Battered Red Sox
Last year Boston's key players, other than Clay Buchholz, were pretty healthy on the way to winning the World Series. That hasn't been the case so far this season. Third baseman Will Middlebrooks and outfielder Shane Victorino remain on the disabled list. Victorino, who hasn't played in a big-league game yet in 2014 due to a hamstring strain, began a rehab stint in Triple-A on Saturday and could return Thursday. Middlebrooks, who played in four games before a calf strain, is a bit behind Victorino.
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia, the heart and soul of the team, has been playing through a wrist injury. Keep an eye on that. The team was lucky it was diagnosed only as inflammation for now. The Sox also were fortunate Tuesday when first baseman Mike Napoli slid into second base late in a game against the White Sox and his finger was gruesomely dislocated. Fortunate because there were no breaks or ligament damage -- the thing was crooked when Napoli walked off the field. The finger was put back in place and Napoli is OK. Closer Koji Uehara missed a week with a sore shoulder, something else to monitor, but is back now.
The Orioles are pretty healthy, but they continue to wait for one of the majors' best young players to make his season debut. That would be third baseman Manny Machado. He tore up his knee last Sept. 24 and had surgery. He had a setback this spring and remains in extended spring training in Florida. The team is hoping he can be with the big club within a month but will play it uber-cautious with its franchise player.
Baltimore's best hitter last year was Chris Davis. He's healthy but his power is nowhere to be found. He led the majors with a career-high 53 home runs in 2013 -- 20 more than his previous best -- but has just one entering Saturday's game. He wasn't the same player after last year's All-Star break so that 53 total is looking more and more like a fluke (Brady Anderson?). Davis hit seven home runs last year against Boston, his most vs. any team.
The Orioles were praised for landing free-agent pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez in mid-February. Jimenez thought he might get a $100 million deal after a great 2013 season in Cleveland but was still sitting home when spring camps opened. Baltimore did nothing in free agency until spring training and got Jimenez on a team-friendly four-year, $48 million deal. By comparison, Jimenez would have made $14.1 million this year had he taken Cleveland's qualifying offer.
Teams were scared off of Jimenez for two reasons: He was attached to draft pick compensation (the Orioles surrendered the No. 17 overall pick in this summer's draft) and he frankly wasn't very good from the second half of the 2010 season through the first half of last year. Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway appeared to work wonders with Jimenez after the All-Star break in 2013, however, as Jimenez had a 1.82 ERA and carried the Tribe to a wild-card spot. Was that a fluke or a rebirth? Teams weren't sure. So far, it looks like a fluke as Jimenez (0-3, 7.31) has not been good in three Orioles starts. He has allowed at least four earned runs in all three and hasn't lasted more than 5.1 innings in the past two. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is just 13:10 and Jimenez has allowed 23 hits (four home runs) in 16 innings.
Jimenez made his Baltimore debut on April 2 at Camden Yards against Boston and allowed four runs and five hits over six innings in a loss -- it has been his best start so far. David Ortiz and Napoli each hit two-run homers off him. Napoli kills the guy, hitting .571 with two career homers in seven at-bats. Pedroia is 7-for-13 off Jimenez with four RBIs. Jonny Gomes is 5-for-15 with two home runs.
Boston starts right-hander Jake Peavy (0-0, 1.93). He has yet to allow more than one earned run in any start, going at least six innings in each, with batters hitting only .179, but isn't getting any run support. Peavy has been a bit wild with 10 walks in 18.2 innings but also 20 strikeouts. That leads to a lot of pitches. Peavy hasn't faced the Orioles this year. A season ago he faced them once, allowing three runs over seven innings in a no-decision. That was also at Fenway Park. Peavy owns Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy as he is just 1-for-17 off Peavy in his career. Nelson Cruz is 2-for-7 with two doubles off Peavy.
MLB free picks: Orioles +145 and under 9 runs on MLB odds. Jimenez can't be this bad. Plus the Sox are 1-4 in Peavy's past five starts. The under is 4-0-1 in his past five at Fenway Park.