NEW YORK: In order to stay in contention, the Red Sox are exploring new ways to stay fresh.
The club is in its first week of a three-plus-week experiment in reducing wear and tear.
With the team already playing longer ballgames than any other, it faces a grueling second-half schedule in which 57 percent of the games will be on the road, plus it’s at a point in the summer where temperatures are peaking.
In response, the ballclub is dialing back on its workday and workload. Later arrivals to the ballpark and less time for batting practice are the most prominent changes.
It’s all about self-preservation for a team that is averaging 3:14 per game this season — a hefty margin above the major league average of 3:04, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“Here’s the thing,” said Sox manager John Farrell before yesterday’s 5-2 win against the New York Yankees. “We play, on average, (10) minutes longer than anybody else. Over the course of 162 games, that’s 10 extra games a year. So, we looked hard and fast at that. There’s a finite pie of human performance.
“In a nutshell, it’s quality over quantity, it’s to make our work more focused than it’s been.”
During the course of a normal season, the Red Sox have had no policy about the earliest time players are allowed to arrive at the ballpark. Now, the team doesn’t want anyone to show up before 2:30 in the afternoon for a normal 7:10 night game.
“We’re taking it out of their hands, so guys don’t feel obligated if they’re not there by a certain time,” said Farrell. “Is that stressful for them anymore? No.”
The team is not stopping there.
Batting practice time at home has been nearly halved. Instead of lasting for 70 minutes at Fenway Park, it’s now 40 minutes with shorter rounds for each batter.
On the road, bus times from the hotel to the ballpark are now coordinated so that the earliest bus does not arrive before the clubhouse opens, said Farrell.
The idea to limit time at the ballpark grew out of internal discussions, with the current experiment designed to last through the end of the three-city West Coast trip that begins July 28, when the team travels to play the Los Angeles Angels, then heads up to Seattle before returning to Los Angeles to play the Dodgers.
Farrell said that the players “understand” the change to their schedules, a change that could become permanent.
After that next West Coast series, the club will play at home for a week, before heading for a four-city trip that includes a single night in Cleveland, two games in Baltimore, a four-game series in Detroit where the first will be played in the afternoon after a night game in Baltimore, followed by four games in St. Petersburg.
After another weeklong homestand, the team will return to the West Coast for stops in Oakland and San Diego before flying to Toronto. That trip will be followed by a one-week homestand before the team jets off for one more three-city, 11-day trip.