There's a way for Terry Francona to avoid the question about which closer he'll choose to finish the All-Star Game. He's already been asked - ad nauseam - if he'd pick his own, Jonathan Papelbon, or Mariano Rivera, who has helped add to the history in Yankee Stadium.
Perhaps there's another solution: Start Rivera.
It's an idea that has been circulating in recent days as a way of honoring Yankee Stadium - site of Tuesday's game - and Rivera, although he has started just 10 games in his 14-year career, none since his rookie season in 1995.
The first three questions during yesterday's All-Star conference call, with American League manager Francona and National League manager Clint Hurdle, had to do with Rivera starting. And Francona deflected all of them.
"What we're going to do is we're going to try to do multiple things," said Francona, who emphasized that his starter will not be named until Monday. "We're going to try to win the game. We're going to try to use people appropriately and do what we can. We are aware of where we're playing, who some of the guys are who are representing some teams, and try to do that respectfully.
"You are expected to take a starter because that's the rules you play under. How we go forward this week, we have time to do that. I think the Mariano thing is picking up steam, but I think that everybody and every situation is going to be treated with some respect for where we're playing."
With the Yankees leaving the Stadium in 2009, the All-Star Game will be a celebration of the place and its history. Tribute will be paid to players like Rivera (1.06 ERA, 23 for 23 in save opportunities) and fellow All-Star Derek Jeter, as well as the history that has made the place special. As Hurdle said yesterday, "First and foremost, it's a museum. It's a baseball museum. It's holding hands with Fenway; it's holding hands with Wrigley. It's special. They're dripping with historic ambience of the game."
If Rivera were to start, which seems a long shot, he would get a moment to himself, a moment to be honored by the crowd, something that isn't guaranteed if he isn't used until the end of what might not be a close contest.
Or Francona can always go with Papelbon's suggestion of which pitcher to call on in the ninth inning of a close All-Star Game: "Curt Schilling."
Welcome respiteThere's no question the Red Sox were looking forward to yesterday's offday. There haven't been many in the first half of the season; more rest is built into the second half.
Yesterday marked the Sox' ninth day off in the first 92 games, excluding the two March games in Japan, with three games left until the All-Star break. In the second half, with 65 games left, the Red Sox have eight days off.
"I think, physically, this team has had a rough schedule from the time we've been in Tampa till now," Jason Varitek said Wednesday. "Not necessarily who we're playing, but as far as night game, day game, get in at 5 [a.m.], night game, day game, day game, night game, extra innings, get in at 5. We were all swinging in water the first game here, then back to night game, day game."