Notes: Papelbon to play major role
Rookie right-hander has thrived since moving into 'pen
CHICAGO -- At a time of year where it is hardly outlandish for a manager to shy away from a rookie, Terry Francona will do no such thing with Jonathan Papelbon as this postseason begins.
If anything, Papelbon's role will increase at a time when bullpen stinginess becomes even more important than in the regular season.
The bridge to closer Mike Timlin will rest largely on Papelbon's right arm.
"He deserves to be in the role that he's in," said Francona. "He's handled being accountable and understanding what is going on. This is not a reach for him to be able to have success here. He's going to be OK. He may give up runs. It's not going to be because he can't handle it."
Papelbon has handled just about everything the Red Sox have thrown his way, from the three starts when he posted a 2.25 ERA to the 14 appearances as a setup man during the heat of the pennant race, during which time the hard-throwing righty was 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA.
The success of the Red Sox during this postseason will likely hinge on how often they can get the ball to Papelbon and Timlin with a lead.
"If we get leads and have a chance to win, one of these guys is going to have a big series," said Francona. "Hopefully, both of them. That's just the way the game is. Depending on the scores, it's going to depend on who pitches, how much they pitch, things like that. If somebody has to be a force, hopefully they will be."
Go, Johnny, go: With four games left in the season, Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon had yet to steal a base during the month of September. He then grabbed four bags in the next three games, giving him 18 for the season. One thing you can't question is Damon's knowledge of when to go, evidenced by the fact that he was caught just once all season.
Will the Red Sox try to counter some of Chicago's speed by letting Damon run wild? Not exactly, but Francona did say that his leadoff man has the green light.
"Johnny is smart enough to try to run when it's beneficial," said Francona. "The risk is, we value our hitters, we don't want to make outs. There are times when, and sometimes it is cyclical, we get a couple of pitchers out there where we feel the odds are in our favor. What happens, it does happen in cycles, not only are the times [of the pitchers getting the ball to the plate] in our favor, but Johnny gets on. If you're 0-for-4, that doesn't help. He got on a bunch last week and there were instances where we thought the percentages were in our favor, and he put it to good use."
DiNardo a tough cut: The final roster spot was announced before Tuesday's game, as the Red Sox selected right-hander Jeremi Gonzalez as their 10th pitcher instead of lefty Lenny DiNardo.
DiNardo made the decision a tough one by pitching well (0.69 ERA) in all five of his September outings.
If the Red Sox make it to the American League Championship Series, it's likely they'll go to 11 pitchers and DiNardo will make the cut.
"He did well. He will do well," said Francona. "He pitched himself into a position where he just about got on this roster, which is a big compliment to him."
Arroyo's role: A big reason the Red Sox were able to use 10 pitchers instead of 11 is the versatility of Bronson Arroyo, a starter during the regular season who will pitch in the bullpen in this series.
"We decided to go with 10 because we have Bronson, which basically makes 11," Francona said. "Bronson, to me, gives us a bonus guy down in the bullpen who knows what he's doing, holds runners, has pitched in tight games and we can use him any time we want. We can use him early, we can use him late to get an out. He can bounce back, he can handle the situations, this will make our bullpen better. We won't go to Papelbon before we want to. This will really help us."
Millar-Olerud: Much like it was during the regular season, Kevin Millar vs. John Olerud will continue to be an almost daily decision for Francona. The reason Millar got the call in Game 1 was simple. He is 5-for-10 lifetime against Jose Contreras with two homers.
Olerud has never faced the Cuban right-hander.
"He has very good numbers against Contreras -- not just good numbers," Francona said of Millar. "We certainly try to get as much information as we can to put our ball club in the best situation to win. He's done some damage against him. We're trying to get the most production out of that position as much as we can."
Game 2 will be a much tougher decision, as neither player has taken good swings against Mark Buehrle. Olerud is 1-for-11 against the All-Star lefty, while Millar is 1-for-18.
Coming up: Red Sox left-hander David Wells trots out his successful resume in big games (10-3, 3.18 ERA lifetime in postseason) to the mound in Game 2. The White Sox counter with their ace, Buehrle.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.