A pick-six of thoughts on the Red Sox in the aftermath of Wednesday night's 3-1 loss to the New York Yankees, who took two out of three in their season-opening series:
1. It's never a good thing when your biggest acquisition of the winter, an $82.5 million investment counted upon to deliver the goods over the next five seasons, almost doesn't make his debut because of "personal issues." A source told ESPN Boston's Joe McDonald that the team gave John Lackey the option of not pitching, but he went ahead Wednesday night and did very well, holding the Yankees scoreless over six innings. Lackey said he had a lot of "things" on his mind but did not elaborate. By the sound of it, though, this could be potentially disruptive.
2. Serial flashbacks are hardly the best way to begin a season. David Ortiz needs to find a better way to make people forget about last season's dreadful start than a 1-for-11, three-game set in which he made the last out of an inning six times in the last two games and let his frustration spill over in an expletive-filled rant that gave a glimpse of the pressure he's feeling.
Ortiz did single in a run Wednesday night, lining an RBI single off lefty Andy Pettitte in the third, but he struck out in his final two at-bats, the last on three pitches against Chan Ho Park, who went curveball (called strike), changeup (called), slider (swinging) to punch out Papi.
Ortiz raked last season in Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium, hitting .375 (his highest average anywhere) with two home runs and seven RBIs, so this weekend's excursion to K.C. may be coming at a good time. But the questions aren't likely to go away anytime soon.
3. As if Ortiz isn't providing enough psychodrama, there was Jonathan Papelbon, who says he spent the winter working out while watching video of last October's meltdown in the playoffs against the Angels. Papelbon collected the save on Opening Night but was saddled with the loss Wednesday when he gave up a long home run to Curtis Granderson in the 10th.
Papelbon has given up more than one home run to only one big league player: Curtis Granderson, who hit his second Wednesday. The last home run Papelbon gave up came last August, and was hit by -- you guessed it, Curtis Granderson, who last season was playing for the Tigers but came to the Bronx in a three-team, seven-player deal.
"It was the same pitch, too," Papelbon said. "A fastball that ran back over the plate."
Seeing Papelbon taken deep is not a familiar experience for Sox fans. The closer gave up just two home runs in 150 plate appearances in the Fens last season and gave up just two home runs to left-handed hitters in 2009 (152 plate appearances). He also had allowed the Yankees just two home runs, one a game-winner to A-Rod in 2007, the other to Melky Cabrera, in 29 previous appearances.
But unlike Ortiz, who went nuclear, Papelbon discussed Granderson's home run in a detached, almost clinical manner, maybe because nearly a half-hour passed before he surfaced in the clubhouse to discuss it. And nobody brought up the Angels debacle.
"I felt really good tonight," he said, "but it was a classic situation where you make one mistake and you pay for it."
4. When Kevin Youkilis plays against the Bombers, he might as well paint a bull's-eye on his back -- or his helmet. Youk took a fastball from Pettitte off the top of his plastic hat in the fifth inning, the 12th time he has been hit by a pitch when playing the Yankees. That's as many times as two other division opponents, the Blue Jays and Rays, have combined to hit the Sox first baseman.
"What are you going to do?" said Youkilis, relieved that the pitch did no damage.
Well, one thing you can do is what Lackey did the next inning, hitting Yankees captain Derek Jeter in the arm with a pitch. That prompted a warning from plate umpire Paul Schrieber. That's unlikely to be the last issued when these teams convene this summer.
5. The Sox are counting on Daniel Bard big-time this season. The 24-year-old setup man was stuck with a blown save when he entered with two outs and a runner on second in the seventh and gave up a game-tying base hit to Nick Swisher, but he set down the next four hitters in order, the radar gun readings on the center-field scoreboard topping out at 99. With Manny Delcarmen still searching and Ramon Ramirez coming off a shaky spring, Bard is all that is keeping Terry Francona from wearing out Hideki Okajima by Mother's Day.
6. The defense will play as well as advertised. Yes, Marco Scutaro's throwing error was a difference-maker in the second game, but he handled seven chances Wednesday night and confirmed Dustin Pedroia's boast that the two barely needed an adjustment period this spring. Youkilis had a terrific series digging out throws, third baseman Adrian Beltre and Pedroia will join him as Gold Glove contenders, and while it didn't come into play in this series, the extra speed in the outfield is obvious.
Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.