FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Bobby Valentine tabbed lefty Jon Lester as the Red Sox' Opening Day starter for April 5 in Detroit, marking thesecond straight season that Lester has opened the season on themound.
Lester got the nod over Josh Beckett, who recommended to Valentinethat Lester be the choice. That conversation took place on New Year'sDay.
Beckett will pitch the second game of the season on April 7 and isthen lined up on to pitch the home opener against Tampa Bay on April 13.
"I think the No. 1 determinant was the conversation I had withJosh,'' said Valentine, "where Josh explained to me about starting pitchersand their Opening Day status or mentality or whatever. He thought Jonearned the job last year and didn't do anything to lose it. And so Isaid, 'You have a lot more knowledge of Opening Day starters and theirmentality than I.'
"I saw the health of both of them. It's an honor both ways --the home opener and the opener. So they're both getting an honor.''
Lester becomes the first lefty to start consecutive Opening Days since Mel Parnell did so from 1952-1954.
Despite the interest in the topic, Valentine was unsure of howimportant the decision was.
"It's hard for me to say how much (that means),'' he said. "But I'msure there are varying degrees of what it means. The first game of the All-Star break is an important start. Because you pitch the first game of the season, it doesn't mean that you're going to line up to pitch the first game of the playoffs. I don't believe in that stuff, either.
"And I definitely don't believe that the No. 1 starter (always) lines up against the other team's No. 1 starter. I don't think that hasany validity. It's just a nice thing to plan and do.''
Valentine said Beckett introduced the topic of Opening Day starterwhen they spoke.
"It was great information,'' said Valentine. "It was like, 'Gosh,I'm glad I don't have to worry about this throughout spring training' andall that stuff. I was pleasantly surprised, I guess.''