Rays-Red Sox Preview


The result on the scoreboard was exactly what the struggling Boston Red Sox needed to see as they opened the 101st season at Fenway Park.

Watching another of their key outfielders get injured was not.

Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury is not expected to be in the lineup Saturday when Clay Buchholz tries to shake off a rough first outing and help Boston win consecutive games for the first time since August as it continues its four-game set with the Tampa Bay Rays.

After a 1-5 road trip to open the season – one game better than their 2011 start – the Red Sox (2-5) scored eight runs in the eighth inning of their home opener and avoided a third straight loss Friday with a 12-2 victory over the Rays (4-3).

Boston, though, may have lost Ellsbury for a while after he hurt his right shoulder in the fourth inning while trying to break up a double play at second base. Rays shortstop Reid Brignac landed on Ellsbury's right arm, and last year's AL MVP runner-up walked off the field with his arm bent at the elbow.

The Red Sox are already without left fielder Carl Crawford, who is recovering from left wrist surgery and dealing with left elbow issues.

"Hopefully, the MRI doesn't show anything structurally damaged or anything like that (and) the soreness can go away in a few days and he'll be back in a few days,'' first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said of Ellsbury, who hit .321 with 32 homers and 39 stolen bases last season.

With Ellsbury and Crawford both absent, Cody Ross becomes the probable starter in Fenway's eccentric center field. Prior to Friday, his only experience playing in Boston was one series with Florida in 2009.

"Hopefully I'm not out (in center) too long,'' Ross said. "I just watched the replay and it didn't look good.''

Buchholz (0-0, 15.75 ERA) did not look good at all in his season debut. Making his first appearance since June 16 after a stress fracture in his lower back limited him to 14 starts in 2011, Buchholz allowed seven runs over four innings of Sunday's 13-12, 11-inning loss at Detroit.

The right-hander had gone 42 straight starts without giving up more than five earned runs.

Buchholz is 4-2 with a 1.81 ERA in eight career starts versus Tampa Bay - his lowest ERA against any AL club. He'll try to lead the Red Sox to their first consecutive wins since sweeping a double-header against Oakland on Aug. 27.

The Rays have dropped three of four following a season-opening sweep over the New York Yankees, but they have to be pleased that Jeremy Hellickson (1-0, 0.00) will be able to take his turn in the rotation Saturday. The 2011 AL Rookie of the Year was taken to the hospital Wednesday after getting hit in the head by a ball during batting practice before a game at Detroit.

Manager Joe Maddon said the right-hander did not lose consciousness.

"I feel fine," Hellickson told the Rays' official website Thursday.

Boston's lineup may not feel that way if Hellickson can repeat his effort from Sunday, when he allowed three hits in 8 2-3 innings of a 3-0 victory over the Yankees. It was a great start for Hellickson, who had a 9.00 ERA during 20 spring training innings.

"That was very impressive,'' Rays first baseman Carlos Pena said. "He was just so calm the whole time. That's something that should never be overlooked."

Hellickson went 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in two starts at Fenway last season.

Boston designated hitter David Ortiz is 4 for 10 with a triple off Hellickson.

Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, whose 0-for-4 effort Friday ended his season-opening six-game hitting streak, is 5 for 20 with two doubles against Buchholz.