04/02/09 5:51 PM ET
Spring break comes to an end
With Opening Day looming, Red Sox excited to start season
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
"Even though we have two exhibition games, we look at this being the last day of Spring Training," said Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. "We'll be in New York and traveling. Everyone is excited to get the season going."
Getting out of Southwest Florida -- their home base since mid-February -- signified that the monotony of Spring Training is soon to be replaced by the intensity of Opening Day, which will occur Monday at Fenway Park against the Tampa Bay Rays.
"I think everyone is ready to get out of here and start the year," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "We'll go play in New York, kind of get used to travel and stuff like that, and get back to Boston and start it up."
Though Spring Training was longer this year because of the World Baseball Classic, that wasn't necessarily a bad thing.
"It was a long Spring Training, but I think we could use that as a positive," Pedroia said. "Guys got a lot more at-bats, played more games. That's a good thing. Getting ready for the season, a lot of guys start slow, and I'm one of them. It's definitely good to see a lot more pitches and try to get in that rhythm sooner than later."
"I feel a lot better. I'm seeing the ball better. The last couple of years, I was kind of nervous going into the season. This year, I saw the ball a lot better and hit the ball a lot better."
As for that left abdominal injury that forced Pedroia out of the Classic prematurely?
"I feel fine," Pedroia said. "I feel normal and ready to get the season started. I'm excited about it."
The Red Sox came into camp feeling like a championship contender, and they leave feeling no differently. In other words, injuries -- aside from shortstop Julio Lugo undergoing right knee surgery -- have not been an issue.
"Everybody seems ready to go," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "That's good. Rocco [Baldelli] has come through this camp, I think, looking pretty good. I think Mikey Lowell has done a terrific job getting ready. Pedey and [Kevin Youkilis] came back [from the Classic], but they look fine. J.D. [Drew], early in the spring, missed a few games. But I think we're about as ready to go as you can be."
If there was one overriding theme of this camp to Francona, it was the professionalism displayed by the players.
"Everybody did what we asked them to do," Francona said. "The guys that were in camp the whole time, we tried to not let them get too far ahead, because it's just not helpful. It was an easy camp [to manage]. We got our work done. It was a little disjointed at times just because guys weren't here, but it's that way all across the league, so you just do the best you can."
The brief stop in New York will help the Red Sox ease into the routine of the season.
"I love what we're doing," Francona said. "I love getting to a stadium. I think it's great. You can play under the lights here and it probably gives it a little bit of a different look. Getting in a stadium is really good. I like that."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.