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Red Sox set rotation behind Lester

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  March 17, 2011 09:42 AM

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FORT MYERS, Fla. The Red Sox have set their rotation behind Jon Lester. Here's how it will line up:

April 1 at Texas: Jon Lester
April 2 at Texas: John Lackey
April 3 at Texas: Clay Buchholz
April 5 at Cleveland: Josh Beckett
April 6 at Cleveland: Daisuke Matsuzaka
April 7 at Cleveland: Lester
April 8: New York: Lackey
April 9 New York: Buchholz
April 10 New York: Beckett

and so on ...

The Red Sox also optioned Jose Iglesias, Yamaico Navarro and Luis Exposito to Triple A Pawtucket.

In terms of the rotation, Terry Francona explained his logic. "I think we feel like Lack has a way of matching up with whoever he's pitching against. Whether it's a guy who's a No. 1 or No. 5, you look up in the seventh and you have a chance to win, which we really like. Buch did so good [last year]. I think we feel like having Buch come out third just enhances our chance to win a little bit.

"Buch's numbers would say that he can pitch anywhere. Just think Lack's a veteran and he's done it. I just think spacing [Buchholz] and Lester out, there's something to be said for that, too. Lack showed up in great shape and looks like he's ready to go. Ultimately, if they pitch like they should, it's not going to matter and if they don't pitch like they should, it's not going to matter."

Francona said Beckett missing a few days with a concussion earlier in camp had no effect on where he was slated.

"Just watching the way last year unfolded, we want to get him off to a good start. He'll pitch in that game in Cleveland. I think that's a good place for him to start."

Francona said the opponent is not a major factor in determining the rotation early in the season.

"We certainly notice. But we weren't going to skip Lester in the [Texas] series if it wasn't a good matchup. We'd never do something like that," he said. "You can only put so much into the first couple of weeks anyway."

A for the Yankees series, if the Yankees use their five starters in order, the Sox would face Burnett, their No. 4 (Freddy Garcia?) and their No. 5 (Ivan Nova or Bartolo Colon) at Fenway.

The rotation is further evidence that the Sox like what they have in Lackey and do not share the misgivings some fans and media had last year.

"I know Lack took a little bit of heat for maybe under-performing. I don't think we felt like that," Francona said. "He just seemed like that guy last year where he gave up runs late or somebody gave up his runs late or he made a mistake late. I just think he's going to give you the 200 innings and every time he pitches, you're going to have a chance to in. That's kind of how we feel, regardless of who he matches up against.

"I think he's worked hard to get in real good shape and I think it's going to show. I think across the board his numbers will be a little bit lower this year."

It's worth noting that Beckett faced Texas twice last year and was rocked. 12 IP, 17 H, 13 ER, 6 BB, 4 HR, 8 K.

But the Red Sox do have faith in Lackey's durability.

"It's huge," Francona said. "You've got to come up with a certain amount of innings somewhere. There are going to be some bad days, we know that. But if you know you can pencil in those innings, that's huge. If you start hunting for innings in the middle of the summer, that's tough."

That Lackey took the ball every five days impressed the Sox, particularly given that he was helping his wife through some health issues.

"Regardless of what was going on, and believe me there were some things going on," Francona said. "He's very accountable and he does his job and he doesn't care who he's pitching to, he doesn't care who he's pitching against. He just takes the ball and stays out there until you take it away."

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