It's not even a month into the season and Bobby Valentine is already starting to ruffle some feathers in Boston.
Tonight, the Red Sox try to get past their latest bit of controversy when they open a two-game set against the two-time defending American League champion Texas Rangers at Fenway Park.
Never one to not speak his mind, Valentine raised some eyebrows over the weekend when he questioned whether or not Kevin Youkilis was as "physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past."
Youkilis, who was more thrown off by the comments than anything, is off to a slow start, batting just .200. However, he raised his average 100 points over the weekend.
Valentine apologized to Youkilis on Monday, but the manager stated he wasn't sure it was accepted. Youkilis wasn't in the lineup in Monday's 1-0 loss to Tampa Bay, as he was nursing a minor groin injury.
"I know that Youk plays as hard as anyone I've ever seen in my life," second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "I have his back, and his teammates have his back and we know how hard he plays. I don't really understand what Bobby's trying to do, but that's really not the way we go about our stuff here. I'm sure he'll figure that out soon."
The timing of Valentine's criticism was especially odd, as the Red Sox were in the midst of playing some good baseball after an 0-3 start. The Red Sox had won the first three games of their series with the Rays before dropping Monday's Patriots' Day finale.
Hoping to get Boston back on track tonight will be lefty Jon Lester, who is still searching for his first win, despite two pretty solid efforts. After giving up a run in seven innings in an Opening Day no-decision, Lester absorbed the loss on Wednesday in Toronto, as he allowed three runs and three hits in eight innings. He also fanned six and walked a pair.
"You can't ask for him to throw the ball any better than that," Pedroia said. "I feel horrible for him. I have to have better at-bats and try to get a couple of runs for him."
Lester has faced the Rangers eight times and is 3-1 with a 3.48 ERA.
Texas, meanwhile, will be trying to open a season 4-0 on the road for the first time in 20 years this evening after a three-game sweep of the Minnesota Twins over the weekend.
Josh Hamilton paced Texas this weekend, going 6-for-13 with two doubles and two homers in the sweep. That roll could continue this evening, as he has 11 extra-base hits and 16 RBI in 16 games at Fenway.
The Rangers are 3-0 away from home for the first time since 1999 and another win tonight would give them their best road start since 1992.
Heading to the hill for the Rangers tonight will be righty Colby Lewis, who is 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA. Following his Opening Day win, Lewis received a no- decision on Wednesday against Seattle, but he was terrific, as he scattered five hits in 6 2/3 scoreless innings. He also struck out six without walking a batter, but the bullpen failed to protect a three-run lead for him in 4-3 loss.
Lewis is 2-3 lifetime against the Red Sox with a 5.01 ERA in 11 games, seven of which have been starts.
Texas was 6-4 versus the Red Sox last season.