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Tuesday, October 1, 2013
'Boston Strong' still hits home with Sox

By Kyle Brasseur, Special to ESPNBoston.com

Dustin Pedroia
Dustin Pedroia fields a ball Tuesday at Fenway, which was adorned with some new messages.
BOSTON -- After 162 games, a division title and a complete turnaround from a 69-93 season in 2012, the Red Sox returned to Fenway Park on Tuesday for the first of three workout days leading up to Friday afternoon’s start of the American League Division Series against the winner of Wednesday’s wild-card game.

With four off-days between the team’s last game of the regular season on Sunday and Friday’s playoff opener, the main task at hand for the Sox this week will be preparation and maintaining focus, something manager John Farrell made clear during his first postseason press conference Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s a chance for our players that are dealing with some things from a physical standpoint to get ahead of them as best as possible and get everybody primed and ready to go for Friday,” Farrell said of the week’s planned workouts.

However, when asked if any single moment this season stuck out to him, Farrell broke from his usual look-ahead-to-the-next-game demeanor to provide a heartfelt answer that resonates with the personality that the city of Boston has taken on following the Marathon bombings on April 15.

“The one moment that stands out in my mind is standing during the moment of silence in Cleveland [on April 16] following the bombing,” Farrell said. “Whether that was the galvanizing moment for this team, I can’t say that, but it was a moment in time where guys showed a different side of them that this was a special group. What the performance was going to be, the total number of wins achieved, we didn’t know, but there was a characteristic that showed through in that moment that was special.”

This Red Sox team undeniably has embraced the city since that day. Players roamed their clubhouse on Tuesday sporting their usual variety of “Boston Strong” T-shirts and the grass in center field at Fenway was cut to display a “B Strong” logo, which has been a fixture of the park’s Green Monster and on the left sleeve of their home uniforms since the team’s April 20 return to Boston following the attacks.

“You play for the city that you represent. We represent the Red Sox, we represent Boston,” outfielder Jonny Gomes said. “I don’t think it’s really a win-loss record that determines that Boston Strong that was built. I think it was almost kind of like a lifestyle and the way you go about things. Fortunately for us, we’re continuing to represent that.”

Here are a couple of other takeaways from the clubhouse as the Red Sox completed their first day of workouts:

* When asked what team they would prefer to face in the ALDS, Gomes, second baseman Dustin Pedroia and several other Red Sox players said they had no preference whether the Cleveland Indians or the Tampa Bay Rays come to Fenway on Friday.

“We’re just waiting to see who we play,” Pedroia said. “Every team that’s in the playoffs has a quality team.”

* Although Farrell has yet to confirm his ALDS rotation, the speculation that left-hander Jon Lester would take the mound for Game 1 was prevalent in the clubhouse as players were asked to offer up their opinions on the 29-year-old.

“He’s one of the top lefties in the American League, one of the top lefties in baseball,” Gomes said. “When he’s on, he’s one of the hardest in the game.”

“He’s been our Opening Day starter the past few years and he’s been a guy I think we’ve leaned on,” Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “I think that’s one of those things, as a catcher, you’re proud of. You’re happy for those guys. You see them put so much work in, you see them succeed like that, there’s no better feeling.”