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RED SOX NOTEBOOK

Francona gets pitching lined up

Clement gets the call for opener Thursday

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Newcomer Matt Clement, who was 9-13 with the Cubs last season, will make the first start of the spring for the Red Sox when they open their exhibition schedule Thursday night at City of Palms Park against the Minnesota Twins.

Manager Terry Francona will have Tim Wakefield start against Northeastern and Mike Timlin face Boston College in the day-night doubleheader Friday.

Righthander Anastacio Martinez, who made 38 appearances for Pawtucket last season, all in relief, will face the Twins in a split-squad game Saturday, with Bronson Arroyo taking on the Reds in Sarasota the same day.

Righthander Jeremi Gonzalez, a nonroster invitee who was 0-5 with a 6.97 ERA with the Devil Rays last season, is scheduled to go Sunday against the Phillies in Fort Myers, setting up (drum roll, please), the first encounter with the Yankees, and the unveiling of . . . Abe Alvarez. That would be a week from Monday in Fort Myers. Were you expecting Curt Schilling?

The Yankees have a split-squad game that day in Tampa, and have announced that they will not be sending any of their projected five starting pitchers to City of Palms Park. They probably won't have much more than a skeleton representation in their lineup.

"We'll send a couple [of regulars] over there," Yankees manager Joe Torre told reporters Friday. "But I don't know how many."

That should go over real big with the folks sitting in the $44 seats.

Last spring, park vendors sold commemorative pins for the game, and Alex Rodriguez, who was new to the Yankees, made the trip from Tampa, along with Derek Jeter.

The day also was notable for a skirmish between Yankee PR man Rick Cerrone and longtime Sox security man Dave McHugh.

Might be a tad quieter this go-round . . . but something always seems to happen.

Piersall in the House
Former Sox outfielder Jimmy Piersall, who winters in Arizona and still does a sports radio show in Chicago, was delighted to receive an invitation to Wednesday's White House event honoring the Red Sox. According to a Sox official, the White House has a guest list of about 1,000 for the event, scheduled to be staged on the South Lawn.

"This is a real thrill for a poor kid from Waterbury, Conn.," Piersall said by phone last night. "I'm 75 years old. There aren't many things left."

Piersall, an outfielder whose days with the Sox (1950, 1952-58) were immortalized in the movie "Fear Strikes Out," said he visited the White House once before as guest of President John F. Kennedy.

"We lived on the Cape for four years," he said. "I played golf with him when he was senator. He used to pick up different kids and take them for ice cream when he'd come back for visits as president.

"When I was at the White House, he took me into his office and gave me a PT boat bracelet and a pen and pencil set. I still have 'em."

Almost perfect
It was Photo Day before yesterday's workout. Of the 65 uniformed personnel in camp, 64 went through the annual event, including newcomer David Wells, who did some work in the training room then left early (with permission) with his son, Brandon. The only player not to take part was Curt Schilling, much to the frustration of the Sox staff. In fairness to Schilling, he was in the trainer's room preparing for his side throwing session, and also did a couple of interviews that had been scheduled for some time. Still, his absence from the proceedings prompted some muttering . . . Trot Nixon hit the deck during a BP session against Japanese righthander Denney Tomori, who is trying to win a spot as a reliever. "I'm not sure if it nicked him or just scared him," said catcher Kelly Shoppach. Nixon finished his round, and later shook hands with Tomori, who got a "good job" from Johnny Damon.

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