The two most interesting nuggets to come out of Terry Francona's pregame meeting with reporters today involved the decision to shut down pitcher Michael Bowden for the season (don't worry, he's fully healthy) and his admittedly tough decision to go with Mark Kotsay over Jacoby Ellsbury in the leadoff spot today.
We'll start with Bowden, whose winning performance Aug. 30 against the White Sox in his major league debut offered oodles of promise. He will not be brought up from Triple A Pawtucket so he can begin his winter program. Theo Epstein and the Sox player development team made the decision, a process they involved Francona in.
"His pitching is going to be done for the year," Francona said. "He's had a pretty good year. It's time to congratulate him, let him go about his winter, continue to get stronger, develop, things like that. He had a heckuva year."
The Red Sox have also spoken with Clay Buchholz about his immediate future.
"That's a little more up in the air, how his winter is going to progress," Francona said. "We talked to him for about a half hour. We'll continue to talk to him over the next couple of days on just how we want to progress with the rest of his fall and winter."
The talk turned to putting Kotsay in the lineup over Ellsbury. Ultimately, Francona said, it boiled down to the fact that he didn't want Kotsay to sit three straight games and because Ellsbury experienced some slight tightness in a quadriceps muscle in Texas. (Kotsay did not play yesterday, and he will sit tomorrow because probable Tampa starter Scott Kazmir is very toughl on lefties.) It was not an easy choice.
"I changed my mind a few times," Francona said. "We want to make sure everybody stays healthy, stays productive, and doesn't sit too long. If you're asking if there was an exact science, no. I changed my mind three times from Dallas to the park."
Francona also could have played Ellsbury by sitting Coco Crisp. But, because Crisp is hitting .481 since Aug. 17, "he needs to be in there tonight," Francona said.
Francona offered his take on George Kottaras and Chris Carter. Because Kottaras is the fourth catcher on the roster, Francona said his playing time will be scant. But he will have three weeks to work with bullpen coach Gary Tuck, a prospect Francona called "exciting." Francona called Carter a "real professional bat" who could receive spot pinch-hitting duty.
Francona also said "there's a chance we might activate" J.D. Drew tonight after the game, but that doesn't necessarily mean he will be in the lineup immediately. "When he'll start in a game, I really don't know," Francona said. Drew has been out since Aug. 18 with a strained lower back.
The Red Sox will break the Cleveland Indians record of 455 consecutive sellouts tonight. In batting 1.000 on filling seats since May 15, 2003, the Sox sold 16,298,530 tickets without tearing up a single one. Think about that. On the field before the game, Larry Lucchino said the feat was "not a Red Sox record" but a "Red Sox fans record." Select players were meeting fans at entrances to celebrate.