Using bench will be balancing act early on

Using bench will be balancing act early on

BOSTON -- For the first time since 1999, when Scott Hatteberg caught Pedro Martinez in Kansas City, somebody besides Jason Varitek was behind the plate in a Red Sox opener. The start, as expected, went to Victor Martinez, who will get the bulk of playing time behind the plate this season.

When will Varitek get his first start? Typically, Red Sox manager Terry Francona can plot that stuff out a few days ahead of time. But it is more tricky this season, considering Boston has three off-days before its eighth game. Instead of Varitek catching a certain pitcher, he's more likely to be utilized for a day game after a night game, or when there are several games in a row.

"If you're asking me when [Varitek] is going to catch, I don't know," Francona said. "It will be more conventional. Saying that, we have a lot of days off this week. You don't know if somebody takes a foul tip or something. We'll try to stay ahead of it.

"One of the things we talked to our guys about yesterday was trying to be patient early in the season, because up to this point, everyone has had their at-bats and has been on a schedule. Then the season starts, so you're balancing trying to keep the regulars sharp and also not letting the guys that aren't playing sit too long. It's certainly a challenge."

All four players on the Boston bench this season -- Varitek, Mike Lowell, Jeremy Hermida and Bill Hall -- have been everyday players in the past.