For parts of the previous of seven seasons, Jon Lester, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis teamed up on the Boston side of the rivalry with the Yankees.
On Monday, all three will be present at Yankee Stadium but now the former Red Sox third baseman is clean-shaven and playing third and first base for the Yankees.
“That’s going to be different, especially [that he’s] clean-shaven,” Pedroia said. “It’ll be different. Youk’s been family for a long time.”
At least Pedroia won’t have to pitch to Youkilis. That goes to Lester, who will be making his third Opening Day start and looking to rebound from the worst season in his career.
Lester faced his former teammate twice after the June 24 trade to the White Sox but instead of issuing the standard, “just another game” cliché, he conceded it is a strange sight.
“It would be weird,” Lester said. “I wouldn’t have ever thought that would happen, but he made that choice for him and his family and got a chance to play third base here. I’m sure he’s excited about it, but now he’s one of the bad guys. We got to worry about him tomorrow.”
A clean-shaven Youkilis in Yankee pinstripes may not even be the most bizarre aspect of Monday’s season opener.
Most preseason forecasts don’t expect much from either team. The Red Sox are coming off their worst season since 1966 while the Yankees will be missing Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter to various injuries of varying lengths.
The last time the Yankees and Red Sox had a losing season in the same year was 1992 — a year they also faced each other in the season opener at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees wound up with 76 wins while the Red Sox finished with 73.
Since then they faced each other in season opening games in 2005 and 2010 when both teams were coming off respective world championships.
“It might exist out there and certainly many have written about it but I don’t know if we spend too much time consuming ourselves with what people on the outside are saying or writing,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “It’s the belief of that group inside that clubhouse that matters most and our standard or expectation can’t be compromised by what’s taken place in the past.”
“As far as expectations, I think our division is obviously one of the toughest in baseball and I think it’s up to who stays [the] healthiest, who has the most consistent starting pitching,” Lester said. “I think that’s what it’s going to come down to. You could flip a coin and point to any team at the top and any team at the bottom. It’s going to be a rat race and we’re going to have to play 162 to figure it out.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.