Sox send Dice-K in Grapefruit opener

Sox send Dice-K in Grapefruit opener

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- After shaking off the cobwebs by battering Boston College and Northeastern University in a Thursday college doubleheader, the Red Sox are now set to face Major League competition for the first time since they won the World Series in Colorado four months ago.

The Sox make the short bus ride to Hammond Stadium to face the Minnesota Twins on Friday night. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET.

This will mark the Spring Training debut of Daisuke Matsuzaka, who will be able to have a far more normal exhibition season than last year, when his every move was chronicled.

"I think he is now in the same boat as everyone else," said Sox manager Terry Francona. "He is a Major League pitcher trying to get ready for the season. I did think he turned it up a notch his last time on the mound [in live batting practice]. You know he'll compete."

Matsuzaka won 15 games in his rookie year, posting a 4.40 ERA. The last time he pitched was Game 3 of the World Series, and he got the win.

This will just be a small tune-up, as Matsuzaka is expected to go two innings against the Twins.

As for the Boston bats, they were able to get tuned up against college competition. Now, they'll try and get their timing right against Boof Bonser, Joe Nathan, Phillip Humber, Kevin Slowey and other Minnesota pitchers.

"I think everybody is taking the same mind-set, it doesn't matter who we play," said Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "We're all trying to get ready for the season and get our ABs in, try to work on some things and go forward. That's it."

Francona loved the progression of his team being able to face college teams first, and then the Twins.

"I think it's great," Francona said. "This was a perfect way for us to start."

In the first Grapefruit League contest, the Red Sox will bring a very representative lineup.

Kevin Youkilis, Pedroia, Julio Lugo, Mike Lowell, Manny Ramirez, Coco Crisp and Bobby Kielty will all be in the lineup. Jason Varitek, Jacoby Ellsbury and J.D. Drew will stay back at City of Palms Park and work out.

This will be the first of three consecutive games between the Red Sox and Twins. The first two will be at Hammond Stadium, with the action switching to City of Palms Park on Sunday.

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