BALTIMORE -- The fact that the Red Sox won't know who they are playing in the American League Division Series until Wednesday night isn't a big issue, according to manager John Farrell.
In fact, like a lot of baseball fans, Farrell is looking forward to seeing how the riveting three-team race between Tampa Bay, Texas and Cleveland for the two Wild Card spots finishes.
And the fact those three teams might have to exhaust themselves after a potential three-way tie with multiple games before the ALDS even starts is music to Farrell's ears.
"I guess the way I'd describe it, the final week of the season becomes extremely exciting," Farrell said. "I mean the second Wild Card made all 162 games critical. I think from just a pitching usage standpoint, going up against those potential teams, the more they play the more they've got to use their guys, and maybe the less rest they are afforded might have some effect. Who knows? It's exciting for the game, for sure."
From a scouting standpoint, Farrell thinks the Red Sox will be fine having short notice on their opponent.
The Red Sox will have a day off on Monday. They'll have workouts Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at Fenway. The middle day will even feature some type of intrasquad game.
"Given the way we're covering each team, we'll be able to adjust when that opponent is identified, and we're confident that the process we're going through right now to cover each team will be as in-depth, regardless of the opponent," said Farrell.
Ellsbury, Papi get planned days off
BALTIMORE -- After playing two games in his return from a compression fracture in his right foot, Jacoby Ellsbury was out of the Boston lineup on Saturday. However, there was no setback. It was just part of the gradual process of his return.
"Part of the every other day plan to get him back on the field in these three games," said manager John Farrell. "We fully expect him to go a full nine innings tomorrow. But he came out of the first two games pretty expected from a physical standpoint, which is fine."
David Ortiz also got a night off, marking the first time he hasn't been in Farrell's lineup since Aug. 25.
"Just a day off," said Farrell. "He'll be back in the lineup tomorrow, but this is a chance for us to see a couple of other right-handed hitters against the left-handed starter, but more just a planned down day for him."
Shane Victorino led off and played center field. Stephen Drew batted second, even with lefty Wei-Yin Chen pitching for the Orioles.
Did Farrell give any thought to starting Xander Bogaerts instead of Drew?
"Thought about it," Farrell said. "But again, where Stephen has been so good for us, I thought it was a good opportunity for us to get him a pinch-hit last night for Stephen against a left-hander, and obviously a job well done. We're going to have opportunities for Xander."
Red Sox want to give Thornton long look
BALTIMORE -- Though Red Sox manager John Farrell has a laundry list of situations he wants to see in the final two games, one that sticks out is getting lefty reliever Matt Thornton to the mound.
Thornton is one of several southpaws battling for a spot on the American League Division Series roster. The only lefty reliever who is certain to make the roster is Craig Breslow.
Since Sept. 16, Thornton has pitched just once. He entered Saturday's game having not been used in a week.
"We need to get Matt Thornton on the mound," said Farrell. "We want to get Junichi [Tazawa] to the mound. Our regular guys who have been out there, we certainly want to get them one or two appearances before we end tomorrow. And then to see Felix [Doubront] coming out of the bullpen, whether it's a one, one-plus or two-inning type stint. We're trying to get a number of things accomplished."
Whether or not the Red Sox go with a more situational pitcher like Thornton or someone with better pure stuff such as Doubront could depend on who the Red Sox play in the ALDS, Farrell confirmed.