As if the rivalry weren't chock-full of subplots already, the Red Sox will inject another today when they submit their 25-man roster for the American League Championship Series and replace Kevin Youkilis with Ramiro Mendoza, who won two World Series rings with the Yankees.
Manager Terry Francona said Mendoza could help Derek Lowe provide middle or long relief, particularly in Games 3, 4, and 5. Bronson Arroyo is scheduled to start Game 3, Tim Wakefield Game 4, and Curt Schilling Game 5. Schilling, who starts Game 1 tonight, would return on four days' rest while Pedro Martinez, the Game 2 starter, would pitch on five days' rest if he were needed in Game 6.
"We just think the pitcher has a chance to impact us more than the position player," Francona said. "There may come a time in the series when we're wrong, but we think that's what gives us the best roster."
Mendoza, 32, who missed half the season with right shoulder problems, finished the year at 2-1 with a 3.52 ERA in 27 appearances. He faced the Yankees three times, including the July 24 classic in which he pitched two scoreless innings to keep the Sox in contention before Bill Mueller's walkoff homer off Mariano Rivera. Mendoza also pitched a scoreless inning against the Yankees Sept. 18 in the Fens but got tagged for three hits, including a three-run homer by Alex Rodriguez, in an inning of relief Sept. 26 at Yankee Stadium.
The Sox left Mendoza off the postseason roster last year and he appeared destined for a similar fate this year.
"I'm very happy," Mendoza said. "I want to help this team get to the next round."
Mendoza spent 10 years in the Yankee organization, pitching in three World Series, including the championship seasons of 1998 and '99, before he signed with the Sox after the 2002 season.
Youkilis appeared in one game in the Division Series, going 0 for 2. With Youkilis off the roster, Mark Bellhorn will become Mueller's principal backup at third base, with Doug Mientkiewicz next on the depth chart.
"If we really got into a bind, Mientkiewicz can catch it anywhere," Francona said. "I actually talked to him about it. He didn't seem all that fired up, but he has done it, and I'm sure he can catch the ball."
Youkilis will continue to travel and work out with the team in case the Sox need him for the World Series. Designated hitter Ellis Burks, first baseman/outfielder David McCarty, and catcher Sandy Martinez also will remain with the team, while Byung Hyun Kim and Pedro Astacio continue working out at the training facility in Fort Myers, Fla.