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Tuesday, 07 May 2013 14:16

Series Preview: Minnesota Twins (13-14) vs. Boston Red Sox (20-11)

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Memories of the 2012 version of the Red Sox came flooding back over the weekend, as the local nine were swept in a three-game set against the Rangers in Arlington. Luckily for the Sox, a four-game series against a weak Minnesota Twins team awaits them at Fenway to kick off the homestand.

The Twins (13-14), who are coming off a series in Cleveland in which they lost two out of three, are currently in fourth place in the AL Central, 4.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers. With low expectations heading into the season, Minnesota is using 2013 as a bridge season before top prospects Miguel Sano, Alex Meyer, and Kyle Gibson are ready to join the major league club in either 2014 or 2015.

After ranking third in the majors in runs allowed last season, the Twins overhauled their starting rotation over the winter, signing righties Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey and acquiring Vance Worley from the Phillies for center fielder Ben Revere. In addition to Revere, the Twins said goodbye to Denard Span (traded to Nationals), Scott Baker (signed with Cubs), Matt Capps (signed by Indians), and Alexi Casilla (claimed by Orioles) throughout the offseason.

So far this season, right fielder Wilkin Ramirez (.364 average, 4 RBI in 22 games), shortstop Eduardo Escobar (.333 average, 1 HR, 5 RBI in 19 games) and catcher Joe Mauer (.286, 2 HR, 9 RBI in 26 games) have led the Twins’ struggling offensive effort. Although the team ranks  23rd in the majors in average (.240), 28th in home runs (20), and dead-last in hits (216), the team’s average pitching staff (17th in the majors with a 3.98 ERA) has kept the team afloat. Correia, who leads the rotation with a 3-2 record and 2.83 ERA is joined by a strong bullpen that includes five pitchers with ERAs under 3.00.

In the first game of the series, Red Sox ace Clay Buchholz (6-0, 1.01 ERA) will face the struggling Worley (0-4, 7.22 ERA) in a matchup of two pitchers with polar opposite starts to the season. Lefties Scott Diamond (2-2, 3.97 ERA) and Pedro Hernandez (1-0, 3.92 ERA) will oppose Ryan Dempster (2-2, 3.00 ERA) and Felix Doubront (3-1, 6.57 ERA) on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. In the finale, Correia (3-2, 2.83 ERA) will face John Lackey (1-2, 3.52 ERA) on Thursday night.

Playing a below average team after the sweep in Texas provides the Red Sox with an opportunity to regain some confidence this week, in hopes of being able to continue to beat up on the bad teams of the American League. Even after this weekend, the Sox remain tied with the Rangers and Cardinals for the best record in baseball, and hope to gain sole possession of it by the end of the week.

News and Notes:

-Closer Andrew Bailey was placed on the 15-day disabled list today (right bicep tendinitis) and lefty Craig Breslow was activated. Bailey will be eligible to return next Tuesday.

-When Bailey returns, the Sox will have to decide whether to either option Alex Wilson to AAA Pawtucket or designate Clayton Mortensen for assignment. Both pitchers will be pitching for the right to remain on the major league roster this week.

-The Pawtucket Red Sox placed Jackie Bradley Jr. on the 7-day disabled list today with right bicep tendinitis (retroactive to May 4th). As Alex Speier of WEEI.com notes, this means that Bradley Jr. will have spent more than twenty days in the minors this year, meaning that he will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2019 season. In 11 games with Pawtucket, Bradley Jr. is hitting .302 with 4 RBI.

-The Red Sox have scouted RHP Brett Tomko’s team, the York Revolution of the Atlantic League, at various times during the season, according to a source. Tomko, who has a 2.67 ERA in 27 innings pitched, has at least one offer from a major league team and has three to four other teams interested including the Tigers and Yankees. The 40-year old has pitched for ten teams in his 15-year major league career, and the extent of the Red Sox’ interest is not known at this time.