Cobb to debut for O’s against Sox

BOSTON — There were two perfectly good reasons for the Baltimore Orioles giving Alex Cobb a four-year-contract worth $57 million during spring training.

One was that the club desperately needed a reliable starter on a shaky staff.

The other was the right-hander’s experience and success against the American League East and in East ballparks.

Cobb, who makes his Orioles debut in Saturday’s second game of a four-game series with the Red Sox at Fenway Park, is 6-4 lifetime against Boston, 5-1 with a 3.15 ERA at Fenway.

He is 21-13 against the division, 11-5 in the four venues, also posting a 23-19 career record at the Trop in St. Petersburg, his old home address.

Some of his divisional success is a 6-2 mark against the Orioles, 3-1 at Camden Yards, the latter stat a good sign of a pitcher doing well in a hitter’s park. His only sub-.500 mark in any is a 1-2 record at Yankee Stadium. But he went 5-2 against the Yanks in Florida.

Baltimore pitching coach Roger McDowell went and watched Cobb throw at the club’s Bowie farm club Wednesday.

“That went well,” Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said Wednesday. “Alex can’t be here yet until tomorrow for some reason, and so we’re going to have to add him on Saturday, which is a good thing.”

Cobb is 48-35 with a 3.50 ERA in exactly 700 big-league innings. He was 12-10 with a 3.66 ERA for the Rays last season but still went unsigned until late March. Now, he’s ready to join the rotation of a team that fell to 5-9 with a loss in the series opener Friday night.

The Red Sox, who improved to 11-2 on Friday and have scored 52 runs in their last six games, will give Hector Velazquez his first start since a strong effort at Tampa Bay in the opening series of the season. Velazquez beat the Rays, allowing one run in 5 2/3 innings and has been pitching out of the bullpen since.

With Velazquez going Saturday, Chris Sale will pitch Sunday and Brian Johnson is set to pitch Monday’s rain-threatened morning series finale on Patriots Day. That gives David Price an extra day after Price left his last start after one inning with numbness in his fingers.

Drew Pomeranz, rehabbing in the minors, needed one more start in the minors, which he made for Double-A Portland Friday night.

Pomeranz, out with a forearm issue, pitched 5 1/3 inning Friday night and might be ready for his next start.

Velazquez allowed six runs in five innings in his first three major league starts last season but is 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA, 12 strikeouts in 15 innings and an opponents’ batting average of .228 in three starts since.

He will try to keep this best Boston start in a century going.

“It doesn’t even really seem like we’re 11-2, it just seems like each day is a new day and a new game,” Mookie Betts said after Friday night’s 7-4 victory, the team’s 11th in its last 12 games.

Eduardo Rodriguez, making his second start after coming back from knee surgery, pitched six innings to get his first win of the season. Meanwhile, for the Orioles, one-time ace Chris Tillman still hasn’t won since May 7 (21 starts).

Jonathan Schoop left Friday night’s game with side soreness that surfaced on his last at-bat.

Christian Vazquez has been nearly impossible for Cobb to get out, going 8-for-11 (.727) against him, while J.D. Martinez is 4-for-8 (.500) and Mookie Betts 6-for-20 (.300) with a home run and four RBIs. Andrew Benintendi is 2-for-15 (.133) and Jackie Bradley Jr. 2-for-13 (.154) against Cobb.

Velazquez has never faced the Orioles nor anyone on the Baltimore roster.