BOSTON -- The Red Sox go with Adrian Gonzalez at first base and Kevin Youkilis at third, with Will Middlebrooks out of the lineup, as they welcome Washington Nationals phenoms Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.
Strasburg enters the game with a 6-1 record and a 2.35 ERA. Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine senses excitement inside his clubhouse, leading up to their battle with the hard-throwing righty.
"It's a challenge," said Valentine. "Our guys are at the top level of their profession. They know that he comes highly touted. And this is going to be their shot during the regular season to see it."
Valentine said that it's Strasburg's location of his fastball that makes him so special.
"A lot of guys throw the same speed, but he has good command of it," said Valentine. "It seems like he hits the catcher's glove often, and he has a little later rotation than a lot of power pitchers. He's down the hill, pretty much, by the time he's rotating to throw that ball."
As for Harper, he starts in center field and hits second for the Nationals on Friday night at Fenway. He enters the game hitting .276 with five home runs and 14 RBI in 35 games.
Valentine called him "an amazing young man."
"He does play very aggressively," said Valentine. "He'll run out of the box. Our outfielders will know he'll try to challenge them. He dives in the outfield. He throws all the way to the base when he throws the ball. An interesting young man."