By Maureen Mullen
FORT MYERS, Fla. - As the Red Sox prepare for what should be their last home game ever at City of Palms Park, manager Terry Francona is starting a lineup of what could be an excellent representation of his Opening Day lineup Friday against the Rangers. But, Francona wasn't ready to call it that Tuesday morning.
"Nice try," he said when a reporter asked if that would be his Opening Day lineup.
The lineup is Jacoby Ellsbury CF, Dustin Pedroia 2B, Carl Crawford LF, Adrian Gonzalez 1B, Kevin Youkilis 3B, Davis Ortiz DH, J.D. Drew RP, Jason Varitek C, Marco Scutaro SS, Clay Buchholz P.
With left-hander C.J. Wilson expected to start Opening Day for the Rangers, Francona said his approach to a regular-season game might be different, saying if it was July he might consider resting some of his regulars.
In his career, Wilson has held left-handed hitters to a .181 average, .272 OBP, and .255 slugging. In 15 career games against the Red Sox to both right- and left-handed hitters, he has allowed just a .152 average (16-for-105) with 17 walks, no home runs, and four doubles for a .270 OBP and .190 slugging. "He's so tough on lefties, that gives me pause to think," Francona said.
Francona said his regulars would get two or three at-bats each Tuesday, with each of the bench players getting into the game rather than bringing up minor leaguers for the later innings.
Before the start of Tuesday's game just three players had reached triple digits for innings played this spring, with Nate Spears leading all players with 154 innings. He played six positions - second base (63 innings), first base (24), third base (23), left field (22), right field (12), and shortstop (10). Drew Sutton played 142 innings at all four infield positions and Ryan Kalish played 109 innings at all three outfield positions. Spears and Sutton will be traveling with the big league team to Houston. All three are expected to start the season with Triple-A Pawtucket. "Nate Spears had a great camp," Francona said. "There's no getting around it."
Spears is hitting .295 (18-for-61) with nine RBI.
"Every time I've seen him this spring, all he's done is hit the ball hard," said one scout of Spears.
Sutton is hitting .322 (19-for-59) with two home runs and nine RBI.
Along with Spears and Sutton, minor league pitchers Blake Maxwell and Jason Rice and catcher Daniel Butler will join the Sox on the trip to Houston.
Left-hander Felix Doubront is scheduled to pitch in a minor league game at the player development complex today.
Francona on Dan Wheeler, who has a 6.75 ERA and is scheduled to pitch today: "I think he's going to be a good pitcher for us...He's left some balls up that have been hit, but that won't happen all year."
Josh Beckett is scheduled to start the exhibition game Wednesday against the Astros at Minute Maid Park. He will be followed by Jonathan Papelbon, Dennys Reyes, Bobby Jenks, and Daniel Bard. The Astros are expected to start Nelson Figueroa, followed by Brandon Lyon, Wilton Lopez, Enerio Del Rosario, Aneury Rodriguez, Henry Villar, and Jose Valdez. Daisuke Matsuzaka is scheduled to pitch a simulated game Thursday morning in Houston.
The Red Sox first lineup at City of Palms Park, March 6, 1993: Bob Zupcic CF, Scott Cooper 3B, Mike Greenwell LF, Andre Dawson RFDH, Ivan Calderon RFDH, Carlos Quintana 1B, Tim Naehring 2B, Bob Melvin C, Luis Rivera SS, Roger Clemens P.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen