FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The new postseason format -- in which both leagues will have two Wild Card teams -- will take effect in 2012, it was announced Friday.
It was hard to find any dissenting voices in the Red Sox's clubhouse.
"I think it's great," said right-hander Daniel Bard. "It gets the fans more involved, more teams involved all the way through September. Anytime you have guys playing for something all the way down to the wire, that's a good thing. The more games that really mean something, the more fun they are to watch and play in."
But nobody felt the need to commiserate about that. Instead, the new format is one that will have teams take the division races more seriously.
Beginning this October, the two Wild Card teams will face off in a one-game playoff to determine who gets to advance to a best-of-five Division Series.
If that system had been in place the past two seasons, the Red Sox would have grabbed the second American League Wild Card berth both years.
However, there are two ways to look at that. The Red Sox won the World Series as the Wild Card in 2004 and got to Game 7 of the AL Championship Series as the Wild Card in both '03 and '08. If it had to play a one-game playoff in those years, Boston might have never advanced that far.
Back in 2010, the Yankees and the Rays played a late-season series with the division at stake, but both teams knew they were going to make it to the postseason, so they prioritized getting ready for that over winning the AL East.
"If it gives every game of the regular season more value, I think it's a good thing," said manager Bobby Valentine. "I really did dislike that stuff a couple of years ago."
Under the new system, second baseman Dustin Pedroia thinks that the sheer drama that took place across baseball in the final night of the 2011 regular season could become more commonplace. After all, there will be two one-game playoffs every year.
"I'm all for it," Pedrdoia said. "Another two teams in the playoffs, I think it's great. It's great for the fans, it's good for the players. I think it's going to be exciting. It's fun. Last year, the last day of the season was tough on us and tough on the Braves, but I think the excitement it brought to fans, not just to two cities, but to four cities, it's fun."
Going forward, exactly one-third of MLB's 30 teams will have at least one postseason game.
"I think the more, the merrier," Valentine said. "I think for the fans, the players, there will be extra energy at the end of the season. I think it will be good. I have no idea how the American League will shake out and where that extra team will come from."
Doubront gets first crack for fifth-starter job
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Left-hander Felix Doubront might be the best fifth-starter candidate nobody is talking about. At this time last year, Doubront's stock started to drop, because he developed arm problems during Spring Training. That seemed to derail the progress he had made in 2010, when Doubront made some spot starts.
Doubront will start Saturday night at 7:05 ET against Boston College on MLB.TV in the nightcap of the annual college doubleheader.
"Coincidentally, I've been there just about every time he's thrown," said manager Bobby Valentine. "He's fun to watch. He's very good. I've liked everything I've seen in these non-combative situations. I think I did miss one of his sessions -- a 9 o'clock session."
There are plenty of others in the derby for the fifth-starter spot, including Alfredo Aceves, Aaron Cook, Vicente Padilla, Carlos Silva and Andrew Miller.
Papi to get some early work at first base
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- There were many springs when David Ortiz could have just put his first baseman's mitt in a box and not taken it out until the start of Interleague Play.
However, Big Papi will get an early look at first on Saturday night against Boston College.
The Red Sox don't have a true backup first baseman on the roster. Kevin Youkilis could certainly move across the diamond on the rare day Adrian Gonzalez might not be in the lineup.
"He's one of the first basemen," manager Bobby Valentine said of Ortiz. "And in talking to Adrian and David, too, David doesn't mind playing a lot [early in Spring Training], and Adrian wants to work his way into playing a lot. I suspect he'll get innings, and he looks good. He's moving around well in all the drills. He's a better-looking first baseman than I had suspected right now."
Few Red Sox fans will ever forget the perfect throw Ortiz made from first to third in Game 3 of the 2004 World Series, nailing Jeff Suppan, who got caught up between third and home.