March 24, 2013; Clearwater, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell (53) in the dugout against the Philadelphia Phillies at Bright House Networks Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Road Ahead: Red Sox April Match Ups Will Provide Early Yard Stick

The Red Sox’ three-game set in the Bronx against the Yankees that kicks off their 2013 campaign is just the first test in what will be a rigorous April schedule that should help the team quickly measure themselves against some of the American Leagues’ best teams.

After finishing up in New York on Thursday, Boston will head north to Toronto for another three-game series starting Friday night against the much improved and free-spending Blue Jays. Boston will likely see 2012 NL Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey on this trip. Dickey went six complete innings and was handed a 4-1 loss by the Cleveland Indians Tuesday night. Not having Dickey on the mound for a few days will be just fine with Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia. Dickey’s knuckler gave Arencibia fits all night. The Jays backstop allowed three passed balls in Dickey’s six innings of work, a Toronto club record.

Friday night at 7:07 Felix Doubront (2012: 2-2, 3.0 ERA) will get his first start of the season against Josh Johnson (2012: 5-0, 2.70 ERA as a Marlin).

On Saturday, in what is possibly Boston’s most anticipated start of the year to date, John Lackey (2012: DL, Tommy John surgery) squares off against J.A. Happ (2012: 1-1, 5.79 with the Astros).

Lackey’s anchoring of the number five spot in the rotation will be a key setup point and momentum builder for John Lester’s (2013: 1-0, 3.60 ERA) second start on Sunday against Dickey (2013: 0-1, 4.50 ERA). If John Farrell and company paid attention Tuesday night, they’ll have runners in motion all day Sunday to put pressure on Arencibia if they get on base against Dickey.

After the Jays series, Boston celebrates their home opener on April 8 at 2:50 pm, a three-games series against the Baltimore Orioles, followed by a four-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays. After a brief three-game road trip to Cleveland, the Sox return to Fenway for an extended home stand against the Royals, As and Astros (OK, not all series are projected to be tough ones) and again with the Rays on the road at the Trop to close out the month. That’s five potential playoff contenders in the first 30 days. A month like this is why a vigorous and successful spring training actually does count.

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