10/01/2003 9:28 PM ET
Notes: Red Sox trot out Nixon
Arroyo earned final slot on Division Series roster
OAKLAND -- The Red Sox opened their playoff run with one of their biggest gamers in right field instead of on the bench. Trot Nixon successfully convinced manager Grady Little that the strained left calf -- which limited him to 31 at-bats in September -- was good enough to go in Game 1 Wednesday night.
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
Nixon, who was disgruntled about his timing at the plate during Tuesday's workout, hit in the eighth slot against Oakland right-hander Tim Hudson.
With left-handers Barry Zito and Ted Lilly pitching Games 2 and 3 for Oakland, Gabe Kapler is likely to be Boston's starting right fielder in those games.
Nixon will give the Sox a top left-handed pinch-hitting threat off the bench in the games he doesn't start.
"He was good yesterday in the workout, he was good this morning as a result of the workout yesterday," Little said. "We feel good about him being ready to start this game today. Our plans are to start Kapler against the two left-handed starters in Game 2 and 3.
"We're thinking that if Trot can play for us and play up to his capabilities (in Game 1), he'll have some time off before he goes back out there."
The right-handed hitting Kapler has been an invaluable sub for the Sox since being claimed off waivers at the end of June. While serving as an everyday player for much of September, Kapler hit .286 with two homers and eight RBIs.
The fact that Nixon felt well enough to give it a go in Game 1 was an encouraging sign for the Sox. The Boston right fielder the last five seasons, Nixon was at his best in 2003, hitting .306 with 28 homers and 87 RBIs.
Arroyo did it the old-fashioned way: Why did 26-year-old righty Bronson Arroyo beat out veterans like Jeff Suppan, Todd Jones and Ramiro Mendoza for the final slot on the Division Series roster? Because he earned it.
Since his recall from Triple-A Pawtucket on Aug. 22, Arroyo posted a 2.08 ERA in six outings. In 17 1/3 innings, he allowed 10 hits and four earned runs while registering 14 strikeouts.
"We're very pleased with what he's done for us and having our pitching staff lined up with 10 pitchers like this, we feel like he's the one we need in this series to get what we need done," Little said.
Suppan, Jones, Mendoza and Brandon Lyon will all stick with the Sox for the remainder of this Division Series and get their throwing in. If the Sox qualify for the ALCS, the roster will be re-submitted at that time.
Position players Andy Abad and Bill Haselman, who also didn't make the cut, will remain with the team as well.
Nomar hitting second: For the opener, shortstop Nomar Garciaparra -- who hit third most of the season -- was in the No. 2 slot. He flip-flopped with Todd Walker, who hit third. Little started going to that alignment on and off over the last couple of weeks of the season.
The reason for the switch had little to do with the fact that Garciaparra hit .170 in September while Walker hit .347. The main thing Little wanted to do was break up his right and left-handed hitters, which might affect the way A's manager Ken Macha uses his setup crew.
"We're trying to block up the matchups they can use against our ballclub," Little said. "I think this is going to prevent them from doing some things they might like to do."
Familiarity factor: Backup catcher Doug Mirabelli will start Game 2 with knuckleballer Tim Wakefield on the mound. Mirabelli caught all but one of Wakefield's 33 starts. The only reason he didn't catch the last one was so Jason Varitek could get re-acquainted with Wakefield in case he works out of the bullpen in this series.
"Doug caught (all but one) of my starts this season, so he's familiar with the way I pitch and we're on the same page with the way I'm going to approach these guys," Wakefield said.
Little feels fortunate that he has a backup catcher as solid as Mirabelli.
"Doug Mirabelli is an important part of this ballclub," Little said. "If something, knock on wood, ever happened to Jason Varitek that would take him out of the game for two weeks or a month, we'd feel comfortable with Doug Mirabelli behind the plate."
Short hops: Left-handed setup man Alan Embree didn't pitch the final six games of the regular season. Little said that Embree had a minor toe injury, but was ready to go in this series. ... Pitching coach Tony Cloninger, who took a medical leave from the team in June as he recovered from bladder cancer, is with the team. Cloninger is helping pitchers out before the game, but, as per Major League rules, can't sit in the dugout during the game. Interim pitching coach Dave Wallace is running the pitching staff for the remainder of the season. ... Little is leaning toward starting Damian Jackson at second base in Game 3. This is because of his range, that will come in handy with sinkerballer Derek Lowe on the mound.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.