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Porcello 'grateful' to make history in London

Sox look to gain ground on rivals in two-game series starting Saturday
@jessicacamerato
June 26, 2019

BOSTON -- The fact that Rick Porcello will make history when takes the mound for the first pitch on Saturday is not lost on him. Porcello will start in the London Series opener between the Red Sox and Yankees, the first of two Major League Baseball games ever played in

BOSTON -- The fact that Rick Porcello will make history when takes the mound for the first pitch on Saturday is not lost on him. Porcello will start in the London Series opener between the Red Sox and Yankees, the first of two Major League Baseball games ever played in Europe.

"Not very often do you get an opportunity to, with one pitch or just one start, be part of history," Porcello said. "That's what this is."

The American League rivalry will be played on an international stage at London Stadium, which hosted the 2012 Olympic Games. The stadium features more than 141,900 square feet of artificial turf from France, and is home field for the Red Sox in the series.

"I get to pitch on Saturday, and I'm pretty grateful for that opportunity," Porcello said. "I'll get the honor of throwing the first pitch in Europe, and it's awesome. It's a big deal for our game and I'm looking forward to it."

The Red Sox will arrive in London two days in advance of the first game. Many players, such as David Price and Matt Barnes, are bringing family members with them. Jackie Bradley Jr., who went to London to promote the series, looks forward to trying new cuisine he didn't get a chance to eat on the first trip.

With all the sights to see and fanfare to take in, though, this is very much a work trip for the Red Sox. They trail the Yankees in the AL East, and two games can make an impact in the standings.

Take the first item of business on Christian Vázquez's London to-do list, as an example.

"Beat the Yankees," he said.

And why is that?

"Because I hate the Yankees," he replied.

The Red Sox left Boston nine games behind the Yankees in the division halfway through the season. The Yankees have won nine of their last 10 games.

"It's one of the biggest rivalries that we have going over to play the first games in Europe," Barnes said. "At the end of the day, though, it is a business trip. Those are two big games for us, given where we are in the standings and where they are. It's going to be cool to see London and wander around kind of get a feel for their culture, but we have business to take care of as well."

The Red Sox have been preparing their bodies to adjust to the time zone change. They receive notifications through the Teamworks app to get ready, available information that manager Alex Cora said was a change from the team's 2008 trip to Japan at the Tokyo Dome.

"We've been getting reminders throughout the week of what to eat, what to drink, what not to drink, when to go to sleep, all of that," Cora said. "I know two things: On the way over there, sleep. On the way back, don't sleep."

The team has roster decisions to make ahead of the trip, as well. Hector Velazquez, who is on the 10-day injury list because of a lower back strain, threw 20 pitches in a simulated game on Wednesday and will join the team. It is uncertain if he will be activated during the series. Sam Travis is likely to be added as the 26th man.

The Red Sox are aware of their available players not just for London Series, but also a six-game road trip that follows with one off-day on Monday.

"I'm actually not worried about the two games in London," Cora said. "We've got to come back and play in Toronto and Detroit, and those are big series. We're doing everything possible to stay sharp."

The Red Sox and Yankees will face off on Saturday at 1:10 p.m. ET and Sunday at 10:10 a.m.

"Hopefully we'll put on a good show and everyone enjoys it," Porcello said.

Jessica Camerato covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @jessicacamerato, Facebook and Instagram.