The only thing in question at the moment is who the final pitcher will be. One thing was made clear. It will not be Craig Hansen, the prized closer out of St. John's who was drafted by the Red Sox as the 26th overall pick back in June's First-Year Player Draft.
"Craig had a fantastic first year as a professional player. We weren't counting on him to be on the postseason roster," said Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein. "We think asking him to be on the postseason roster wouldn't have really been fair. We thought it was best for him in September not to pitch on back-to-back days. He's got unbelievable ability and a really great approach to the game. He's got a lot to learn. He's got a great attitude. He's going to have a very productive offseason and report to Spring Training."
Hansen was promoted to the Red Sox on Sept. 19, and was lights out in his Major League debut that night, striking out two in a 1-2-3 inning against the Devil Rays. But his subsequent three outings weren't as crisp.
With Hansen out of the mix, it appears that the last spot is between left-hander Lenny DiNardo and right-hander Jeremi Gonzalez. DiNardo, who spent most of the season as a starter at Triple-A Pawtucket, was strong for the Red Sox in September, going 0-1 with an 0.69 ERA. Four of those five outings were out of the 'pen.
One reason the Red Sox can go with 10 pitchers instead of 11 is that starter Bronson Arroyo, who has a rubber arm, will be used in relief.
"I think there are a lot of factors," said Epstein. "One is the first round, it's only five games, you do have that off-day, and then you look at sort of how the rest of your staff is constituted. We think we're covered in a variety of situations. Obviously, if we play four 15-inning games, we're going to be scrapping. I think, realistically, we're in pretty good shape with what we have with our 10 guys. I think we're more likely to go with 11 in subsequent rounds."
While Matt Clement, David Wells, Tim Wakefield and Curt Schilling occupy the starting rotation, the bullpen will be filled out by Arroyo, Chad Bradford, Mike Myers, Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Timlin and whoever wins the final spot.
Bench spots: With 15 position player spots, the Sox had enough space for utility infielder Kevin Youkilis, utilityman Alejandro Machado and outfielder Adam Hyzdu.
Youkilis was a given once he proved he was recovered from a fracture on the tip of his right finger. Hyzdu was a relative certainty once Gabe Kapler ruptured his Achilles tendon. However, Machado pretty much earned his way on to the roster by impressing Francona and the club's brass.
The Red Sox acquired Machado as a Minor League free agent the day before pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training. He had a solid year for Pawtucket before being called up at the beginning of September.
"Machado provides speed and excellent overall baserunning and defensive versatility. We're comfortable with him in the infield and in the outfield," said Epstein.
Millar at first: While John Olerud started at first base against the majority of right-handers down the stretch, Kevin Millar will draw the start in Game 1.
The reason? He is 5-for-10 lifetime against White Sox starter Jose Contreras, including two home runs.
Foulke set for surgery: Red Sox closer Keith Foulke, who won't pitch again until 2006, will undergo surgery on his right knee on Thursday. Foulke underwent surgery on the left knee back on July 7, and tried to return, but wasn't strong enough to make an impact.
Experience matters: After going to Game 7 of the American League Championship Series and winning the World Series last year, the Red Sox clearly have the edge in experience entering this series. They will try to use that to their benefit.
"Let's put it this way: If I had a young team, I would say it's overrated," said Epstein. "But this team's been through the playoff wars before. I think when your back is against the wall, you do draw on that. When you've succeeded in those situations in the past, it's a reassuring feeling. But we're not afraid of young players."
One, in particular, figures to be a huge factor in this series for the Red Sox in Papelbon.
A different Contreras: Everyone knows the story by now. In December 2002, Epstein and Yankees general manager Brian Cashman got into an epic battle for free agent Contreras, and the Yankees won. Then it became comical for a while among Red Sox fans, as the Sox basically pounded Contreras every time they faced him. But after moving to the White Sox last July, Contreras has become a different pitcher. He has pitched the best baseball of his career down the stretch of this season.
"He's had a really good second half," Epstein said. "I think he's probably pitching as well as he ever has in the big leagues."
The Red Sox will try to change that on Tuesday.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.