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Notes: Schilling to skip season finale

Notes: Schilling to skip season finale

BOSTON -- Less than an hour before Saturday night's game against the Twins, the Red Sox announced that right-hander Curt Schilling will not make his scheduled start in Sunday's regular-season finale.

The move was not health-related. Instead, it was with the idea of getting Schilling ready for the upcoming American League Division Series with the Angels, which starts Wednesday at Fenway Park with ace Josh Beckett on the mound. Schilling is the likely candidate to start Game 2 on Friday. Daisuke Matsuzaka figures to start Game 3.

"We talked to [Schilling] all week about what could happen and how we wanted [things] to happen, and we finally came to the decision that rather than cut him short, we'll just not pitch him and let him throw some sides and things like that for preparation for when he starts," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona.

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Francona is expected to officially announce the Division Series rotation before Sunday's game.

Because the Red Sox clinched the best record in the AL, they had the opportunity to choose Division Series B. This would enable Beckett and Schilling to pitch Games 4 and 5 on regular rest if necessary.

As for the Angels, they are a team the Red Sox have a healthy amount of respect for. Boston won the season series, 6-4.

"We know very well what they can do," said Francona. "They know what we can do. Even though they're out west, it seems like we've played them a lot. We respect how they play the game and we'll certainly have to prepare for that."

The way the Angels play the game is with speed and aggression.

"If the ball doesn't end up where it's supposed to, there could be some havoc," said Francona. "If it does, you're prepared and you're able to slow the game down. Sometimes you can use it to your advantage. It's different styles of baseball for sure. We have time to prepare like we always do, as they do. Hopefully it will be a great series."

Rest for the weary: By sealing the AL East, Francona was able to give some of his players a much-needed break on Saturday, David Ortiz most prominent among them.

Though Big Papi has been on a certifiable tear of late, he's been playing on an ailing right knee all year.

"I think we're at a point where David really needs a day," Francona said. "We're actually maybe going to do it anyway, just because he needs it. He's swinging the bat great but he needs it."

With Ortiz out, Manny Ramirez served as the designated hitter and batted third. Royce Clayton made his first start in a Boston uniform, subbing for Julio Lugo at shortstop. Alex Cora played second base with Dustin Pedroia getting the night off.

Coco returns: Center fielder Coco Crisp -- who had been sidelined with a viral infection -- was back in the lineup for the first time since Sunday. In fact, Crisp served as the leadoff hitter and went 2-for-4 with a double.

"He really made a big turn yesterday," said Francona. "His eyes looked a little clearer and he had a little bounce to his step that we hadn't seen for a few days."

One more for Oki: Lefty reliever Hideki Okajima, who pitched Thursday for the first time since Sept. 14, saved Saturday's game by wiggling his way out of trouble for a scoreless ninth.

Some missed the party: The only misfortune about the Red Sox clinching the AL East on Friday more than an hour after their game had ended is that some players left. Most, including Kevin Youkilis, Jason Varitek and Okajima, returned for the celebration that took place in the clubhouse and on the field.

However, others were absent, including Manny Ramirez and J.D. Drew.

Drew's wife is eight months pregnant, which is why he didn't feel comfortable going back to the office at such a late hour.

Because of Ramirez's flaky nature, Francona couldn't resist making a light-hearted joke in his pregame address with the media.

"If Manny wasn't [there], I'll make sure he knows we won [the division]," Francona said.

Coming up: Tavarez (7-10, 5.33 ERA) will face Twins right-hander Matt Garza (4-7, 3.92 ERA) in the regular-season finale. First pitch is scheduled for 2:05 p.m. ET.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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