Young Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, shown in action earlier this month against the New York Yankees, will likely have a place on Boston's playoff roster in a reserve role. The Red Sox clinched the American League's best record and home-field advantage in the playoffs with Oakland's loss Saturday. (REUTERS)
Dave D'Onofrio's Sox Beat: Playoff roster is Farrell's job
AMID THE crushed beer cans, popped corks and emptied champagne bottles strewn about the floor of the Red Sox clubhouse in the aftermath of their clinching the American League East championship, John Farrell finished his Bud Light and flipped it gently into a barely used trash barrel.
By then his players had begun streaming back onto the field to celebrate the division crown with those fans who'd stayed at Fenway Park, and bask in the joy of a job well done - though, in a way, the manager's work was just beginning.
No longer burdened by the task of figuring out how to get the Sox to the playoffs, or how to help them earn a spot in the divisional round, his task at that point became figuring out how to put his team in the best possible position to make a deep run in the postseason.
And for a manager with two weeks before Game 1, that meant making decisions on how the roster would come together while also determining roles and assigning slots in the starting rotation.
Farrell will get his final look at his team under game conditions, as it wraps up the regular season today in Baltimore. Next time the Sox take the field with consequences will be Friday at Fenway Park against a yet-to-be-decided opponent. And with three or four roster spots still up in the air, here's one take on the team Farrell will take with him into that tilt as the Sox look to score their first playoff win in five years:Catchers: David Ross, Jarrod Saltalamacchia
The plan early in the year was to play Ross more than a typical backup, but after he missed significant time with injury, and Saltalamacchia - who slugged his 40th double of the season on Friday night - emerged as an integral part of the Sox's offense, it's unlikely anyone but Saltalamacchia will start behind the plate in the postseason.Infielders: Xander Bogaerts, Stephen Drew, Mike Napoli, Dustin Pedroia, Will Middlebrooks
Farrell has repeatedly said that Drew is his starting shortstop, so expect to see him joining Napoli at first, Pedroia at second and Middlebrooks at third in every game. Bogaerts' impact, meanwhile, might be limited mainly to pinch-hitting for Drew in some situations against left-handed pitching.
Ideally there'd be another player in the mix here, as the Sox could be caught shorthanded if Bogaerts pinch hits and then there's an injury on the infield - but John McDonald played only 18 innings in his first 27 days on the roster, and Brock Holt had through Friday played one inning in September. Keeping them sharp would seem to be more of a priority if they were being closely considered.Outfielders: Quintin Berry, Mike Carp, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jonny Gomes, Daniel Nava, Shane Victorino
Assuming Ellsbury and Victorino are and remain healthy, they will man center and right field, and bat first and second in the Sox order.
Left field will be shared between Nava, Gomes and Carp, as it has been all season. Berry's role is strictly as a pinch-runner, a job he wins because he has proven himself as a base stealer at the big-league level (entering Saturday at 22-for-22 in his career) and Jackie Bradley Jr. was just 7-for-14 in steal attempts this season at Triple-A. If Bradley makes the roster, it's not a good sign for the club's confidence in the health of Ellsbury and/or Victorino.Designated hitter: David Ortiz
He'll finish with a .300 average, 30 home runs and 100 runs batted in for the first time since 2007. He was a 31-year-old star then. He's performing like one now.Starting rotation (in order): Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Jake Peavy
Lester's recovery from a midseason slump had earned him the right to be Boston's Game 1 starter, regardless of how he pitched in Saturday night. Because Game 2 will be at home, Lackey should get the ball. His earned run average is 2.47 at Fenway, compared with 4.48 elsewhere. Slotting Buchholz in at Game 3 gives the Sox a chance to use him in what could be a significant swing game, while also potentially using him to match up with the ace of the wild-card winner. Peavy gets Game 4 on account of being better than Ryan Dempster and Felix Doubront recently.Relievers: Craig Breslow, Ryan Dempster, Felix Doubront, Franklin Morales, Junichi Tazawa, Koji Uehara, Brandon Workman
Uehara is the closer. Breslow is his most reliable setup man. Tazawa will probably pitch in big spots, too. But beyond that it's still unclear how Farrell will use his bullpen. For six weeks now, Sox brass has given Workman every opportunity to earn major responsibility, but through Friday his 7.15 ERA as a reliever was worse than everyone who's pitched for Boston this season besides Allen Webster, Daniel Bard and Joel Hanrahan. If Rubby De La Rosa had been more convincing, Workman likely wouldn't even make the roster, but without a clear alternative the Sox are likely to keep him and hope to piece together the middle innings between him, Dempster and Doubront, the other converted starters.
Managing those situations, and making decisions on how to piece together his bullpen along the bridge to Uehara, will moving forward be one of the most important facets of Farrell's job.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Entering September, the Red Sox's home run totals ranked in the middle of the pack. They were averaging a homer every 34.3 at-bats - but this month, which included the eight-blast outburst against the Tigers, and three taters Friday night, they entered Saturday going deep once every 21.7 at-bats. That's 37 percent more often, and makes the AL's most prolific attack even more dynamic.
Dave D'Onofrio covers the Red Sox for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.