How desperately thin is Boston's mound corps? Try Aaron Cook thin.
The Red Sox are planning to send Cook to the hill Saturday in place of Josh Beckett when they continue their weekend home set with the Baltimore Orioles. Beckett is nursing a sore back and will reportedly miss just this one start. Cook's role with the Sox after this game is unknown.
Jason Hammel will get the call for Baltimore, making for an interesting mound matchup after Hammel and Cook were teammates the past three seasons in Colorado. First pitch is slated for 1:10 p.m. (ET). The series opened Friday night with those results still pending. Jon Lester and the Red Sox were $1.60 favorites against Wei-Yin Chen and the Orioles with an 8½-run total according to the Don Best odds screen.
Cook was not re-signed by the Rockies after 10 years in Denver, the final two seasons seeing him go 9-18 with a 5.48 ERA. He hooked up with Boston on a minor league deal this spring, and the Red Sox either needed to call him up to the bigs at this time or release him. The right-hander made five starts for Triple-A Pawtucket and performed very well facing minor league hitters, posting a 1.89 ERA and averaging close to seven frames per outing.
His Red Sox debut will be his first career start vs. Baltimore and just his second game at Fenway Park. Cook faced Boston in a 2007 interleague contest, working 7-1/3 innings and allowing two earned runs in a Rockies loss.
Hammel has quickly established himself as the ace of the Orioles staff after coming to Baltimore in an offseason trade that sent Jeremy Guthrie to the Rockies. He's off his first loss of the season after pitching the O's into the win column his first four outings. Hammel didn't get much offensive support this past Monday at the Yankees, losing 2-1 with his only mistake in six innings turning into both New York runs courtesy of an Eric Chavez homer.
Like Cook, this will be Hammel's second career start at Fenway. He saw the Sox while with the Rays (2006-08), making two starts and six relief appearances. The lone assignment in Boston saw Hammel work four innings and allow five runs.
Wolf, Bumgarner Collide In San Fran
A key NL series out west finds a pair of clubs languishing below .500 and each five games out of their respective division leads heading into the weekend. The Milwaukee Brewers and San Francisco Giants were set to begin the 3-game set Friday with a mound duel between Zack Grienke and Tim Lincecum. San Fran was an ever-so-slight favorite behind The Freak, with a 6-run total that leaned strongly to the 'under.'
Saturday's contest is part of the FOX regional broadcast (4:05 p.m. ET) and pits a pair of southpaws, Randy Wolf for the Brewers and Madison Bumgarner for the Giants.
The Giants enter the weekend having just been swept in a 3-game series by the visiting Miami Marlins. Adding to that bad news was 3B Pablo Sandoval hitting the DL with a broken bone in his left hand that will require surgery and keep him out of the lineup for at least four weeks.
Bumgarner's season got off on a losing note, but he has since bounced back with four consecutive victories. The lanky lefty surrendered just five earnies in that 28-IP span and has been extra tough in three starts vs. the Brewers over his short career (2-1, 1.27 ERA).
Wolf has strung together two straight wins after Milwaukee dropped his first three assignments on the schedule. He hasn't been fooling hitters at all (.336 BAA), and even in the two victories has struggled with his command (7 BB, 11 IP). He has performed well at AT&T Park in recent seasons, his clubs winning three of his four starts there while Wolf compiled a 1.24 ERA.
'Ponce de Colon' Battles Rays In Tampa
Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon once came to Florida seeking the Fountain of Youth. Oakland Athletics pitcher Bartolo Colon arrives in Florida to battle the Tampa Bay Rays after apparently finding that elusive fountain in the Dominican Republic a couple of years ago thanks to a controversial stem cell procedure.
The chunky right-hander certainly has been pitching much younger than his age – he turns 39 in a few weeks – and will face Tampa's Jeremy Hellickson at Tropicana Field on Saturday (7:10 p.m. ET). It's the second game of a weekend series that got underway Friday when Rays' lefty David Price was a hefty -190 favorite against Tyson Ross and the A's.
Colon has experienced just one hiccup on the season (April 7 vs. Seattle) to go with five quality starts. Even with that 4-1/3 IP, 7-ER spanking the Mariners administered, Colon is sporting a 2.53 ERA and 0.94 WHIP going into Saturday's assignment. Oakland's anemic offense is a big reason why the club is just 3-3 in Colon's outings despite his efforts.
Hellickson also has just one poor outing among his five starts this season, with the Rays collecting a dubya in each of his last three trips to the mound. He's been especially tough at home (21-2/3 IP, 2 ER) where Tampa Bay is a perfect 3-0 in his contests, but has struggled in two career assignments vs. Oakland. The Rays are 0-2 in those games with Hellickson's ERA at 4.76.