10/01/07 5:20 PM ET
Sox nail down ALDS rotation
Dice-K gets the nod in Game 2, while Schilling will go in Game 3
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
The main reason cited for the Game 2-3 alignment is that the 40-year-old Schilling can benefit from the extra rest time more than Matsuzaka. Schilling was on the disabled list from June 19-Aug. 5 as he recovered from right shoulder woes.
"Doing what we're doing, we're trying to gear up for two and a half, three weeks worth of starts, and we're hoping this would be the best way to get the maximum Schilling," said Francona. "Obviously, there's other things involved -- Dice-K, the way he throws the ball, things like that. But that's how we're trying to set this up."
And thus, Matsuzaka, fresh off a strong eight innings (two runs and eight strikeouts) of work against the Twins on Saturday, will make the first postseason start of his career on six days' rest and in front of the Fenway Park faithful on Friday at 8:30 p.m. This will also be the first time the Angels will face Matsuzaka, who won 15 games in his first Major League season.
"I think that Dice-K's last performance here, closing out the regular season, was a main contributor to that," said Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell. "And he has not faced the Angels to date. So we feel like somewhat of the unknown may be in the favor of the pitcher at this point."
Tim Wakefield, who won 17 games for the Red Sox this season and has been with the team since 1995, will serve as a reliever during the ALDS. The only way Beckett and Matsuzaka wouldn't pitch potential Games 4 and 5 is if there were health issues or a rainout earlier in the series that impacted the schedule.
"He understands," said Francona, who called the knuckleballer on Monday morning to officially notify him of the decision. "I think anybody that picks up a baseball or plays a position wants to do what they're supposed to do. Wake's never varies in that the team comes first, and he'll do what we ask him to do. That's how that will be handled. He'll start in the bullpen, and from there, we'll get it figured out. I don't think you've seen the last of Wakefield starting. But this is how we elect to go through this series."
Though Schilling finished strong down the stretch (2.79 ERA in his last six starts), his velocity isn't what it once was. The Sox feel that the more rest Schilling gets, the better he'll be. Schilling, who has a decorated postseason history (8-2, 2.06 ERA), will make his start in Anaheim on 11 days of rest.
Francona and Farrell are both confident that the extra rest won't have an adverse effect on Schilling.
"I've known Schill a long time, and I've kind of seen what makes him tick and what makes him go and what he needs to do to get ready," Francona said. "I really don't have any qualms about this, or we wouldn't have done it. I think we're trying to set it up where he can be the most effective over the course of multiple starts. I really think we're doing the right thing."
For Matsuzaka, on the other hand, Game 3 might have provided too much rest.
"[Schilling did] not specifically request that, but because of his experience and his number of innings pitched and his ability to repeat his delivery consistently, the down time or the additional days off do not affect him as it might be for a younger guy who needs more repetition," Farrell said. "Curt's ability to prepare both physically and mentally for his opponent stands alone. We know he'll be best prepared for Game 3."
Farrell also noted a long-range perk of having Schilling in reserve by pitching just once in the ALDS.
"We're not just looking at the Division Series," said Farrell. "We know that starter No. 3, if we go to a five-game series, is likely to open up the AL [Championship Series]. We hope that there's multiple starts for every one of our starters, and because of Curt's experience and certainly his success, he'd be in a good position as well going forward. But we've got a lot to take care of with the Angels prior to that. I think we feel fortunate, again, with the overall health and direction that our pitchers are going in."
Because Schilling thrived in September while Matsuzaka struggled at times, there was a public expectation that the Red Sox were going to go in the other direction.
But after taking everything into consideration, this is what Francona, Farrell and general manager Theo Epstein decided on.
"We feel that all three starting pitchers are very capable of giving us strong performances," said Farrell. "We know that starter No. 2 is also going to be called on in Game 5 if that situation does arise. Dealing with a normal five-day rotation, strength and overall durability had some factor on that."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.