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Pitchers set for Sox's first spring games

Pitchers set for Sox's first spring games

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- With exhibition games at last in sight, Red Sox manager Terry Francona unveiled his early rotation Saturday.

Top prospect Casey Kelly will draw the first assignment, starting the opener of Wednesday's day-night college doubleheader against Northeastern University at City of Palms Park at 1:05 p.m. ET. Boof Bonser will pitch the nightcap vs. Boston College at 6:05 p.m., which will be broadcast on MLB.TV.

Ace Josh Beckett will start the first official Grapefruit League game, taking the ball in Thursday's 7:05 p.m. home game against the Twins.

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The next day, when the Red Sox and Twins meet up at Lee County Stadium (also in Fort Myers) at 1:05 p.m., Jon Lester will draw the start and be piggybacked by knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.

But Francona emphasized not to read anything into Wakefield pitching out of the bullpen in his first outing. He simply doesn't want the veteran to have to take an extended road trip to pitch one or two innings.

John Lackey will make his exhibition debut for the Sox at City of Palms Park on March 6 at 1:05 p.m. against, yes, the Twins.

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"Well, we've got the Mayor's Cup to think about, always," Francona quipped.

Prospect Felix Doubront will pitch on the road that day at Port Charlotte, Fla., also at 1:05 p.m. in a split-squad contest against the Rays.

Clay Buchholz gets his first start on March 7 in Sarasota, Fla., against the Orioles at 1:05 p.m., a game which will be on MLB.TV.

Starting pitching is perhaps the most obvious strength of the 2010 Red Sox going into the season.

"It's Day 7," Lester said. "You can't really tell. On paper, everything's great. If we're a month into the season, someone gets hurt and now we're [in trouble] again. But right now, everything looks good, and it should be a fun year, but we've got a long way to go."

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

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