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Notes: Players praise Little
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10/04/2003  8:07 PM ET 
Notes: Players praise Little
Walker replaced by Jackson at second in Game 3
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The majority of Red Sox players plan on playing for manager Grady Little again next year. (Ron Schwane/AP)
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.

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 season.

    Kevin Millar   /   OF
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 185
Bats/Throws: R/R

More info:
Player page Stats
Hit chart

"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.

    Damian Jackson   /   2B
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 185
Bats/Throws: R/R

More info:
Player page
Hit chart

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," said Kapler.

"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 videotape.

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 This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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