FORT MYERS, Fla. — Terry Francona ended any suspense over who will be his Opening Day starter by announcing Wednesday morning that Jon Lester will get the ball April 1 in Texas, according to reports out of Lake Buena Vista, where the Red Sox were preparing to take on the Atlanta Braves.
Lester, coming off a 19-win season that was good enough to land him in fourth place in the American League Cy Young Award voting, will oppose Texas Rangers lefty C.J. Wilson.
The announcement is not a major surprise, although the timing of it was, to some degree. Francona, who doesn't see the need to make such declarations until he knows every guy in the rotation is healthy and lined up to start the regular season, did not announce his Opening Day starter until March 26 of last year.
Francona discussed this process earlier in camp.
"Just doesn't make a lot of sense," Francona said when asked about making an early proclamation like Rangers manager Ron Washington did with Wilson several weeks ago. "Someone has to answer a lot of questions, including myself. I'd rather get through the bulk of the spring and know for a fact that that's the way it's going to happen. If somebody is struggling a little bit, or somebody slips on the mound and misses a start [we have to be able to adjust]."
Lester, however, has looked superb this spring and has apparently shown enough to get the nod. Entering his start against the Braves, he had thrown six scoreless innings, plus a three-inning simulated game in which hitters barely made contact against him.
The 27-year-old, who fell one win shy of becoming the first Red Sox southpaw to reach 20 in a season since 1953, is coming off his second straight 225-strikeout campaign. He has made at least 32 starts and topped 200 innings for three consecutive years.