Sox ready to kick off exhibition slate

Sox ready to kick off exhibition slate

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- They play Major League Baseball for a living, so the adjustment of returning to game action for the first time in months isn't that strange, right? Well, in actuality, it can be.

When the Red Sox open their exhibition slate with a day-night doubleheader against college teams Northeastern University (1:05 p.m. ET) and Boston College (6:05 p.m.) on Wednesday, a lot of focus will be spent on regaining the feel for the game. The nightcap against B.C. will be shown on MLB.TV

Top prospect Casey Kelly will start the first game, while Boof Bonser gets the nod in the nightcap.

The biggest challenge seems to differ with each player.

"Catching the ball," said Red Sox right fielder J.D. Drew. "Defensively, it's a challenge out there the first few days. That's the big thing I'm working on."

How long will it take?

"It's funny. I was talking to [Mike] Cameron and [Jacoby] Ellsbury the other day just about the first few balls that get hit to you out there, and that first couple of games, your legs aren't up to speed as well as you'd like," said Drew. "I'd say it probably takes a good week to get where you want to get defensively."

Interestingly, from the perspective of new Red Sox shortstop Marco Scutaro, the defense comes right back. In his case, it's the bat that takes a bit to come around.

"For me, I guess it's timing," said Scutaro. "When you're hitting, it gets a little harder. Slowly you start getting your timing, and then you lose it again and get it back again."

As in any spring, there are the players coming off injuries who have a whole different set of challenges.

When Bonser starts against Boston College, it will mark his first start in a Major League environment since 2008. The righty missed all of last year following surgery on his rotator cuff and labrum.

How is his camp going so far?

"It's going great," Bonser said. "We'll find out tomorrow when I get to face live guys."

Then there is shortstop Jed Lowrie, who had recurring problems with his left wrist last season, but is confident the work he did over the winter will make a huge difference.

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"It's a time that I kind of have to be a little self-centered and focus on myself," said Lowrie. "I can't be where everybody else is at, because I spent most of the offseason just trying to figure out what was going on with my wrist. I need to be a good self-evaluator this Spring Training and just be honest with myself."

But the one similarity Lowrie shares with all of his teammates is that he can't wait to get back on the field in a competitive environment.

"Obviously we come to play games," Lowrie said. "You spend all offseason getting ready for games. We're ready to get those going. It will be good to be in that competitive atmosphere. You can definitely tell that the live BP is a step up from coach-pitch, and the games are going to be another step up from live BP."

Manager Terry Francona is also eager to move two miles down Edison Avenue to City of Palms Park, where the Red Sox will reside for the rest of the spring.

"It will be fun -- it's that time," said Francona. "Everybody is busy packing up, we'll go over to the stadium, get comfortable, get into that routine, and a week from now, [the media] will be asking, 'Are we ready for the real games?' That's just the way it goes."

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