10/04/2003 8:07 PM ET
Notes: Players praise Little
Walker replaced by Jackson at second in Game 3
BOSTON -- It was early September at Yankee Stadium when a New York
reporter asked Grady Little if he deserved to have the option on his 2004
contract exercised before the end of this season.
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
The classy manager of the Red Sox didn't indulge that inquiry with a
self-serving response. Instead, he said he would cross that bridge with
the team when the time comes.
Little and the Red Sox hope that time isn't coming in the next 24 to 48
hours. The Red Sox entered Saturday night's Game 3 against the A's
trailing, 2-0, in the best-of-five series.
But the players don't need to see the result of this series to give a
yay or nay on whether Little should return.
To a man, just about every player in the Boston clubhouse loves going
to battle for Little. And they plan on getting that chance again next
"I think he will be back next year. Grady Little has done the most
unbelievable job with this team," Sox first baseman Kevin Millar said. "He
is a phenomenal manager. Grady has kept us together, Grady had an
open door for the players. He is a complete player's manager and I would
never want to play for anyone else but Grady Little."
Veteran right-hander John Burkett has played for several quality
managers in his career, including Dusty Baker, Johnny Oates and Bobby Cox.
The fact that he speaks so highly of Little says a lot.
"For me, I've had four or five managers in my career and I think Grady
best compares to Bobby Cox," Burkett said. "He is a very laid back guy
at times, and other times you can see him antsy over there at the edge
of the dugout. I think every person in here loves playing for him."
Third baseman Bill Mueller, who also played for the widely-revered
Baker, gives Little a similar endorsement.
"Every guy wants to play for Grady," Mueller said. "I am definitely a
firm believer that guys like and enjoy that Grady is here."
Like the manager himself, the front office has opted not to focus on
Little's club options until after this season ends.
A couple of weeks ago, GM Theo Epstein did give Little a ringing
endorsement for the job he's done this season.
Walker out, Jackson in, Mueller batting third: As expected, Todd
Walker was replaced at second base by Damian Jackson. In games
sinkerballer Derek Lowe pitches, Little likes to have Jackson at second
because of his range.
Walker, who hit third the first two games of the series, was replaced
in that slot by Mueller.
The other option would have been to move Nomar Garciaparra back into
the three-hole, where he has hit the majority of the last two seasons.
However, Little likes the balance of having lefties and righties
rotated throughout the lineup.
"We're putting a lot more on the other team's dugout as far as matchups
that we have with their pitchers against our hitters," Little said.
"And we feel like that's working in our favor to do this."
Hair update: Millar had teammate Andy Abad give him what can
best be described as a crew-cut following the trip back from Oakland. He
was hoping to change the luck of his team. Several other players
followed Millar's lead Saturday, including Mueller, Walker and Gabe Kapler.
Kapler took it a step further, shaving his head altogether.
"I thought I would show these guys what it means to shave your head,"
"About 15 of us shaved our heads," Millar said. "Like I told you, these
quirky things work sometimes and we'll see what happens."
Millar takes tumble: As Millar walked onto the stage for his
pre-game press conference with Kapler, he fell right off. Millar
mistakenly thought there was a wall behind the curtain and fell a few feet to
the ground before realizing too late there was no wall.
He was not hurt, and laughed about it after getting back on his feet.
"I didn't plan that, I swear," said Millar.
Kapler's only concern was that Millar's embarrassing fall was caught on
Pedro might fly ahead: If the Sox win Game 3, they will give ace
Pedro Martinez the option of flying to Oakland early Sunday morning to
gear up for a potential Game 5 start Monday afternoon.
If Martinez does stick around for Game 4, Little said he won't be
available to pitch.
Game 2 starter Tim Wakefield is available for bullpen duty for Games 3
and 4. Only Martinez and Burkett weren't available for Game 3.
Ian Browne is a
reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major
League Baseball or its clubs.