FORT MYERS, Fla. — When Jon Lester signed with the Chicago Cubs, the Red Sox pitcher who figured to take over the No. 1 role – even if he isn’t called an ace – was Clay Buchholz.

Boston Manager John Farrell confirmed that Buchholz is indeed the No. 1 pitcher for now, naming him the season-opening starter for next Monday’s game in Philadelphia.

Appropriately, the Phillies’ starter will be Cole Hamels, a pitcher who many Boston fans want the Red Sox to acquire.

This will be Buchholz’s first opening-day start. Lester made the previous four starts, and Josh Beckett the two before that. Now Farrell is giving the ball to Buchholz.

“He came into camp in a good place, both mentally and physically. Each bullpen and outing, his delivery is on line,” Farrell said.

“He feels good. He’s confident. We’ve seen when he’s been in that place he can be one of the better pitchers in baseball. Fully expect him to begin the season in that form.”

Buchholz, 30, made his major league debut in 2007 after starting the season in Portland. He pitched a no-hitter for the Red Sox that year, and has performed brilliantly at times.

In 2013, Buchholz was dominant for two months (9-0, 1.71 ERA) before going on the disabled list for three months because of shoulder problems.

Buchholz has gone on the disabled list in each of the past five years, including last season when he finished 8-11 with a 5.34 ERA.

This spring, Buchholz is 2-2 with a 3.60 ERA.

Farrell said Rick Porcello will start the second game in Philadelphia, on April 8. Justin Masterson and Wade Miley will pitch the next two games, but Farrell hasn’t announced the order. Because of an off day on April 7, Buchholz could pitch Boston’s fifth game, April 11, on the normal four days’ rest.

BRIAN JOHNSON was No. 78 in your program Sunday, but will he be No. 5 in the rotation next week?

Johnson continued his improbable run in major league camp at JetBlue Park, making his sixth spring training appearance and second start.

He elevated a few fastballs and just missed on a couple full-count pitches, allowing six hits and two runs over four innings. He walked two and struck out three in a 3-2, 10-inning win over the Rays.

“I felt strong,” Johnson said. “I just wanted to go out there and attack the strike zone with all four pitches.”

Johnson, who throws a 91-92 mph fastball along with a cutter, a curve and a change-up, pitched in Portland last year (10-2, 1.75 ERA). He is having a strong spring (2.93 ERA) and has improved his chances of being an option if the Red Sox need him.

“I would like to say I have,” Johnson said. “That stuff is out of my control. I just want to show I can go out there and compete.”

Farrell said Johnson will pitch again Friday.

“This has been a very productive spring for him,” Farrell said. “He has certainly helped his cause here. Very good mound presence. Good poise. Pounds the strike zone.”

DEVEN MARRERO hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the 10th, scoring Rusney Castillo, who led off with a single.

Marrero also knocked in Castillo in the eighth inning with a groundout. Boston’s first run came on back-to-back doubles by Pablo Sandoval and Mike Napoli.

While Castillo scored two runs, it was his play in right field in the top of the 10th that had Farrell talking. Castillo charged a fly ball in foul territory, made a diving catch and then threw out a runner trying to score from third.

“I don’t know if you can make a play better than the one he made,” Farrell said. “Diving play in foul territory. Gets up, sets his feet and throws a 150-foot strike. He’s a dynamic player.

“If there was any question if he could play right field, he’s certainly answering those for us in camp.”

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: ClearTheBases


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