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Even before John Lackey signed with the Boston Red Sox, Mark Teixeira lobbied his former teammate to join the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.
Of course, he envisioned Lackey in pinstripes.
"He kind of got on me during the season, trying to get me to go there," said Lackey, who never really popped up on the Yankees' radar this winter. "It'll be fun. It's one of the reasons to come here, to get into a rivalry like that. It's one of the biggest in sports, and you want to be part of it."
Lackey acknowledges that when he was with the Los Angeles Angels, he wasn't quite as enamored with all the attention focused on Sox-Yanks, especially by a certain network whose initials begin with an E and end with an N.
"We definitely felt like there was an East Coast thing going on over there," Lackey said, "but it's natural. Most people are asleep by the time we played out there."
The winter before, when Teixeira was a free agent, the Red Sox and Yankees were both in avid pursuit, and the Angels were trying to keep him, Lackey said he never really tried to sway the switch-hitter's decision.
"Not really," he said. "He was at a point in his career where [New York] is where he wanted to be. None of us were too surprised."
The last time the Red Sox and Yankees opened the season against each other was in 2005, the season after the Sox completed their unprecedented comeback from a 3-0 series deficit in the American League Championship Series. Just as Marco Scutaro will make his Sox debut Sunday night, they had a new shortstop for that opener, as well, Edgar Renteria, who came highly touted and newly enriched, having been signed as a free agent that winter to a four-year, $40 million contract.
|After feeling the squeeze by the Red Sox and the Yankees as a member of the Blue Jays, Marco Scutaro (right, with Jacoby Ellsbury) is happy to take sides.|
Renteria was brought in to replace Orlando Cabrera, who had galvanized the Sox with his defense after a trading-deadline acquisition but whose swing-first offensive approach was among the reasons the Sox decided not to retain him. Renteria got off to a slow start, went into a shell, made a career-high 30 errors and was traded to Atlanta after the season, with Boston eating a huge chunk of his contract just to get him out of town.
The position has remained in flux: Alex Gonzalez dazzled defensively but didn't hit; Julio Lugo was a disaster by any measure; and Jed Lowrie was hurt, leading Theo Epstein to make yet another change, this time adding Scutaro.
Scutaro arrives with considerably less fanfare than some of his predecessors, in part because he signed to more modest terms (a two-year, $12.5 million deal). But he seems like a reasonable bet to stabilize the position until the anticipated arrival of 20-year-old Cuban defector Jose Iglesias. Scutaro is solid if unspectacular defensively, and his offensive approach suggests that he will fit right in with a lineup that prides itself on grinding out at-bats.
Scutaro ranked fifth in the majors in percentage of pitches taken last season, 65.2 percent, and was tied for first in making contact (percentage of swings putting the ball in play) at 93.3 percent.
His view of the Sox-Yankees rivalry came from the perspective of playing in the same division on a team, the Toronto Blue Jays, that knew it had little chance of competing. "That was tough," he said.
Although he is looking forward to making Fenway Park home, his most vivid recollection of being on Yawkey Way is hardly a pleasant one.
"Getting beaned by [Josh] Beckett," he replied when asked to recount his top memory of playing in the Fens.
That was on Aug. 28, when a fastball from Beckett ran up and in and caught Scutaro just behind the ear.
"I remember lying in the dirt for at least 20 seconds, listening to the ringing in my ears,." said Scutaro, who had to leave the game.
Beckett later called the clubhouse, he said, checking on his condition. Asked whether Beckett had said anything to him this spring, Scutaro said, "Yeah. 'Sorry."'
Mike Cameron's favorite memory of Fenway has a happier outcome. "I hit a home run off Pedro," he said, referring to a home run he hit off Sox ace Pedro Martinez on Sept. 4, 2000, while playing for the Seattle Mariners. "I hit a changeup."
Two years earlier, while playing for the White Sox, Cameron also hit a home run off Martinez, a three-run shot in Comiskey Park. But don't get the idea that Cameron owned Martinez. Those were the only two home runs he hit off Pedro, who held Cameron to a .179 average and struck him out almost half of the times (13 of 28) he faced him.
Epstein had tried to trade for Cameron five years ago, when Cameron was with the Mets and Manny Ramirez would have gone to New York as part of a three-way deal with Tampa Bay. But Tampa insisted that Hanley Ramirez be part of the deal, it fell through, and Hanley later went to the Marlins as part of the deal that brought Mike Lowell and Josh Beckett to Boston.
It may have taken a while, but Cameron is grateful his next visit to Fenway Park will not require dressing in the visitors clubhouse. "So small," he said, "that I remember one year we had to double up in the lockers."
Beckett is scheduled to pitch Sunday's opener against the Yankees -- he is 2-1 with a 1.59 ERA in his previous Opening Day starts, the second-best career ERA in openers among active starting pitchers (minimum four starts).
Lowell, meanwhile, has been displaced at third base by another Sox newcomer, Adrian Beltre, who has some sense of what the rivalry entails. "I was part of Dodgers-Giants," he said.
Bill Hall grew up in Mississippi, where his fan allegiance was cast with the Atlanta Braves back in the day when Ted Turner's team was on the tube all the time. Having played with the Milwaukee Brewers, Hall mentioned the rivalry with the Cubs, but said it could hardly compare to Sox-Yanks. "Never had any real incidents between the teams," he said. "I think you need that in a rivalry. And so many Cubs fans would come from Chicago, we'd call it Wrigley Field North."
But Hall is sufficiently familiar with the history of Sox-Yanks to understand the coincidence of Aaron Boone's being in the broadcast booth for a Sox exhibition last week on Grady Little's 60th birthday.
"He didn't take Pedro out of the game," he said, "and Boone hit the home run off Wake, right?"
Right indeed. The moments of which rivalries are made.
Information provided by ESPN researcher Katie Sharp was used in this report.
Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here. Follow him on Twitter.