At the most, Jarrod Saltalamacchia figured, Aaron Cook’s injury was a strawberry.
There was a play at the plate after a passed ball. Chris Davis was trying to score from third and get the Orioles on the board in the second inning Saturday.
Cook, who was making his first start with the Red Sox, came racing in to cover home. As he took Saltalamacchia’s throw, he and Davis both slid, Cook knees-first, their legs scissoring at the plate.
When the dust settled, Davis had scored, and Cook shook himself off, but he was hunched over a bit, his left leg looking as though it had taken the worst of it.
Just to be safe, Saltalamacchia told Cook to check it.
“At first I didn’t think it was that bad,’’ Cook said, “but then Salty was like, ‘You might want to take a look at that. I see blood coming down your pants.’ ’’
Cook pulled his pants leg up so Saltalamacchia could see.
“I basically could see the whole inside of his leg,’’ Saltalamacchia said. “It was pretty nasty . . . tendons, ligaments, whatever, all that stuff.’’
Cook had been spiked on the knee by Davis.
“When I looked at it, it was kind of just filleted open a little bit,’’ Cook said.
Initially, the righthander headed for the dugout, and manager Bobby Valentine called for Clayton Mortensen to come out of the bullpen. The medical staff was trying to wrap up Cook’s laceration.
Valentine said, “When I went back in and the medical staff said, ‘He should be fine, we’re just wrapping it up,’ I told Cookie, ‘It’s on you, man. If you can throw, pitch. If you can’t, let us know.’ ’’
Cook told Valentine he could throw, so he came back out to finish the inning and Mortensen went back to the bullpen.
“At the end of the day, I don’t know if it was the best decision, but it’s what I was wanting to do,’’ Cook said.
But he wasn’t the same.
“To be honest, my knee was kind of numb,’’ he said. “So I was really out there throwing all arm.’’
His sinker was flat, he said, he started getting the ball up in the zone, and from there he simply made poor pitches in what ended up an 8-2 loss.
Known for his ability to induce ground balls, Cook had started the game with three straight bounce-outs. After giving up that run in the second, he got Mark Reynolds on a ground out to end the inning.
But when he came back out for the third, it didn’t go well.
After a two-out RBI single by Nick Markakis, Adam Jones hit a two-run homer to left. After Matt Wieters doubled to center and Davis singled to left, Wilson Betemit singled to right, scoring Wieters. Mortensen came on, but Reynolds hit a three-run homer to left.
Cook ended up allowing seven runs in his 2 2/3 innings, six earned, on eight hits with one walk and no strikeouts. He then had to get 11 stitches in his knee.
The bomb by Jones nearly dotted a couple of cars in the parking deck across Lansdowne Street.
Jones said he got a glimpse of Cook’s knee, and it was “disgusting. But when he came back out there, we’re not going to feel sorry for the man.
“We had a job to do, and we did it.’’
“I think it affected him a lot,’’ Saltalamacchia said. “You’ve got to change your motions a little bit, there’s just a lot of stuff that goes on when you’ve got a hole in your knee.
“Obviously, the sinker was working, and I think after the injury, the sinker was up. He was leaving it up a little bit, and with a sinkerball pitcher, that’s never good. I was surprised he came back out, and he came back out to try to get us through that.’’
With the Red Sox working with a short bullpen after their 13-inning loss a night earlier, Cook wanted to eat as many innings as possible.
“There’s no way of predicting,’’ Valentine said. “With the short bullpen, I thought we were going to get lucky and he was going to be able to pitch. After [the injury] it seemed like his sinker wasn’t quite what it should be. He got a couple outs. I thought maybe he could give us an inning.’’
The Orioles, who handed the Sox their fourth straight loss, knew the impact Cook’s injury had on his performance.
“I take my hat off to him,’’ said Baltimore manager Buck Showalter. “He’s a pro. He knew where they were, both teams after 13 innings tried to get through it.’’
It was the latest in a frustrating line of injuries for Cook.
In 2010, when he was with the Rockies, Reds slugger Joey Votto hit a scorching liner that broke Cook’s leg.
Before that, he had just come off the disabled list after jamming a big toe. He came back from a shoulder injury to pitch for the Sox.
Cook said the trainers and doctors would monitor the knee in the coming days.
“That’s just the way life is,’’ he said. “We were out there, I was trying to make a good baseball play. I was trying to stop in front of the plate, that’s why I slid. It’s just one of those things that happens. It’s part of baseball.
“It’s frustrating, but [there are] things you can control, things you can’t control.’’Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.