Mike Scioscia: Well, we've done it all year. I don't think there's been any game this season where we've said, here's our lineup that we've built the model around in spring training and the winter and have had it. We've had injuries the whole year.
We've had some young guys come up and play terrific baseball for us. You see a guy like Izzy (Izturis) hitting fifth for us, which is not your prototypical fifth hitter, but he does a terrific job with guys in scoring position. We've had to be creative. We've done it all season and we're going to continue to do it. We've found a way to score runs without the model that was built for this club. And we're going to keep going.
This is for both of you: Kelvim, it's kind of been a breakout year for you. How would you describe your maturation as a pitcher? What is different for you now as opposed to years past? And Mike, whatever he says, if you could add to it, please?
Kelvim Escobar: I think just building experience throughout my career. I've been around for a long time, and the desire to get better, you know, every day. Just learn the game and what it takes to go out there and be successful.
Mike Scioscia: I think obviously with Esky (Escobar) he's got bigger earrings as he's had more success. My wife is really upset with me every time she sees him walking around the ballpark. They've got to be six carats apiece, so with success comes bigger earrings (smiling).
Outside of that, I think he's a guy that obviously has the make-up, the stuff to be one of the premier pitchers in baseball. And he's shown that. I don't think there is a game where I haven't seen Kelvim prepare himself, go out there with a game plan and makes the other team beat him since he's been with us.
This is a breakout year for Kelvim, because he's got more support. He threw the ball just as well as he has this year a couple of years ago with no offensive support, and he finished just under .500. He's one of the top pitchers in our league, and with the support, you can see the wins he's put up for us this year. He's always had this potential. He's very comfortable in his role with his stuff. He's very confident. And he's pitched very well for us this season.
When you were a young pitcher in Toronto, were there guys who helped you prepare for situations like this, things they taught you? Who were those guys and what were the kinds of things they related to you?
Kelvim Escobar: Wow, I learned just watching the veteran guys like I was around Roger Clemens. I used to see the way he prepared and take care of himself, and when he goes out there, you know. And David Wells, Pat Hentgen, Juan Guzman. I played with a lot of good pitching.
But a situation like this, I've never had it before. Like in Toronto, we never made the playoffs. You know, I've been here for four years and this will be the third time in the postseason.
Over the years, the Red Sox fans and many of the players have developed this underdog persona, if you will. Have you noticed since they won the World Series and the times you've played them, any different aura about the club or attitude about the club that would suggest they expect to win now or they expect to play better?
Mike Scioscia: Well, I think when an organization finally crosses that hurdle and puts "world championship" by their name even one time, it gives you a different feel through the whole organization. On a Major League field I don't think there's ever been a day we've seen the Red Sox or played them they haven't walked out and thought they were going to win. Even before they won the world championship. They've always been very confident. They've always had a very deep club and deep organization, and it shows at the Major League level.
There is something that does make you walk a little differently when you do win a world championship. And I'm sure it happened to their whole organization, especially in the American League East being in the shadow of the Yankees. It's sometimes something you need to break through, and they have, and they've continued with their success.
I don't know if you just pin it on winning a world championship, because they've always been a confident club and a terrific ballclub ever since we've come on board in 2000, even before then. So it makes you walk a little taller, but I don't think it's the main factor why they've continued to have success.
For much of the season, J.D. Drew struggled offensively. What have your scouting reports said about him in the last few weeks and what kind of dimension does he add to the Red Sox lineup now that it appears he's broken through?
Mike Scioscia: I think you've said it right there. Without going to our scouting reports and I'm not going to give you any internal information. It's obvious he's swinging the bat much better, swinging the bat to his capabilities. It gives that lineup a whole different dimension when you have a guy like J.D. Drew, the year Mike Lowell has had. Their lineup is deep. It's a bunch of veteran bats hitting the ball well right now. And it puts an emphasis on making good pitches, which we have the ability to do.
So J.D. Drew does deepen their lineup when he can do what he's capable of doing, which is what he's doing now. It's not a forgiving lineup, but it's a lineup where if you can get the ball in the zones on the counts you want, you can have success, and that is the pressure that will be on our pitchers.
Just curious what your opinion is of the new rule this year, the substitution rule, and how that factored into your decisions yesterday with Matthews and Colon?
Mike Scioscia: Well, there were a couple things we considered trying to possibly see if those guys were at a point where you could take a chance with them, knowing if they were injured or something happened you could substitute for them. We never got to that point with either player, so we had to err on the side, or we did err on the side of caution, just to hopefully if we do move on, they'd have the ability to play for us.
I think it's a good rule. It's a rule that will be under scrutiny, I'm sure. I think the large example is probably in the catching department. Where, you know, you probably up until this year were really forced into carrying three catches in case something happened in Game 1 or 2, during the series in Game 1 or 2. It's tough to be left with one catcher. This rule, I think alleviated some of that with us to give us more flexibility. Boston's going to carry three catchers because they possibly might make more moves.
