NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

October 11, 2013

Red Sox pitchers share ideas, success

On Pro Baseball
Christopher Smith

---- — BOSTON — The best part of this year’s Red Sox starting rotation is that the pitchers learned from one another by observing and sharing ideas.

Even veteran Ryan Dempster, who’s pitching out of the bullpen this postseason and had a supbar 4.57 ERA during the regular season, provided sage advice on how to retire batters without a 95 mph fastball.

“Demp has been a guy who really has allowed other pitchers to kind of see what he does and realize that it’s not always, ‘Pitch this way, this way, this way,’” catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “You can go against the book at times and still have success.”

Improved starting pitching is the biggest reason the Boston Red Sox are in the American League Championship Series, which starts tomorrow at 8:07 p.m. at Fenway Park.

Boston’s 3.79 staff ERA during the regular season was the club’s best ERA since 2002 (3.75) — and way down from last year’s horrendous 4.70 mark.

Sox starters combined for a 3.65 ERA in their ALDS victory over the Rays, earning them a solid “B” in my grade book.

But winning the ALDS likely will require better than a “B.”

John Lester will start Game 1. The lefty needs to just keep doing what he did in Game 1 of the ALDS when his fastball had a lot of life — it averaged 94.2 mph, 1.5 mph fastball than it averaged during the regular season — and he was commanding it for strikes (67.7 percent).

Boston manager John Farrell still hasn’t announced the rest of his rotation.

Don’t be surprised if Farrell goes with Clay Buchholz in Game 2 Sunday and pitches John Lackey on the road in Game 3, unlike in the ALDS when he did the reverse.

Jake Peavy likely will be the Game 4 starter, although he pitched so well Tuesday there is a chance Farrell could use him in Game 3. Peavy had arguably the second-best start in the ALDS behind’s Lester’s Game 1 victory.

The right-hander was craving the chance to pitch in the playoffs and allowed just one run on five hits and didn’t surrender a walk in his 5.2 innings. He threw just 74 pitches, and the only reason Farrell relieved him when he did was because the next batter, James Loney, had previous success against the right-hander.

“Jake’s just getting the ball and going and working hard and working fast — never giving in,” Saltalamacchia added.

Lackey and Buchholz obviously must pitch better than they did the ALDS.