LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Speaking prior to his team's spring training game with the Braves, Red Sox manager Terry Francona revealed that Jon Lester will be the Sox' Opening Day starter for Boston's April 1 game against the Rangers in Arlington, Texas.
Francona said he had made the decision in the offseason, and talked to Lester about the possibility before spring training. The manager said he knows how the rest of his rotation will unfold, but since he hasn't been able to talk to all the pitchers about the plans, he would delay any formal announcements. Josh Beckett has gotten the last two Opening Day starts for the Red Sox.
"I don't think that's any surprise, and he's known about it for a while," Francona said.
"I just think he's maturing, the natural progression. I don't think this is any big revelation, I think he's been pretty good. ... I think he deserves it. I think he has that stature in the game right now where other teams probably look at him as No. 1."
Lester said earlier in spring training that the only Opening Day start he has ever had was with Single-A Greenville in 2007 when he was making a rehab start after recovering from cancer.
The lefty went 19-9 with a 3.25 ERA in 2010 after winning 16 and 15 games, respectfully, the previous two seasons. Lester becomes the sixth different Opening Day starter since Francona arrived in '04, following Pedro Martinez, Curt Schilling, David Wells, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Beckett.
Speaking to WEEI.com earlier in spring training, Beckett endorsed Lester as an Opening Day starter.
"The big lefty, he's earned the right," he said, pointing toward Lester's locker. "If they want him to start Opening Day, that's his deal. It's a big honor. That being said, I don't make those decisions. I'm not really worried about it right now because anything can happen. You saw three years ago I didn't even make it out of spring training [due to a back injury]. I was supposed to start Opening Day that year and I didn't start a game until the middle of April.
"It's way too early to be talking about any of that stuff. If they tell him he's going to have the Opening Day nod, congratulations to him, he's earned it. I don't think it's anything I've done. It's something he's done to earn their respect."
For more spring training coverage, see the Red Sox team page at weei.com/redsox.
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