Jonny Gomes Will Start First Two Games Versus Rays and Other Red Sox Notes From Thursday at Fenway Park

Jonny GomesBOSTON — Game 1 of the Red Sox’ ALDS matchup is so close it can be tasted. And for a city that hasn’t experienced playoff baseball since 2009, it tastes good.

Anticipation for Friday’s Game 1 has reached a new high, especially now that the Red Sox know who they’ll be going up against. The Rays have arrived in Boston for what should be an exciting series between two division rivals.

The Red Sox held their third consecutive day of workouts Thursday. The Sox played a six-inning intrasquad scrimmage to get back into game speed Wednesday, but Thursday saw a much lighter workout that included batting practice. Boston hasn’t played since Sunday’s regular-season finale in Baltimore, so it’s all about staying fresh. The Red Sox can’t afford to be rusty come Friday at 3:07 p.m.

John Farrell announced his rotation for the ALDS shortly after Wednesday’s simulated game. Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz and Jake Peavy will take the ball, in that order. Games 1 and 2, of course, will be played in Boston.

Farrell hasn’t made any other formal roster announcements, as the Red Sox don’t need to finalize their roster until 10 a.m. Friday. Farrell and Lester met with the media Thursday, though. Read on for some notes from Thursday’s day at the park.

  • Daniel Nava has had a breakout season, but expect to see Jonny Gomes starting in left field for Games 1 and 2. The Rays will be throwing a pair of left-handers, Matt Moore and David Price, in the first two games, and Gomes typically starts against southpaws. Things aren’t going to change now.

“We know we’re going up against a very good starting rotation, led off by the two left‑handers, Price and Moore. But probably pretty consistent with what we’ve seen against left‑handed starters,” said Farrell, who noted that Gomes will start both games. “What our lineup has been will be reflected [Friday]. So we’re looking forward to getting things started.”

Nava, a switch-hitter, is hitting .252 (30-for-119) with two home runs, 13 RBIs and a .311 on-base percentage against left-handers this season. Gomes is hitting .236 (38-for-161) with eight homers, 27 RBIs and a .347 on-base percentage against lefties.

  • Speaking of Gomes, he’s quite the party planner.

“As far as what he’s added to our clubhouse, it’s been a grit, it’s been a smart player, and one that I think a lot of other guys draw a lot of confidence from him because the way he plays the game, the way he talks about it,” Farrell said of Gomes. “And seemingly he’s in the center of things that we’ve done off the field, whether it’s in response to the marathon tragedy here or things that our group does off the field — whether it’s a high number of players going to a team dinner.  Johnny is right in the middle of the party.”

  • David Ross will start behind the plate for one of the first two games of the ALDS. Farrell said that the decision as to which game will be based on multiple factors, including the catchers’ chemistry with the Red Sox’ starters and their history versus the Rays’ starters.

Ross is 2-for-5 with two home runs in his career versus David Price, and he has yet to face Matt Moore. So even though Ross has only caught Lackey twice, Game 2 seems like the safer bet for the 36-year-old backstop.

  • It likely comes as no surprise, but Farrell once again credited general manager Ben Cherington’s role in revamping Boston’s roster during the offseason. Farrell also said later in the news conference that the Red Sox already had a talented core in place before Cherington started adding new pieces to the puzzle.

“Whether it was Jacoby [Ellsbury], Dustin [Pedroia], David [Ortiz], that list is pretty long.  But the core that was returning were talented,” Farrell said. “And knowing through the conversations with Ben what his vision was, and the type of plan that was brought in here has come to life, and everything he set out to do in terms of player acquisition has not only matched the group as a whole, but I think has embraced everything that Boston has to offer — whether that’s the challenge of this market, what people in this ballpark expect every night.  And we’ve been able to answer that call.”

  • The Red Sox and Rays have had very different weeks. The Rays were forced to win two tiebreaker games — versus the Rangers in Texas on Monday and versus the Indians in Cleveland on Wednesday — for the right to play in the ALDS, while the Red Sox have been preparing on their own. Farrell said that he’s been pleased with his team’s workouts over the last three days, though. They have accomplished everything that they set out to accomplish at the beginning of the week.

“So many people have said, well, ‘What is this four‑day‑off period going to do?’  And I don’t think we can compare it against series of the past, where one series has already been completed and there’s this anticipation, is it today we play or the following day?  We knew going in it was going to be Friday,” Farrell said. “And we could gear everything toward that from our on‑field work, and certainly our mental approach towards tomorrow being the first game.  I think we’re primed and ready to go.”

  • The Rays have traditionally been known for solid pitching and a small-ball style of play. That poses a problem for some teams, but Farrell expects the Red Sox to be well-prepared because of their own offensive approach and their familiarity with the Rays, who they play 19 times a year.
  • Farrell’s expectations for this series?

“Likely to be well pitched, typically low scoring, and there’s going to be a play, a defensive play inside of a game that will be a swing moment,” he said.

  • Lester spoke with the media a few minutes after Farrell’s news conference wrapped up. The left-hander said that he no longer takes the playoffs for granted after missing out on the postseason three years in a row.

“I think every year was a little different,” Lester said. “[In] 2010 we got beat up so much just with injuries and just kind of bad luck with a lot of things that was kind of — I don’t know, to be expected or what.  But we played good baseball.  Obviously 2011 speaks for itself.  That one left a lot of bitter taste in guy’s mouth.  And obviously last year was just horrendous all the way around.”

Lester, who typically watches postseason baseball even after the Red Sox are eliminated, said that he didn’t watch the 2012 playoffs.

  • Lester’s wife, Farrah, just had a baby. He said that everyone’s been sleeping fine. So there’s that.
  • Lester said that Farrell, who had previously been with the organization as a pitching coach, helped establish a comfort level between the Red Sox’ pitchers and pitching coach Juan Nieves early on during spring training.
  • Since 2012 was a disastrous year for the Red Sox, it’s easy to forget that Lester actually pitched better down the stretch after making some mechanical adjustments. Lester said that those adjustments — and then some fine-tuning during spring training this year — helped put him on the path for success.
  • The 2013 season is still a stark contrast in one big way, though.

“This team is a complete opposite of anything I’ve been around,” Lester said. “From the moment you walk in, guys were laughing, cutting up.  Nobody is safe in the clubhouse as far as getting yelled at.  It doesn’t matter if you’re 16 years in or if you’ve got one day. Everybody is having fun.  And then when the time comes for 7 o’clock to roll around, you know, guys go out there and they do what they need to do and they’re prepared and they play hard.  And the guys that are on the bench are keeping those guys loose and having fun doing it.”

  • What does Lester think of starting Game 1?

“You know, it’s a big honor for me to have my name up there with those guys,” Lester said. “And like I would say, I can go out and bust my butt and give the team the best chance to win tomorrow and set the tone for the other starters.”

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