Notes: Youkilis, Pedroia in full swing

Notes: Youkilis, Pedroia in full swing

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Position players don't officially report until Wednesday, but the right side of the Red Sox's infield is already in full swing.

Gold Glove first baseman Kevin Youkilis, who didn't make an error in 2007, has been working out the last three days. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia, coming off a Rookie of the Year campaign, arrived following Saturday's pitchers and catchers workout and quickly did a workout on his own.

The main reason Youkilis chose to arrive early is that his winter workout regimen does not include swinging a bat.

"I just like to come hit on the field and get ground balls on the field," said Youkilis. "I like to come a week early and hit, do all that good stuff and get it out of the way."

For Youkilis, it's hard to fathom that another season is on the horizon already.

"I can't believe it's already starting -- unbelievable," he said.

As for Pedroia -- who spent much of his winter with Youkilis at the Athletes Performance Institute in Tempe, Ariz. -- he underwent surgery last Nov. 6 to repair a cracked hamate bone in his left hand. The diminutive right-handed hitter gallantly played through the entire postseason with the injury.

When Pedroia began hitting in early January, he realized that the hand would no longer be an issue.

"The doctor said that if you wait six to eight weeks, you're not going to feel a thing, it's going to feel normal," Pedroia said. "There aren't going to be any problems. That first swing I wasn't thinking about anything. I just hit the ball off the tee to right field and that was it."

First workout: There was somewhat of a buzz in the air Saturday morning, as pitchers and catchers took the field for the first official workout of Spring Training. Not only were there plenty of fans in attendance, but NESN televised live for two hours.

"This is a rite of spring," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "When you hear pitchers and catchers, it seems to perk everyone up. The weather didn't disappoint. We always have a good following. I don't anticipate that changing."

Rotation mates Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jon Lester and Tim Wakefield threw simultaneously in a side session that drew a crowd of cameras.

And an early spring workout wouldn't be complete without Francona's unique drill, in which he pounds soft baseballs at the pitchers at close range.

"As I get tired, I start creeping up and some of it is for reactions, some of it is for endurance, some of it is just to see how they react," Francona said. "It's not always a fair drill. It's enjoyable. You get to get some one on one with the players, they get a little camaraderie, they do some things together. And then at the end you see who wants to do it really well. There's a couple of guys that always leave with bruises. [Julian] Tavarez today was the one, but he'll survive."

Captain hopes Schill still leads: Even though Curt Schilling will be sidelined indefinitely with right shoulder woes, team captain Jason Varitek made it clear that the big right-hander can still be a valuable asset for the team.

"Hopefully, we don't lose Curt around the team," Varitek said. "I think that's important to this team, what he brings in preparation and his overall unselfishness to try and make other pitchers better. I think that that's an important part of this team's success and the pitching staff's success. We're not going to replace him on the field. He proved his worth once again in the postseason and throughout all the different things that he's gone through. We're not going to replace that. We have to try and learn from it and try and learn from what he can offer us."

Snyder eager for opportunity: While Clay Buchholz and Tavarez are the players who have received the most mention in the quest for the fifth spot in the rotation, right-hander Kyle Snyder is also in the mix.

Though Snyder spent all of last year in the bullpen, he's been a starter most of his career.

"I'm excited about the challenge; I definitely think I can start," Snyder said. "We'll see what this Spring Training holds for me."

The selfless Snyder is willing to do anything.

"I had a great time out of the 'pen last year, but I still view myself, I think, more as a starter," Snyder said. "I've said all along after coming here in 2006, I would do whatever it took to help this club win. I think my versatility can be an asset to this club, whether or not I begin the year as a starter or a reliever, believe me, I welcome the opportunity to compete for the position."

Lester leading the pack: Last year at this time, Lester was just trying to get his body strong again following a winter of chemotherapy treatments.

This spring, Lester couldn't be stronger.

"Even watching him yesterday doing the shuttle, [his] strides are strong," Francona said. "He's a year removed from everything he went through. It's exciting to see that. Yesterday he wasn't fighting to keep up with everybody. He was kind of setting the pace. He looks strong. He looked strong off the mound -- good for him."