Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Red Sox, Shilling Open Spring Games Tonight

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The lights will come on for the 2007 Red Sox on Wednesday night at 7:05 ET, with an exhibition game against the Twins at City of Palms Park. In a few weeks, the game will be a distant memory, and not all that relevant in the big picture. But as far as immediacy goes, the players are excited to get back into a gameday environment.
Ace Curt Schilling will take the ball for the Red Sox. He'll be opposed by Matt Garza.
"You get a little excited, because you have a packed house, you have a lot of fans, you just get into the swing of baseball again," Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis said. "It's exciting to get out there and see all the Red Sox fans. They're so enthusiastic to see baseball again. For us, we don't put too many measurements on how we do. We just go out there and get a feel for the game again."
It beats the monotony of cutoffs and relays, baserunning drills and endless rounds of batting practice.
"I'm sick of this," Youkilis said after the final drill-only day of camp. "These are long days. It's hot; it's draining. When you get out here at 9 [a.m.], it's a draining day. When you play in the games, it's a little easier. Plus, you get your mind focused on the game and the crowd helps out."
Manager Terry Francona won't have his "A" lineup out there, but he'll have a pretty good one.
Julio Lugo will lead off and play shortstop. Youkilis (first base), David Ortiz (designated hitter), Jason Varitek (catcher) and Mike Lowell (third base) will fill out the middle of the order. Wily Mo Pena will bat sixth and play right field, followed by second baseman Dustin Pedroia, left fielder David Murphy and center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
With split-squad games to follow Thursday and Friday, Francona will hold back starters J.D. Drew and Coco Crisp. Left fielder Manny Ramirez didn't arrive in camp until Monday, so he'll be held out a few more days.

News and features:
•Among other storylines to follow with the arrival of games is the closer competition. Joel Pineiro, Brendan Donnelly and Julian Tavarez, three of the four candidates, will get their first looks in Wednesday's game.
"We'll have all the fans and the game situations, and that adrenaline is going to jump in," Pineiro said. "I'm going to be so excited to get out there the first time."
Rookie second baseman Pedroia can start getting acclimated to everyday life in the Major Leagues.
"I'm excited," Pedroia said. "It's been a while since we've played. All this practice and offseason training and stuff; you're always excited to be out there. It takes some time to get back into it, but it's going to be fun."

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