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Notes: Francona sticking with Drew

Notes: Francona sticking with Drew

CLEVELAND -- The Red Sox have a young and dynamic player sitting on the bench in Jacoby Ellsbury. Therefore, when right fielder J.D. Drew gets off to a slow start -- as he has in this postseason -- manager Terry Francona is bound to be questioned about Ellsbury seeing more action.

But Francona thinks his team is better off with Drew in the starting lineup and Ellsbury's blazing speed available for the late innings. So there Drew was, back out there for Game 3 of this American League Championship Series vs. the Indians, batting sixth and starting in right field.

Drew did start Game 1 on the bench, but that was because of Bobby Kielty's history of success against C.C. Sabathia.

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"I think this is our lineup," Francona said. "Again, Kielty will play against C.C. [in Game 5], because I think it is something that makes us better. Our team is our team and we'll go play. Certainly Ellsbury can maybe impact the game like he did the other night [as a pinch-runner]. But I don't think we need to deviate from our team."

Though Drew struggled for much of his first season in Boston, he had a strong September. Thus far, that has not carried into October. The left-handed hitter entered Game 3 hitting .222 (4-for-18) with one run scored, no homers and three RBIs in the postseason.

"I think we'd all like our guys to have eight hits, but that's just the way the game is," Francona said. "You've got to just play. I think I'd be doing our team more of an injustice by making wholesale changes."

In October 2004, the public outcry was for Francona to sit second baseman Mark Bellhorn, who struggled mightily for the first eight games of the postseason that year. But Francona stuck by Bellhorn, who wound up with two crucial home runs in helping the Red Sox to their first World Series championship in 86 years.

Perhaps Drew will be the one to reward Francona's confidence this time.

"If I could TiVo it and you could tell me [Ellsbury's] going to get four hits and steal three [bases], I'd do it," Francona said. "Not being able to do that, I'll stay with our lineup."

Ellsbury's nerves of steal: Francona said on the eve of this postseason that it's not fair to compare anyone to Dave Roberts, who came up with the biggest steal in the history of the franchise in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS.

But Ellsbury did a pretty good impression in Game 2 of this series, pinch-running for Dustin Pedroia in the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game and stealing second. However, Kevin Youkilis lined out to end the inning, so Ellsbury could not score a winning run which would have given him a special place in franchise lore.

"He did a good job of paying attention," Francona said. "I asked him before the Angels series, I said, 'I want you to get comfortable with every pitcher, because you may get one chance and if it slides by, that might have been your chance.' [Rafael Betancourt] slide stepped the first pitch, but he's not a guy that's comfortable staying with it. He went the second pitch and didn't even get a throw. He did a good job."

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Mirabelli will catch Game 4: With Tim Wakefield making his first start of this postseason in Game 4, Jason Varitek will be out of the lineup. Doug Mirabelli always catches Wakefield.

Like Wakefield, Mirabelli hasn't had any game action since Sept. 30.

"I'll be surprised if he doesn't have good at-bats," said Francona. "Even though Paul Byrd can be Paul Byrd -- without that velocity, it probably gives Dougie a better chance. When Dougie sits for an extended period, the guys with the velocity tend to give him a little bit of a tougher time, which was understandable."

Lopez struggling with lefties: When Trot Nixon beat Sox lefty specialist Javy Lopez with a bloop single in Game 3, it added to an ongoing theme. Lopez has not been as effective against lefties as the Red Sox would like him to be.

Lefties hit .293 against him during the regular season. Strangely enough, Lopez held righties to a .176 average.

"That's a little bit of a surprising stat, because that's why we got him here," Francona said. "The way we viewed him when we got him was to be that left-handed guy who would just mow down lefties, and he's been a guy that we can leave out there because he's getting the righties out. I think as he goes forward in his career, strike one to left-handers [will be important]. When he gets strike one, things loosen up for him. He attacks. Sometimes when he gets behind, he starts trying to make it go somewhere and starts losing some of his effectiveness."

Wake was ready: As Game 2 ventured into extra innings, Wakefield had a thought he always seems to get during October. He was ready to help Francona by volunteering for bullpen duty. After all, Francona had used all of his relievers by the time Jon Lester came on during the seven-run 11th inning by the Indians.

"There was a thought in my mind," said Wakefield. "I was actually getting prepared at that point to possibly go into the bullpen."

Francona appreciates Wakefield's team-first attitude. But in that situation, he wouldn't have taken him up on it.

Instead, Lester would have basically pitched all night.

"Lester is stretched out," Francona said. "He would have had multiple innings. If we would have put up zeroes, he would have stayed out there."

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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