Donnelly can't help but feel bittersweet
Brendan Donnelly was 30 years old and had spent 10 years in the minors, including two go-rounds with independent league teams, when he was promoted to a big-league roster for the first time by the Angels. That was in 2002, a year that could not have ended better for Donnelly and the Angels, as they won the World Series, one in which he pitched five times and allowed just one hit in 7 2/3 scoreless innings.
How desperate is he to pitch five years later for the Red Sox against his former team in the Division Series? Well, he has been wearing a glove on his throwing hand, which he can't use to pitch after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery in August. Making a comeback as a lefthander?
"I'm working on a cutter so I can get righthanders out," Donnelly deadpanned. "I'm working hard, trying to work my way into a roster spot for the World Series, absolutely.
"If I could, I would," he said, turning serious. "I want to be out there more than anybody else. The whole thing is bittersweet, that I can't help. But I can watch these guys go to work and be their No. 1 fan, and get a ring with another team."
Donnelly, who was traded by the Angels to the Sox last December, was part of a bullpen in 2002 that led the American League with a 2.98 ERA. Some of the names have changed - most notably closer Troy Percival - but the Angels still have a strong pen, with closer Francisco Rodriguez, veteran setup man Scot Shields, and new setup man Justin Speier, who essentially replaced Donnelly after being signed as a free agent out of Toronto.
Donnelly believes the Boston pen may be even deeper, and cites the progress of Manny Delcarmen, who was perhaps the team's most reliable setup man the last two months. Delcarmen was scored upon in just three of his last 26 appearances dating to July 31, and ended the season with 10 consecutive scoreless appearances. He held batters to a .179 average in that span, striking out 21 in 24 innings while allowing 10 walks and 15 hits. Of the 12 runners he inherited, just three scored.
The walks are more than the Sox would like, but in his last nine appearances, spanning 8 1/3 innings, Delcarmen walked just one while striking out eight.
"He owes me - I already told him," said Donnelly, whose injury opened up a spot for Delcarmen. "He's come up and basically he's doing what everybody expected him to do. Everybody knew he was good. It was a matter of him actually doing it up here. He was up here a little bit before. I've been telling him, 'You're going to be huge, you're going to be huge in these roles. You better get ready.'
"What he's done has been expected, but I think he's done a little bit more, which is nice. He's got everything that's needed to be - I don't know if I want to use the word dominant yet - but he's a very, very good back-end reliever."
Of Delcarmen's 44 appearances this season, half came in the seventh inning. He was used 10 times in the eighth inning, but only once when the Sox had been ahead by fewer than three runs. But he has pitched well enough to give Terry Francona another eighth-inning option.
"I wouldn't hesitate to give a few guys the ball in the eighth inning," Donnelly said. "I'd give the ball to [Eric] Gagné in the eighth inning. He's going to get people out. Obviously, you've got [Mike ] Timlin, who's done it forever. Manny, who's stepping up, and [Hideki] Okajima. Do you give the nod to Okajima immediately because of what he's done this year? Probably. But can Manny do it? Absolutely."
Final cutsFrancona indicated he might be ready to announce the remainder of his postseason roster today, though he has until 10 a.m. tomorrow. Francona said the coaches and scouts would have a voice in a meeting last night to pare the roster. "It's not that it's so secretive," said Francona. "We actually do want to firm up some things. I want to let some people have some opinions. I don't know that I'm able to be swayed at this point on how I feel, but I want it to be an open forum. It will be a long, somewhat fun, probably somewhat tedious, sometimes even argumentative, night tonight, which we need. It's a good night. Then we'll sort it all out tomorrow and talk to the players." . . . David Ortiz was selected the American League Player of the Month and Jacoby Ellsbury the AL Rookie of the Month. Ortiz batted .396 with nine homers and 27 RBIs in 26 games. Ellsbury hit .361 with three homers and 17 RBIs in 26 games, hitting safely in 23 of those.
Men of stealThe Angels' running game will receive a good deal of attention in this series. The Angels led the league with 139 stolen bases, to Boston's 96. However, the Red Sox had a considerably better success rate - 80 percent (96 of 120) to the Angels' 71.6 percent (139 of 194). The Angels succeeded on 10 of their 11 stolen base attempts against the Sox, including three in one game (Aug. 8). The only time an Angels runner was thrown out was Aug. 19, when Kevin Cash nailed Macier Izturis.
But the Sox succeeded in 7 of 8 attempts against the Angels, including a three-steal performance Aug. 6, all coming with Jered Weaver on the mound. The only Sox runner caught by the Angels was Julio Lugo, who was picked off by lefty Joe Saunders Aug. 19.
Curt Schilling has by far the best numbers of the three Sox starters scheduled to pitch in this series in controlling the running game. Runners have attempted only six steals against him, with five succeeding. When Josh Beckett pitched, 6 of 20 runners were caught, a 30 percent success rate. When Daisuke Matsuzaka was on the mound, Jason Varitek threw out 6 of 24 runners (25 percent rate), while Doug Mirabelli threw out the only runner who tried to steal on him while Matsuzaka was pitching.
"We know they're a team that uses the running game extensively in their offensive approach," pitching coach John Farrell said. "Whether we look to do something different, we still have to execute pitches in the strike zone. We still have to be able to give Jason or Doug a chance to throw some people out if they do attempt to steal.
"There becomes a little bit more responsibility on the shoulders of the pitchers to be able to unload the ball in an adequate delivery time to allow those things to happen. The one thing we can't do is sacrifice location, which becomes a two-run homer rather than a single with a man on base."
Cal's callCal Ripken, who is working as an analyst for TBS during the playoffs, picked the Red Sox to win the World Series . . . Regulars who showed up at Fenway Park for yesterday's optional workout included Varitek, Lugo, Dustin Pedroia, J.D. Drew, Kevin Youkilis, Beckett, Alex Cora, Manny Ramírez, and Mike Lowell . . . Was Francona watching the Phillies clinch with interest? Francona, after all, managed Philadelphia from 1997-2000. "There's some good people that I went through some difficult times with," Francona said. "I remember how some of those people treated me when things weren't very good." He specifically mentioned Frank Coppenbarger, director of team travel and clubhouse services, and Bill Giles, chairman of the Phillies.
Amalie Benjamin of the Globe staff contributed to this report.