But I think it's a rule that over the test of time you can evaluate. And I think right now it's a good idea.
Kelvim, can you talk a little about what Mike talked about, your breakthrough year, kind of being related to the support you've got? Can you talk a little about that and the approach you'll bring to the game tomorrow? Will it be like the first time you've pitched in a postseason game, a brand-new experience for you? Are you comfortable in this role?
Kelvim Escobar: Yes, I'm very comfortable. I'm ready. Like Mike says, I think I've been pitching very well in my last few years. But to be a winner in this level, it takes more than going out there and pitching well. A lot of things have to come together at the same time, you know. You have to play defense, you have to get support from the hitters, you know, scoring rounds. Well, that's the way the game is.
What do you recall from your last playoff start in Fenway, other than the ending not working out?
Kelvim Escobar: I remember we came here a few years ago down in the series 0-2 and it was tough. I mean, coming here, everybody knows Fenway Park; you know, it's a fun place to play. I think it's better this time. We're starting it's a new year, new games. And I think two years ago just coming here down in the series, I think I put pressure on myself a little bit, trying to do too much. Just to try to get a win for the team and it didn't work out.
How exactly is your shoulder feeling?
Kelvim Escobar: I feel pretty good. I think the rest, the break that I have it helped me a lot, just let the inflammation come down, and I feel pretty good right now.
I'm sure you've talked about this a million times, but can you discuss the importance of Chone Figgins and his ability to go out and play so many different positions and maybe how that filters through your roster?
Mike Scioscia: We have a versatile roster or we wouldn't have been able to get through to this point moving guys around. Not only offensively in the lineup, but defensively as well. Chone Figgins has really spearheaded that. His ability to play a lot of positions: Played second base, third base, played the outfield for us this year. And as this series moves along, it can become more valuable. We have the option to play him at centerfield if we have to when Vlad has the ability to go out there and play right field, which could give us the options of maybe putting another bat in the lineup as this series moves on, if needed.
Chone's without a doubt one guy on our club that we can't do without. And when he was out of the lineup early in the season, we've really had to scramble to find some continuity. When he came back and started swinging the bat like he can, it had a major impact on our club. So he's important to us.
Couple of things, what is your thinking with regard to the catching position? And also, do you think it was helpful to Reggie Willits to get one game in centerfield here in August?
Mike Scioscia: Well, I think with Reggie, it's not an easy outfield to play. There are angles in left field if you're playing as a centerfielder, and you have that triangle in right-center. There's a lot of area to cover and you really have to pay attention to the flags. The ball will carry or get knocked down just watching those flags on the top of the stadium. They don't lie. And Reggie will have to be in tune with that.
I think it's beneficial any time you get a little experience on the field. It has to give you a little better look next time. And hopefully Reggie will feel comfortable out there tonight.
What was the first part you talked about?
Mike Scioscia: Catching, yeah. Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis have both carried a load for us this season behind the plate. They've done a terrific job on the defensive end. There are some tendencies with individual pitchers that are pretty close. Some might steer you in another direction. But Mike's going to play tonight because he has not only a good understanding with John Lackey, I think that his ability to bring a game plan into a game is very important in the playoffs.
Jeff Mathis we feel comfortable doing it as well. But Mike has a little more experience, and we're going to give Mike a shot tonight and expect him to do a good job behind the plate.
When Matsuzaka pitches on Friday, I guess it's the first time you've ever seen him. Who has the edge in that kind of match-up, especially since he has so much pitches?
Mike Scioscia: I think when you first face a pitcher there's probably a slight advantage to the pitcher just in picking up release points, picking up spin on a ball. Picking up where the ball is breaking, if it's a late break or more of a slurve, what is his arm speed like. There are only so many things you can pick up in the batter's box; you need to be in the batter's box to pick those up.
So we're going to make a quick study and see exactly what's happening. You know his tendencies on what counts, that's easy. But still to hit the ball and to pick it up and lock in on a pitcher, it's going to take -- well, you can't substitute. You're going to get in the batter's box and see it, so we'll have to make a quick study.
Kelvim, when pitching in a ballpark like this against such a powerful lineup, would that lead you to change your approach a little bit, maybe not challenge guys as often with fastballs? Or is that a dangerous thing to do, changing what got you to this point?
Kelvim Escobar: No, I don't think so. I don't think I can change the way I pitch. I'm just going to go out there and be aggressive. Pound the strike zone, and use my pitches. One thing you want to do for sure is keep the ball down. Everybody knows the right field line, the Green Monster, you know, very short fence. But at the same time you can't change anything. I'm just going to go out there and do what I do best, and let my ability take care of the game.