Notes: Schilling gets Opening Day nod

Notes: Schilling gets Opening Day nod

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Not that there was any doubt, but Red Sox manager Terry Francona made it official Thursday afternoon that Curt Schilling will take the ball for the April 2 season opener in Kansas City.

This will be Schilling's second consecutive Opening Day nod for the Sox.

Francona also slotted in the rest of his starters. Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka will pitch the second and third games against the Royals.

With Jonathan Papelbon's move back to the bullpen, Tim Wakefield has been bumped up to the No. 4 slot in the rotation. He'll take his first turn on April 6 in Texas, followed the next day by new No. 5 starter Julian Tavarez.

Though Tavarez had been a reliever throughout camp, Francona is confident that the rubber-armed righty has more than enough time to get stretched out for his first start.

With that in mind, Tavarez will throw a simulated game during the team's April 3 off-day in Kansas City.

Tavarez fired 63 pitches in a Minor League game on Thursday. Over 3 2/3 innings, Tavarez yielded four hits and notched four strikeouts.

Coco's return: Center fielder Coco Crisp, who hasn't played since March 14 because of left shoulder stiffness, is expected to return to the lineup for Saturday's road game against the Devil Rays.

If not for the big stack of lefty starters the Red Sox have faced this week, Crisp could have made his return sooner. But the ailment was particularly troublesome when Crisp bats right-handed.

Relievers informed: Before making it official that Papelbon was reinstated as the closer, Francona discussed the move with the rest of his relievers.

"I think collectively everyone was thrilled with the understanding that it would shorten up games," Francona said. "We talked to [Joel] Pineiro, we talked to [Brendan] Donnelly, we talked to [Mike] Timlin, we talked to [J.C.] Romero; we're in the midst of talking to [Hideki] Okajima. He was in English [speaking] class. We explained to everybody how we feel, and I think everybody was thrilled."

This and that: Wakefield got his work in on Thursday, throwing six innings against the Phillies. He struck out four and scattered eight hits while allowing two earned runs. ... Manny Ramirez was originally scheduled to go to Clearwater, but he opted to take the day off after volunteering for Wednesday's road trip in Bradenton. ... Wily Mo Pena's first homer of the spring was a towering blast that hit the top of the Frenchy's restaurant hut in left field.

Coming up: Schilling will face an American League East team for the first time this spring, when he starts Friday's home game against the Orioles. Baltimore counters with lefty Erik Bedard. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET.

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.