farrell said.

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