10/16/2003 8:39 PM ET
Notes: Little calm, confident
Wakefield rested and ready; Lowe a last resort
NEW YORK -- A couple of hours before the biggest game he ever managed, Grady Little sat at his desk and flipped a baseball back and forth in his hands. The enthusiasm and anticipation on his face could not be hidden.
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
The Red Sox were getting set to play Joe Torre's Yankees in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. Little was getting ready to send ace Pedro Martinez against future Hall of Famer Roger Clemens.
All the excitement between the Red Sox and Yankees this season was coming down to one last tilt, the record-setting 26th time the archrivals have met this season. The winner was going to the World Series. The loser was going home.
"It's amazing isn't it? Little said. "It all comes down to one game."
Was the manager of the Red Sox nervous? He said he wasn't. And he didn't look it either.
"Mostly I'm proud of what these boys have gotten done here," Little said. "We're looking forward to the game getting started and seeing what happens. This is our fifth time in an elimination situation since we've started this postseason."
Amazingly, the Sox had averted elimination four times already since October 4. No. 5 would get them to the World Series for the first time since 1986.
Though the players have been widely lauded for their ability to come up big when it has counted most, Little has quietly set the tone with his easy-going temperament.
When his offense struggled mightily in Games 2 through 5, Little chose to stick with his regular lineup in Game 6. He was rewarded with a 16-hit attack that forced Game 7.
Like his players, he hasn't panicked. And he's been able to stay on an even keel.
No, he didn't feel the need to give any grand pep talks prior to Game 7.
"We're pretty much doing the same thing we've done," Little said. "We'll have some private conversations with small groups of individuals. But we're not going to put everyone together for one of those Knute Rockne things."
Little said he slept fine following the dramatic Game 6 victory. He arrived at the ballpark roughly six hours before the first pitch of Game 7, just like he's done the entire postseason.
The last time the Red Sox and Yankees played such a pivotal game was 25 years ago when a Bucky Dent three-run homer helped eliminate Boston in game No. 163.
When that game was played, Little had taken a temporary detour out of baseball to be a cotton farmer in Texas. He can't say exactly where he was when Dent broke Boston's heart.
"At this time of year in 1978, I was probably out making sure my cotton that was getting picked about that time was getting to the gin and to the market more than I was concerned about the result of a baseball game, to tell you the truth," said Little.
Wakefield rested, ready: Little said he wasn't tempted to bring knuckleballer Tim Wakefield in for the mid-innings in Game 6 after John Burkett got knocked out.
"We weren't going to use him that early because we didn't have that many bullets in that arm yesterday. But he has a few more in there today if we need them," Little said. "He's available and he'll be out in the bullpen with his spikes on if we need him."
Wakefield was the winning pitcher in Games 1 and 4 of the ALCS.
Lowe a last resort: Don't look for Derek Lowe to come out of the bullpen and finish off a clinching win on a day of rest like he did in Game 5 of the Division Series against Oakland.
"(He's a) very, very last resort," Little said. "He's spent from the last game he started over there. We won't use him unless we're at about the 15th or 16th inning and all we have left is (infielder) Lou Merloni."
Kim in Florida: Erstwhile closer Byung-Hyun Kim, who was left off the ALCS roster, has been throwing at the Red Sox base in Fort Myers, Fla. with the hope of returning for the World Series.
Kim is recovering from tendinitis in his right shoulder.
"He threw to some hitters down there yesterday and did OK," Little said.
If the Sox advance, they will examine Kim on Friday in Boston.
Arroyo impressive: Little continues to be impressed by reliever Bronson Arroyo, who pitched 1 1/3 innings in Game 6, allowing a wind-blown homer to Jorge Posada.
Arroyo will figure in to the team's plans in 2004.
"He's opened a lot of eyes for sure," Little said. "In what role, we haven't gotten that far yet."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.