Martinez, Schilling set for 1-2 punch
Martinez, Schilling will be next in line
All the Red Sox wanted last night was one more chance to send out their two aces, Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling. Even as they faced elimination against the Yankees in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, the Sox finalized plans to go with Martinez in Game 5 today at Fenway Park and announced Schilling as their Game 6 starter tomorrow in the Bronx if they got that far.
Martinez initially was scheduled to go in Game 6 on five days' rest, but the plan changed after Bronson Arroyo's brutal start in Game 3 forced the Sox to use Tim Wakefield, their projected Game 4 starter, in relief. As a result, the Sox went last night with Derek Lowe, their projected Game 5 starter, and lined up Martinez to pitch in Lowe's place tonight on four days' rest. As for Schilling, he threw in the bullpen for the second time in three days, testing his injured right ankle while wearing a specially designed high-top cleat for cushioning and support. He threw for about 15 minutes and drove off the mound with more force than he did Friday in the first session. "He looked pretty confident," Sox medical director William Morgan said after monitoring the session with a number of team officials, including general manager Theo Epstein."He's feeling pretty good, considering the circumstances," Epstein said.Schilling, who will need surgery as soon as the season ends to repair a dislocated peroneal tendon, tried in vain to pitch through the injury in Game 1, surrendering six runs before he departed in discomfort after three innings in a 10-7 loss that set the tone for the first three games of the series. He would pitch tomorrow on six days' rest.
Schilling faltered in Game 1, the Sox said, because the brace he used to stabilize his ankle failed. They said the high-top cleat worked well in the recent test runs in the bullpen.
Wakefield, who missed his scheduled start in the Game 4 of the Division Series because the Sox swept the Angels in three games, also missed his start against the Yankees because of Arroyo's woes. But the knuckleballer drew lavish praise from manager Terry Francona for volunteering to forfeit his start and help the team amid Arroyo's struggles.
"I hope we get to play long enough where he gets to pitch again," Francona said, "because when you're coaching and managing and you have players like that, even under circumstances like [Saturday] night, it makes you very proud."
Fueling the fire
For all the concern before the series about Jason Varitek's production against the Yankees (he had hit .169 this year against them and was 0 was 34 at Yankee Stadium), he led Boston's offense in the first three games. He entered Game 4 batting .500 (5 for 10) in the series with two homers and four RBIs, but was 0 for 5 last night with three strikeouts.
It came as no surprise to Johnny Damon, who predicted Varitek would be the team's MVP in the series. Nor did it surprise Francona.
"I think I actually said I'd be surprised if he didn't," Francona said. "He's a good player, and even when he's not hitting, he gives you so much. He's gotten what would be some big hits in this series if we would have done some other things better."
The Sox face the prospect of losing Varitek after the World Series to free agency, a potentially damaging blow.
"He plays the game like you're supposed to," Francona said. "When you're sitting in the dugout and you're watching, even when things aren't going well, you know he's trying his best to do the right thing, sometimes probably too hard."
Varitek caught 173 pitches over seven innings in Saturday's calamity before he gave way to Doug Mirabelli. Varitek said the 19-8 blowout may have been easier to bounce back from than a nail-biter.
"Sometimes a closer loss, depending on how you lost it, grabs you a little bit more because there's usually one play or incident that changes the game," Varitek said. "But they just basically annihilated us."
Varitek also downplayed the notion that Schilling's injury sapped some of the team's spirit.
"I think guys are too professional for that to happen," he said. "His turn has not come to be on the mound again, so I don't think that has had that much impact."
Varitek extended his club record Saturday with his ninth postseason home run, his third in this postseason. The shot was the fifth of his career in the LCS, also a club record.
Same old, same old
Francona weighed a couple of decisions before last night's game, including whether to go with Kevin Millar or Doug Mientkiewicz at first base and use Mark Bellhorn or Pokey Reese at second. Because Lowe is a groundball pitcher, Francona generally used the former Gold Glovers, Mientkiewicz and Reese, during the regular season in Lowe's starts. Millar is batting .200 in the series and Bellhorn .071. Rather than use Reese, who has rarely batted since he returned from the disabled list last month, Francona stuck with Bellhorn but dropped him from second in the order to ninth and moved Orlando Cabrera up to No. 2. As for first base, Francona said, "I wrestled with Mientkiewicz a lot. I talked to the staff a lot. We've gone with these guys the whole way. I'm not sure I have all the correct answers. So far I haven't, but we ended up coming up with what we thought was the right thing to do tonight." . . . When Alex Rodriguez homered over the Volvo sign above the Monster in the third inning, someone on Lansdowne Street hurled the ball back over the fence onto the field. At that, Damon fired the ball back over the Volvo sign, only to watch it return again. Second base umpire Joe West then pocketed the ball . . . A moment of silence was observed for two-time All-Star Ray Boone, a former Sox player and scout for 45 years in the organization, who died yesterday at 81. Obituary, Page A11. Boone's son, Bob, and grandsons, Bret and Aaron, also made it to the majors. As a Sox scout, Boone signed Schilling, Marty Barrett, Dave Morehead, and Gary Allenson, among others. As a player, Boone was traded in 1958 by the Tigers to the White Sox for Francona's father, Tito, and Bill Fischer, who later served as a Sox pitching coach . . . The Kingston Trio performed the national anthem and their oldtime local favorite, "M.T.A." . . . Old friend Lou Merloni visited with his former teammates before the game.