Usually we are spared hearing the term "closer by committee" until at least mid-April after a few blown saves. But Angels manager Mike Scioscia isn't waiting that long. Presumed closer Huston Street started the season on the 10-day disabled list with back troubles but is likely out bit longer than that. He has been sidelined since March 3 because of a lat strain. Thus Scioscia will go with Cam Bedrosian, Andrew Bailey, or perhaps even a third guy depending on the matchups. Doesn't seem fair to the fire-balling Bedrosian, who was the best Angels reliever in 2016 -- recording a 1.12 ERA over 40 1/3 innings before undergoing season-ending surgery in September to repair a blood clot in his pitching arm - and he did not give up a run in spring training.
Phillies at Reds ( +103, 9 )
A 12:35 p.m. ET first pitch from Cincinnati. I wonder if the Red Sox are already regretting basically giving away Clay Buchholz to the Phillies in a salary dump this offseason considering Boston has a couple of injured pitchers. The Red Sox picked up the 2017 option on Buchholz's contract last Nov. 3, leading many to assume he would return for an 11th season in Boston. But a month later, the Sox landed Chris Sale and preferred to unload Buchholz's $13 million or so salary. He was 8-10 with a 4.78 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in 139 1/3 innings (21 starts among 37 appearances) in 2016. From July 27 through the remainder of the season, the two-time All-Star was 5-1 with a 2.80 ERA. Just one Red has seen him: Scooter Gennett is 1-for-2. Cincinnati goes with the aptly named Rookie Davis in his big-league debut. He wasn't expected to leave camp with the big club but fared well this spring. He came to the Reds in the December 2015 Aroldis Chapman deal with the Yankees, then made 23 starts in Double-A and Triple-A in 2016, going 10-5, 3.82 with a 77/37 K/BB in 125 innings.
Key trends: The Reds are 3-9 in their past 12 in Game 3 of a series. The "over/under" is 7-1 in the Reds' past eight at home.
Early lean: Phillies and over.
Royals at Twins (-105, 8.5)
Another matinee, and it's the Kansas City debut of Jason Hammel. The Cubs held a reasonable player option on Hammel for 2017 but as a favor declined it so he could get paid in free agency. Unfortunately, a robust market never emerged. He got a two-year, $16.2 million deal from the Royals, or about $5 million more than his one-year option was worth. He's only making $5 million this year. Hammel was 15-10 with a 3.83 ERA last year with the Cubs but faded late and wasn't part of the playoff roster. A handful of Twins have seen him. Joe Mauer is 5-for-14 with a homer and four RBIs. Brian Dozier is 1-for-5 with a dinger. Minnesota's Kyle Gibson was one of the AL's worst pitchers last year with a 6-11 record and 5.07 ERA but was excellent this spring. He was 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA in 2016 vs. the Royals. Drew Butera might get a spot start behind the plate as he's 6-for-8 career off Gibson with a homer.
Key trends: The Twins are 1-4 in Gibson's past five at home. The over is 4-1 in his past five there vs. Kansas City.
Early lean: Royals and over.
Braves at Mets (-172, 7)
These two close out a three-game set - the Braves wanted to open their first couple of series on the road to get their new stadium ready. Atlanta has some stellar young pitching in the minors, but this is a bridge season in that new park so the team added three pitching veterans. One of them is former Cardinals lefty Jamie Garcia, who makes his team debut. The Braves traded three minor-leaguers for him. Garcia was 10-13 with a 4.67 ERA last year and will eat innings. Garcia was 0-2 with an 8.00 ERA in two starts against the Mets. Asdrubal Cabrera is 3-for-5 off him with two doubles. Wilmer Flores is 3-for-7 with a homer. All eyes will be on the Mets' Matt Harvey as he makes his first start since July 4 due to an unusual procedure for thoracic outlet syndrome. There's not a good track record of players returning a high level from that, but it's also quite rare. Harvey wasn't very good in 2016 with a 4-10 record and 4.86 ERA. He was 1-2 with a 4.37 ERA in four starts vs. the Braves.
Key trends: The Mets are 1-7 in Harvey's past eight vs. the NL East. The under is 5-1-1 in his past seven vs. Atlanta.
Early lean: Braves and under.
Blue Jays at Rays (+120, 7.5)
Arguably the pitching matchup of the night. Toronto's Marcus Stroman was the MVP of the World Baseball Classic, and got the win in the championship game for Team USA with a dominant outing against Puerto Rico. He was up-and-down in a career-high 32 starts last year with the Jays, going 9-10 with a 4.37 ERA. Stroman was 2-3 with a 4.54 ERA in five starts vs. the Rays. Evan Longoria is 8-for-22 against him with two homers. It's top pitching prospect Blake Snell for the Rays, although I guess the 24-year-old southpaw is not a prospect any longer after making 19 starts as a rookie and going 6-8 with a 3.54 ERA. Snell was 1-1 with a 3.52 ERA in two starts vs. Toronto. Troy Tulowitzki is 1-for-3 off him with a homer and four RBIs.
Key trends: The Jays are 1-10 in Stroman's past 11 on the road. The under is 7-0 in his past seven starts.
Early lean: Rays and under.
Giants at Diamondbacks (-108, 9.5)
I read more than a few experts listing Robbie Ray as a dark-horse Cy Young candidate this spring. The 25-year-old lefty is nasty but had some unusual numbers in 2016. He was 8-15 with a 4.90 ERA. Not great. But he had MLB's largest disparity between his ERA (4.90) and FIP (3.76).He posted had a BABIP well above the league average (.355 compared to .300). Ray struck out 218 in 174.1 innings. He was 1-1 with a 3.71 ERA in three starts vs. the Giants. Brandon Belt is 3-for-7 off him with three RBIs. Hunter Pence is 3-for-6 with a double. San Francisco's Jeff Samardzija was about what was to be expected last year in returning to the National League with a 12-11 record and 3.81 ERA. Those 12 wins were a career high. He's an innings eater who will dominate occasionally but also get shelled. "Shark" was 2-0 with a 2.91 ERA in three starts vs. the Snakes. Jake Lamb is 3-for-7 against him with two doubles.
Key trends: The Giants are 1-4 in Samardzija's past five starts. The Diamondbacks are 0-6 in Ray's past six on Thursday. The under is 11-1-2 in Samardzija's past 14 overall.
Doc's MLB handicappers are offering $60 worth of member's baseball picks free - no obligation, no sales people - You can use this $60 credit on any of our top MLB handicappers picks here now. Get free MLB picks daily at Doc's Sports baseball predictions page .
Read more articles by Alan Matthews
Most Recent Baseball Handicapping
- Biggest Comebacks in MLB History
- 2021 AL Central Predictions and Expert Betting Advice
- 2021 NL West Predictions and Expert Betting Advice
- 2021 NL East Predictions and Expert Betting Advice
- 2021 AL West Predictions and Expert Betting Advice
- 2021 NL Central Predictions and Expert Betting Advice
- 2021 AL East Predictions and Expert Betting Advice
- 2021 Minnesota Twins Predictions and Odds to Win the World Series
- 2021 Chicago White Sox Predictions and Odds to Win the World Series
- 2021 Detroit Tigers Predictions and Odds to Win the World Series