Boston and Tampa Bay start a four-game series at 2:05 p.m. ET, the opener of a nine-game homestand for Boston, which will also host Texas and New York. For the Rays it's the middle series of three on the road, with a four-game trip to Toronto still to come.
"It's such a special place," said Josh Beckett, who is scheduled to start on Friday against Tampa Bay's David Price. "I know everybody gets to see it driving up, but it's really exciting to drive up and see all that stuff on the day you're pitching. There's probably not another place like it. There's really no way to describe it. Driving up Boylston [Street], waiting at the crosswalks, everybody's already down there. It's as busy right then as it will be after the game."
"I'm definitely looking forward to it," said Boston outfielder Ryan Sweeney, who's never played at Fenway as a member of the home team. "Playing there in the past was fun, but it will be fun to have people rooting for you this time, instead of not cheering for you, so I'm looking forward to it."
The Red Sox are limping home after a 3-1 loss to the Blue Jays on Wednesday. Thursday's off-day represented a chance to regroup for a 1-5 team that has nearly mirrored last year's 0-6 start.
The Rays (4-2) wrapped their three-game series with the Tigers with a 7-2 loss on Thursday. Luke Scott, who is familiar with Fenway from his time with the Orioles, doesn't think it's the best place to play, whereas his manager, Joe Maddon, calls the park "iconic."
"As a baseball player, going there to work, it's a dump," Scott said. "I mean, it's old. It does have a great feel and nostalgia, but at the end of the day, I'd rather be at a good facility where I can get my work in. A place where I can go hit in the cage. Where I have space and it's a little more comfortable to come to work."
Beckett, who will be pitching the Fenway opener for the fifth time in seven years, was rocked for seven runs and five home runs in 4 2/3 innings by Detroit in his first outing. Though the right-hander was bothered by his right thumb during Spring Training, he said on Wednesday that the thumb is fine.
"That first start's always [iffy]," he said. "You've got a lot of anxiety leading up to that. You want to do well. A lot of times, you expend too much energy on things that don't help you be successful."
Despite the similarities in records between this year's team and last year's, Beckett thinks the 2012 club is in a better place.
"There was a lot of things going on last year," he said. "When we were 0-6, it just seemed like we never would get a break. Last year when the season started, Texas was locked in. ... They were excited coming off their first World Series [appearance]. It just seemed like nothing could go right. This year I feel like we've done some good things. We've just got to continue to do those things. We've hit a lot of balls hard right at guys."
Price was effective in his first start, earning the victory in an 8-6 win over the Yankees. He let up two runs on five hits in 6 1/3 innings, striking out five and working around four walks.
"I'm looking forward to it," Price said of Friday. "They have a very good team. It's always a very good series when we play them. Fenway's a tough place to play."
Price's next start after that will be against the Blue Jays, meaning he'll have faced New York, Boston and Toronto in his first three outings of the season.
"It's fun to get it going with these three teams," he said. "It kind of lets us know where we're at right now. I think we've handled it pretty well so far."
Rays: Hellickson good to go
Jeremy Hellickson said on Thursday that he is OK after being hit in the head with a batting practice home run Wednesday. Delmon Young hit the ball, which caught Hellickson near his left eyebrow.
"I feel fine," Hellickson said. "I don't think it did anything."
After one final test on Thursday, Hellickson has been deemed able to make his scheduled start against the Red Sox on Saturday.
Red Sox: Valentine pumped for Fenway opener
Friday will be Bobby Valentine's first game as Boston's skipper inside Fenway Park, and it's a day he's eagerly anticipating.
"I'm really looking forward to getting into Fenway and getting the fans on our side," Valentine said. "It's been a long time. We've been on the road a couple of months.
"I know the guys are [looking forward to it]. They love playing there. I'll be with them. I've been told 1,000 times, 'Welcome to Boston.' I haven't really been in Boston yet, so it will be great to get to Boston."
Mike Aviles (left ankle) returned to the lineup on Wednesday, going 1-for-3 with a run scored.
The rehabbing Andrew Miller (left hamstring) will pitch on Thursday for Triple-A Pawtucket. Southpaw Rich Hill (recovering from Tommy John surgery) will pitch for Class A Salem on Friday.
The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., on Tuesday cut the ribbon on its newest exhibit, "FENtennial: Fenway Park's First 100 Years."