BOSTON -- Long before he became the general manager of the Red Sox, Ben Cherington was a die-hard fan of the team, growing up in New Hampshire. So he knew that Friday's home opener -- his first in his new position -- should be treated almost like a baseball holiday.
"Opening Day at Fenway is a big day, it always is," Cherington said. "Nice day, great pitching matchup, so you've got to let yourself enjoy this."
Of course, Cherington might have been in more of a festive mood if the Red Sox hadn't started the season-opening road trip with a 1-5 mark. On the bright side, it's a game better than last year's start.
"I think because of what happened last year, the start and the finish of last year, there's going to be tension in Boston when you get off to a bad start no matter what, maybe even more so this year because of what happened last year," Cherington said. "We collectively, in the clubhouse and the front office and as an organization, have just got to focus on the task at hand, focus on our jobs. The guys in the clubhouse are focused and they're excited to be back home, and just keep playing."
Shoppach steals show with stolen base
BOSTON -- First came the belly flop, then came the spoils.
Red Sox backup catcher Kelly Shoppach was toting second base around the clubhouse after a 12-2 win over the Rays on Friday, his loot after swiping his first bag in eight Major League seasons -- on his first big league attempt. Built like a backstop and hardly limber, Shoppach had not recorded a stolen base in the pros since 2002, when he was in Class A ball in the Sox system.
"It was awesome. I actually have already got a great idea of how I'm going to hang [the base] up," said Shoppach, who stole second in the sixth with a runner on third and two out. "Still photo of me sliding, jumping, kissing the dirt, getting the bag up. What a day for all of us, a lot of fun. It's nice to have those days -- especially [with] today's Opening Day and 100 years and all that stuff."
It wasn't pretty. Shoppach, who actually executed a delayed steal, went into a feet-first slide before switching to a headfirst slide that resulted in him plopping down on the bag and sending his helmet flying.
Shoppach waited 464 games to attempt his first steal, which was the active record. But if Shoppach was shocked he got the signal to run, he didn't say so.
"No, I mean, instinctively you know what you can do and can't do -- and [are] supposed to do, and know the signs," Shoppach said. "You just do 'em. Worked out good. I said, 'You know what, my baserunning antics today [are] going to [overshadow] anything I actually did playing.'"
"One of the best slides that I've ever seen in my entire career," Sox outfielder Cody Ross said. "He has the bag. Definitely for me, that was the play of the game. He slid a little early, Willie Mays Hayes-ish, and then proceeded to go forward and smash his head on the bag, it looked like. That's one thing we didn't practice in Spring Training -- one of the only few things. I wouldn't be surprised if we have some sliding practice for Shop sooner or later."
Shoppach had a truly fine day outside of the novelty steal against the team he spent the last two seasons with. He reached base four times, going 3-for-4 with two doubles, two RBIs and a hit by pitch. Shoppach also helped Josh Beckett to an eight-inning, one-run performance.
Shoppach was making his second straight start because the Rays had a southpaw on the mound in David Price and because, well, who would know Tampa Bay better than their former guy. It was not because of Jarrod Saltalamacchia's .077 average over the first five games, manager Bobby Valentine said.
"Kelly Shoppach did a great job working with Josh," Valentine said. "Was a really good job behind the plate. You know, his offense came through. Getting hit by a pitch started a rally. His double started a rally. He stole a base, I think, for the first time in his career. Nice Opening Day at home for Kelly Shoppach."
Bittersweet first Fenway opener for Bailey
BOSTON -- This would have been a day full of nervous excitement for new closer Andrew Bailey if only he was on the active roster.
Instead, the righty was limited to spectator status thanks to the right thumb surgery he had last week that will keep him out until at least July.
"Opening Day at Fenway is a special place to be," said Bailey. "I'm here, so I guess it will still be fun. But it's not the same, obviously. But there will be many more moments I'll cherish, I'm sure, especially late in the season."
Bailey has been able to get acclimated to Boston while the team was on the road for the last week, but he's glad to have some company again.
"Just explored Boston, which has been great," Bailey said. "The fans have all been actually very welcoming me while I've been walking around town, wishing me luck. So it's been cool. It's good to be back, around the guys again. It can get kind of boring, sitting by yourself or walking around town."
Crawford set to start extended spring games
BOSTON -- Carl Crawford initially declined the Red Sox's invitation to attend Friday's festivities for the home opener so he could focus on playing in extended spring games in Florida, but the left fielder's plans changed after his recent bout with left elbow woes.
In town anyway so he could be under the supervision of the team's medical staff, Crawford rejoined the team and took residence in a new locker in the clubhouse, the one formerly used by long-time captain Jason Varitek.
Already bouncing back from left wrist surgery, the elbow flare-up was just another annoyance for Crawford.
"This was the week I was scheduled to play [extended spring] games," Crawford said. "Just a little setback, hopefully I'll catch up. I'm guessing I'll be playing games next week, hopefully."
Crawford said he wasn't sure when he'll head back to Fort Myers, Fla., but manager Bobby Valentine indicated it could be as soon as Saturday.
The left fielder probably needs close to 50 at-bats of Minor League rehab before he can think about joining the Red Sox.
How did the elbow injury occur?
"Just down there when I was working, swinging and throwing," Crawford said. "When I tried to start throwing, I felt it. I was working on it for a while. They decided to call me up and get it checked."
The MRI showed that it was just a strain.
"I'm excited about being here, being back with the team and around the guys and here for the [home opener] and feeling that excitement today," Crawford said. "It should be an exciting time for all of us today."