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September 30, 2008

Rookies must adapt to playoff baseball

Rookies must adapt to playoff baseball

BOSTON — In 2006, 32-year-old Sean Casey made his postseason debut. Playoff baseball, he said, was a whole new world.

"There's definitely a different edge to it," said Casey, who helped the Detroit Tigers advance to the World Series for the first time since 1984. "No doubt about it."

Red Sox rookies Jed Lowrie and Justin Masterson will be similarly tested during the American League Division Series this week. But if they're able adjust on the fly, like Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jon Lester before them, they'll be fine.

Lowrie, the self-aware infielder, knows that's easier said than done.

"Obviously it's not just another game, but I have to treat it like that," he said Sunday. "I'm sure I'll be a little more nervous, but once you get in the flow of it, I can't imagine it will be anything I haven't gone through before."

Despite his recent struggles — since Aug. 14 his batting average has dipped from .314 to .258 — the 24-year-old Lowrie is undaunted. He's casually sought counsel of his older, more experienced teammates, who have all dispensed a familiar message.

"There are a lot of veteran guys on this team that played a long time and only got a couple opportunities to go the playoffs," Lowrie said. "They just said, 'enjoy it.' "

While Lowrie has struggled of late, Masterson has not. In his last 10 appearances, the 6-foot-6, 250-pound reliever has allowed three runs on seven hits. On the season, he's 6-5 with 68 strikeouts, 40 walks and an ERA of 3.16. His walks/hits per innings pitched (1.22) and batting average against (.216) are both on the positive side.

"He's (handled) exactly what we hoped he could handle," manager Terry Francona said.

Masterson claims not to have consulted anybody about the postseason.

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