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Jon Lester to start Red Sox opener

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff  March 16, 2011 11:32 AM

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. Manager Terry Francona said today that Jon Lester would be the Opening Day starter for the Red Sox.

The season starts April 1 in Texas. Lester will oppose C.J. Wilson in the 4:05 p.m. game.

The announcement, which came as no surprise, was made before Lester's start against the Braves today.

The 27-year-old lefthander was 19-9 with a 3.25 earned run average last season and finished fourth in the American League Cy Young Award voting. He struck out 225 in 208 innings.

The Opening Day nod adds to a long list of achievements for Lester. He won the clinching game of the World Series in 2007, threw a no-hitter in 2008, made the All-Star team for the first time last year and has twice started playoff openers.

Why Lester?

"I think he has that stature in the game now where other teams view him as No. 1. It's a big honor. Once we start, that (No. 1 in rotation) goes by the wayside," Francona said.

Francona has known he'd go this way for quite some time.

"I don't know the exact day it came together, but I gave him a holler in the winter and I asked him 'Do you want to do this?' I said, 'OK don't tell anybody.' I thought we'd wait until now because if something happened in the spring I'd rather not undo it," Francona explained.

Josh Beckett, the Opening Day starter in 2009 and 2010, said Lester deserved the honor.

"Not just for for what he did last year but for what he has been doing right along," Beckett said. "Three days in spring training when people starting asking me about Opening Day, I said that Jon had done nothing not to deserve it.

"It's a really big honor and he should be proud of it. It's something he has earned."

Concerning Beckett's support, Francona said he's not surprised.

"They're all together and very supportive of one another. I wouldn't expect anything less," Francona said.

Francona would not give his rotation beyond Lester because he said he had not spoken to the rest of the pitchers about how the rotation will line up. We can assume Daisuke Matsuzaka will be the fifth starter.

"There's not a whole lot of ego on that staff," Francona said. "We've had our moments in the past with guys coming late to camp or issues like that, but this has been as easy a camp to run. There's no babysitting. It's a fun group to be around."

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