Now that the Boston Red Sox are in the postseason, and heading home Monday for a final week of regular-season games, here is a to-do list, prepping for October baseball.

n No. 1: Don’t blow the division lead. The Red Sox are in control here, with a four-game lead after Friday’s games. Settling for the wild card doesn’t really feel like making the playoffs – more like a play-in game.

Having to fend off the Yankees is a good thing. Might keep the gang focused. Also helping in that department is the absence of any dragged-out celebrations, like that afforded to David Ortiz last year. After all those retirement recognitions the big guy looked exhausted in the playoffs (going 1 for 9); although the Indians’ pitching played a part in that.

Cleveland is again formidable, as is Houston (with Justin Verlander). But these Red Sox look ready to contend. Their lead in the East is comfortable but not enough to relax.

The rest of our checklist assumes Boston will be division champion.

n Get healthy. Dustin Pedroia missed Saturday’s game with his sore knee acting up again. Mookie Betts was a late scratch with a bruised foot from a foul ball Friday. Eduardo Nunez has missed two weeks with a sprained knee. He’s working out before games but has yet to run the bases.


Those are three big names out of Boston’s lineup. While Betts and Pedroia are expected back as early as Sunday, Nunez’s absence is troubling. He had been electric in 37 games for Boston. Originally thought to become the regular third baseman, his versatility has proven invaluable, especially filling in at second when Pedroia was on the disabled list.

n Arrange the rotation. Chris Sale gets the start in Game 1. Easy enough. Drew Pomeranz has been the second-best starter. Rick Porcello is 10-17 with a 4.55 ERA, but here’s the thing – he has a 3.65 ERA on the road. Maybe he gets the Game 2 start because the Red Sox will be playing on the road.

For Game 4, I like Eduardo Rodriguez with Doug Fister in long relief.

n Set the bullpen. David Price is the X-factor, but how often can Manager John Farrell call on him. Same goes for Carson Smith, although his recent back-to-back outings were encouraging.

Addison Reed and Craig Kimbrel obviously get the eighth and ninth. Joe Kelly is gaining Farrell’s trust.

Among the other right-handers, Austin Maddox (0.00 ERA/0.90 WHIP) has the best numbers but little experience. Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree have had their up-and-down moments.


For left-handers besides Price, Robby Scott may be the prime specialist against lefties, who are batting .131 against him.

n Sort out the bench. Assuming everyone is healthy, then Nunez can be plugged in anywhere.

Brock Holt brings versatility, which may make Chris Young dispensable. Young was supposed to shine against left-handers, but instead is batting only .189 against them.

Compare that to Sam Travis (.395) and Deven Marrero (.314). Throw in Marrero’s defense and he can make a case for being on the postseason roster.

Boston has some work to do and decisions to make, with a week to sort it all out.

ONE RED SOX minor league team enjoyed a championship. The low Class A Greenville Drive won the South Atlantic League title.


Noteworthy was third baseman Bobby Dalbec, a 2016 draft pick out of Arizona who appeared on the fast track until hurting his wrist, missing most of May and all of June. Dalbec got his stroke back in August, batting .278/.914 OPS with six home runs.

In his last eight games, including the playoffs, he batted .344 with two homers.

Dalbec, 22, should begin 2018 in advanced Class A Salem and could see Portland by the summer.

Another intriguing infielder is second baseman Brett Netzer, drafted this year in the third round out of North Carolina Charlotte. Netzer, 21, was promoted from Lowell after 22 games.

In the playoffs with Greenville, Netzer hit .429.

ANOTHER FORMER Sea Dogs pitcher made his major league debut when Aaron Wilkerson got a call-up to Milwaukee.


Wilkerson, 28, plucked by the Red Sox from the independent leagues, blossomed while he was in Portland.

He was traded last summerwith infielder Wendell Rijo for veteran infielder Aaron Hill.

Wilkerson pitched a shutout inning of relief and then got a start Wednesday in Pittsburgh. He pitched two scoreless innings, but was pulled with one out in the third after yielding three runs on a walk and three hits.

Rijo, 22, began the year in Double-A, then was demoted to advanced Class A. He hit a combined .226.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

Twitter: @ClearTheBases

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