10/13/2003 8:43 PM ET
Notes: Mirabelli at backstop
Little leaning toward giving Walker start in Game 5
BOSTON -- In their latest in a recent string of big games, the Red Sox had one of their best big-game players on the bench at the start of Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
Red Sox manager Grady Little knows better than anyone how much All-Star catcher Jason Varitek means to his team. But he also knows that Doug Mirabelli was the starting catcher for all but one of Tim Wakefield's first 35 starts this season.
Though Varitek is certainly a bigger offensive threat than Mirabelli, the bottom line for Little was for Wakefield to be comfortable on the mound.
"The comfort level, from our point of view, means a lot as far as our pitchers are concerned," Little said.
Mirabelli and Wakefield, aside from being close friends off the field, have developed a noticeable chemistry as regular backstops over the last two seasons.
"Mechanically, he's as sound as anyone I've ever seen catching a knuckleball, and he's just so comfortable doing it," Little said of Mirabelli. "The combination of he and Wakefield -- this has been very productive for us all season long, so we hope that remains that way (Monday)."
Walker in Game 5: For defensive purposes, Damian Jackson has started in place of Todd Walker in Derek Lowe's previous two starts this postseason. However, there's a good chance that will change in Game 5, as Walker has arguably been Boston's best hitter in the playoffs.
In eight games, Walker is hitting .360 with four homers and five RBIs.
"I'm undecided on that right now," Little said.
Asked if the indecision meant that he was leaning more toward going with the better bat, Little said, "Yeah."
No short rest: If the Sox go back to New York trailing 3-2 in the series, there's one thing you can be sure of: Ace Pedro Martinez will not be on the mound on short rest in hopes of saving the season.
Little has already ruled that out.
"I can tell you right now, definitely, that will not happen," said the manager.
Instead, John Burkett will start Game 6, if necessary.
Avoiding Rivera: The way elite Yankees closer Mariano Rivera has been throwing lately, Boston's best hope in this series is just to avoid facing him. In other words, make sure they are leading in the late innings instead of trailing.
"Right now, Mo is throwing as well as he has in his whole career," Little said. "So our game plan is to try to keep him out of the picture. We have to try and get a lead early and try to keep him from being a factor."
Blasts from the past: Trying to create good karma before Game 4, the Red Sox had former stars Luis Tiant and Carlton Fisk present the first pitch. El Tiante threw a strike to his former batterymate as the crowd roared with approval.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.