Infielder, recovering from knee injury, shows improvement in baserunning drills
By Ian Browne and Quinn Roberts
BOSTON -- The Red Sox are feeling optimistic about Eduardo Nunez's availability for the American League Division Series presented by Doosan against the Astros, which starts Thursday at Minute Maid Park.
"Everything points to him being available in this series," said Red Sox manager John Farrell.
The valuable right-handed hitter and versatile defender has played just once since Sept. 9 due to a PCL sprain in his right knee, but he's had a couple of productive work days since the regular season ended.
Nunez played in a sim game at Fenway Park on Monday, and he did some more baserunning on Tuesday which included sliding.
"As a comparison, from the baserunning in Cincinnati [nine days ago], it was a marked improvement if you're comparing those two dates," Farrell said. "He had six at-bats live against Roenis Elias yesterday to get some kind of game speed to him."
The hope is that Nunez is mobile enough to play defense. In particular, Farrell would like to start him at third base in Game 2 against lefty Dallas Keuchel.
Nunez could DH in Game 1, but Farrell was encouraged by the way Hanley Ramirez swung the bat down the stretch and he could go in that direction instead.
Pedroia feels rejuvenated Dustin Pedroia had the final two days of the regular season off, and when you add in the three additional days leading up to Thursday's Game 1, nobody has benefited more from the time down than the second baseman, who has dealt with a problematic left knee all season.
"The last couple of days off have helped him," said Farrell. "We know that this is a little bit of a situation that's a work in progress. I don't anticipate it really changing. I do know this: He is chomping at the bit to begin this series and the postseason, and he'll be out there every available day."
Park factors similar
While the Red Sox look forward to playing at home for Game 3, the fact that Minute Maid Park has a similar layout to Fenway will make evaluations for Farrell a little easier going into the series.
"The parks are somewhat similar to be honest with you," said Farrell. "Short left-field porch. Some defensive alignments may resemble Fenway or vice versa because we see their defensive alignment as they line up against us similar here as when we went to Minute Maid. I don't think that the ballpark dimensions will be an overriding factor in terms of a match-up."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook. Quinn Roberts is a reporter for MLB.com based in Boston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.