If political writers covered baseball

With apologies to The Washington Post.

This is Playoff Week. That, in reality, is about all that anyone knows outside Terry Francona’s inner, inner circle — that sometime in the next week the Boston Red Sox General Manager will announce his pitching lineup against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Beyond that, the baseball world is in a zone of fevered speculation.

Nothing is certain, and one sign of how jittery everyone is about the timing and the choice came a few hours ago, when the gossipy PROSportsDaily.com posted an item that said, “Paper: Red Sox may announce pitching lineup in AM.” That set off alarms in newsrooms across the country until the team’s front office shot it down — although it was not clear exactly what they were shooting down, other than that the announcement would come early this morning.

There was a widespread assumption, based on nothing solid from the campaign, that Francona could make his announcement this morning, this afternoon, or stage a multi-day rollout. Now, in a twist that goes against recent history, there are signs that Francona may wait to announce his choice until this weekend or just before game one on Monday in hopes of providing a big boost before the series opens.

In addition to giving some playoff-eve energy to the Red Sox, a late-in-the-week rollout would have another benefit in the eyes of his loyalists. It could help overshadow the other dominant story heading into the playoff, which is the long-running drama involving Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz and his girlfriend, Erica Ericsen, the 2007 Penthouse Pet of the year.

An announcement late in the week suggests that the Red Sox coaching staff believes that, in an era of 24/7 coverage and increasingly shortened news cycles, sustaining interest in a multi-day rollout has become increasingly difficult. Last year, Francona, the World Series winning manager, choreographed a five-day rollout of his choice of starting pitchers. Media attention spans today are considerably shorter.

Francona could move whenever he’s ready, but if he makes his announcement sooner than Friday, it would mean disrupting a schedule that is already set. He will be in Boston on Tuesday for a meeting with the coaching staff, an important event that he probably won’t want to overshadow with a pitching lineup announcement.

One possibility is Curt Schilling will get the call in game one. Schilling ….

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