Pitching Primer: Josh Beckett Looks to Right Red Sox Against David Price and the Rays

By Tom Froemming

The Boston Red Sox open the 101st season of baseball at Fenway Park this afternoon. With memories of their September collapse still fresh and the team off to a 1-5 start, it should be interesting to see how Red Sox Nation reacts if Josh Beckett gets roughed up like he did in his first start.

Beckett gave up five home runs over 4.2 innings against the Tigers after giving up just 21 homers in all of 2011, no more than two in the same game. Reporters have wondered if Beckett’s thumb he had examined before the start of the season had anything to do with the rough outing, and Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe was brave enough to ask him about it again for his preview of today’s game.

“It’s fine. It’s fine. It’s fine. It’s fine. It’s fine. Jesus, it’s fine.’’

You get the sense that maybe Beckett is getting tired of the thumb questions. Just a hunch. The 6-5 right-hander was masterful against the Rays last season, boasting a 0.78 ERA and 0.43 WHIP in three starts. He had 19 strikeouts against just one walk against Tampa Bay in 2011.

David Price will take the ball for the Rays, and he was no slouch pitching in Fenway Park last year. In three starts at Boston, Price had a 1.83 ERA and 0.97 WHIP. He beat the Yankees in his first start, limiting New York to two runs over 6.1 innings.

Speaking of the Yankees, Hiroki Kuroda is pitching in their home opener this afternoon. Kuroda struggled in his first start as a Yankee, giving up six runs (four earned) on eight hits and four walks over 5.2 innings. He’ll face the Los Angeles Angels and Ervin Santana, who has struggled against the Yankees over his career, posting a 5.55 ERA in 12 starts against the Bronx Bombers.

Another especially intriguing matchup this afternoon will take place in St. Louis, where Adam Wainwright and Jeff Samardzija square off in the Cardinals’ home opener. Both pitchers are trying to establish themselves, Wainwright trying to get back to the Cy Young-level he pitched before missing all of 2011 and Samardzija attempting to solidify himself as a major leaguer after four years of disappointment.

Another reason to watch this game in particular is that the Cardinals will be wearing uniforms with gold trim to celebrate their World Series championship. Wainwright sounded excited to pitch the opener at Busch Stadium, where he has gone 34-20 with a 2.46 ERA over his career.

“I know when I arrive four hours before the game they’re going to be out there tailgating, cooking hamburgers and having cold pops. This whole town is excited about what we did last year and what we’re going to do this year.”

Other pitchers of note throwing today include Matt Cain, Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez.

Angels (Santana) at Yankees (Kuroda), 1:05 p.m. ET
Rays (Price) at Red Sox (Beckett), 2:05
Tigers (Scherzer) at White Sox (Peavy), 2:10
Cubs (Samardzija) at Cardinals (Wainwright), 3:15
Indians (Lowe) at Royals (Hochevar), 4:10
Pirates (McDonald) at Giants (Cain), 4:35
Reds (Arroyo) at Nationals (Zimmermann), 7:05
Mets (Dickey) at Phillies (Lee), 7:05
Orioles (Hunter) at Blue Jays (Morrow), 7:07
Astros (Harrell) at Marlins (Nolasco), 7:10
Brewers (Wolf) at Braves (Jurrjens), 7:35
Rangers (Harrison) at Twins (Swarzak), 8:10
Diamondbacks (Hudson) at Rockies (Nicasio), 8:40
Athletics (Colon) at Mariners (Hernandez), 10:10
Padres (Richard) at Dodgers (Harang), 10:10

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