"I'd seen his knee, and that was disgusting," said O's outfielder Adam Jones. "But when he came back out there, we're not going to feel sorry for the man. It [stinks] that his knee was hurt and all that, but we had a job to do, and we did it."
Cook's first start in a Red Sox uniform (filling in for Josh Beckett, who is nursing a sore lat muscle) didn't go as planned, but it might be unfair to judge his value to the club after just one injury-plagued appearance.
He wasn't pitching all that badly (he tossed a 1-2-3 first inning, recording three ground-ball outs) until he was spiked by Chris Davis while trying to cover the plate on a passed ball in the second inning.
With Davis on third base and Mark Reynolds at the dish, Cook lost control of a pitch, which sailed through the legs of Saltalamacchia. Cook ran home to cover the plate and Saltalamacchia tossed the ball his way, but Cook's momentum sent him to his knees while Davis' spikes met them with anguish.
Manager Bobby Valentine said he was told by the medical staff that Cook could pitch, so Valentine left the decision in the hands of the pitcher. Cook received treatment and returned to the mound to retire Reynolds, but the pitcher never seemed the same following the collision.
"I wanted to go out there and try to eat up some more innings," Cook said. "I know our bullpen's been kind of taxed. At the end of the day, I don't know if it was the best decision, but it was what I wanted to do."
Cook battled through two outs in the third inning, but then lost all control of his sinker, which was sitting around 88 mph.
Nick Markakis drove home J.J. Hardy with a base hit, and Jones launched a two-run homer before three consecutive hits put an end to Cook's day. Clayton Mortensen entered and promptly served up a three-run homer to Reynolds, which capped a seven-run frame.
"To be honest, my knee in front of my leg was kind of numb, so I was really just out there throwing all arm," said Cook, who assumed he'd be day to day and wasn't sure if he'd miss any time. "That's when you start to see the ball get flat. It's just up in the zone. I just made bad pitches after that."
Signed in the offseason with a stipulation in his contract that allowed him to request a release if he wasn't promoted to the Majors within 48 hours of May 1, Cook went 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA in five starts with Triple-A Pawtucket, and optimism was high that he could be a valuable backup option for a starting rotation that entered Saturday with a 5.46 ERA -- 27th in the Majors.
And while Cook's first appearance with the Red Sox may have looked like a mess on paper, it's fair to wonder what could've been on Saturday.
"Obviously, the sinker was working," assured Saltalamacchia. "I think after the injury, the sinker was up. He was leaving it up a little bit. For a sinkerball pitcher, that's never good."
The Red Sox offense, though, could never get going against Jason Hammel and his rebuilt two-seam fastball. The righty allowed just four hits and one walk over 6 2/3 innings, striking out eight and allowing just two earned runs, both in the seventh. It was the sixth quality start of Hammel's season, in which he's allowed two runs or fewer in every appearance.
Ryan Sweeney and Cody Ross put the Red Sox on the board in the seventh inning, plating two runs with a pair of hits, but Marlon Byrd ended the rally with a swinging strikeout.
Valentine believes his squad has just fallen victim to bad luck.
The Orioles "got a lot of balls that fell in here, and we had a lot of balls that they dove and caught," he said. "It'll all catch up with us here. Our balls will fall, and we'll win a lot of games at home."
Nick Punto went 0-for-4 out of the leadoff spot, just the second time this season he's hit at the top of the order. Punto was filling in at third base for Will Middlebrooks, who was a late scratch with left hamstring tightness, but said he would be ready to play on Sunday.
The Red Sox, who fell to 4-9 at home this season, send Clay Buchholz to the mound on Sunday against Tommy Hunter in the final tilt of the three-game set.