October 24, 2014

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ALCS: Eager Red Sox align starters

BOSTON — Tim Wakefield tested his balky back from the Fenway mound on Tuesday to see if he’ll be able to start in Game 4 of the AL championship series.
Curt Schilling showed everything he needed to show on Sunday.
Two days after helping the Red Sox finish off the Los Angeles Angels in the first round, Schilling was tabbed to start the second game of the best-of-seven series against Cleveland’s Fausto Carmona.
Josh Beckett will start the opener on Friday night against C.C. Sabathia. Daisuke Matsuzaka, who pitched the second game in the first round, will start Game 3 against Jake Westbrook.
“We just feel like this is our best way to go forward,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.
Schilling pitched seven innings of shutout ball on Sunday to lead Boston to a 9-1 victory over the Angels and complete the three-game sweep. With four days off before the start of the second round — and a couple of days off in the middle of it, too — the Red Sox have the luxury of setting up their rotation however they want.
Beckett, who pitched his second consecutive playoff shutout in Game 1 against the Angels, was an easy choice to start the opener again. He’ll be going on eight days’ rest and facing a well-rested Sabathia.
The rotations would be shuffled around if games are delayed or postponed by rain, which is forecast for both Friday and Saturday. Francona said he would consider using lefty Jon Lester following a long rain delay, if necessary; Lester threw 38 pitches on Tuesday to stay fresh.
Beckett is also a possibility for Game 4 on three days’ rest.
“The only way that could happen, at least looking at it quickly, is if Wake isn’t OK,” Francona said. “We want Wake to pitch Game 4, but we don’t need to go into Game 4 of a playoff experimenting. … We need him to be OK and he understands that.”
Wakefield was 17-12 with a 4.76 ERA this season, but he hasn’t pitched since Sept. 29 because of a problem in the back of his right shoulder. He received a cortisone shot on the eve of the Angels series and was left off the first-round roster when he didn’t recover soon enough for the team to be comfortable with using him.
He threw 77 pitches in a five-inning simulated game on Tuesday as the Red Sox held a full-squad workout at Fenway Park. Facing mostly bottom-of-the-roster hitters — though David Ortiz did stand in for one at-bat — he worked without discomfort and left the mound smiling.
He declined interview requests after the outing, but when asked how he felt he said, “Feel good enough.”
Pitching coach John Farrell said Wakefield had no trouble getting loose between innings, which was the main concern for a pitcher with so much time off. The knuckleballer will be re-evaluated today to make sure there are no ill effects.
Matsuzaka was Boston’s one disappointment in the first round, allowing three runs on seven hits in just 42/3 innings. Farrell said he had a problem commanding his fastball, and with getting too fancy around the edges of the plate after getting ahead of hitters.
Speaking to Japanese reporters during the workout, Matsuzaka said he was more concerned about facing Grady Sizemore, who hit a homer against him in the regular season, and about the now-famous Jacobs Field insects.
“If there were those bugs, it would be difficult to maintain concentration,” he said. “But maybe it won’t be a problem. The best thing will be if there’s no bugs on the field, of course.”