NEW YORK -- Just like a year ago, Felix Doubront will make his first start of the season at Toronto. The difference is that he now has a full season of experience under his belt.
Doubront will open a three-game series for the Sox on Friday night at Rogers Centre.
"I think I'm more and more calm, with more experience," Doubront said. "Like I said, more experience is the big thing with me. I'm more relaxed."
He also has felt an instant connection with new pitching coach Juan Nieves.
"He said to throw strikes and watch the glove," Doubront said. "And in meetings, he helps you on what pitches the hitter likes and doesn't like. He's that kind of guy who helps you on that. We're working a lot on tempo."
You will also notice that Doubront is wearing a much more conventional number this season. He switched from 61 to 22.
"When I played Little League in Venezuela, that was my number," Doubront said. "My mom always told me, 'You have to get 22.' You never get 22 in pro baseball. In Greenville in '07, they gave me 22. I did wear it in '08. I always liked it. It was my first number. I told them last year I liked 22, so [the clubhouse attendant] called me last year at the end of the year and told me, 'We got 22.'"
As for Doubront's pitching numbers, he was 11-10 with a 4.86 ERA in 2012.
"The main goal is throw less pitches, go out there with a better approach and get quick outs and go deep in the game and throw less than a 100 pitches in the seventh," Doubront said. "It's going to be a challenge, and I've been working on that and I think it's going to be fine."
Ross excited to make first start behind plate
NEW YORK -- After spending the first two games as an observer, catcher David Ross had his Opening Day on Thursday night, making his debut for the Red Sox in the finale of a three-game series against the Yankees.
"Today is definitely my Opening Day," Ross said. "When you have to wait around, I think the nerves are probably for me more than anybody else. I'm definitely feel excited about today. I'm a little nervous and ready to be back there to catch that first pitch."
Though Ross is a backup player, he is one of the newcomers the Red Sox are most excited about.
With his catching intelligence and some pop in his bat, Ross has a lot to offer.
"All the work we do in Spring Training is to get to where we can play with the lights on and the extra deck up top in the stands," Ross said. "I'm excited and ready to get this first one under my belt."
Ross immediately sprung into action, throwing out Brett Gardner on an attempted steal in the bottom of the first.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia was strong offensively over the first two games, going 3-for-7 with three walks, but manager John Farrell had designated Thursday for Ross before the series started and he saw no reason to change those plans.
Lefty Andy Pettitte was pitching for New York, and Saltalamacchia is a stronger hitter against righties. Ross is 4-for-12 in his career against Pettitte.
"He's had good numbers against Andy," said Farrell. "He's worked well with Ryan [Dempster] in Spring Training for the couple of times that we did see him pair up with Dempster. The fact is, he's an important part of our club and we want to get him in the mix, and with a late arrival into Toronto tonight, with righty [Josh] Johnson going tomorrow, Salty will catch there. There's probably three or four different factors that went into today's lineup with David."
The only other lineup change was Jonny Gomes moving back to the designated hitter spot after getting Wednesday off. Gomes will always start against lefties. Daniel Nava got the night off.
Farrell elaborates on shifts
NEW YORK -- The one thing you will see the Red Sox do a lot more this season than in recent years is shift the infield. There were times in Wednesday's game when third baseman Will Middlebrooks was in short right field. Other times, Dustin Pedroia played in that spot.
The shifts Boston deploys are mostly designed by third-base coach Brian Butterfield, who manager John Farrell worked with in Toronto.
"Because of the amount of information that's taken into account, pitchers understand the reason why we're aligning as we are in certain situations, and they're accepting of it," Farrell said. "The key to that is if pitchers execute pitches to given areas where we've done our homework and see that the hard contact typically is the direction in which it goes. Hopefully more times than not we're going to have a guy standing in that spot.
"In the case of a power hitter that might look to bunt as an alternative to go against the shift, that's the one thing that we've made mention to the pitchers. We'll take that tradeoff each and every time. That communication has been back and forth between Butter, our staff and the pitchers and infielders. I think everyone is on the same page with that."
Middlebrooks and Pedroia are adapting as it goes.
"That's taken a little getting used to, because we'll align differently," said Farrell. "We'll put Pedey in the area in which the higher number of balls are hit in that certain area. For example, here in New York, we'll see a different alignment vs. [Travis] Hafner as we will vs. [Robinson] Cano, just by virtue of the information we have at our disposal. That's what goes into it.
"And the other thing is, when we've got a man on first base, we'll keep Will away from second base. He's not accustomed to turning the double play and we'll always keep Pedey as the pivot guy."
In the bottom of the first on Wednesday night, Middlebrooks fielded Robinson Cano's groundball from short right field and fired to first for a play that was scored 5-3.
Drew goes hitless in first rehab game
NEW YORK -- Shortstop Stephen Drew opened what is expected to be a short Minor League rehab assignment on Thursday night, going 0-for-3 while playing five innings for Double-A Portland.
There was only one ball hit to Drew in the field, and he handled it cleanly.
Drew continues to make progress after suffering a concussion on March 7, when he was hit in the helmet by a pitch.
Drew will play at least three more games for the Sea Dogs and could join the Red Sox on Monday for the home opener.
"I've been out of the game for three and a half weeks now, so I'll try to see as many pitches as I can, get as many at-bats as I can," Drew told reporters in Portland before Thursday's game. "I don't want to say it's Spring Training, but I've got to get my legs under me a little bit and progress with innings, and hopefully head back up there."