No more rest for the weary
Sox get right down to business in preparation for ALCS
BOSTON -- Call them the rested Red Sox. When they take the field for Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Indians on Friday at 7 p.m. ET, the Sox will have played all of three games in a span of 11 days.
But it wasn't as if manager Terry Francona put up the "Gone Fishin'" sign and told his players that he'd see them again in a few days.
The Sox did take Monday off following their flight back from Anaheim, where they completed a three-game ALDS sweep of the Angels on Sunday afternoon.
But on Tuesday, everyone was back for a busy day of drills, which included a simulated game featuring pitchers Tim Wakefield, Jon Lester, Mike Timlin and Jonathan Papelbon against a group of hitters that included David Ortiz, J.D. Drew, Kevin Youkilis and Coco Crisp.
There will be more instances like that in the next couple of days as the Red Sox do everything they can to keep their edge entering Game 1 against a confident Indians team.
"When we go out and take our normal ground balls, we'll speed it up a little bit, kind of like we do in Spring Training when we take the field," Francona said. "We'll pick up the pace a little tomorrow with that, just to kind of create some game speed. Again, I don't think the four days off is earth-shattering."
If there is any Boston player who didn't want the time off, it had to be Ortiz. Coming off a torrid September, Big Papi went 5-for-7 with two homers, five runs and six walks in the sweep over the Angels.
"It's not a good thing, but there's nothing else you can do," Ortiz said. "I'll tell you what, I'm going to try to stay sharp, because I'm feeling so good at the plate right now I don't want to screw things up. I know what to do. Still, you're not facing live pitching."
So antsy is Ortiz to stay sharp that he even took some swings off Wakefield's knuckleball on Tuesday, smacking a single to right field. Ortiz also dug in against Timlin.
Almost to a man, the Red Sox didn't seem fazed by a few more days off before showtime hits Fenway again on Friday night.
"Just get your workouts in," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "Come out here and practice and try to hit more, take some more ground balls, run the bases a little bit, try to keep your legs loose -- that's all we can pretty much do."
The Red Sox teams of 1999 and '03 both had to come back from 2-0 deficits to win the Division Series and had just one day of rest before opening the ALCS. Whether there was a correlation or not, Boston lost both of those series. The '04 team, meanwhile, swept the Angels in the ALDS and had three days of rest before playing the Yankees in the ALCS, eventually winning the series in seven games after dropping the first three games.
"I think you have time to set everything up [this way]," said Red Sox infielder Alex Cora. "We have a bunch of veteran guys who know what it takes, and I think rest is huge for us -- not only for our bullpen and starters, but for our position players."
It's hard enough to beat the opponent at this time of year, and the Red Sox seem happy not to have to deal with another nemesis known as attrition.
In this case, the object is not to let rust outweigh rest.
"You increase the intensity a little bit in your workouts," said Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell. "Don't just go through it as going through the motions to get out of here. We need to make sure we're doing the right work to keep ourselves sharp. This is uncharted waters for anyone. We all feel pretty fresh. They're going to have days off as well, so I don't think it will be an advantage for one side."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.