FORT MYERS, Fla. — Red Sox manager John Farrell, for reasons that are unclear, has not named Jon Lester as the Opening Day starter.
The big lefthander started the last two openers and has been lined up to face the Yankees on April 1 for several weeks. But Farrell hasn’t budged.
“Nothing’s been confirmed yet,” he said Sunday.
Even Lester is playing along, saying he has no idea what game he will start.
“I haven’t been told anything,” he said.
Lester’s performance against the Tampa Bay Rays left little doubt. He threw six perfect innings in a 5-1 victory.
Lester struck out six and threw 53 of his 79 pitches for strikes against a fairly representative Rays lineup. He got four groundball outs and four popups. Only a few balls were hit well.
Farrell was impressed at how precise Lester was in full counts and his ability to throw different pitches when he did fall behind.
“He pitched with a lot of confidence,” the manager said.
Lester wasn’t overly impressed. The game didn’t count, after all.
“I wouldn’t say it was the best I felt. But felt pretty good,” he said. “Was able to get in a good rhythm early on. Established our fastball and kind of went from there. I had a good breaking ball today, which was good to see. Been working on that.”
Anthony Carter and Joel Hanrahan each threw a perfect inning. Marco Duarte, a minor leaguer, got one out in the ninth before Jason Bourgeois singled up the middle.
The Red Sox had a spring training perfect game in 2000 that Pedro Martinez started and five relievers finished. Lester knew something unusual was going on again.
“I had a pretty good idea. I pitched the whole time in the windup,” he said.
Lester has two starts left. He will pitch in a minor league game on Friday with the idea of getting to 95 pitches. His final start, likely March 27, will be a shorter one before he starts preparations for the Yankees.
Lester has had a strong spring, allowing two earned runs on six hits over 20 innings.
“Being able to see results helps,” he said. “When you’re working on things and you’re adjusting and you’re making those changes, if you’re out there and you’re getting your butt beat in, you don’t believe in them. It’s hard to buy into them.”
Shane Victorino was 1 for 3 in his return to the Red Sox from the World Baseball Classic. He will hit the road for the game against the Pirates in Bradenton Monday.
Victorino will play right and left field over the next two weeks. The Sox plan to start him in right field at Fenway Park and occasionally in left field on the road depending on the park.
“I’m an outfielder,” he said. “It doesn’t matter to me.”
Victorino didn’t get a lot of time in the outfield during the WBC and is anxious to play as often as possible before the season starts.
“I told [Farrell] today that whatever he sees fit for me, I’m ready to go,” Victorino said. “If he wants me to play every day, I’m ready to play every day from now until the end of the season.”
The United States was eliminated in the second round of the WBC. The team, which was missing many star players, has come under criticism for its performance.
“People ultimately and automatically put America on a pedestal. It’s one of those things that you get held to that standard and when you come up short, people are going to question or be disappointed,” Victorino said.
“For us, we went out there and played every night. That is what was important to us.”
Victorino said Team USA players were “somber” when they were eliminated on Friday.
“Being the United States, there is a target on your back,” he said.
Daniel Bard was in the clubhouse wearing a T-shirt that said “I’m Daniel” on the front and “Not Josh” on the back.
“People keep calling me Josh,” he said. “When I was warming up [on Saturday] a fan said, ‘Have a good season, Josh.’ It happens all the time.”
Josh Bard is a 34-year-old catcher who played seven games for the Red Sox in 2006. He was not in the majors last season.
Daniel Bard is a 27-year-old pitcher who has played parts of four seasons with the Red Sox, appearing in 209 games and has been a major contributor.
Other than their last name, Daniel Bard and Josh Bard don’t have a whole lot in common.
“I asked him about it once and he said nobody ever called him Daniel,” Bard said. “That figures.”Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.