Morning notes from the Fort

March, 11, 2011
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- On a morning that Boston's Japanese contingent -- pitchers Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima as well as the reporters who cover them -- were relieved to learn that family members were safe back home in Japan in the aftermath of the 8.9 magnitude earthquake that struck the island nation, the Red Sox prepared to play another split-squad set of games.

"It was definitely shocking waking up and hear the news," Matsuzaka said. "Once I turned on the television and saw what was going on, it was very shocking, very scary to see that."

Manager Terry Francona was headed to Kissimmee on the bus taking one set of Sox players to play the Houston Astros, while bench coach DeMarlo Hale was in charge of the team that will drive across town to play the Twins in Hammond Stadium. The difference in travel? The Kissimmee crew is driving 190 miles, according to MLB's spring training mileage index. The trip to Hammond is 7 miles.

Jon Lester is scheduled to start against the Twins this afternoon. At the moment, Lester is on a schedule that would have him starting against the Rangers in the regular-season opener April 1, although Francona could easily recalibrate his rotation between now and the start of the season. The rotation, as presently set up, is Lester, John Lackey, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Don't read too much into that just yet.

For the second straight game, the Sox will utilize a lineup that has Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford hitting 1-2. Crawford had been hitting third earlier in camp, and Francona said Thursday in Port Charlotte that Crawford may end up hitting in both spots. Until Adrian Gonzalez starts playing in games, though, it's too soon to presume how Francona intends to set up his lineup. I'm still predicting Ells-Crawford 1-2 and Gonzalez cleanup, with Dustin Pedroia the likely 3-spot hitter, but don't bet the mortgage on my speculation.

The big news here in town is that Twins first baseman and former AL MVP Justin Morneau is scheduled to play in his first game since being sidelined with post-concussive syndrome last July. Morneau, who sustained the injury when his head struck the knee of Jays infielder John McDonald, took a first tentative step toward a return when he played ina "B" game Tuesday.

Here are the Red Sox lineups:

Vs. Twins
1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
2. Carl Crawford, LF
3. David Ortiz, DH
4. Kevin Youkilis, 3B
5. J.D. Drew, RF
6. Jason Varitek, C
7. Nate Spears, 2B
8. Drew Sutton, 1B
9. Yamaico Navarro, SS
SP -- Jon Lester, LHP

Also scheduled to pitch: RHP Tim Wakefield, LHP Hideki Okajima, RHP Jonathan Papelbon, RHP Jason Rice, RHP Tony Pena, Jr., RHP Alex Wilson

Vs. Astros
1. Marco Scutaro, SS
2. Jed Lowrie, 1B
3. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
4. Ryan Kalish, CF
5. Darnell McDonald, LF
6. Daniel Nava, DH
7. Josh Reddick, RF
8. Will Middlebrooks, 3B
9. Mark Wagner, C
SP -- Kyle Weiland, RHP

Also scheduled to pitch: RHP Dan Wheeler, LHP Dennys Reyes, LHP Rich Hill, RHP Clevelan Santeliz, RHP Michael Bowden, RHP Matt Albers

Gordon Edes

ESPN Staff Writer



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