BOSTON - Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell waited until all of his players safely made it out of a simulated game on Wednesday before confirming what he'd only hinted at before: Left-hander Jon Lester will start Game 1 of the AL division series.
"He's been outstanding in the second half," Farrell said in the clubhouse. "The last couple of starts he's put together for us have been very strong."
Lester, who was 15-8 with a 3.75 ERA this season, but he won his first six decisions and seven of his last nine decisions. From May 20 through the All-Star break, he went 2-6 with a 6.27 ERA.
Lester will be followed in the rotation by John Lackey and Clay Buchholz, with Jake Peavy ready to pitch Game 4 of the best-of-five series if necessary. The Red Sox will play the winner of Wednesday night's AL wild-card game between the Cleveland Indians and the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Red Sox have not played since finishing the regular season on Sept. 29 with a 97-65 record that tied the St. Louis Cardinals for the best in baseball. In order to stay sharp, the Red Sox held a workout on Tuesday and played a simulated game — red vs. blue — on Wednesday.
"Today is part of doing what we can to ensure that we're prepared, and not letting a four-day layoff affect us," Farrell said. "No one's looking at the layoff as a detriment."
Almost 4,000 fans came to the ballpark to hear public address announcer Dick Flavin announce, "Welcome to today's game between the Boston Red Sox and the Boston Red Sox." Children lined up for balloon animals or to have their faces painted while former Red Sox infielder Ted Lepcio signed autographs in the concourse.
The blue team, which included most of the regulars, won 1-0 on a first-inning double by Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
"Obviously, it wasn't a real game atmosphere," infielder Will Middlebrooks said, adding that it was good to see live pitching after one day off and another with a more traditional workout. "Today we picked it up a bit. Two days off is a lot for us. You don't want to get too used to that.
Lester did not pitch in the simulated game. Buchholz went three innings and allowed one run, and Peavy pitched two scoreless innings and Lackey pitched one.
"I'm pretty glad I'm on this side," outfielder Jonny Gomes said after facing his teammates.
Most importantly, no one was hurt. Farrell has been reminded this week that in a scrimmage between the end of the 1946 season and the World Series that year, Ted Williams was hit on the right elbow by a pitch in a tuneup game and went on to bat 5 for 25 — all singles — in the Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Red Sox lost in seven games.
No baserunners tried to break up double plays on Wednesday. And, except for a diving catch in right field by reserve Quintin Berry, nothing especially dangerous happened.
"I think everyone understands the purpose of today," Farrell said before the game, adding after: "Our pitchers were cognizant of not trying to pitch inside. But we got our work in."
Farrell also said on Wednesday that the team will carry 11 pitchers for the post-season. The roster decisions have mostly been made, he said without announcing them; the final rosters are due 10 a.m. on Friday, the morning of Game 1.