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03/26/10 5:28 PM ET

Red Sox unveil rotation; Beckett up first

Ace to pitch again after Wake, before No. 5 starter Buchholz

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Red Sox ace Josh Beckett noted the other day that it's "fun" to pitch the first game of the season because it only happens once a year.

Well, the Red Sox officially announced on Friday that Beckett will get to have his fun on April 4, when he pitches on Opening Night at Fenway Park against the New York Yankees, continuing baseball's most storied rivalry in the first game of Major League Baseball's 2010 season.

In what is a highly compelling matchup, the Yankees will counter with lefty CC Sabathia, who fueled New York to the World Series championship last year. This will be the fifth Opening Day start of Beckett's career, and second with the Red Sox.

Jon Lester will work the second game of the season for Boston on April 6, and John Lackey will make his debut for the Sox in the finale of that three-game series against the Yankees a day later.

When the Red Sox hit the road for a three-game series at Kansas City, Tim Wakefield will pitch the opener on April 9, followed by Beckett and Clay Buchholz. Boston will stay in a regular five-man schedule after that, meaning that Lester will pitch at Minnesota in the debut of Target Field.

"I think it's a lot of relief for the five guys in the rotation to have a clear picture once the season begins of where they're going to be starting and who they're going to be going against," said Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell. "We still have a lot of work left in Spring Training, but there's always that thought in the back of every starter's mind: 'Where do I line up?'

"I think with the five starters that we have -- in combination with the work they're doing in Spring Training -- plus what they did for us last year and previous years, we feel good about the five guys we're beginning the season with."

Right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was slowed the first couple of weeks of camp by a sore upper back, will start the season on the disabled list.

With three off-days before their eighth game, manager Terry Francona and Farrell spent several days deliberating how best to schedule their starting pitchers out of the gate.

"We thought about a lot of things," said Francona. "We're trying to balance present, future, performance and winning, and I think we're all comfortable with where we got to. Looking at days off, there's some things that could change with weather -- we know that. How much rest is too much? How much is not enough? We're pretty comfortable with where we ended up."

Francona admitted Friday that he's known for some time that Beckett, Lester and Lackey would be the order against the Yankees. The dilemma was how much rest to give Beckett before his second start, and when to slot in Wakefield and Buchholz.

Though the 43-year-old Wakefield underwent back surgery last October, he has been on a completely normal schedule all spring and has pitched well throughout the Grapefruit League.

"We'll slot Buchholz in the sixth game of the year. That way it keeps Josh not going into a seventh-day time span, where we've seen over the past couple of years when he gets past six days and that extra rest starts to take away from his sharpness," said Farrell. "By inserting Wake in there, it gives us the chance to break up two power right-handers to give that contrast of style, and [Wakefield] has done everything we could have asked in Spring Training. He's come in, he's proven he is healthy, he's thrown the ball very well. It gives us a confident feeling that we're fairly deep, [Nos.] 1-5, in this rotation."

"I think we all just felt like this balance was good," Francona said. "Nobody is going to sit too much. Once we get through these days, guys can stay right in order. Again, there's a lot that went into it, but we feel comfortable with the balance we struck."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.