AL East Rivals Set For St. Paddy's Skirmish
It may be spring training, but that doesn't mean the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays throw their past differences out the window and play nice. The division rivals meet Sunday afternoon for the sixth and final time of the exhibition season, and we could see some emotions spill over from their Saturday matchup that came close to producing a dustup.
Of course, the Red Sox had Alfredo Aceves on the mound and at the center of Saturday's near-fracas, which isn't much of a shock considering he seems to always be trying to attract attention to himself. Aceves has already been suspended once this spring for acting like a jackass, and has a history with Tampa Bay infielder Sean Rodriguez who took the Boston hurler deep then proceeded to take an Aceves offering in his back the next trip to the plate.
An early hit batsman in today's contest at Fenway South could cause things to boil over, putting a little extra pressure on the starting pitchers who are each enjoying strong camps. Alex Cobb is scheduled to take the hill for the visiting Rays while Jon Lester answers the call for the BoSox. It's the fifth spring start for both, and Boston is fetching a -125 to -130 price depending where you shop for your MLB odds.
Cobb has allowed just two runs in 14 spring innings, and both crossed the plate in a March 4 contest against the Red Sox. The Boston native has been spotless otherwise, and his 18:1 strikeout-to-walk column points to the righthander being in midseason form already.
Lester has also allowed just two runs in 14 frames while limiting hitters to a .128 batting average. The southpaw is trying to bounce back from a 9-14, 4.82 ERA campaign last season and should be on the mound for a minimum of five innings today. Among the relievers expected to follow him is Joel Hanrahan, acquired from the Pirates this winter to close for the Red Sox.
There will be a nice little breeze from the south (out to left) under partly cloudy skies in Fort Myers in this American League East matchup, where temps are expected to reach 80. For the first of my free picks today, let's back the Red Sox as small home favorites on St. Patrick's Day.
Indians Look For Spring Sweep Of Reds In Buckeye State Battle
Batters are also expected to get an assist from Mother Nature in Goodyear, AZ where the Cincinnati Reds host the Cleveland Indians in a one o'clock local start. The thermometer is expected to climb into the upper-80s with nary a cloud in the sky, and a WSW breeze up to 15 mph could add a few extra feet to balls headed out to right or right-center.
Cleveland will send Justin Masterson to the mound in this clash of Ohio interleague rivals, and Cincinnati counters with Mat Latos. The Reds are decided home chalk at -145 while the return for Tribe backers is +125.
Masterson is making his fourth Cactus League start and could get just two more before the regular season gets underway. Cleveland manager Terry Francona has already named Masterson his Opening Day hurler, and the word is he'll send Bryan Shaw, Matt Capps and Cody Allen to the mound behind the righthander today.
Latos will pitch second in Dusty Baker's rotation and is enjoying a nice spring so far that includes 12 strikeouts in his nine total innings. The big righty was one of the top pitchers for gamblers to follow last year when the Reds went 23-10 in Latos' 33 regular season assignments.
Cincinnati is probably going to leave both Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips on the bench for this one, which is a concern. The clubs met three times in a row earlier this spring, all Cleveland dubyas meaning the Tribe is aiming for a sweep in the final contest between the two until their home-&-home interleague sets in late-May. But I still like Latos in this matchup and will add the Reds to my MLB picks.
My picks: Red Sox -125, Reds -145Preseason: 9-8 ($0.33)