BAL@BOS: Jimmy Fund patients throw out first pitch

BOSTON -- Ballplayers were paired with cancer patients, standing in a straight line across the infield from third base to first base. More players lined up across from them, in an imaginary line through home plate.

NESN play-by-play man Don Orsillo gave the signal over the public address system and baseballs started soaring through the air.

The ceremonial first pitch at Fenway Park on Monday was a special one.

Celebrating 60 years of the Jimmy Fund, the Red Sox welcomed more than 150 patients, family members and medical personnel onto the field for opening ceremonies, while many sung the national anthem before shaking players' hands and collecting autographs.

Mike Andrews has a theory: Baseball players can get just as much out of these interactions as the patients can.

"I always tell them, 'You have no idea how much you mean to them,'" said Andrews, the former Red Sox second baseman and chairman of the Jimmy Fund for more than 25 years before stepping down in 2009. "Unfortunately, a lot of guys don't get involved that much until they're not playing anymore. And then it doesn't have the impact.

"The ones that do get involved, and there's a lot of them, they get as much out of it as the kids do. I've had so many of them tell me, 'Gee, I'm glad I came over here, I was bummed out in a slump. I hadn't been pitching well. And now it's like what am I worried about, compared to these kids?'

"And it kind of lifts [the players] at the same time."

The Jimmy Fund has raised more than $70 million for cancer research, and Andrews reports that that the success rate for curing the disease has gone from 50 percent when the Jimmy Fund was initiated to about 90 percent at present.

The charitable organization has had a longstanding partnership with the Red Sox.

Jon Lester, who was diagnosed with and treated for lymphoma in 2006, was on the receiving end of a ceremonial pitch from a woman who suffered from the disease.

Andrews said it was a touching moment, seeing the two shake hands as Lester signed an autograph.

"He's very humble about that," Andrews said. "When he had the bad year last year, I said, 'I don't worry about him. He's got it. He's got the It Factor.'

"And I'm really thinking he's going to have a good year this year, because he's that kind of guy."

Lackey might avoid trip to disabled list

BOS@TOR: Lackey strikes out eight in first start

BOSTON -- The Red Sox don't have a recovery schedule lined up for John Lackey just yet, but manager John Farrell indicated there's at least a chance the righty can avoid going on the disabled list.

Lackey left Saturday's game against the Blue Jays -- his first start since undergoing Tommy John surgery last year -- with a right biceps strain.

It looked bad at the time, as Lackey winced with a cramp, and his arm seemed to be dangling as he left the game.

But an MRI performed on Sunday in Boston revealed no structural damage.

"He's improved," said Farrell. "He's still in a 48-to-72-hour recovery period. There's no roster move to announce of any kind right now. The most encouraging thing is that following the MRI, it showed some inflammation in the biceps. That's been it. He's set for re-exam today. After we get that information, we'll map out our plan of attack going forward."

The Red Sox have an off-day on Tuesday, which means they don't need a fifth starter until Sunday.

Alfredo Aceves would be the likely choice for that day, assuming Lackey doesn't recover by then.

Lackey could be pushed back a couple of days in the rotation or be skipped entirely.

The Sox won't place Lackey on the disabled list until they know for sure he's going to need a couple of weeks to recover.

"When a pitcher walks off the mound in the middle of an inning, we're going to do what's in his best interest and not risk anything health-wise," Farrell said. "Before he gets back on the mound, we'll have to put him through a good test of some sort, whether that's an extended [bullpen session], a [simulated] game -- that will be taken into account."

Bradley Jr. gets first break from starting lineup

BOS@NYY: Bradley plates a run on double in seventh

BOSTON -- After a rough weekend in Toronto, Jackie Bradley Jr. found himself beginning the game on the bench for Monday's home opener against the Orioles.

The 22-year-old left fielder went 1-for-11 against the Blue Jays and is 3-for-21 on the season. The Red Sox faced a tough left-hander in Wei-Yin Chen on Monday.

"I'd like to think, no matter who the pitcher is on the mound, I want to face him," said Bradley. "They told me I was going to take a day off, take a little break. It's still going to be exciting to be in front of the hometown fans."

