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How Jon Lester found out he was the Red Sox’ Opening Day starter

03.16.11 at 4:41 pm ET
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Jon Lester named Opening Day starter for the Red Sox

03.16.11 at 11:41 am ET
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Speaking prior to his team’s spring training game with the Braves, Red Sox manager Terry Francona revealed that Jon Lester will be the Sox’ Opening Day starter for Boston’s April 1 game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas.

Francona said he had made the decision in the offseason, and talked to Lester about the possibility before spring training. The Sox’ manager said he knows how the rest of his rotation will unfold, but since he hasn’t been able to talk to all the pitchers about the plans he would delay any formal announcements. Josh Beckett has gotten the last two Opening Day starts for the Red Sox.

“I don’t think that’s any surprise, and he’s known about it for a while,” Francona said.

“I just think he’s maturing, the natural progression. I don’t think this is any big revelation, I think he’s been pretty good. … I think he deserves it. I think he has that stature in the game right now where other teams probably look at him as No. 1.”

Lester said earlier in spring training that the only Opening Day start he has ever had was with Single-A Greenville in 2007 when he was making a rehab start after recovering from cancer.

The lefty went 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA in 2010 after winning 16 and 15 games, respectfully, the previous two seasons. Lester becomes the sixth different Opening Day starter since Francona arrived in ’04, following Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, David Wells, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Beckett.

Speaking to WEEI.com earlier in spring training, Beckett endorsed Lester as an Opening Day starter.

“The big lefty, he’s earned the right,” he said, pointing toward Lester’s locker. “If they want him to start Opening Day, that’s his deal. It’s a big honor. That being said, I don’t make those decisions. I’m not really worried about it right now because anything can happen. You saw three years ago I didn’t even make it out of spring training (due to a back injury). I was supposed to start Opening Day that year and I didn’t start a game until the middle of April.

“It’s way too early to be talking about any of that stuff. If they tell him he’s going to have the Opening Day nod, congratulations to him, he’s earned it. I don’t think it’s anything I’ve done. It’s something he’s done to earn their respect.”

For more spring training coverage, see the Red Sox team page at weei.com/redsox.

Read More: Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Opening Day, Terry Francona

Michael Bowden: ‘I don’t know what I’m going to be in the major leagues’

03.16.11 at 11:31 am ET
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Read More: 2011 Spring Training, bobby jenks, Boston Red Sox, dan wheeler

Red Sox-Tigers postgame notes: Nothing Dicey for Matsuzaka against Tigers

03.15.11 at 4:18 pm ET
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Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, matt albers, victor martinez

The maturation of Clay Buchholz

03.15.11 at 10:46 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Clay Buchholz spent the early morning steering a remote control hover craft around the Red Sox clubhouse. He buzzed both himself and some teammates with it, as well as Triple-A pitching coach Rich Sauveur.

Sauveur’s reaction to the deed was somewhat unexpected.

“There’€™s a man down there playing with that little hover craft. I’€™m amazed by him, how much he’€™s grown and matured,” said Sauveur, who was Buchholz’ pitching coach in Pawtucket in both 2008 (when he was rehabbing from a DL stint and then working to improve his fastball) and 2009 (when he spent the first half of the year in Triple-A. “He’€™s matured so well.”

Sauveur talked about how different it was to see Buchholz with his wife and baby, his life now focused on his family and profession. He has seen growth from the pitcher on the mound — it was in Pawtucket that Buchholz refined his two-seam fastball in 2009; in the majors last year, he added a cutter — but he noted that the pitcher’s breakout season in 2010 (17-7, 2.33 ERA) was not dictated by the addition of those pitches.

“It wasn’€™t about stuff with him. It was about the mental part, the maturity. You can look back at any interview that was done about him. It was always, ‘€˜When this kid matures, look out.’€™ I remember saying it, probably said it every time I did an interview about him ‘€“ this kid is going to have a long career. It’€™s just a matter of when he decides it’€™s going to be,” said Sauveur. “He decided it was going to be last year. It’€™s amazing.”

