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Outlook: Scherzer can improve upon 15-win year in '11

The Red Sox will welcome right-hander Clay Buchholz back to the mound for the first time since last June, and they'll be asking him to get right to work at helping them avoid a season-opening sweep.

After the Tigers took a 10-0 victory over the Red Sox in the second game for both teams, it'll be up to Buchholz to set the tone to keep that "Here we go again" feeling from going any further for the Red Sox. Boston started last season 0-6 and went 4-9 out of the gates in 2011.

The Tigers won't be making it easy in any respect, and from the very first pitch. Max Scherzer, who started last season on the flip side of the Red Sox with a 6-0 mark to start the season, will be on the mound to face Buchholz in the series finale at Comerica Park.

Having returned to health after a 2011 season marred by a back injury that cut his season short on June 16, Buchholz is ready to contribute again -- both physically and mentally.

"It's more of a relaxed state of mind knowing that everything's fine and not having to worry about anything other than going out there and executing pitches and trying to help put this team in a position to win," said Buchholz, a 27-year-old right-hander with a 2007 no-hitter and a 2010 All-Star appearance under his belt.

Buchholz felt no ill effects during spring of the back woes that limited him to 14 starts a year ago.

"Yeah, it was awesome. It was really reassuring," he said.

Buchholz's .731 winning percentage on the road since the start of the 2009 season is the best in the Majors. But he has a 4.96 ERA in three career starts at Comerica Park.

Scherzer, meanwhile, has said he feels further ahead in his pitching than he has in any year coming out of Spring Training, thanks to a long offseason throwing program.

"Basically, the thing I'm most happy about is I'm as prepared as I possibly could be," Scherzer said. "There's nothing I could've done more. I'm exactly where I need to be."

Certainly, there wasn't much more he could have done to get started off right in 2011, winning his first six decisions en route to 10 victories at the All-Star break.

"The wins and losses, that's great for the team, and that's what I'm pitching here for, but I'm looking at what gives us the best chance to win on a consistent basis," he said. "There were things I was doing well and things I wasn't doing well at the beginning of last year. I'm hoping that I'm in a better spot this year than I was last year."

Red Sox: Four oh-for-season through two

Jacoby Ellsbury, who had one of the biggest offensive seasons in Red Sox history last year, is among four regular players off to a hitless start through the first two games. Ellsbury (0-for-7), Kevin Youkilis (0-for-8), Cody Ross (0-for-8) and Mike Aviles (0-for-6) are all looking for their first hits.

With the Red Sox looking for Ellsbury to ignite the offense from the top, manager Bobby Valentine says there's one way how he can have a second straight stellar season.

"By taking it one pitch at a time," Valentine said. "Obviously today, at the end of today, he's not going to have the stats that he had at the end of last year. And, you know, the trap everyone always falls into is answering all those questions. 'How are you going to do better this year than you did last year?' You start thinking that you have to hit a home run every time and a triple the next time and two doubles and steal bases, drive in the runs, all at once, and that's not how it happens."

• Left fielder Carl Crawford, currently rehabilitating his surgically repaired left wrist, is expected to play in extended spring games in Florida within the week. The Red Sox offered Crawford a chance to take part in the home opener festivities at Fenway this coming Friday, but he indicated he would rather stay focused on his rehab.

Tigers: Jackson hopes contact breeds success

Austin Jackson, the walk-off hero in Thursday's opener, delivered another RBI with a double Saturday. Having led the American League in strikeouts in 2010 with 170 and topping that with 181 last year, Jackson knows getting the bat on the ball can make good things happen -- like on Thursday.

"I think it's more of shortening up and making sure I'm not overswinging in those situations," Jackson said. "Anything can happen in that situation by putting the ball in play, and that's what I tried to do my best to do."

• Five relievers other than Jose Valverde, the only one to see action Thursday, made season debuts on the mound Saturday, and arrived there a little earlier than anyone hoped. After starter Doug Fister left the game with a left side strain that will land him on the disabled list, Duane Below, Octavio Dotel, Phil Coke and Joaquin Benoit finished out the shutout.

Worth noting

• When the Red Sox faced and lost to reigning Cy Young winner Justin Verlander on Thursday, it marked the third time they'd faced a defending Cy Young pitcher -- the others were Jim Palmer of the Orioles in 1976 and Bob Turley of the Yankees in 1958.

• After Sunday's game, the Red Sox will continue their road trip by heading to Toronto for a matchup against the Blue Jays. The Tigers will host another tough AL East foe in the Rays.

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