Switch-hitter Daniel Nava served as Boston's left fielder, while Jonny Gomes was the designated hitter.

"Over the last couple to three games, he's been getting pitched to pretty consistently," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "We just felt like against another very good left-hander, it was a chance to get Nava's right-handed bat in there along with Gomes as the DH. That's where we are on that."

Iglesias has made most of time spelling Drew

BOS@TOR: Iglesias makes nice play for the out

BOSTON -- Jose Iglesias is playing near-perfect baseball. And even though he'll likely be sent back to Triple-A Pawtucket on Wednesday, Iglesias has proven for the first time in his three-plus years with the Red Sox that he's capable of being a productive Major League shortstop, both defensively and offensively.

With Stephen Drew set to be activated off the seven-day disabled list before Wednesday's game, Iglesias got perhaps his final start for the time being on Monday afternoon, going 0-for-3 out of the ninth spot as the Red Sox beat the Orioles, 3-1.

Afterward, Iglesias said he had not yet been told what the next few days held for him.

"I don't know what's going to happen," he said. "That's [general manager Ben Cherington's] decision not, my decision.

"I'm going to enjoy the game no matter where. Obviously you want to play here. The atmosphere, it's fun being around these guys. But if I have to go, I don't mind. I enjoy the game and just wish the best for the team."

Manager John Farrell said nothing was certain yet. 

"I think we probably need to wait for that move to take place first," Farrell said. "But no one is going to take away from what [Iglesias has] done. If it turns out that that's the move, then much like any player who has gotten off to a good start, it would be hard to swallow.

"But there has to be an understanding of where he's at, with personal and organizational goals aligning. And sometimes that isn't always at the same time. What he's done is he's clearly shown that not only do we have a now-ready shortstop to play consistently here, if it turns out that he becomes depth for us, he's made very good strides, particularly at the plate."

The 23-year-old is in his last year of a four-year, $8.25-million contract he signed in 2010. He has one option left that would allow him to be sent down and return to the big league club without having to go through waivers.

Iglesias' offensive production may not have come as soon as some thought, but considering that he defected from Cuba as a 19-year-old with limited experience, a learning curve was to be expected. He's added some weight this year and has a visibly more built upper body, with quicker hands through the strike zone.

While Farrell acknowledged that Iglesias could be better at hitting to all parts of the field, the manager has been impressed with the improvements at the plate that led to a .529 average (9-for-17) through his first five games. Iglesias also had two doubles entering play Monday after hitting just two doubles in 74 at-bats over 35 games with the Red Sox prior to 2013.

"He came in and expressed some thoughts on his part after the signing of Stephen over the winter, and I think he was determined to maybe show some things a little differently," Farrell said. "Whether that's how he went about his work, maybe showed some things in games -- and he catches a break because of an unfortunate situation to Stephen. And he's made the most of it."

Worth noting

• The Red Sox set up a simulated game for David Ortiz in Fort Myers, Fla., on Monday afternoon because their extended spring team had a road game in Florida. Ortiz could open his Minor League rehab assignment for Triple-A Pawtucket as early as Thursday.

The PawSox start a string of eight straight home games Thursday, which makes it a perfect time for Ortiz to get steady at-bats without having to travel. He might not even need all eight games before returning to the Red Sox.

• Lefty Franklin Morales (low back strain) will start the process of ramping back up when he throws 20 pitches and one inning in an extended spring game in Fort Myers on Monday. Morales will pitch again on Friday. Morales will get stretched out as a starter before returning to the Sox.

• Craig Breslow, the other lefty reliever to open the season on the DL, will pitch a simulated game on Tuesday and could pitch in a rehab game by the end of the week.

• With lefty Chen on the mound for the Orioles on Monday, David Ross got the start behind the plate for Boston instead of Jarrod Saltalamacchia. It was the third start of the season for Ross.

• First baseman/DH Mauro Gomez was claimed off waivers by the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday. The Red Sox designated Gomez for assignment to make room for Bradley Jr., who made the team as a non-roster invitee. Gomez hit .275 for the Red Sox with two homers and 17 RBIs in 37 games last season.