04/06/09 11:45 AM ET
Red Sox can hardly wait for opener
Start of season brings excitement, butterflies -- and Rays
By Mike Petraglia / Special to MLB.com
But Mother Nature interceded on the planned Opening Day festivities set for Monday, as the Red Sox will now take on the defending American League champion Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday afternoon at 4:05 ET. But prior to the postponement, the excitement and expectations for both of these teams is unmistakable following their classic battle in the 2008 AL Championship Series.
"It's one of those things where we get the opportunity for redemption right away," said Red Sox shortstop Jed Lowrie. "We're ready for the season, but we're not so focused that we don't have the rest of the season in mind as well."
Lowrie grounded into a fielder's choice to end Game 7 and the Red Sox's season.
"After the game, obviously, it's watching those guys run in from the bullpen and knowing what they're celebrating and headed forward to," Lowrie said. "It was a bit of a deflating feeling."
But the Red Sox get the chance to start putting the wind back in their sails on Tuesday. After arriving in the clubhouse and unpacking their equipment, the team took batting practice for 90 minutes in preparation for its opener against Rays right-hander James Shields. But beforehand, its skipper Terry Francona took time to remind them and everyone that it's the long haul that matters, not just one day.
"You get kind of caught up, especially in the first two weeks when everything is overanalyzed, overblown, overmagnified, and that's what we just reminded the players," Francona said. "Just try to do the right thing, and then as you get into the grind of the season, it'll show."
One of those looking forward to getting that chance for the first time is Red Sox reliever Justin Masterson. He started last season in the Minors before proving he belonged in Boston for good.
"For me, it's the first Major League Opening Day I've ever been a part of. I'm definitely excited," said Masterson, who started 2008 at Double-A Portland. "I don't know what to expect in many respects, because I've never really watched an Opening Day before, aside from the Minor Leagues and having my own. I'm excited for the fans that will be here and the excitement they will bring. I'd love to get a win, too, because I think that will just fuel the fire."
Whether it's Masterson or veteran John Smoltz experiencing his 20th Opening Day, getting the season under way is always a special feeling that generates excitement and butterflies.
Smoltz is not on the club's active roster, but he will be taking part in all the festivities from the Red Sox's dugout.
"Opening Day here, from what I understand, is almost every day when you come to the ballpark," Smoltz said. "The fans are, from what I've seen from afar, phenomenal from rooting, selling this place out and sitting through the weather they have to sit through. This will be very special from the standpoint that it's totally new."
Among the original festivities planned for Tuesday is a Red Sox player introduction through the stands and a ceremonial first pitch from Sen. Edward Kennedy, if his health permits it.
"I'll find out when they tell me what to do," reigning AL MVP Dustin Pedroia said. "I think everyone is excited. Hopefully, the weather holds up. Everyone is excited to be here and excited to start the season."
For Kevin Youkilis, Tuesday signals the start of another season and a chance to earn another ring for his collection from 2004 and '07.
"I always get excited to go out on Opening Day anywhere," said Youkilis, who experienced the unique feeling of Opening Day in Cincinnati growing up. "Opening Day always has a little bit more adrenaline than all the rest. It kind of stinks that we don't get a World Series ring when we go on the field, but hopefully, next season we will."
"My first two years, we opened up in Kansas City and Japan," added Pedroia. "Obviously, that will be a lot better than that. We get to open up in front of our fans. It'll be awesome. I'm excited for it."
Mike Petraglia is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.