"Don't want you to read too much into it—it seemed like a good time to give him a couple innings," Francona said.
Two days later, it was obvious why Sunday was a good time for Lester to make his bullpen debut. Tim Wakefield, expected to be the Sox' long reliever in the AL Division Series and their no. 4 starter in any subsequent rounds, was left off the ALDS roster due to a sore back.
Wakefield battled the sore back throughout September and went just 1-2 with an 8.76 ERA in his final five starts, but he lasted seven innings and allowed four runs (three earned) in winning his final regular season start Saturday. He continued to battle soreness over the next two days, and when a cortisone shot didn't provide much relief, the Sox decided to replace him with Lester.
"In his role with us now, if something unfortunate ever happened to a starter, ‘Wake' would be asked to come in and fill something like that in the game," Francona said during a press conference. "And he's not ready to do that. He's been fighting it for a long time and it's not fair to ‘Wake.'
"We were going to possibly put him in a situation that was not fair to him or the team. So now, doing this, we can slow him down, his throwing, not rush him into two or three innings in a game where he's not ready, and get him ready for a start, hopefully later on. That's the thinking there."
Wakefield's absence wasn't the only surprise on the 25-man roster. The Sox will carry three catchers—Jason Varitek, Doug Mirabelli and Kevin Cash, the latter of whom was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket when Mirabelli went on the disabled list Aug. 17 and hit .111 with 13 strikeouts in 27 at-bats.
With speedy reserve Jacoby Ellsbury also on the roster, Francona said the presence of three catches makes it easier to pinch-run or pinch-hit for one of the backstops. "We try to maximize everybody on the roster by having the third catcher," Francona said. "We want Ellsbury to be able to impact game, if needed, and that can mean running for a number of different people.
"Again, now we have a catcher that we're comfortable with. We actually have two [backup] catchers we're comfortable with, but they have a little bit different skill set, so hopefully we can use both and just maximize the strengths of our players."
ANGELS AILMENTS: The Angels' ALDS roster had more surprises than the Sox. Former Cy Young Award winner Bartolo Colon and centerfielder Gary Matthews Jr. were each left off the roster due to injury. Colon, who was expected to pitch out of the bullpen, was scratched due to the right elbow woes that have dogged him most of the season. And Matthews Jr. will miss the series due to tendinitis in his left knee that caused him to miss the last three games of the regular season.
Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at email@example.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752. To subscribe to Diehard or diehardmagazine.com, please CLICK HERE.
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