Notes: Speed bump on Sox's minds
In ALDS, Boston knows it must cool Angels' jets on basepaths
BOSTON -- To beat the Angels in the American League Division Series, the Red Sox know that they need to control the speed of the game. Somehow, they need to slow down the Angels.
The Angels stole 139 bases in 2007, the third-highest total in the Major Leagues. Not only do they steal bases, but they hit-and-run, they bunt and quite simply they just cause havoc.
"If we can play with a lead, actually if we can play with a big lead, it might slow them down on the bases," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "We did that here in April really well. They're going to run, that's part of their game. They're going to be aggressive. Playing with a lead, you can say that about any team, but ... they play for runs early and then they get very aggressive."
There can be a fine line between controlling the running game and letting it impact a pitcher's concentration with the batter he's facing. The Red Sox will try to maintain that balance against the Angels.
"It's not a secret. It's how they play," Francona said. "We'll try to be ready to combat. We have our top three pitchers who do a very good job of holding runners. Sometimes a stolen base isn't the priority of what we're defending. Sometimes you try so hard not to give up a stolen base, you give up a three-run homer. That doesn't make sense. There are times [to hold the runner], and there are times we need to execute pitches."
Chone Figgins is the Angels' leading basestealer with 41. Rookie Reggie Willits added 27, Orlando Cabrera swiped 20 bases and Gary Matthews, who has been injured as of late, has 18 thefts.
"We still have to execute pitches in the strike zone, and we still have to be able to give Jason [Varitek] and those guys a chance to throw some people out if they attempt to steal," said Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell. "There becomes a little more responsibility on the shoulders of the pitchers to be able to unload the ball in an adequate delivery time to allow those things to happen. What you can't do is sacrifice location, which becomes a two-run homer rather than a single with a man on base. We've played this team 10 times, we know what their tendencies are, we're familiar with their personnel, we're familiar with attack plans that we've used to date."
Manny back to cleaning up: The one thing Manny Ramirez hasn't done since returning from his 24-game absence is hit in his customary cleanup hole. That will change in Wednesday's Game 1, when Ramirez is back protecting David Ortiz in the batting order.
Since his comeback on Sept. 25, Ramirez batted second five times and third once.
"He's not going to hit second [in October]," said Francona. "That was really done to get him as many at-bats as we could without having him stand out there. We're really trying to ... his legs were sore. I think it was very understandable. Even though this isn't football, you can't simulate playing innings of baseball, however hard you work. I think we actually came through it pretty well."
Ramirez was one of the early arrivals at Fenway Park for Monday's optional workout.
Francona had some complimentary things to say about Ramirez's approach this season.
"I thought from an effort standpoint, it was his most consistent season, at least since I've been here," Francona said. "He ran into the oblique the last month that kind of derailed him for about a month. Again, numbers-wise, it's going to be lower than any time I've been here and probably before, because he missed the month. I think he's in a real good place. He seems real happy."
Going with Gagne: In a perfect world, Eric Gagne would have made a seamless transition from closer to setup man on July 31, and he'd be steamrolling into the postseason with a string of zeroes on his back.
But the world is not perfect, and Gagne has struggled to get into a consistent roll since joining the Red Sox.
How will he be used in the ALDS?
"I don't know that any role even matters today," said Francona. "We're going to try to win every game we can, and I don't care if we use one guy or we use every guy."
Overall, Francona has been impressed by the way that Gagne has handled a tough situation.
"For him to come in and struggle -- and we all admit it was tough at first -- for him to handle it the way he did says a lot about him," said Francona. "That's part of the reason I needed to not bail on this guy. No matter how [much of a] veteran you are or how much success you've had, he had to be feeling it. He was as stand up as you can be."
Option for a lot was work: The Red Sox had a representative contingent on hand at Fenway on Monday, despite the fact that Francona made the workout optional and had made it clear that there was no need for anyone to feel obligated to be there.
Besides Ramirez, there were several players on hand, including Varitek, Julio Lugo, J.D. Drew, Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Doug Mirabelli, Bobby Kielty, Alex Cora and Josh Beckett.
Meeting of the minds: Francona was not ready to announce his roster. The final decisions were set to be made at a meeting of the brass on Monday night.
One obvious question is whether the Red Sox will go with 10 or 11 pitchers.
"We have some pretty extensive meetings tonight, and we will talk to the players before we go on the field [on Tuesday]," Francona said. "We actually do want to firm up some things, and I want to let some people have some opinions. I don't know if I'm able to be swayed at this point on how I feel. But I want it to be an open forum. It will be a long, somewhat fun, probably somewhat tedious, sometimes even argumentative night tonight, which we need. It's a good night. Then we'll sort it all out tomorrow and talk to the players."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.