BOSTON – The Boston Red Sox have decisions to make and plenty of time to make them.
After tying for the best record in the majors, they don’t play until Friday when they host the opener of the AL division series.
Should they keep 11 pitchers in the best-of-five series? Or can they get by with just 10 and give the other spot to a spare outfielder.
And what will be their pitching rotation?
“We’ve got some decisions to make,” Manager John Farrell said, “and we’ve got probably beginning Tuesday morning to look at that more intently and get down to the number that we’re going to arrive at on Friday.”
The Red Sox won’t know their opponent until Wednesday night’s wild-card game in Cleveland between the Indians and Tampa Bay, which beat Texas 5-2 Monday night in an AL wild-card tiebreaker.
The opponent could affect the roster composition, Farrell said, but not the pitching rotation.
Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and John Lackey all had strong seasons and figure to pitch the first three games in some order. Jake Peavy is the fourth starter and the bullpen will have six or seven pitchers, anchored by closer Koji Uehara.
The highly efficient Uehara has allowed one earned run and 12 hits in his last 401/3 innings and has shown an ability to pitch more than one inning.
“We’re certainly willing to go more than a three-out save. There might be a six-out save,” Farrell said.
“Hopefully, we’re positioned with a lead in the eighth inning that we can turn to him again.”
The Red Sox took Monday off after finishing the regular season with their second straight loss, 7-6 at Baltimore. They plan three days of workouts, including a simulated game on Wednesday.
That they’re in the postseason for the first time in four years seemed unlikely when the season started.
They were 69-93 in Bobby Valentine’s only year as manager, a winning percentage of .426 that was their worst since 1965. Valentine was fired, Farrell was hired and several free agents produced after signing short-term contracts.
The result: a 97-65 record and a .599 percentage that is Boston’s best since 2004, when it won the World Series for the first time in 86 years.
“We were missing being in the playoffs the last couple of years,” star slugger David Ortiz said, “and especially after what happened last year, and to be in the situation that we’re in right now, I’m so excited.”
Ortiz led the Red Sox with 30 homers, 103 RBI and a .309 batting average.
The offense was balanced with Daniel Nava hitting .303, Dustin Pedroia .301, Jacoby Ellsbury .298 and Shane Victorino .294.
They were first in the majors in runs, slugging percentage and on-base percentage, second in batting average and third in walks.
And they never lost more than three games in a row.
Ellsbury led the majors with 52 stolen bases despite being sidelined late in the season with a foot injury. But he played in three of the last four games and said he was ready to go.
“I’ll treat it like the All-Star break,” Ellsbury said of the four days between games.
“My timing and everything felt good after that. It shouldn’t be any different, and for a lot of guys (the time off) will be a good thing.”