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No doubt that Lester is worthy

J.D. DREW OK with decision J.D. DREW
OK with decision
By Michael Vega and Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / April 1, 2011

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HOUSTON — Jon Lester, the Opening Day starter for the Red Sox, was asked if he considered it an honor to be taking the mound against the Texas Rangers.

“Ab-so-lute-ly not,’’ he said, emphatically.

Then, after pausing for a beat, Lester broke into a wide smile.

“Yeah, it’s a big honor,’’ he said. “As a kid growing up, you watch Opening Day and you see those guys who take the ball, it’s usually the big guys, so it’s an honor to be put in that category.

“Like I’ve always said, we’re a unit. We’re five guys who want to go out and perform every five days and do our job, and I think we take pride in that.’’

Lester will become the 12th lefthander to start for the Sox on Opening Day. He will oppose C.J. Wilson, marking only the third time in Sox history that both Opening Day starters have been lefthanders.

“It’s kind of neat to turn on the TV and there are people talking about him being one of the elite lefties in the game, and he deserves that,’’ said manager Terry Francona. “This is exciting for him to take the ball tomorrow. I think it’s another step in his progression.

“As much as we’re talking about C.J. Wilson being a dominating lefty, they’re probably thinking the same thing [about Lester].’’

Rangers DH Michael Young said exactly that.

“One of the best in the game,’’ he said. “No doubt.’’

Lester, who was not overpowering in spring training, is 3-6 with a 4.76 ERA in 17 career starts made in March and April.

“Your body’s got to get used to doing this again,’’ he said. “No matter what you do in the offseason, spring training, when you get to the real deal, you get that little bit extra adrenaline. You finish your pitches a little bit more.’’

Drew won’t start Lefthanders hit .144 with a .400 OPS against Wilson last season, so the Sox will have righthanded-hitting Mike Cameron in right field instead of J.D. Drew.

“Just trying to get a little bit of balance there against him,’’ said Francona.

Drew hit .208 with seven extra-base hits in 149 at-bats against lefthanders last season.

“I’m grateful, very grateful,’’ said Cameron. “Just to still be able to play on Opening Day, it still takes you back when you were a little kid.

“Some guys don’t sleep well. You get up early in the morning because you’re anxious to get over to the park and get your uniform on.

“I’m always grateful just to be able to walk into a big league clubhouse and see my name on the back of the jersey. I think that’s special in itself. It’s just as fun for me when I walked in there when I was 22 as it is now when I’m 38.’’

Drew had no issue with Francona’s decision.

“I talked to Tito and he asked my feelings on it,’’ he said. “Listen, I’ve played long enough and I understand that Opening Day is a great day, a lot of fun, the festivities, and a chance for everybody to work into a new season.

“But, ultimately, it’s a very magnified day in the scheme of a long, long season and that’s what I kind of reflected on when I talked to him about it.

“I just put the ball in his park and let him know that I wasn’t the kind of guy who was going to blow up and look at it as a slight, by no means.’’

Familiar face Adrian Beltre can’t quite get away from the Red Sox. After a productive season in Boston, he’ll see his old teammates again as he makes his debut with the Rangers. “It’s weird,’’ he said. “Go figure.’’ Beltre keeps in touch with David Ortiz and Marco Scutaro, mainly by text message. He has only good memories of his time in Boston, where he hit .321 with 49 doubles, 28 home runs, and 102 RBIs. “No doubt, it was fun, even though it didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to,’’ he said. “I had a good year over there.’’ Beltre was open to the idea of returning to Boston, but that door closed when the Sox obtained Adrian Gonzalez from the Padres and moved Kevin Youkilis to third base. Beltre landed in Texas with a five-year, $80 million deal and will hit cleanup today.

Triple A for Iglesias The Red Sox are planning to have 21-year-old shortstop prospect Jose Iglesias start the season in Pawtucket. Iglesias had only 236 plate appearances over 57 games for Double A Portland last season because of a broken finger and did not tear it up offensively (.285). But the Sox felt comfortable with the idea of challenging him, given his progress this spring . . . Daisuke Matsuzaka threw 60 pitches in a simulated game at Houston . . . The Sox officially set their roster by optioning Hideki Okajima and Alfredo Aceves to Pawtucket, placing Felix Doubront on the 15-day disabled list, and reassigning Nate Spears and Drew Sutton to the minor league camp. Lefthander Lenny DiNardo was released out of minor league camp . . . Outfielder Bubba Bell was traded to Cleveland for cash considerations. A 39th-round draft pick out of Nicholls State in Louisiana in 2005, Bell hit .293 last season with 6 homers and 49 RBIs and was Pawtucket’s Player of the Year.

Peter Abraham reported from Arlington, Texas, and Michael Vega from Houston.

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