Mendoza in, Youkilis out
Francona opts to fortify bullpen
As if the rivalry weren't chock-full of subplots already, the Red Sox will inject another today when they submit their 25-man roster for the American League Championship Series and replace Kevin Youkilis with Ramiro Mendoza, who won two World Series rings with the Yankees.
Manager Terry Francona said Mendoza could help Derek Lowe provide middle or long relief, particularly in Games 3, 4, and 5. Bronson Arroyo is scheduled to start Game 3, Tim Wakefield Game 4, and Curt Schilling Game 5. Schilling, who starts Game 1 tonight, would return on four days' rest while Pedro Martinez, the Game 2 starter, would pitch on five days' rest if he were needed in Game 6.
"We just think the pitcher has a chance to impact us more than the position player," Francona said. "There may come a time in the series when we're wrong, but we think that's what gives us the best roster."
Mendoza, 32, who missed half the season with right shoulder problems, finished the year at 2-1 with a 3.52 ERA in 27 appearances. He faced the Yankees three times, including the July 24 classic in which he pitched two scoreless innings to keep the Sox in contention before Bill Mueller's walkoff homer off Mariano Rivera. Mendoza also pitched a scoreless inning against the Yankees Sept. 18 in the Fens but got tagged for three hits, including a three-run homer by Alex Rodriguez, in an inning of relief Sept. 26 at Yankee Stadium.
The Sox left Mendoza off the postseason roster last year and he appeared destined for a similar fate this year.
"I'm very happy," Mendoza said. "I want to help this team get to the next round."
Mendoza spent 10 years in the Yankee organization, pitching in three World Series, including the championship seasons of 1998 and '99, before he signed with the Sox after the 2002 season.
Youkilis appeared in one game in the Division Series, going 0 for 2. With Youkilis off the roster, Mark Bellhorn will become Mueller's principal backup at third base, with Doug Mientkiewicz next on the depth chart.
"If we really got into a bind, Mientkiewicz can catch it anywhere," Francona said. "I actually talked to him about it. He didn't seem all that fired up, but he has done it, and I'm sure he can catch the ball."
Youkilis will continue to travel and work out with the team in case the Sox need him for the World Series. Designated hitter Ellis Burks, first baseman/outfielder David McCarty, and catcher Sandy Martinez also will remain with the team, while Byung Hyun Kim and Pedro Astacio continue working out at the training facility in Fort Myers, Fla.
Will he catch fire?
As much as Jason Varitek struggled during the regular season against the Yankees -- he hit .169 (10 for 51) overall and went 0 for 34 with 18 strikeouts in the Bronx -- the Sox don't expect the slump to last. "We wouldn't be here without him," Johnny Damon said. "He's going to hit in this series. He's going to be the MVP of this series." Varitek is batting .091 (4 for 44) in his career against tonight's starter, Mike Mussina. "I think it was a combination of them catching a guy when he's not feeling real good and making some really good pitches," Francona said. "In saying that, we're not going to drop him in the order or anything like that. He's too good a player. They've done a very good job with him so far, but I can see that changing." . . . Look for Trot Nixon to start every game in the series since the Yankees have no lefthanded starters . . . Team officials, including Francona, the coaches, and scouting staff, held a lengthy meeting before the team worked out. Advance scout Dave Jauss was expected to leave afterward to begin scouting for the next round . . . It wouldn't be a Sox-Yankee series without some anger-related extracurricular activities. "In a seven-game series with this much riding on it, it can get testy," Francona said. "There's a lot of history here and we play these guys so much that there's so much background. I just don't think it's on anybody's mind right now. We want to win so bad and they want to win so bad. At some point in the series if somebody gets mad, that happens sometimes. But that's not the importance of this series." Still, Francona said, he does not expect the teams to line up and shake hands afterward, as the Dodgers and Cardinals did after their series.
Shirts off their backs
The Sox expressed their displeasure to Major League Baseball's merchandising executives about a pro-Yankees T-shirt that said, "Hey Red Sox, who's your daddy?" The shirts bore the Yankee logo and a red pacifier with a "B" on it. MLB was promoting and selling the product until the Sox, among others, complained. "I'm not surprised by `Who's your daddy?' " said Charles Steinberg, the team's executive vice president of public affairs, referring to Martinez's infamous line. "That was made for merchandise. But we were surprised that MLB would have approved that pacifier. I don't think it would follow the path of good taste." MLB subsequently stopped selling the shirts. As for matters of good taste, Steinberg encouraged Sox fans to replace the ubiquitous vulgar Yankee chant with a rally cry he heard from the crowd after the Sox won the Division Series: "Beat the Yankees." Steinberg said, "I hope the good-natured, good-sportsmanship cheer takes hold because it's an accurate representation of how the fans feel. The silliness of the other expression is that it's not true." . . . Sox general manager Theo Epstein, who knew former National League MVP Ken Caminiti since 1995 when they were together with the Padres, was saddened by Caminiti's death. He described Caminiti as "one of the toughest players I've ever been around" and "a nice, caring guy off the field." Caminiti was tormented by a drug addiction. "Those who knew him well knew he was battling demons off the field and offered him help through the years," Epstein said . . . The crew chief for the series is 23-year veteran Randy Marsh, who'll be behind the plate tonight. He's joined by Jeff Nelson, John Hirschbeck, Jim Joyce, Jeff Kellogg, and Joe West.