Sox, Angels starters waiting in wings

Sox, Angels starters waiting in wings

ANAHEIM -- They'll be down in the bullpen with all of their teams' other relievers, but they might as well be separated from everyone else and locked in something akin to a dunk tank adorned with a sign reading "In Case of Emergency, Break Glass."

Boston's Tim Wakefield and Paul Byrd. Jered Weaver and Jon Garland of the Angels. They are the starters who won't start in the American League Division Series that continues Sunday with Game 3 at Fenway Park, where the Halos will be hoping to stave off a sweep.

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Wakefield, Byrd, Weaver and Garland each made at least 30 starts during the regular season, but thanks to the drawn-out ALDS schedule that allows both teams to go with a three-man rotation, they'll be working exclusively in relief in the first round.

Unless, of course, they don't work at all. The Red Sox would love to avoid using Wakefield or Byrd, and the Angels feel the same way about Weaver and Garland.

"They're here mostly to provide length," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "So if a starter has to leave early, that's probably when you'll see them, or if we're in a situation where the game is going to go to the 11th inning or later."

"It's another two weapons in the bullpen," Angels catcher Mike Napoli said. "I'd like to not use them, though, because if we don't, that means the game's under control."

Garland and Weaver both were on red alert in Game 2 on Friday after starter Ervin Santana gave up four runs in the first inning, and Wakefield and Byrd would be wise to be ready early Sunday, given the uncertainty with Game 3 starter Josh Beckett's recent oblique strain.

Weaver, who went 11-10 with a 4.33 ERA in 30 regular-season starts, isn't shy about playing counter to the athlete's competitive creed.

GAME 3: JUST THE FACTS
Fenway Park, Sunday, 7:17 p.m. ET
Angels starter: LHP Joe Saunders
2008: 17-7, 3.41 ERA
2008 on road: 10-3, 2.55 ERA
2008 vs. Red Sox: 2-0, 3.38 ERA
Career vs. Red Sox: 4-0, 2.75 ERA
Career postseason: no appearances
Red Sox starter: RHP Josh Beckett
2008: 12-10, 4.03 ERA
2008 at home: 5-5, 5.65 ERA
2008 vs. Angels: 0-2, 7.43 ERA
Career vs. Angels: 2-2, 3.99 ERA
Career postseason: 6-2, 1.73 ERA (nine starts, one relief appearance)
Red Sox lead series, 2-0. Boston has beaten the Halos a record 11 consecutive times in the postseason, dating back to Game 5 of the 1986 American League Championship Series.
Game 2: Red Sox 7, Angels 5
Did You Know? The Red Sox are 30-15 over the past six postseasons, good for a Major League-best .667 postseason winning percentage over that time.

"Hopefully, they don't have to go to me; we hope to avoid that scenario," he said. "It's strange to say that, but that's the reality. Obviously, it's little different than what we're used to."

Particularly for Weaver, who is the youngest -- he will spend part of his 26th birthday on Saturday working out with his teammates at Fenway -- of the quartet of starters-turned-long men and the only one among with zero professional bullpen experience.

The last time Weaver came out of the bullpen was during his junior year at Simi Valley (Calif.) High School, so the Angels sent him to instructional league in Arizona last week for a little work.

"It's more of a mind-set than anything else," Halos pitching coach Mike Butcher said of the difference between starting and relieving. "[As a reliever you] just go as hard as you can as long as you can.

"The routine's a little disrupted, but it's still 60 feet, six inches."

Wakefield, 42, knows better than most how to tweak his preparation for relief work. He's has appeared out of the bullpen 141 times in his 541 career regular-season games, and he's made seven of his 17 career playoff appearances in relief, pitching in three series.

"It is what it is," said Wakefield, who went 10-11 with a 4.13 ERA in 30 starts this season. "It's the same thing. I've done it before, and obviously the routine is cut a little bit short, but you make the adjustments you need to make."

Wakefield, however, does not have a history of postseason success out of the 'pen. In Boston's 1999 ALDS against Cleveland, he allowed three runs over two innings in two outings. In the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees, he pitched in three games and posted an 8.59 ERA over 7 1/3 innings.


"Hopefully, they don't have to go to me; we hope to avoid that scenario. It's strange to say that, but that's the reality. Obviously, it's little different than what we're used to."
-- Angels pitcher
Jered Weaver

And then there was the 2003 ALCS against the Yankees. Wakefield made two starts in that series before being summoned for the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 7 at Yankee Stadium. He surrendered Aaron Boone's epic homer in the 11th.

"I don't care what any numbers say," said Boston catcher Jason Varitek. "Tim's got a lot of experience, and we have a lot of faith in him when he's on the mound."

Wakefield, a knuckleballer, said he focuses solely on his signature pitch when he's preparing for a relief appearance. Garland, who went 14-8 with a 4.90 ERA in 32 regular-season starts, takes a similar approach.

Garland, 29, has never pitched out of the 'pen in the playoffs, but he made 23 relief appearances for the White Sox early in his career, going 2-1 with a 3.23 ERA over 29 innings.

"You try and get your two best pitches ready," he said. "For me, I'll try and get my best two and then try and get my third ready if there's time. If not, I'm going with the two."

Byrd, 37, has made 88 career regular-season relief appearances and has pitched out of the bullpen twice in the playoffs. He went a combined 11-12 with a 4.60 ERA in 30 regular-season starts this year for the Indians and Red Sox, who traded for him Aug. 12.

Byrd, in fact, said he'd shine shoes if it meant staying on Boston's playoff roster. And Garland, who was so displeased with the way he pitched in September -- 7.18 ERA in five starts -- said, "I wouldn't start me in the playoffs, either."

Neither team's skipper is saying which of his starters will move back into the rotation should his team advance to the best-of-seven ALCS. So for now, the starters who don't start will have to just sit back, enjoy the unique perspective offered by the view from the bullpen, and hope the glass doesn't need to be broken.

"If one of us is in the game," Weaver said, "something's probably gone wrong."

Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.