Read More: Clay Buchholz,

Morning Red Sox notes: Reunion in Lakeland

03.15.11 at 10:00 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — A Red Sox traveling contingent boarded a bus in Fort Myers at 7 a.m. to barrel into Central Florida. Veterans typically are anything but fond of such an undertaking, but on Monday, catcher Jason Varitek seemed downright giddy about the prospect. It would offer him the chance to catch up with “close friend” Victor Martinez, with whom Varitek was paired from the time that the Sox traded for Martinez at the trade deadline in 2009.

Varitek stayed in touch with Martinez during the offseason, when both were free agents, exchanging texts and calls. The two had hoped to get together in the Orlando area, though the timing didn’t work out. So, Varitek was eager to catch up with a player with whom he enjoyed a remarkable partnership in Boston for a season and a half.

When Martinez’ defensive abilities were being doubted, no one was a bigger advocate of his than Varitek. The Sox captain once got into a shouting match with fans behind the bullpen last year who were riding Martinez’ defense, and to this day, Varitek remains insistent that the criticism of his former teammate’s work behind the plate was off target.

“There’€™s stuff that he was working on from the year before that maybe needed a few months. Maybe you don’€™t see it when it’€™s early and it’€™s 30 degrees out and windy and nobody can get a grip on the baseball and a guy gets a running jump,” said Varitek. “How many runs did he save by blocking the ball? Nobody’€™s going to write that one down. He did a good job with his fingers behind the plate. Nobody’€™s going to give him credit for that, either. He made himself very well-rounded.”

All the same, the Sox parted ways with Martinez this past offseason, largely because their contract proposal to him reflected their concern that he would not stay behind the plate long term. The team thought he could remain an everyday catcher in 2011, but that as soon as 2012, he would begin a process of transitioning from behind the plate. On the Sox, that would almost surely mean that he would be relegated to DH duty.

Martinez’ departure set in motion the course of a Red Sox offseason that resulted in the acquisitions of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford. (In a fascinating twist, the Sox had offered Martinez to the Rays for Crawford in the previous offseason.)

–One interesting footnote to Martinez’ tenure: With Martinez, Varitek and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the 2010 Red Sox became just the second team in big league history with three switch-hitting catchers (min. 10 at-bats). The other was the 1997 Tigers, who featured the illustrious group of Raul Casanova, Matt Walbeck and Marcus Jensen. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jason Varitek, victor martinez,

Red Sox-Yankees postgame notes: Aceves aces test against ex-team

03.14.11 at 10:27 pm ET
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Read More: adrian gonzalez, alfredo aceves, bobby jenks, Dustin Pedroia

Red Sox support relief efforts in Japan

03.14.11 at 6:17 pm ET
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This press release came from the Red Sox this afternoon:

Led by Red Sox pitchers Daisuke Matsuzaka, a native of Tokyo, Japan, and Hideki Okajima, from Kyoto, Japan, the team encouraged fans to consider making donations through the team charity, the Red Sox Foundation. 100 percent of donations received will be directed to the Red Cross relief efforts now underway in Japan. The Red Sox Foundation has committed to donate $50,000, and Matsuzaka and Okajima, along with fellow pitchers Junichi Tazawa and Itsuki Shoda, are each making personal donations.

Matsuzaka and Okajima recorded video messages in Japanese and English expressing support for their country and asking fans to make a donation. The videos and donation details are available on the Club’s official website at redsox.com/japan, and on the charity’s website, www.redsoxfoundation.org.

“Japan has been brave fighting through damages caused by the earthquake and tsunami,” Matsuzaka said on the Japanese-language video message.

“We are especially concerned with all those who are missing and are waiting to be rescued,” said Okajima, also on the Japanese-language video. “And we pray for their safe return to their family and friends.”

