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03/31/2013 6:11 PM ET

Returning or new, Red Sox players eager for rivalry

NEW YORK -- The Red Sox are not reading their press clippings. They are not worried about the external expectations attached to their team in advance of Opening Day, and manager John Farrell said Sunday that he expected Boston's players to do everything in their power to improve upon last season.

"I think our guys, starting at the final day of last year, were looking forward to rewriting the story that unfolded," he said. "That was evident in the conversations early in the offseason. It was true to form as guys reported to Spring Training and the work that they put in. In some cases, guys felt embarrassed by what took place and how the bottom line turned out. But by virtue of changes to our roster, there's a number of new players here that weren't here a year ago. They don't carry those same sentiments in some cases. Our clubhouse has been a very positive environment. It's been upbeat."

Indeed, many of the players said Sunday that they did not want to address last season and that they wanted to focus only on the coming campaign, and Farrell sees that as a positive. As long as they keep their own counsel, Farrell said, the Red Sox can control their own October destiny.

"I think everyone anticipates Opening Day and the start of a new season," Farrell said at his team's final workout. "I know we were eager to get out of Florida and get things under way following what I thought was a very productive Spring Training. I don't know that guys pay too much attention to what's talked about on the outside. We've got our own standard of expectations in play, and what we hope to achieve and what we'll set out to achieve. We have to concentrate on the things we can control."

The schedule helps get Boston's attention early, because it pits the Red Sox against the Yankees, and it does so in hostile territory. Southpaw Jon Lester, who starts for Boston in Monday's season opener, said that no matter what their record is, the Red Sox are always ready for New York.

"I think any time you have Red Sox-Yankees, it's going to be intense," Lester said. "Adding Opening Day to it is going to be fun. As far as expectations, I think our division is obviously one of the toughest in baseball. I think it's really up to who stays the healthiest, who has the most consistent starting pitching. ... I think it's going to be a rat race, and we'll have to play 162 to figure it out."

Shane Victorino, an offseason transplant to the American League and to the Red Sox, did not shy away from the questions Sunday. Victorino, who won a World Series title with the Phillies, said he signed with Boston to win and that he feels no regrets when he now looks around the clubhouse.

"Obviously, this is my first time here," he said. "Sometimes it's good to be at the bottom of the totem pole. Sometimes when you're at the top, you have those expectations, and you have that target on your back. But you know what? There's always that target on the Red Sox's back. I don't care what you tell me. Even if we are at the bottom of the totem pole, it's still the Red Sox. I get to participate [Monday] night in the biggest rivalry in sports, and that's the kind of stuff that gets me excited."

The Red Sox will get to see former Boston regular Kevin Youkilis make his Yankees debut Monday, and some of them just aren't sure what it will be like to see him in pinstripes.

"It will be weird," Lester said of facing Youkilis. "I wouldn't have ever thought it would happen, but he made that choice for him and his family. He's got a chance to play third base here, and I'm sure he's excited about it. But now he's going to the Bad Guys, so we've got to worry about him tomorrow."

Bradley to start on Opening Day

NEW YORK -- Jackie Bradley Jr. has arrived on a major stage. Manager John Farrell said that Boston's highly touted outfield prospect has done enough in Spring Training to make the team, and he's performed so well that he'll start in left field against the Yankees on Opening Day.

Bradley, just 22 years old, batted .419 in Spring Training, and his candidacy to make the team was aided by lingering injuries to left-handed hitters Stephen Drew and David Ortiz. Bradley, who has never played above the Double-A level, gives the Red Sox another strong athlete in the outfield.

"He improves our outfield defense," said Farrell. "He showed a very consistent approach at the plate. A lot of people want to maybe target the batting average in Spring Training, but in our evaluation it goes much deeper than that. When you see the consistency of at-bats he put up, we feel like the strength in his mental approach will handle some of the distractions that will ultimately be thrown his way."

The Red Sox designated prospect Mauro Gomez for assignment on Sunday to make room for Bradley, who was taken with the 40th overall choice in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. Last year, Bradley batted .359 in 67 games for Class A Salem and .271 in 61 games for Double-A Portland.

Now, just a year removed from his full-season debut, Bradley is at the top of the organizational heap. The youngster said he was able to contact his family and close friends and that they'll be in attendance for his big league debut on Monday, but he stressed that he doesn't expect to be nervous.

"I'm pretty excited," he said of his emotions. "I think it really hasn't hit me yet. Until my name is called, and then I'm pretty sure I'll probably go numb a little bit. It's great, it's an honor and I can't wait."

Farrell said that the Red Sox planned all along to get Bradley some more Minor League seasoning, but he kept on hitting his way into consideration. The plan early on is to get Bradley as much playing time as possible, and the Red Sox will reevaluate once Drew and Ortiz are ready to return.

For now, though, Farrell is excited about the opportunity to get Bradley on the field. Farrell told Bradley that he'd made the team while they were on the airplane to New York from Spring Training, and he said that the youngster took the news in stride and has displayed maturity in every setting.

"I don't want to say he's unflappable, but at the same time he's got a very consistent approach. He really focuses on the things that he can control. I know these are somewhat cliche, but this is is a young guy that seems very polished at a very early stage of his pro career. And because of what we know about the individual, it gives us a lot of confidence and comfort to put him in the position."

Bradley was given a hard time by his peers about the media's sudden focus, but in a quieter moment, his teammates spoke in turn about how he had earned his shot at an Opening Day job.

"He's had a great Spring Training," said Shane Victorino. "He's shown everybody that he deserves an opportunity. I think that's the most important thing. But now it's just going out there and having fun, not putting any pressure on yourself to go out there and do the things you want to do."

Farrell gives updates on Ortiz, Drew

NEW YORK -- Boston manager John Farrell gave a few final health updates as his team readies for Opening Day on Monday. The Red Sox will be without designated hitter David Ortiz and shortstop Stephen Drew, but Farrell said both could return from the disabled list relatively soon.

Ortiz, sidelined by an injury to his left heel, did not play in Spring Training, and Drew has been slowed by the effects of a concussion sustained early in the spring season. Farrell said both players were on the mend and that both may be able to return in the next few weeks.

"David will actually do all his work inside today. He will remain with us here in New York through the series and then return to Florida some time at the latter part of this week," Farrell said. "Hopefully he can get into some games not too long after his return to Florida. With Stephen's situation, we're still working through the paperwork that is required for his release to get back on the field in any game situation, whether it's extended Spring Training or in rehab assignment. From a physical standpoint, he is improving. He feels like he's ready to get back into some live pitching and game situations."

Ortiz has played in nine straight Opening Days for Boston, and the Red Sox have not had a different designated hitter for the season's first game since Jeremy Giambi lined up at DH in 2003. Jonny Gomes will get the first crack at DH on Monday against southpaw starter CC Sabathia of the Yankees.

Things are a little more uncertain for Drew, who was placed on the seven-day disabled list retroactive to last Wednesday. Drew already feels like he is ready to play, but the Red Sox want to be careful regarding head injuries and will make sure that the doctors sign off before he returns.

"We're hopeful to get him in games relatively soon here," Farrell said. "It's games, it's not just live [batting practice]. He's been taking live BP [but hasn't faced live pitchers]. Given the way he feels and what he's been able to perform through the baseball activities, he's ready to get in games."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.