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American League East Preview

American League East Preview

American League East Preview
David Chan
Covers.com

Tampa, Boston, New York, Toronto, Baltimore.

In that order.

Maybe.

Maybe in the reverse order.

Maybe just draw names out of a hat to figure out the order of finish because this is no longer your father’s New York/Boston-dominating American League East. It’s possible that nobody gets to 90 wins and all five teams finish over .500.

TAMPA BAY – Money issues force the Rays to constantly re-build their bullpen, and if Joe Maddon can’t do it again this season, there could be big trouble. It helps to have a terrific group of starters (David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore and Alex Cobb) to give you 6 to 7 innings a night. The Rays will have problems scoring runs (they were 4th-worst in the majors last season at 4.3) with little lineup protection for Evan Longoria. TB figured it had enough pitching to send James Shields to KC for super prospect Wil Myers, who some believe could be the next Mike Trout or Bryce Harper. If Myers crushes it early, an early June callup is possible.

BOSTON – The fan base won’t allow a complete rebuilding, so the Red Sox have added some decent stop-gap vets – Shane Victorino, Jonny Gomes, Steven Drew, Mike Napoli, Ryan Dempster. They should help the team win enough to keep pressure off management, but not enough to challenge for a division title. Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and John Lackey, all of whom are still trying to live down their 2011 chicken-and-beer reps, will be 1-2-5 in the rotation. The bullpen (newcomer Joel Hanrahan will close) looks like the strength of the team. DH David Ortiz finally got the contract he’s been whining for, but still has trouble running after an ankle injury suffered last August and could be headed for the DL.

NEW YORK – Doesn’t look like even the Yankees can buy off Father Time. Last year’s starting lineup averaged almost 33 years old, and that number will only rise this season whenever the team figures out just who actually will start. Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira are both out until mid-May, the left side of the infield (Derek Jeter and Kevin Youkilis) is calcified, and Ichiro Suzuki (39) and Mariano Rivera (43) will both have to produce. Alex Rodriguez? Does he even matter anymore? And Travis Hafner was brought in to DH. The 2012 Yankees won more games (95) than any team in the A.L., but unless the starting rotation (CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes) all have top-shelf seasons, NY could take an 8- to 10-game dip.

TORONTO – If this doesn’t work, then what? The Blue Jays opened their wallets, basically gutting the Marlins with that big winter deal that brought in Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson. National League Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey was lifted from the Mets as the cherry on the sundae, so now the trick is to get the big names to blend with the holdovers and do some damage in the division. The key, though, could be veteran OF Juan Bautista, who was hurt last season but is a legit hammer in the middle of the lineup. John Gibbons, in his second stint as manager, still has to piece together a bullpen before the team starts ordering A.L. –champion tee- shirts.

BALTIMORE – Everybody’s chic pick for last in the division because the Orioles made few off-season moves after a ton of close wins got them to 93-69 and a wild-card spot last season. Besides those tight wins (13-2 in extra innings, 29-9 in one-run games), the Orioles may have maxed out their bullpen. There is plenty of talent, though. Adam Jones (.287/32/82) is a legit All-Star, Chris Davis (33 HR) may be the best first baseman in the league this side of Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols, and innings eater Wei-Yin Chen (12 wins) heads a decent rotation.

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