Notes: Pedroia soaks in first opener

Notes: Pedroia soaks in first opener

KANSAS CITY -- Don't expect Dustin Pedroia to get to the field five and a half hours before every game. But pardon the rookie for being a little antsy on the morning of his first Opening Day in a Major League uniform.

"I went to bed at midnight and woke up at 8 [a.m. CT] and got to the field at 9:30," said Pedroia. "I've been here for a while."

By drawing Monday's start at second base, Pedroia became the first rookie position player on Opening Day for the Red Sox since Shea Hillenbrand in 2001.

And perhaps Pedroia's arrival will finally put an end to Boston's second-base shuffle. Consider that Pedroia, who batted ninth, was the 13th different second baseman in the last 14 Opening Days for Boston.

From Luis Alicea to Wil Cordero to John Valentin to Donnie Sadler to Jeff Frye to Jose Offerman to Todd Walker to Mark Bellhorn to Mark Loretta, the position had become a short-term fix for the Sox.

But Pedroia, a homegrown product who has risen steadily since being taken with the 65th overall pick in 2004, could be the long-term solution at second base that has been so elusive.

Last year at this time, Pedroia was in extended Spring Training while recovering from a shoulder injury.

"My shoulder still hurt," said Pedroia. "I didn't know how I would bounce back and all that stuff. Last year was great for me. I struggled at the start and then came on. It was the first time in my life I did that. I learned that you don't get too down. There's a lot of ups and downs in this game."

Pedroia was called up to Boston for the last six weeks of 2006, an initiation that helped ease the transition heading into this year.

While there might have been panic among the masses when Pedroia struggled at the start of this spring, the diminutive second baseman was able to keep it all in perspective.

"I'm starting to figure out how everything is around here," said Pedroia. "You can't read into anything. You just have to go out there and play. I've been successful hitting my whole life so hopefully it doesn't change at this level."

Pedroia singled to left field in his first at-bat on Monday, but was thrown out easily trying to stretch the hit into a double.

opening day 2007

Tavarez tune-up: Julian Tavarez, weather permitting, will take the mound at an empty Kauffman Stadium at 10 a.m. on Tuesday's off-day. For Tavarez, the simulated game will help him finish the process of getting stretched out in preparation for his start against the Rangers on Saturday.

How many pitches will Tavarez throw?

"Just enough to take the edge off," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He'll face some hitters. Just, again, because he's a sinker/command guy, we're trying to not let that span of a week or eight days get in the way of him throwing the ball the way he wants to."

Happily for Francona, he did not have to solicit hitters to give up part of the off-day to face Tavarez. The four reserves on the team -- Wily Mo Pena, Eric Hinske, Alex Cora and Doug Mirabelli -- volunteered to come in and face Tavarez.

Timlin's timetable: Righty setup man Mike Timlin remains on target to start his season on April 10, the day of the Fenway Park opener.

Timlin will throw a Minor League game in Fort Myers, Fla., on Tuesday and then pitch for Pawtucket on Thursday and Saturday.

Who will take over for Timlin as the primary eighth-inning guy in his short absence?

"I've got pretty good ideas," Francona said. "I don't know that there is a Timlin. I think between [Joel] Pineiro, [Brendan] Donnelly and [J.C.] Romero, those three guys we could get maybe get two innings, or parts of two innings. That's probably how we would make it work."

Opening Day excitement: Francona, who played in the Major Leagues from 1981-90, has perspective on how Opening Day differs for a player and a manager.

"I think it's a lot easier for the player," Francona said. "There's nervousness, there's some anxiety. But they get to go out and when the first pitch comes, they get to expend the energy. We kind of sit there and hope that they expend their energy in a positive way. It's hard. As exciting as it is, I always feel better when we get a lot of the firsts out of the way. Try to remind myself to enjoy it a little, but I'd rather be playing the game and be up four runs."

On deck: The Red Sox will start back up on Wednesday when Josh Beckett pitches the second game of the season against Royals left-hander Odalis Perez. First pitch is scheduled for 8:10 p.m. ET.

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