After their starters finished near the bottom of the majors in ERA last season, the Baltimore Orioles signed Ubaldo Jimenez to try to improve their rotation and keep up with the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox in the AL East.
Jimenez will look to get his Orioles career off to a good start Wednesday night at Camden Yards, but he'll be facing a Red Sox team that has given him nothing but trouble.
Baltimore's 4.57 ERA from its starting pitchers in 2013 was tied for 26th in the major leagues and among the reasons the club failed to reach the playoffs after doing so in 2012.
The Orioles addressed that problem in the winter with the addition of Jimenez, who signed a $50 million, four-year contract Feb. 19 after going 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA in 32 starts for Cleveland last season.
"I'm very excited to go out there with my new team and my new teammates wearing the Orioles uniform," Jimenez told MLB's official website. "I came in a little bit later, but I was able to catch up. I was able to throw the pitches that I need to be ready for the season. So I feel good."
Jimenez had a 5.28 ERA in four spring training starts, and that number is more than twice as high in his career against the Red Sox. The right-hander is 1-2 with an 11.72 ERA in four regular-season matchups after allowing seven runs and five walks in 1 2-3 innings of a 7-2 defeat last April 16.
Boston's Mike Napoli is 3 for 4 with a home run and a double against Jimenez, Dustin Pedroia is 5 for 10, Daniel Nava 3 for 6 with three doubles and Jonny Gomes 5 for 12 with two homers.
Red Sox starter John Lackey has had better results in his career against Baltimore, going 13-5 with a 3.35 ERA in 23 starts. He two-hit the Orioles in a 3-1 win Sept. 19, part of a rebound season after he missed all of 2012 following Tommy John surgery and posted a 6.41 ERA in 28 starts in 2011.
Lackey went 10-13 with a 3.52 ERA last year and was 3-1 with a 2.77 ERA in five postseason appearances, winning the clinching Game 6 of the World Series against St. Louis.
He had a 6.27 ERA in four spring starts, but manager John Farrell liked what he saw from the veteran right-hander.
"He progressed as we could have hoped," Farrell said. "He showed his best arm strength and best overall stuff in his final outing. We took a pretty clear and designed approach towards getting him to game speed and then ultimately to 90-plus pitches. ... We're looking forward to him getting on the mound Wednesday."
These teams had a day off after the Orioles won 2-1 in Monday's season opener. Nelson Cruz, Baltimore's other big free-agent addition, hit a tiebreaking home run in the seventh inning.
Pedroia and Grady Sizemore each had two hits for Boston. Sizemore, who missed two seasons recovering from knee surgery and played for the first time since Sept. 22, 2011, while with Cleveland, homered to tie the game in the fourth.