Fenway birthday adds to Red Sox-Yanks rivalry

Fenway birthday adds to Red Sox-Yanks rivalry

Fenway birthday adds to Red Sox-Yanks rivalry
BOSTON -- It is going to be the type of centennial bash that perhaps only two great rivals can truly appreciate. To play for the Red Sox and the Yankees, you have to know about all the great moments that came before you, both recently and decades ago.

The spectacle will occur on Friday, when fabled Fenway Park celebrates its 100th birthday with a pregame ceremony that should be for the ages, not to mention the first rivalry matchup of 2012.

However, once the field clears and the all-time Red Sox greats move to luxury boxes or the stands, the players on both sides will be focused on important business.

It's rare for the Red Sox and Yankees to be matching up with neither team playing very well. Perhaps the adrenaline and intensity that all these rivalry games bring will ratchet up the quality of play on both sides.

"Whatever it is, I hope it will be [a boost for the team]," said Boston manager Bobby Valentine, who makes his introduction to the rivalry. "I believe it will be."

The Red Sox need a jolt, that much is clear. They will be 4-8 when they step on to the field against the Yankees. Coming off last year's 2-10 start, not to mention the 7-20 finish, negativity engulfs the team right now.

The only way the Red Sox can change that is to win baseball games. And to do that, they can't think about being off to a poor start for the second year in a row, or whether last September is still lingering.

"Winning," said Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. "That's all it comes down to. We have to win. We're 12 games in. It's not a big deal. Last year at this time, we were 2-10. Honestly, we have to concentrate on game to game, pitch to pitch. The pitching we've got is the best in the league. That's what it is. We have to get out there and get comfortable and start making our pitches."

Clay Buchholz will make the pitches at the start of Friday's 3 p.m. ET contest. The Yankees, who are 7-6 after Thursday night's victory over the Twins, will counter with Ivan Nova.

By the time the Red Sox and Yankees get on the field and take in the atmosphere, they will feel more like they're in a postseason game.

Those who have never felt it before can't wait to get out there.

"I've heard all about it my whole career, my whole life," said Red Sox outfielder Cody Ross. "To get to be a part of it Friday, and it's going to be a lot of stuff going on on Friday, is great. But we got to focus on the task at hand, and that's just going out and playing good baseball."

And for those who have felt it before, it never really gets old.

"It's very important," Dustin Pedroia, Boston's heart and soul, said of the weekend matchup. "We're trying to play good baseball. I know the Yankees, the fans, the media, everyone loves the matchup. We're just trying to play good baseball and win ballgames, so hopefully we can do that."

Every year, there are new faces on both sides. And every year, some familiar ones remain. The Red Sox are defined by Pedroia, David Ortiz, Jon Lester and Josh Beckett. The Yankees still have the ageless warriors Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, with Andy Pettitte not far off from a return.

The chatter about Jeter, 37, getting old a year or two ago? It wound up being as accurate as the scuttlebutt that Ortiz could no longer be an elite slugger.

You might say that Jeter is the Pedroia of the Yankees, or vice versa.

"He's first class," Pedroia said of Jeter. "Everything he does on and off the field, he does with respect and plays the game the right way. He's an unbelievable guy and great for the sport."

While Ortiz will take a .383 average into the weekend, Jeter took a .389 average into Thursday's game against the Twins.

"[Jeter is] looking good," second baseman Robinson Cano said. "I'm happy. People keep talking about his age and all that. I like seeing him get off to a good start."

Both teams have individuals who have clicked early. But neither unit has clicked collectively. The Sox and Yankees both have season-high winning streaks of three games. And they both have losing streaks of that long.

"We just need to do everything better," Pedroia said. "We need to hit better, play better D and pitch better. If we do all three of those things, we'll be all right. We plan on playing the game the right way and winning a lot of ballgames."

Excitement will build until Friday's first pitch.

"I think it's going to be awesome," said Yankees right fielder Nick Swisher. "I can't wait. You're taking two of the most historic teams in sports, period, and you're taking a 100th anniversary -- they're going to do that right."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.