BALTIMORE -- Exactly one year to the date of completing the biggest September collapse in baseball history, the Red Sox were right back at Camden Yards, but with a much different feel in the air.
This time, it is the Orioles fighting to win the American League East, or at least earn an AL Wild Card spot. The Red Sox have been playing out the string for weeks.
If circumstances had been different, this series could have represented a big grudge match for Boston, but Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett were all traded. Jacoby Ellsbury is still hurt and was out of Friday's lineup. David Ortiz is done for the season. Jon Lester, who started the infamous Game No. 162 last year and left with a one-run lead, won't pitch until next week in New York.
Dustin Pedroia and Ryan Lavarnway were the only players in Boston's starting lineup Friday who also were in the finale last Sept. 28.
"You'd have to ask the guys. I'm not sure," said manager Bobby Valentine. "There aren't many guys who are going to be in that starting nine tonight who were playing on this team last year. It's not like a revenge factor."
But there is something to be said for the fact the Red Sox will be playing in what amounts to a postseason atmosphere for these last six games -- three at Camden Yards and the last three at Yankee Stadium.
Entering play on Friday, the Yankees led the Orioles by one game in the AL East.
"It should be [fun]," said Valentine. "It should be a lot of people here this whole weekend. The [players] should be going for it. Guys, when they get out on the field, should feel the excitement. I think they will. I think we've played pretty good effort-wise. I don't think we have to reach down and find something special other than a couple of bloops to fall in and nice double play in a timely fashion, and it will all work out."
Ellsbury sits again, set for Saturday return
BALTIMORE -- Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury will play his first game since Sept. 20 on Saturday night, when he is expected to be back in manager Bobby Valentine's starting lineup.
Ellsbury wouldn't allow Valentine to tell the media what his latest injury is, but one report said it was a lat strain.
Regardless, Ellsbury clearly didn't want to be shut down for the remainder of the season, even though the Red Sox aren't in a playoff race.
"They said tomorrow -- he should be in there tomorrow," Valentine said. "He's going to do everything today in practice. He's going to actually test everything, they said, today. Then if all goes well, tomorrow will be the day. I hope all goes well throwing and hitting."
Before the injury, Ellsbury had finally rounded back into form. He was 7-for-15 over his last four games.
Iglesias to spend winter training, not playing baseball
BALTIMORE -- Rather than get more at-bats in winter ball, Red Sox shortstop Jose Iglesias will spend the winter training in his hometown of Miami, trying to build more strength. He thinks that will have a more positive impact on his offensive development than going to play somewhere.
"Oh, absolutely," said Iglesias. "I'll be in Miami working out. I want to get stronger and healthier and play 162 games next year, hopefully. That's my goal."
Iglesias was in the lineup for the Red Sox on Friday. He is hitting .118 (5-for-51) but has played dazzling defense.
Pedro Ciriaco and Mauro Gomez will be among those who play winter ball. The Red Sox hope Ciriaco can get some time in the outfield, though that is ultimately up to the manager and front office of the team he plays for in the winter.