Thursday, March 31, 2011
Updated: April 1, 9:50 AM ET
Mike Cameron starting over J.D. Drew
By Gordon Edes
HOUSTON -- Mike Cameron will draw the opening day start in right field for the Boston Red Sox Friday against the Texas Rangers, manager Terry Francona announced Thursday morning.
The right-handed hitting Cameron will play instead of J.D. Drew, in a concession by Francona to the presence of left-hander C.J. Wilson on the mound for the Rangers.
Wilson held left-handed hitters to a .144 average last season, the lowest for a starting pitcher (minimum 150 innings) in the past 35 seasons. Drew is 1 for 6 in his career against Wilson, but he is not alone among Red Sox hitters who have struggled against the southpaw.
Newcomer Carl Crawford, who also bats from the left side, is 2 for 15 (.133), and David Ortiz is 1 for 10 (.100).
Drew was in the opening day lineup three times in his first four seasons with the Red Sox. He missed in 2008 because of back spasms. Brandon Moss played right field in his place.
"This is not a platoon," Francona said. "J.D. knows that."
Here's Friday's lineup:
1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. Carl Crawford, LF
4. Kevin Youkilis, 3B
5. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
6. David Ortiz, DH
7. Mike Cameron, RF
8. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
9. Marco Scutaro, SS
SP -- Jon Lester, LHP
Scutaro, Crawford and Youkilis are the only Red Sox players with as many as two hits off Wilson. Crawford has the only home run. Youkilis has the highest average (2 for 7, .286).
Cameron is hitless in three at-bats against Wilson, with two strikeouts. Saltalamacchia is 0 for 2, while Gonzalez and Ellsbury each has faced Wilson just once, and did not get a hit.
Drew did not take issue with Francona's decision.
"It's a long season, you know, a long, long year," Drew said. "He asked me, and I told him I'll be in there, I'll sit there and watch. It'll be kind of entertaining to sit there and watch an Opening Day from that standpoint. He said, 'This is a day we value, but we happen to be starting the season against C.J.,' and I said, 'Listen, Tito, I'll play the game, I'll let Cam play the game, whatever you feel is best for the team,' and he said, 'I appreciate it.'"
Drew appreciated that Francona asked him if he were OK with the decision.
"You know, he could have easily just said Cam's playing or not," he said. "[It's] one of those things where I said, 'Hey, this is a game in the middle of 162. It's going to be fun, it's the start of a new season, two or three or four games into it, it's not even going to be a big deal anymore.' We should have a lot of fun, that's for sure."
Cameron said it was a special moment when Francona told him he would get the nod.
"My adrenaline started kicking in and the butterflies came as soon as he told me,'' Cameron said.
Was he surprised by the move?
"A little bit, man, most definitely. Most definitely,'' said Cameron, who was hurt for most of the season before finally shutting down for surgery to repair an abdominal tear (sports hernia). "But I'm very grateful for the opportunity.
"Opening Day is special because really, it's the opening of the season, all the festivities going on, all the emotion, the butterflies and everything else that comes into play. And to still be able to do it, the feeling will be like the first one.''
Although Francona insisted this was not a "platoon" situation, Drew said he realizes that there will be times he'll sit against lefties.
"I understand that there are tough left-on-left matchups and we've got Cameron and Darnell [McDonald] sitting over there. Those are great options to hit against those guys. I have no problem with that. I feel like the more at-bats you get against lefties, the more fine-tuned you get against them, and I don't have any problems hitting against lefties," he said. "The tough thing for me is when the strike zone is expanded and the lefties are pitching you out there, then it becomes a really difficult task, because you're trying to cover in and out.
"But we've got a great team, a bunch of great guys that are role players, and for the most part I don't envy Tito's position trying to figure out who's on the field and who's not."
Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.