Friday: Red Sox at Rangers, 3:05 CT


The Rangers will host the Red Sox Friday afternoon in their season opener. First pitch is scheduled for 3:05 CT. Let’s take a quick look at a few news notes surrounding Opening Day beginning with tomorrow’s pitching matchup.

Pitching Matchup

LHP Jon Lester (19-9, 3.25 ERA in 2010) vs. LHP C.J. Wilson (15-8, 3.35 ERA in 2010)

A year ago Wilson had yet to start a major league game and was the fifth man in the Ranger rotation. Friday, though, he’ll be the Opening Day starter for the American League champions and go up against one of the best pitchers in baseball in Lester, a favorite to win the AL Cy Young award. That’s the tough reality for a Texas team that, after losing Cliff Lee to free agency, failed to improve their starting rotation at all. Not to say Wilson is a bad pitcher, in any regard, but the bottom line is when Texas throws their best, Wilson, against Boston’s best, Lester, the difference is there and obvious. The good thing about Wilson, though, and the reason why the Ranger rotation could actually have some stability this year is that the 30-year-old is a completely different pitcher, composure wise, then he was a year ago. Ask me at the beginning of 2010 how I though Wilson would pitch as a starter and my answer would be easy: Great, awful, but nowhere in between. For so long, Wilson would either be a world beater or get beat by the world. There was no middle ground. But last year, Wilson found a balance between the two by limiting his minor mistakes — walks, hit batters, etc. — and preventing them from affecting an entire outing. Luckily, for Texas, he’ll probably do more of the same Friday and keep the Rangers in the game. Because God knows they’ll need it against Lester.

Starting Lineups             

2B Ian Kinsler
SS Elvis Andrus
LF Josh Hamilton
3B Adrian Beltre
DH Michael Young
RF Nelson Cruz
1B Mike Napoli
C Yorvit Torrealba
CF Julio Borbon

1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. Carl Crawford, LF
4. Kevin Youkilis, 3B
5. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
6. David Ortiz, DH
7. Mike Cameron, RF (no J.D. Drew because Sox are facing a tough lefty in C.J. Wilson)
8. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
9. Marco Scutaro, SS

A few thoughts:

* Not too many surprises in the lineups. One interesting thing to note, though, is that Michael Young will be batting fifth, not Nelson Cruz, as some would have suspected. Cruz, instead, will bat behing Young in the six-hole.

No complaints here. I’m a big Young supporter and the more chances for a runner to get on before Cruz comes to the plate, the better. Young showed last year he can hit 20-25 home runs so placing him in more of an RBI role, rather than his usual two-hole, could prove to benefit the Rangers.

* A big thing to look out for tomorrow: How does Yorvit Torrealba manage the Boston running game? With Jacoby Ellsbury batting first and Carl Crawford batting third, Boston has two perennial 40+ steal candidates at the top of their lineup. Bet on it that those two will pressure Torrealba and the Texas infield all afternoon. Boston knows, especially with Lester pitching, that one run could make a huge difference in a ballgame between two great pitchers and there’s no better way to force or manufacture a run than being aggressive on the basepaths.

* Have to love the fact that Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is back in a major league starting lineup again but  let’s hope the former Ranger won’t repeat what he did last year in Arlington on Opening Day. Last year, as Texas’ Opening Day catcher, Saltalamacchia hit a game winning single in the ninth inning to give the Rangers the win over Toronto. Nice to see you back in an important MLB role, Salty, but let’s hold off on the heroics at least until Monday.

Check back to SportDFW Friday night for a recap on the game.