Rays, Red Sox Tangle in Grapefruit Action
Boston is slated to send John Lackey to the mound as the veteran righthander continues his comeback from elbow surgery that cost him all of 2012 and a good portion of 2011. Lackey will be opposed by Matt Moore for the Rays, and the MLB odds show Moore and the home team -130 chalk.
Lackey has made three spring appearances so far, all in the starting role, and is coming off his best outing yet this past Tuesday when he held the Puerto Rico lineup scoreless for three innings while allowing just three hits. That was a far cry from his first two trips to the mound when four runs crossed the plate in three combined frames.
This start should find Lackey expected to work at least three frames before giving way to a decent string of relievers that includes Daniel Bard, Junichi Tazawi and Koji Uehara. Boston's lineup is also expected to include Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia.
Moore is making just his second official start of the spring, and looks to improve on his most recent effort on Tuesday when he was touched for a couple of runs in 2.2 innings of a Rays win over the Twins. A few relievers who have also been stingy this spring are set to trail the Tampa southpaw to the hill (Josh Lueke, Juan Sandoval and Enny Romero).
It could get rather windy this afternoon in Port Charlotte, but will otherwise be a nice day for baseball with mostly sunny skies and the thermometer almost reaching 80. My play in this one will be on the Beantowners as the small road pups.
League Favorites Meet as Cats Host Nats
We may still be working our way through spring training, but is it ever too early to point out a potential World Series matchup?
A couple of favorites to win their league pennants square off in a one o'clock start as the Washington Nationals travel to Lakeland to meet the Detroit Tigers. Opening MLB odds listed at SBR showed the Tigers -125 home favorites and +105 for the return on the Nationals.
Dan Haren draws the start for Davey Johnson and the Nats, his third go this spring with decent results so far. Granted, one of those came against the lowly Astros, but all reports out of Washington's camp have been good for the veteran who signed as a free agent this winter. One of the relievers in the contest should be Drew Storen who has been a bit fortunate with a 2.25 spring ERA despite batters hitting a robust .353 against him in four innings.
Detroit sends Rick Porcello out for his fourth start of the exhibition season. Porcello entered camp in a battle with Drew Smyly for the Tigers' No. 5 slot in the rotation, and reports are Brayan Villarreal and Joaquin Benoit will follow in today's mound lineup.
Weather shouldn't be an issue with a few clouds in the skies and temps reaching 77 or so at Joker Marchant Stadium. My baseball pick will once again be on the underdog.
Halos in Surprise to Battle the Royals
The weatherman is also promising a nice afternoon in Surprise, AZ where the Los Angeles Angels travel to take on the Kansas City Royals. It will be a bit cooler with the upper-60s forecast for the high, but with plenty of sunshine and with a slight breeze blowing out to right.
Tommy Hanson gets the call for the Halos while KC begins the contest with Luke Hochevar. The Royals are priced at -120 with the Angels even up on the MLB betting board.
Albert Pujols is not going to make the trip for the Halos, but Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton and Vernon Wells are all expected to get at least a couple of at bats. Angels hurlers have allowed 100 runs in 12 official spring games, so Hanson could need the extra offensive support.
This game will feature both Royals pitchers who are fighting for the final spot in the rotation as Hochevar is scheduled to be followed by lefty Bruce Chen. Kansas City has been the most impressive team in the Cactus League, so we'll simply ride the hotter club as small chalk.
My MLB Free Picks: Red Sox +110, Tigers +105, Royals -120 at bet365
Preseason: 2-4 (-$2.50)