BOSTON — On opening day the past 10 seasons, Jason Varitek and Mike Lowell could plan on being in the starting lineup.

Those streaks ended Sunday when Victor Martinez started as the Red Sox catcher and Adrian Beltre as the third baseman.

All of Varitek’s 10 starts had come with Boston, tying him with Wade Boggs and Dom DiMaggio for eighth all time among Red Sox players.

Varitek, who turns 38 next Sunday, will not be on a platoon system as in previous years when Boston used a backup to catch Tim Wakefield and Varitek caught every other game.

Varitek’s offense has declined (.220 batting average in 2008, .209 last season), and the Red Sox are not likely to take Martinez’s bat out of the lineup unless he needs a rest.

“If you’re asking me when (Varitek) is going to catch, I don’t know,” Manager Terry Francona said. “We have a lot of days off this week.”

In other words, Martinez won’t need a rest anytime soon.

Both Lowell and Varitek got loud ovations during the pregame introductions.

 

THE SUBS will not be benched forever, Francona said.

“You want to play the regulars but not let the others sit too long,” he said.

One lineup change Tuesday could be outfielder Jeremy Hermida, a left-handed hitter, in place of righty-hitting Mike Cameron when the Yankees start right-hander A.J. Burnett.

 

SPEAKING OF left-right maneuvering, the Red Sox have their $14 million outfielder, J.D. Drew, batting seventh. Francona did not want left-handed hitters Drew and David Ortiz hitting back to back in the lineup.

“I wanted to keep them separated,” said Francona, who inserted Beltre as the No. 6 batter.

Asked about future lineups, Francona said: “We’ll see.

“If we’re swinging the bats, nobody will be asking (about the lineup). If we’re not, everybody will want to know what we can do different.”

 

WHILE THE PORTLAND Sea Dogs will have strong starting pitchers led by prospect Casey Kelly, the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox are going with some major league talent for starters.

Boof Bonser and Daisuke Matsuzaka, both on Boston’s disabled list, will start for Pawtucket, Bonser on Thursday and Matsuzaka on Saturday.

It will likely be the first of at least three rehab starts for Matsuzaka, who was slowed in spring training with minor back and neck pain.

“He needs to pitch a bit,” Francona said. “You don’t just look at the radar gun but command of his fastball and his offspeed pitches.

“The more he pitches, the better off he’ll be.”

 

BEFORE THE ceremonial first pitch was thrown by former Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez, the Fenway Park crowd was treated to a fireworks display, a flyover by two F-16 jets from the Vermont Air National Guard and the national anthem performed by Keri Hilson.

 

AFTER THE first pitch, the Red Sox brought out 5-year-old Joshua Sacco, who has become a YouTube star with his rendition of Herb Brooks’ speech before the 1980 U.S.-Soviet Union Olympic hockey game.

Sacco, of Spring Hill, Tenn., performed the speech again as the amused Red Sox, including a delighted Matsuzaka, looked on.

 

Staff Writer Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

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