Lackey facing an old nemesis

April, 2, 2011
ARLINGTON, Texas -- On the one hand, John Lackey doesn’t have, say, Jon Lester’s history when it comes to his first start of the season. At least not in 2010, when he looked worth every bit of his five-year, $82.5 million salary with six scoreless innings against the New York Yankees.

On the other hand, no team has had more success against Lackey than the Texas Rangers. In six of his eight seasons with the Angels, Lackey’s first start came against the Rangers, and they were not gentle, knocking him around for 20 runs in 25 1/3 innings, a 7.11 ERA. Overall, Lackey’s ERA against the Rangers is 5.74 in 33 starts, the highest ERA he has against any opponent.

Nonetheless, Red Sox manager Terry Francona said that based on the way Lackey looked in spring training, all signs point to a good start when he takes on the Rangers Saturday night at The Ballpark in Arlington.

“He should feel great,’’ Francona said. “He had a great spring, he showed up in great shape. But I think he always feels that way. The adversity he had, I thought he handled it great last year. He gets it, and throws it. His teammates love him. He’s set himself up for a great year.’’

A couple of alterations to the lineup Saturday: With Texas throwing right-hander Colby Lewis, J.D. Drew will make his first start of 2011 in right field. Mike Cameron started in right and went 0-for-3 with a walk in Friday’s 9-5 loss to the Rangers. The 38-year-old Cameron was the team’s oldest Opening Day starter since 41-year-old Gary Gaetti served as DH in 2000 and the oldest outfield starter since 38-year-old Andre Dawson played right field in the ’93 opener.

Francona also flip-flopped Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis, with Gonzalez hitting fourth and Youkilis fifth. Francona has been saying that was something he would likely do, and we’ll see if it becomes a righty starter-lefty starter thing.

Here are the lineups:

Red Sox
Jacoby Ellsbury, cf
Dustin Pedroia, 2b
Carl Crawford, lf
Kevin Youkilis, 3b
Adrian Gonzalez, 1b
David Ortiz, DH
J.D. Drew, rf
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, c
Marco Scutaro, ss
John Lackey, p

Ian Kinsler, 2b
Elvis Andrus, ss
Josh Hamilton, lf
Adrian Beltre, 3b
Michael Young, DH
Nelson Cruz, rf
Mitch Moreland, 1b
Yorvit Torrealba, c
Julio Borbon, cf
Colby Lewis, p

Also worth noting:

--A good first impression made by new relievers Matt Albers (1 inning, 1 walk) and Dan Wheeler (2/3 of an inning). Not so good for Dennys Reyes, the left-handed specialist who entered in the seventh inning and issued a four-pitch walk to Josh Hamilton, the only batter he faced. "We tell our relievers to hold down the runs and pound the strike zone is huge,'' Francona said. "The ability to throw where you want to right now is huge.''

--Tim Wakefield is 44, but Friday marked only the second Opening Day appearance of his 19-year career, and first since he started for the Pirates in 1993. According to Elias, the 18-year layoff between Opening Day outings is the longest since 1900.

--David Ortiz's 350th home run tied him with Chili Davis for 81st on the all-time list. Davis is in his first season as Pawtucket's hitting coach. Ortiz needs three more RBIs to pass Edgar Martinez for most RBIs by a DH. Martinez has 1,003 RBIs.

Gordon Edes

ESPN Staff Writer



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