Cole Hamels will throw the first pitch of the season for the Phillies against the Red Sox. (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Red Sox-Phillies series preview

April 06, 2015 - 4:29 am
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The Red Sox will open their 2015 season in Philadelphia, with games on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. It is the first time they will start a season against a National League team in club history. Last season was one to forget for the Red Sox, who finished the year last in the AL East with a record of 71-91, 25 games behind the first-place Orioles. Boston made several changes in the offseason, most notably bringing in third baseman Pablo Sandoval from the world champion Giants and outfielder Hanley Ramirez from the Dodgers. These additions, as well as familiar faces David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli and young potential stars Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts, make the Red Sox lineup one of the most dangerous in baseball. However, there are concerns surrounding the pitching staff. The team'€™s starting rotation consists of five pitchers who have proven themselves to be effective at times in the big leagues but have yet to develop into reliable top-of-the-rotation options. Clay Buchholz, who started last season as the team's fifth starter, will take the mound on Opening Day. Rick Porcello, Justin Masterson and Wade Miley are next in line for starts. Joe Kelly, who was expected to figure in to the rotation, will start the season on the disabled list with a right biceps strain. Other Red Sox on the DL are closer Koji Uehara, reliever Edwin Escobar and catcher Christian Vazquez, who will miss the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last week. Ryan Hanigan is expected to take over starting duties behind the plate. The bullpen has just as many questions as the starting rotation. In Uehara's absence, Edward Mujica likely will become the closer. The Red Sox will be opening 2015 against another team that struggled last season. The Phillies finished the year in last place in the NL East with a record of 73-89. Cole Hamels will get the Opening Day start for Philadelphia, despite trade rumors following his voicing displeasure with not being given the chance to win with the Phillies. One notable rumor involved Hamels heading to Boston. Here are the pitching matchups for the series, with stats from 2014: Clay Buchholz (8-11, 5.34) vs. Cole Hamels (9-9, 2.46) Rick Porcello (15-13, 3.43) vs. Aaron Harang (12-12, 3.57) Justin Masterson (7-9, 5.88) vs. TBD WHO'S HOT: RED SOX -- Betts, 22, showed promise in 52 games in the majors last year, going .291 with five home runs, 12 doubles, 21 walks and 18 RBIs while playing several positions in both the infield and outfield. This spring, he has cemented his reputation as one of the top rookies to watch in the league, as he hit .429 in 56 plate appearances in the Grapefruit League. -- Napoli had offseason surgery to correct a sleeping disorder, and it appears to have worked. He hit .400 this spring with six home runs and 11 RBIs. -- Pedroia is looking to bounce back from a subpar 2014 season, and he started off well in spring training. In 53 plate appearances, he hit .321 with three doubles, eight RBIs and a stolen base. WHO'S HOT: PHILLIES -- Chase Utley hit .412 with a .474 on-base percentage to go along with four home runs and 11 RBIs this spring. This will be the veteran second baseman'€™s 13th season in the MLB. -- Odubel Herrera, 21, is a promising left fielder for the Phillies. The Venezuelan hit .343 in 70 at bats in spring training. -- Young starter David Buchanan went 3-0 in six games this spring, pitching 21 innings and striking out 15 while only walking two. He posted a 1.29 ERA and a 0.76 WHIP. WHO'S NOT: RED SOX -- Alexi Ogando, who came over from the Rangers in the offseason, has not started out his Red Sox career on a good note. This spring the reliever posted a 7.94 ERA in 8 1/3 innings over six appearances. Opponents hit .292 against Ogando, including one home run. He notched six strikeouts while giving up two walks. -- Shane Victorino missed a few games this spring with an injury, but still tallied 42 at-bats over 16 games. Over that span, he hit just .190 and posted a .261 on-base percentage. The veteran outfielder will need to improve on those numbers if he wants to maintain his starting spot on a roster overloaded with viable options in the outfield. -- Ortiz did record 10 RBIs, but he hit only one home run in 14 spring games while posting a .222 average. He missed a few games due to dehydration and looks to come back from a below-average spring performance. WHO'S NOT: PHILLIES -- First baseman Ryan Howard hit just .176 in 74 at-bats this spring. He did have three home runs and 10 RBIs, and he has never put up great averages throughout his career, but that still is well below his career average of .265. -- In 52 at-bats, outfielder Grady Sizemore hit .212 with no home runs, no extra-base hits and four RBIs. Sizemore, who started last season with the Red Sox, likely will have a starting spot to begin the season, but he could lose his spot if he does not start to produce.

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