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Notes: Lester happy to be active

Notes: Lester happy to be active

BOSTON -- Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester has been placed in an entirely unpredictable role in this postseason, and he loves it. The alternative -- one Lester suspected was possible before the playoffs started, but never materialized -- was that he wouldn't have been on the roster at all.

Considering that last year at this time, Lester was in the midst of undergoing chemotherapy treatment for anaplastic large cell lymphoma, you'd be correct to assume that he is plenty happy to be an active participant in the American League Championship Series, no matter the role.

"If we have a rain delay, I'll do that," said Lester. "If we have an extra-inning game, I'll go do that. If they want me to face one hitter, I'll do that. I don't care. I just want to pitch. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to."

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After returning from an extended rehab in the Minor Leagues, Lester slid into the Boston rotation in July and went 4-0 with a 4.57 ERA in 11 starts.

Though he's been a starter throughout his career, the Red Sox figured Lester could adapt well enough be a potentially important part of the bullpen during this critical time of year.

"It's good [to have Lester], because you never know," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "Rain, weather, a line drive off a shin, something crazy happens. You try to maximize your roster. This guards against something happening and your series being ruined because of something unforeseen."

While players crave defined roles, Lester knows that the rules change in October.

"I'd rather be where I'm at now than not on the roster and sitting around knowing I'm not going to pitch no matter what," said Lester. "Now, if there's a rain delay or if a pitcher doesn't go very deep, then I can hopefully get in there and kill some innings."

Francona sensed Lester's excitement prior to the Angels series when he informed the young southpaw that he was part of the roster.

"[He was] very [excited]," said Francona. "His competitive juices, when he found out last series that he was on [the roster], he was very excited. I'd say more than excited, kind of driven. That hasn't changed."

Lester -- who didn't get into a game in the AL Division Series -- isn't the type of pitcher who will shy away from the type of moments October brings.

"I want to pitch. I want to pitch every day," said Lester. "I want to pitch, and hopefully I do pitch. At the same time, hopefully I don't. It's kind of one of those catch-22s that comes with that role. That's something that I have to accept. As a competitor, I want to go out there and pitch."

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Sizing up Sizemore: Indians leadoff man Grady Sizemore might not have the name recognition of some of the other stars around baseball, but he clearly has the respect of the Red Sox entering this series.

"I think Grady is one of those guys, much like [Vladimir] Guerrero was when he was in Montreal," said Red Sox right-hander Curt Schilling. "I think he's somehow flown under the radar, because I look at him as very much an impact player. You know, he's a 30-35 home run guy who plays Gold Glove outfield, hits at the top of the lineup, gets on base almost 40 percent of the time. Probably Johnny Damon with more power."

Reaching out to a friend: Because Joe Torre has managed the Yankees for the last 12 years and Francona has served in that capacity for the Red Sox since 2004, you can view the two managers as rivals in a sense. But that doesn't mean they aren't friends.

With buzz circulating throughout New York about whether Torre will be back in the Yankees' dugout next season, Francona left his friend a message as a show of support.

"I have not spoken to him," Francona said. "I left a message for him and, understandably, his phone was off. I don't blame him."

Wakefield good to go: Veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who threw a simulated game on Tuesday in preparation for his Game 4 start at Jacobs Field, has experienced no ill effects in the ensuing days.

"He came through it with flying colors," Francona said. "After he threw the five innings, he went out and played catch the next day, which is always a good sign. He's doing OK."

Wakefield was left off the Division Series roster because of pain in the back of his right shoulder.

Rested, ready: The Red Sox were clearly ready to play a baseball game after playing just three of them in the previous 11 days. However, the manager doesn't think the five days the Red Sox had to prepare for the Indians provided that much of an advantage from a scouting standpoint.

"As far as the length of the layoff, we didn't do more or less with the time," said Francona. "We have our [scouting] meeting, and we finish our meeting when we feel like we're done. It wasn't rushed, but we did the same thing for Anaheim, the same thing for Cleveland. The length of the layoff didn't affect anything."

Awards time: Even though it's the playoffs, the Red Sox still made time to recognize some individual accomplishments before the game.

Jacoby Ellsbury was presented with the American League's Rookie of the Month Award for September; David Ortiz was awarded the AL Player of the Month and closer Jonathan Papelbon was honored for winning the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Year Award, presented by DHL.

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

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