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Notes: Turnout high for optional workout

Notes: Turnout high for optional workout

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BOSTON -- By putting the word "optional" in front of "workout," there was a chance Red Sox manager Terry Francona could have been left with a near-empty Fenway Park field late Thursday morning.

Instead, it was almost a full house on a sun-splashed, unseasonably warm day. Just about every player on the Red Sox arrived to work on what could have been an off-day and got the blood flowing.

This, after Josh Beckett's pitching clinic led the Sox to a 4-0 victory in Game 1 of this American League Division Series against the Angels on Wednesday.

There were no games Monday and Tuesday, before yet another day off on Thursday. Boston is trying to strike the balance between rest and rust.

"I think everybody comes because they want to get out there," said Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis. "You don't want to just take the day off, because if you sit around, you can tighten up a little bit. It's a great day, 80 degrees in Boston at this time of year. It feels like we're in Anaheim. Who wouldn't want to come in here and hit and get some running in? There's going to be a lot more off-days after this. Maybe Saturday when we get in at 4 in the morning, that might be a better day to not show up at the ballpark."

The staggered schedule of this series combined with Beckett's complete game gives the Red Sox a thoroughly rested bullpen. Every Boston reliever will have had four full days without pitching in a game situation when the Sox and Angels play Game 2 on Friday night.

"I think it's good," said Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. "We'll take rest any time we can get it."

Of course, the key is to make it a productive kind of rest.

"I think we all hope that we don't get in a situation where you're overusing [relievers]," said Francona. "And I think we also hope that when you get into a situation where you need a pivotal out from your bullpen that they'll be rested, not rusty. That's why we have these optional workouts today."

And Francona couldn't help but be prideful with the turnout.

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"And as you can see, our guys really do the right thing," Francona said. "It's not mandatory. We don't want somebody out there just to show us that they're out there. We had everybody that needed to throw, throw. We had guys hit. It's just for their benefit, so we can take out rust if it's potentially there and just continue to let them play their game to the best of their ability."

Youk back in swing: One of the most encouraging signs of the Game 1 victory was the way Youkilis swung the bat. He smashed a homer and a double, showing no ill effects from the right wrist injury that plagued him during the latter part of the regular season.

"I got a cortisone shot [a couple of weeks ago] and that helped out a lot," said Youkilis. "Ever since, it's been great. It's just a matter of building strength in it, and I'm just excited to swing it without pain."

Tough act to follow: Was there anything for Game 2 starter Daisuke Matsuzaka to learn from the gem fired by Beckett in Game 1?

"Well, if Daisuke wants to, [he can] throw 97 [mph] with cut, a curveball ... and a really good changeup," quipped Francona. "I think Daisuke's considered a rookie by Major League standards, and he's definitely had a lot thrown at him for the first time, but he's not a rookie. He's a pretty established professional pitcher."


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Though the Angels have yet to see Matsuzaka, it remains to be seen how much of an advantage that will be.

"I don't think it really matters at this point," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "Same thing I always say. It comes down to us executing pitches. Whether they've seen him a thousand times like Tampa Bay, or against a team that hasn't seen him, if he executes his pitches, that's what pitching is about."

Ellsbury's impact: Though Jacoby Ellsbury will likely play in smaller doses during the postseason than he did during September, when he subbed for an injured Manny Ramirez, he'll get his chances to make something happen. Francona inserted Ellsbury for defense in place of Ramirez for the top of the ninth inning of Game 1. The result? A diving catch that robbed Chone Figgins of a hit.

"The tools are there that everybody can see," Francona said. "But for a young kid, he has the willingness to be ready. He's done his homework on all their pitchers. So when he does pinch-run, he'll be as game ready as possible. I don't want to say that play [from Game 1] makes or breaks the game, but it shows what he is able to do. And maybe he makes that play later on in the series with men on base."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["league_championship_series" ] }
{"content":["league_championship_series" ] }
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