Five Cuts: The buzz on Manny? Keep him off-balance
Chan Ho Park has somehow revived his career at age 35
Jason Varitek is having an historically bad offensive season
The struggling David Ortiz should consider bunting in the right spot
1. Don't be surprised to see the Phillies still buzz Manny Ramirez with pitches in the NLCS, though not necessarily near his head. The book on Ramirez has been that he doesn't like the ball in on him, and he has been known to get out of his game when pitchers make him move his feet. (See Roger Clemens, 2003 ALCS.) But this other idea that the Phillies have about challenging Manny, especially early in the game? They ought to re-think that one. Ramirez has three walks in three games -- not enough.
2. You might be able to field a respectable starting rotation just with the relievers in the Dodgers bullpen these days: veteran Greg Maddux and rookies Clayton Kershaw and James McDonald are starters during the regular season, Corey Wade has the kind of impressive secondary stuff and success against left-handers to transition to the rotation, and Chan Ho Park -- yes, Chan Ho Park -- has somehow revived his career at age 35 and is throwing as well as he did eight years ago. His fastball is regularly clocked at 96 mph. "What's his contract situation? He's a sleeper starter for somebody next year," said one club pitching expert. The Dodgers signed Park last December to a one-year, $500,000 deal.
3. The decline of Jason Varitek as an offensive threat was obvious in the ninth inning of Game 2 when Boston manager Terry Francona sent J.D. Drew to pinch hit for the 36-year-old catcher--- even through Drew was 1-for-10 lifetime against Rays reliever Dan Wheeler. Varitek is 3-for-21 this postseason with no extra base hits and no RBIs, this after hitting .220 during the regular season with 122 strikeouts. Only one other catcher has ever hit that poorly with that many strikeouts: Charles Johnson (1998). Varitek, a free agent after this season, is a vital part of Boston's emphasis on run prevention and signal calling, but the Red Sox may bring him back only with a short-term deal.
4. Good job by Rays first baseman Carlos Pena trying to drop a bunt away from the drastic defensive overshift leading off the seventh inning in Game 2 against Hideki Okajima. The Red Sox were giving him a gift hit as the leadoff batter in a tie game. Alas, Pena fouled off his attempt and didn't try again. The way David Ortiz is struggling (.174 BA in postseason), he, too, should entertain the idea of a push bunt in the right spot. Ortiz did have an opening in the eighth inning of Game 2 with no outs and Dustin Pedroia at first base against left-hander Trever Miller. Miller obliged him anyway and walked Ortiz.
5. Not sure if you noticed, but Rays catcher Dioner Navarro was giving a system of indicator signs in addition to the usual finger signs when calling pitches in the ALDS at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago with no one on base, a practice generally needed only with a runner at second. According to one executive the White Sox have a reputation, deserved or not, for somehow stealing signs from an outfield vantage point, and the Rays just wanted to be extra careful. It'll be interesting to see if Navarro keeps the more complicated signs at Fenway Park for ALCS Game 3.