Fans can help the victims of this devastating natural disaster by making a donation to the Red Sox Foundation, the official team charity of the Boston Red Sox. Fans can log on to www.redsoxfoundation.org to make a tax deductible donation via credit card online or by mail via check/money order. Checks should be made out to ‘€œRed Sox Foundation/Japan Relief’€ and sent to Red Sox Foundation, 4 Yawkey Way, Boston, MA 02215. Team officials noted that 100 percent of donations received will support the Red Cross relief efforts in Japan.

Red Sox Japanese players plan to join Red Sox staff at the gates as they open at City of Palms Park today, Monday, March 14th, and Thursday, March 17th, to collect donations from fans attending the games.

Red Sox-Yankees pregame notes: Francona backs Daisuke

03.14.11 at 6:16 pm ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — Spring training results are supposed to be meaningless for established members of a club. That said, it doesn’t mean that they can’t be disconcerting.

That is the situation with Daisuke Matsuzaka this spring. Expected to man the fifth spot in the Sox rotation, the 30-year-old has struggled badly this spring. He has allowed 11 earned runs in 8 2/3 innings in his three spring starts, including 12 runs (10 earned) in 6 2/3 innings over his last two outings. He has four strikeouts and five walks this spring.

So, it is fair to wonder: When do spring results matter?

The answer from Sox manager Terry Francona regarding Matsuzaka: Not yet.

“I’€™m not real concerned about anyone in camp. We want to leave here healthy and guys feeling good about themselves. I haven’€™t looked at anyone’€™s ERA,” said Francona. “I know Daisuke got hit around a little bit the other day. I know if we took Daisuke out of the rotation tomorrow, I wouldn’€™t want to play for me. We’€™ve got to let these guys get ready.”

OTHER NOTES

–Matsuzaka is playing a key role, along with fellow Japanese natives Hideki Okajima and Junichi Tazawa and recently signed pitcher Itsuki Shoda in spearheading team efforts to collect money for disaster relief in Japan. From a team press release:

The team encouraged fans to consider making donations through the team charity, the Red Sox Foundation. One hundred percent of donations received will be directed to the Red Cross relief efforts now underway in Japan. The Red Sox Foundation has committed to donate $50,000, and Matsuzaka and Okajima, along with fellow pitchers Junichi Tazawa and Itsuki Shoda, are each making personal donations.

Matsuzaka and Okajima recorded video messages in Japanese and English expressing support for their country and asking fans to make a donation. The videos and donation details are available on the Club’s official website at redsox.com/japan, and on the charity’s website, www.redsoxfoundation.org.

“Japan has been brave fighting through damages caused by the earthquake and tsunami,” Matsuzaka said on the Japanese-language video message.

“We are especially concerned with all those who are missing and are waiting to be rescued,” said Okajima, also on the Japanese-language video. “And we pray for their safe return to their family and friends.”

Fans can help the victims of this devastating natural disaster by making a donation to the Red Sox Foundation, the official team charity of the Boston Red Sox. Fans can log on to www.redsoxfoundation.org to make a tax deductible donation via credit card online or by mail via check/money order. Checks should be made out to ‘€œRed Sox Foundation/Japan Relief’€ and sent to Red Sox Foundation, 4 Yawkey Way, Boston, MA 02215. Team officials noted that 100 percent of donations received will support the Red Cross relief efforts in Japan.

The Japanese players stood at the gates on Monday night to ask fans entering the park to donate to relief efforts.

–The Red Sox lineup features eight regulars (with Mike Cameron in right field in place of J.D. Drew), and with almost all regulars, the top of the order designed by Francona could well be the one he will employ in the regular season:

Ellsbury, CF
Pedroia, 2B
Crawford, LF
Youkilis, 3B
Gonzalez, 1B
Ortiz, DH
Cameron, RF
Saltalamacchia, C
Scutaro, SS

Asked whether the lineup might take a similar structure once the regular season begins, Francona was non-commital. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: adrian gonzalez, alfredo aceves, carl crawford, Clay Buchholz

Why Sunday was so important to Josh Beckett’s season

03.14.11 at 11:21 am ET
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Read More: changeup, Jason Varitek, Josh Beckett,
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