Reasons For Concern?
When the Red Sox entered spring training, they thought they had too much pitching -- i.e. six guys for five spots. That settled itself when Ryan Dempster surprisingly retired (at least for one season). Still, the Sox looked stacked with a rotation of Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Felix Doubront, Jake Peavy and John Lackey. Except not so much. Lester, who pitched Tuesday's opener, has been good and Peavy solid. However, Lackey and Doubront haven't been very good and, most worrisome, Buchholz has been terrible. When he struggles, you have to wonder if he's hurt because that's usually the case.
The Yankees rotation was a big question mark entering this year. Ace CC Sabathia had a lousy 2013 season. Hiroki Kuroda faded late last year and is 39. Then you had the unknown of Masahiro Tanaka, the up-and-down Ivan Nova and TBA for No. 5, a job won by Michael Pineda. The epidemic of arm injuries has struck the Yankees as Nova is probably going to need Tommy John surgery with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow. He hasn't gone under the knife yet, but it's a matter of time. Tampa Bay's Matt Moore recently had the exact same injury and he had surgery. Now the Yankees have rotation concerns in not just replacing Nova but because Sabathia hasn't been good this season, either.
The Yankees' Pineda has been one of the feel-good stories this spring. He looked like a future Cy Young winner in the first half of his rookie 2011 season with Seattle when he was 8-6 with a 3.03 ERA and named to the AL All-Star team. However, he fell off in the second half and was traded to New York for top hitting prospect Jesus Montero. It looked like a lose-lose trade for both sides as Pineda missed the next two seasons with arm troubles and Montero was a bust. Today the deal is a win for the Yankees as Pineda was terrific this spring in surprisingly winning the No. 5 job, and he has started 2-1 with a 1.00 ERA. The 6-foot-7, 265-pounder still is only 25.
Pineda hasn't allowed more than one earned run in any start and lasted exactly six innings in each. He blanked the Cubs on four hits in his last go-round. He pitched against these Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on April 10, struck out seven and allowed four hits and the one run. New York was a slight -105 favorite at sportsbooks. Daniel Nava hit a homer off him. Needless to say, few Red Sox have ever faced him in a big-league game. David Ortiz is 2-for-5 with a double. Shane Victorino, who could be activated off the DL for this game, is 1-for-3. Victorino has yet to play this season but was set to play his final minor-league rehab game Tuesday. The Yankees did get closer David Robertson back for this series, activating him Tuesday from the 15-day disabled list.
The Red Sox start Lackey (2-2, 5.25), who had a Pineda-type comeback last year but has been off in 2014. Lackey started strong, allowing just two combined earned runs in his first two starts. However, he gave up six runs and 10 hits over 5.2 innings on April 12 in a 7-4 loss at the Yankees (Sox were +102 at sportsbooks). Brian McCann homered twice off him, the first time he had faced Lackey, and Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano also went yard. It was the first time Lackey had allowed four homers in a game. Lackey was then roughed up last time out at home by the Orioles, allowing 10 hits and six runs in 5.1 innings.
Derek Jeter is a career .294 hitter off Lackey with a home run and eight RBIs. Soriano is just 8-for-41 with nine strikeouts and that one dinger. Brett Gardner is 11-for-34 with four extra-base hits and four RBIs.
MLB free picks: Red Sox -123 on MLB odds and the over 8.5 runs (+100). While Lackey has been off this season, the Sox are 7-1 in his past eight starts against teams with a winning record. They are 8-3 in his past 11 starts at home overall. The over is 7-3 in his past 10 against the Yankees.