First baseman Mike Napoli is out of the lineup Sunday for the second straight game. He was bothered by plantar fasciitis in August and still has some lingering effects, so Farrell is utilizing this opportunity, together with Monday’s off-day, to give his cleanup hitter some time to rest.
“We’re just giving him a couple of days down here,” Farrell said. “He was dealing with that foot issue. He felt like this was a time to give him a few days to try to get ahead of it.”
Napoli sat out three games in the middle of August, just as he was enduring a slump. He returned and caught on fire at the end of the month, carrying his hot stretch into September.
-- Felix Doubront may appear out of the bullpen next weekend in Baltimore, but nothing is set in stone and it appears quite likely that the left-hander could be on the outs when a playoff roster is formulated prior to a Divisions Series.
Doubront is starting Sunday against Toronto and will require some down time after that. Farrell will have him on hand in the final series of the season, but is not sure there will be enough time for a full adjustment into a new role, especially given Doubront’s recent comments that a relief role may not be for him.
“I know he’s made some comments lately on the adjustment to his routine and what that might mean, so the difficulty will be when he’s first available next weekend, how many opportunities can he get from there,” Farrell said. “Obviously we’ve got some decisions to make for the postseason roster and all things will be taken into account.”
Doubront told WEEI.com on Sept. 12 that he would have difficulty getting ready on a whim. He was a reliever in parts of 2010 and 2011 for Boston, but had some physical issues in ‘11 and implied that his comfort level is at its highest while in a starting role.
Farrell has already utilized Ryan Dempster out of the bullpen. Dempster tossed a scoreless inning Saturday night. He figures to be an important part of the relief formula in October, a formula that has remained rather fluid in terms of roles in front of closer Koji Uehara.
Doubront’s place in that mix would be fuzzy, and with little time to test him out in Baltimore, it remains to be seen if there even is a place for him.
-- Boston enters Sunday with a 94-62 mark, just 1 ½ games ahead of Oakland and 2 ½ up on Detroit in the race for the best record in the American League and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The owner of the best mark hosts the winner of the wild card play-in game on Oct. 4 in the opener of one AL Division Series, while the other two division winners tangle in the other best-of-five set.
When one considers Boston’s home mark (52-28), as well as its success at Fenway in Octobers past, the issue becomes a bit more pressing.
“Today is an important day for us, not just because it’s the last one but the chance to maintain where we are in the overall record and preserving it, that is important to us,” Farrell said. “And that would be a huge lift, and certainly an advantage going into the postseason.”
While the Sox have had some glorious moments this week at Fenway, they have dropped three of their last five. Oakland and Detroit are both 4-1 in that same stretch to tighten up this race and potentially set up some more late-season drama.