"I am prepared to [name it]," Valentine said, "but I'm not going to. I want to be last. Can I be the last one to name the Opening Day starter? I can do that, right?"
Of course you can, coach. Not only because it's your team, but it gives all of Red Sox Nation more time to argue about who should get the nod for the April 5 season opener against the Tigers.
Jon Lester toed the rubber on Opening Day for the Sox last season, receiving a no-decision in a game the Sox eventually lost to the Rangers in Arlington. Before then, it was Josh Beckett who earned the distinction of Opening Day starter the previous two seasons.
Both are once again candidates to pitch Boston's first regular-season game this year, and Valentine really can't go wrong either way. He also has Clay Buchholz waiting in the wings, and the righty has proven that he can be a top-of-the-rotation starter when healthy.
Buchholz's last start last season came on June 16, but in total, the right-hander went 6-3 with a 3.48 ERA in 14 starts. He went 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA in 28 starts in 2010.
Lester and Beckett, meanwhile, were healthy for the stretch run, although neither pitched up to his potential during the Red Sox' September collapse. They're still front-end starters, though, and each seems to have a chip on his shoulder as spring training progresses.
Lester went 15-9 with a 3.47 ERA in 31 starts last season, and Beckett went 13-7 with a 2.89 ERA in 30 starts. You can bet they'll be looking to build upon those numbers again this season, particularly in the win column.
The journey begins with the April 5 opener in Detroit. And while being the Opening Day starter actually doesn't mean a whole lot at the end of the day, considering how much rotations fluctuate over the course of a 162-game season, it'll still be interesting to see who's on the bump.
The Providence Journal's Tim Britton reports that all signs point to Lester, given the way the rotation is set up for the rest of spring training. But with Bobby V. in charge, you never know what we'll see.
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