04/11/08 2:00 AM ET
Sox, Yanks set to renew rivalry on FOX
Right-handers Beckett, Mussina to duel at Fenway Park
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
Here they are again, the perennial American League East powers, ready to do battle on Saturday afternoon at 3:55 p.m. ET on FOX.
Viewers will be treated to a terrific Fenway Park pitching matchup of one right-hander, Josh Beckett, in his prime and another, Mike Mussina, trying to ward off the aging process.
Beckett is just happy to be healthy again after opening the season on the 15-day disabled list. After taking a loss against a tough Toronto team in his '08 debut, Beckett won't back down from the challenge of facing another loaded lineup in this one.
"Those are the teams we're going to have to beat throughout the year," said Beckett. "It doesn't bother me. That's what I get paid to do. I get paid to pitch on my days. If my day falls whenever they're in town or we're in their town, that's when I'll pitch."
If it seems like Mussina has pitched a whole lot of games against the Red Sox in his career, it's because he has. Mussina, who has never pitched for a team outside the AL East, has made 52 starts against the Red Sox, going 19-15 with a 3.56 ERA.
The 39-year-old righty is off to a solid start this season, going 1-1 with a 3.09 ERA in two starts.
One thing that will be a little strange for the FOX audience is seeing someone other than Joe Torre in the Yankees' dugout. Now, it is Joe Girardi filling that role.
Of course, Girardi is no stranger to the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry from his days as a player.
"I think it'll be just as hostile, enjoyable and intense," Girardi said. "It's great. Any time you go into ballparks and it's full, whether it's for you or against you, I think it's a good environment. It's loud and people are on the edge of their seats. I always think that's a good environment for athletes to play in."
For years, the Red Sox and Yankees have had great individual rivalries. In the 1940s, there was Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio. In the 1970s, Carlton Fisk and Thurman Munson were catchers extraordinaire. There was Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Jeter in the late 1990s.
These days, both teams have star-studded closers. Mariano Rivera is still pitching at a high level for the Yankees and Jonathan Papelbon might be the most dominant reliever in the game.
"I'd love to follow in his footsteps for what he's done for the game of baseball," said Papelbon. "He's kind of the Godfather of the role, of today's closers. You had Goose [Gossage] and people like that of the past generation. I think with him, he's kind of set the tone and guys like me and Joe Nathan and Frankie Rodriguez. I feel like it's our honor and duty to try to follow in the footsteps and keep this good thing of what closers have become -- to keep it going."
As for the Red Sox and Yankees, it's a rivalry just keeps going and going.
The Yankees used to be the powerhouse the Red Sox were always trying to catch. But the roles have been reversed of late. The Sox have won the World Series twice in the last four years while the Yankees are trying to get back to the top for the first time since 2000.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.