Surprise! Sox pick Lackey to be No. 2 starter

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Surprise! Sox pick Lackey to be No. 2 starter

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Selecting Jon Lester as his Opening Day starter Wednesday wasn't a surprise at all.

But when Terry Francona filled out the rest of his starting rotation on Thursday morning, some eyebrows were raised.

Following Lester in the rotation to start the season will be, in order, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

The choice of Lackey as the Sox' No. 2 has to be considered at least a mild upset. Conventional wisdom had either Beckett or Buchholz slated for No. 2, with Lackey projected as the fourth starter.

"I think we feel like Lack has a way of matching up with whomever he's pitching against," explained Francona, "whether it's a guy who's No. 1 or No. 5. You look up in the seventh and you have a chance to win, which we really like.

"Buck did so good, I think we feel like having Buck coming out third just enhances our chance to win a little bit. Buck's numbers would say that he can pitch anywhere. I think Lack's a veteran, 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."

Lackey dropped about 15 pounds this offseason and Francona expects an improved performance for Lackey's second season in Boston.

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

Francona said the incident in which Beckett was hit by a ball earlier this month and missed a turn didn't impact his decision-making.

"I just think, watching the way last year unfolded, we want to get him off to a good start," said Francona of Beckett. "We'll pitch him the first game in Cleveland on April 5. We think that will be a good place to start."

"Those are Francona's decisions," said Beckett. "Just like I would always feel like he would back me up, I back him up on his decision, as well."

When asked if there was a pride factor involved, since he was the No. 1 starter and now, in essense, is the No. 4, Beckett replied: "It is what it is. I don't get paid to make those decisions. Tito makes those decisions. I don't want that job. I never want that job. I'll let him make those decisions and I'll go out and do the best I can to put us in the best position to win."

With the rotation lined up the way it is, Lackey will pitch the home opener against New York on April 8, with Buchholz and Beckett following him in the three-game series.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Pedro Martinez to WEEI: Ortiz will make comeback this season

Pedro Martinez to WEEI: Ortiz will make comeback this season

Never say never?

While Red Sox officials said at the team's annual Winter Weekend at Foxwoods on Saturday that they'd be traveling to the Dominican Republic to talk to David Ortiz about a role with the team, Pedro Martinez told WEEI he sees Big Papi returning to his old role - designated hitter - this season.

CSN's Trenni Kusnierek and WEEI's John Tomase talked to Martinez on their show Saturday at Foxwoods and Martinez said his old teammate would be making a comeback despite the long, emotional farewell tour last season. 

For the full interview with Martinez, click here.

Red Sox executives Tom Werner, Sam Kennedy and Dave Dombrowski made no mention of Ortiz returning as a player when talking about their Dominican trip. Ortiz has repeatedly said he is going to stay retired. 

Chris Sale on leaving White Sox: 'Time for both sides to do something different, I guess'

Chris Sale on leaving White Sox: 'Time for both sides to do something different, I guess'

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- While there’s a deal of anticipation going into Spring training with the four Killer B’s, David Price and Pablo Sandoval’s shot at redemption and Rick Porcello looking to be something similar to his 2016 self, there’s one name that trumps them all.

Chris Sale.

The lankly lefty received an ovation from fans at the Friday night Town Hall, kicking off Red Sox Winter Weekend. With his consistent success, there’s reason to be excited.

But there’s also reason for apprehension given the way Sale’s departure from Chicago was depicted. But he’s made sure to clear the air.

“I wouldn’t say . . . ya know . . . I loved my time in Chicago,” Sale said when asked if it was time to leave the Windy City. “My best baseball memories are there [and] will be there forever. I love the city; I love the people in the organization.

“It was time for both sides to do something different, I guess. I talked to (White Sox Senior V.P.) Rick on the phone, I talked to (White Sox pitching coach Don) Coop (Cooper). We’re all cool, it’s fine. We understand where both of us are, it happens in baseball, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Chicago.”

He didn’t seem irritated discussing the issue, and certainly wasn’t timid -- we all know that’s not in his DNA.

He genuinely seems excited to deal with the large sum of Sox fans and to call a new place home -- in a city his wife’s fond of no less.

But ultimately, he’s focused on winning, nothing else.

“Every time I’m out there it’s gonna be all I got,” Sale said. "Every time, no matter what. Can promise you that.”