Sox roster is set

The Red Sox have set their initial roster for the first round of the playoffs and there are no real surprises. The Sox are carrying 10 pitchers and 15 positional players; Mike Timlin is off and third catcher David Ross is on. Mike Lowell and J.D. Drew are both expected to be in the starting lineup tonight for Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Los Angeles Angels.

Before we get to some of the machinations involved here, here’s the full roster:

PITCHERS

Starters
Jon Lester (L)
Daisuke Matsuzaka
Josh Beckett

Relievers
Tim Wakefield
Paul Byrd
Javier Lopez (L)
Manny Delcarmen
Hideki Okajima (L)
Justin Masterson
Jonathan Papelbon

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POSITIONAL PLAYERS

Projected starting lineup
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
David Ortiz, DH
Kevin Youkilis, 1B
Jason Bay, LF
Mike Lowell, 3B
J.D. Drew, RF
Jason Varitek, C
Jed Lowrie, SS

Bench
Mark Kotsay, IF-OF (L)
Coco Crisp, OF (S)
Sean Casey, 1B (L)
Alex Cora, IF (L)
Kevin Cash, C (R)
David Ross, C (R)

A couple of notes:The Sox seem more concerned about the health of Lowell than that of Drew, which leaves open the possibility that Youkilis may need to move to third at some point. If that happens, look for Kotsay to play first base as he is the better defender. Lowell’s health remains one of the great variables in this series, even if he can only play five innings a night.

“Because of who [Mike] is and how he plays the game, we want to give him a chance to play the game,” Francona said sports radio WEEI’s “The Dale and Holley Show” shortly before the roster was announced.

By carrying a third catcher, the Sox suggest that they will hit for Varitek if and when the situation calls for it. Francona has refrained from doing so during the regular season, but the postseason is obviously a different matter. If necessary, the Sox could subsequently hit for Cash and put in Ross, who is regarded as a solid defensive catcher.

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“You put the roster in best position where [it] can succeed,” Francona told WEEI. “You have to consider, ‘Does a third catcher allow you to pinch run, to pinch hit?’ It puts you in a position to maximize your roster.”

With regard to the Game 3 possibilities, the Sox have not settled on a contingency plan if Beckett is unable to pitch. Wakefield and Byrd are the obvious choices, and the decision may depend on whether either must be used out of the bullpen in Game 1 or Game 2. The Sox seem optimistic that Beckett will make the start, but we should know more after he has a side session tomorrow.

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