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    Red Sox announce Jon Lester as Opening Day starter

    Jon Lester (right) was a casual observer Thursday. On Monday, he’ll be all business on the mound in Baltimore.
    gerald herbert/associated press
    Jon Lester (right) was a casual observer Thursday. On Monday, he’ll be all business on the mound in Baltimore.

    FORT MYERS, Fla. — Manager John Farrell took a seat in the Red Sox dugout at JetBlue Park Thursday afternoon, spilled out a few nuggets of information, then acknowledged it was a “slow day in the Fort.’’

    For the most part, that’s the way it’s been here this spring. The Sox played the Twins (who else?) in their final spring night game Thursday, and will wrap up with two more against the Twins (who else?) on Friday at Hammond Stadium and Saturday afternoon at JetBlue.

    We learned Thursday that Jon Lester is going to be the Sox’ Opening Day starter in Baltimore on Monday afternoon. This had been obvious for several weeks, but the Sox had yet to make it official. Farrell capped off his announcement by saying, “And the earth is round.’’


    This will be Lester’s fourth consecutive Opening Day start. Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens each started seven consecutive openers for the Sox. Lester will take over the record for Sox southpaws, passing Babe Ruth and Mel Parnell (three apiece).

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    The Red Sox beat the Twins, 4-1, Thursday night. John Lackey went 6 innings of shutout ball and Farrell went to his eighth- and ninth-inning guys: Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara.

    “I felt good,” said Lackey. “I tried to treat this one as much as a real one as I could. I threw a lot of strikes.”

    “He was as sharp tonight as he was in midseason last year,’’ said Farrell. “He goes into the season in very good shape.’’

    Boston is still carrying 33 players — Craig Breslow and Steven Wright were placed on the 15-day disabled list after the game — with many cuts expected on Friday. The down-to-the-wire selection of Grady Sizemore or Jackie Bradley Jr. as the starting center fielder may not be unveiled until Saturday when the Sox break camp and fly to Baltimore. Sizemore (.333) had two more hits Thursday and is expected to get the nod, with Bradley (.158) starting the season in Pawtucket.


    “Everything has been great,’’ said Sizemore after playing nine innings on three consecutive days. “I held up well and it was good to get the reps. It’s a lot more action than I’ve had in a long time.’’

    There was other news regarding the outfield rotation and leadoff spot. The Sox are reluctant to lead off Sizemore, and Farrell said he likes the former All-Star batting in the fifth or sixth spot. Sizemore batted fifth Thursday.

    “It doesn’t really matter,’’ said Sizemore. “I’m happy to be in the lineup wherever I’m at.’’

    The manager indicated that Daniel Nava would probably bat leadoff against righthanded pitching, which leaves Shane Victorino or Jonny Gomes as possibilities against lefty starters.

    Victorino (sore left side) has played in only eight big league exhibition games, but Thursday he played nine innings and got three hits in six at-bats in minor league game against Twins farmhands. Farrell said Victorino would play against the Twins’ big leaguers on Friday, adding, “I think he’s ready to go.’’


    Sizemore is expected to get Friday off.

    “He’s looking great physically,’’ said Farrell. “He’s in a good place.’’

    Cup is half-full

    Boston’s victory squared the Mayor’s Cup series at 2-2 with two games left. The Sox can clinch the coveted Cup (now lamely known as “The Chairman’s Cup”) with a split because a tie goes to the previous year’s winner . . . Mike Napoli had two hits. Napoli tomahawked a ball off the Monster in the fourth, but was thrown out trying for a double . . . Edward Mujica followed Lackey to the mound in the seventh and gave up an RBI double . . . The Sox honored the two Boston firefighters who died in a Back Bay fire Thursday with a moment of silence before the first pitch.

    Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at