FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Even though the Red Sox don't require a fifth starter until April 18, the team has chosen to go with five starters in its rotation to begin the season. But the rotation remains a little unconventional, at least the first trip through the order.
Here it is:
Opening Day, April 4 vs. Yankees: Josh Beckett
April 6 vs. Yankees: Jon Lester
April 7 vs. Yankees: John Lackey
April 9 vs. Royals: Tim Wakefield
April 10 vs. Royals: Beckett
April 11 vs. Royals: Clay Buchholz
After that game, the Sox will go with a normal five-man rotation starting with Lester, then Lackey, Wakefield, Beckett, Buchholz, etc.
"We feel like we've got five very good starters," pitching coach John Farrell said. "One, this keeps guys in a proper spot in the rotation, one of which they've earned, and two, it allows us to continue to build for an entire season, rather than putting ourselves in a position where every fifth day we're asking guys in the first part of April. We've always taken the approach to build for the long haul ... and gives [this] gives due respect to all those who have earned a spot in this rotation."
The Sox will begin to take Daisuke Matsuzaka into account once he is up to about six innings, which the Sox estimate will take about five outings. Matsuzaka is scheduled to pitch in the team's exhibition game in Washington next weekend behind Wakefield, Farrell said. (Wakefield will pitch his final spring training start in a minor league game, going three innings and then come back a day early to pitch against the Nationals.)
About the decision to have Beckett start for a second time before Buchholz makes his first start, Farrell said, "We didn't want Josh to go on seven days. What we've learned over time is he's still very effective and sharp on six days, when we get into the seventh day, that begins to get into an area where it starts to work adversely with him."