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Old feelings renewed

Sox, Yankees won't speak their peace

By Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / April 11, 2008

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It was nearly a month ago that Hank Steinbrenner fired a shot at Jonathan Papelbon, calling him a "mouse." But, with the first Red Sox-Yankees series of 2008 beginning tonight, Papelbon was asked, again, if they had made up.

The answer? Not quite.

"I didn't know there was a hatchet to be buried, to be honest with you," Papelbon said. "I said what I needed to say. I mean, I would say that about anybody or anything, not just because it was Hank Steinbrenner. I'm not going to sit here and get into a childish yelling match with Hank Steinbrenner or Hal or whoever it was. I said that not really directing it towards him.

"I still stick by those things. I'm not planning on getting in a back-and-forth thing."

Too late, it seems. For the record, Steinbrenner initiated the volley a couple of months ago by mocking the notion of Red Sox Nation. Sox owner John Henry responded, inducting Steinbrenner into the Nation.

During spring training, Papelbon said, "I don't know if [Steinbrenner] is trying to stir things up. He needs to just stick to pencil-pushing, I guess."

Then Steinbrenner said, "Being insulted by Papelbon is like being attacked by a mouse."

"I really don't even know them," Papelbon said yesterday of the heirs to the Steinbrenner legacy. "I don't know who they are. What, are they owners now?"

Yes, they are running the show in the Bronx, named cochairmen by George Steinbrenner yesterday. It's a show that, despite being a bit battered and bruised, comes to Fenway Park tonight for the first meeting between the teams in 2008. Neither team is where it wants to be and, given the Red Sox' decision to place Mike Lowell on the 15-day disabled list, nor are they fully healthy.

Yankees catcher Jorge Posada was diagnosed with a strained right shoulder Wednesday. Shortstop Derek Jeter has a strained quadriceps that might keep him out awhile. Not that Red Sox manager Terry Francona is eager to see Jeter back in the lineup.

"You can never be too careful with those quads," he said, in a bit of good-natured advice to Yankees manager Joe Girardi.

But Clay Buchholz, the Sox' starting pitcher in the series opener, isn't quite as relieved. Buchholz, who came up as a shortstop, grew up watching Jeter. He seemed to be looking forward to the matchup, his first start at Fenway Park since last season's no-hitter against Baltimore Sept. 1.

Buchholz said he was going to take some time to go through the clubhouse and get a little bit of advice on dealing with the situation. Like checking out video of Josh Beckett facing the Yankees to see how Beckett, though a different kind of pitcher, handled some of their hitters.

As for facing Jeter, though, that gave Buchholz pause.

"I don't know," said Buchholz, when asked how he would attack Jeter. "I'll have to figure out what's working. If I feel like I can command three out of the four pitches that I have, I'm just going to go at him and pitch to contact. Hopefully, I'll get a couple of swings where I'll get him guessing. I can't do anything after I release the ball."

Buchholz is not the only player getting his first taste of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.

Sean Casey, who has been with the Indians, Reds, Pirates, and Tigers, gets his first crack as well. He's been warned, he said. He knows the games take quite awhile. He's prepared, too.

"I guess you just got to get your bubblegum ready," he joked.

It's also a rivalry he looks forward to seeing up close. He's seen it from the safety of other clubhouses, but he anticipates this weekend will be an entirely different scenario.

"More often than not, Fox games of the week, Sunday Night Baseball, it's going to be Red Sox-Yankees," Casey said. "At times it feels like that's the only game on when you're watching TV. I think every player, if you played major league baseball, at some point you'd like to experience that rivalry firsthand.

"So it'll be cool to get out on the field and feel what that rivalry is like."

Amalie Benjamin can be reached at abenjamin@globe.com.

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