Opening Night: Pregame quick hits

BOSTON -- It’s here.

The 2010 season has finally arrived. The warm weather makes it feel more like early June than early April, but make no mistake about it, it’s Opening Night.

The Red Sox host the defending World Series champion Yankees with first pitch scheduled for 8:09 tonight at Fenway Park. Having this rivalry kick things off for the next three games is a good way to start.

“The feeling is always the same. There’s a lot of excitement. There’s a lot of anxiety and when [first pitch] is at 8:09, that anxiety builds up,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said before the game. I’ll be excited for all the first-pitch stuff, and all the pageantry, but I’ll more excited, more happier when we get into the grind and get into playing baseball.”

Francona hands the ball over to starter Josh Beckett, who was 17-6 with a 3.86 ERA in 2009. He’s on the verge of a possible contract extension with Boston and earlier today he was walking around the clubhouse is a good mood.

“JB looks like he’s very healthy. He looks very strong,” said Francona. “He’s a good guy to give the ball to. I use the word accountable a lot. This is a good feeling. I think it’ll be a good feeling on Tuesday and Wednesday, too. That’s the idea to have good, deep pitching. He’s a good guy to start the season with. I’m sure the Yankees feel the same way. I’m sure they like their guy, too.”

Lefty CC Sabathia will toe the rubber for the Yankees tonight.

More notes from Francona pregame press conference.

* Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka will start the year on the disabled list with a neck strain and he’s scheduled to pitch for Triple-A Pawtucket on April 10. The right-hander is expected to make a few rehab appearances for the PawSox.

“I think he’s going to need a little bit more,” said Francona. “He needs to pitch a little bit. I don’t think you need to just look at the radar gun, but you need to look at command with the fastball and his offspeed pitches. I think the more he pitches, the better off he’ll be.”

* Red Sox pitcher Boof Bonser (on the DL with a groin strain) will pitch on Opening Night for Pawtucket on April 8.

* Francona isn’t sure when catcher Jason Varitek will play his first game. Now that he’s the backup for Victor Martinez, Francona has asked Varitek to be patient to start the season. He got plenty of at-bats during spring training and is where he needs to be to start the season, but his playing time will be limited early on due to the team having three days off over the next week.

“If you’re asking me when he’s going to catch, I don’t know,” Francona said. “It’ll be more conventional than we’ve probably done in the past. Saying that, we have a lot of days off this week, but you don’t on a night if someone gets a foul tip, or something like that. We’re going to try to stay ahead of it.

“You’re balancing trying to keep the regulars sharp, and also not let the guys who are not playing sit too long. It’s certainly a challenge,” added Francona.

* After a long debate, Francona decided it would be best to hit Adrian Beltre in the No. 6 spot behind David Ortiz. J.D. Drew will hit seventh. The manager said he is trying to strike a balance.

“If we’re swinging the bat, nobody will be asking too much. If we’re not everybody will want to know what can you do different. It’s kind of the same – always.”

* The weather at Fenway tonight is beautiful. Even the Red Sox players were happy when they arrived at the ballpark given the conditions for Opening Night.

“Thrilled,” said Francona. “I walked outside today because I didn’t have anything else to do, but the field looked great and the stadium looks great. It’s a nice feeling. We probably caught a huge break. I think everybody was ready to be bundled up at 8 o’clock tonight. It’ll be a nice night.”