AL EAST TEAM PREVIEWS
Teams listed in order of finish last year.
New York Yankees
2012: 95-67, first place (lost to Detroit in ALCS).
Manager: Joe Girardi (sixth season).
He's here: 3B Kevin Youkilis, DH Travis Hafner, OF Brennan Boesch, OF Ben Francisco, C Bobby Wilson, LF Vernon Wells, 1B Lyle Overbay.
He's outta here: RF Nick Swisher, C Russell Martin, DH-OF Raul Ibanez, 3B Eric Chavez, OF Andruw Jones, RHP Rafael Soriano, RHP Freddy Garcia, LHP Pedro Feliciano.
Projected lineup: SS Derek Jeter (.316, 15 HRs, 58 RBIs, 99 runs), RF Ichiro Suzuki (.283, 9, 55, 29 SBs with Mariners and Yankees; .322, 5, 27, 14 SBs in 67 games with Yankees), 2B Robinson Cano (.313, 33, 94, 48 doubles, 105 runs), 3B Kevin Youkilis (.235, 19, 60 with Red Sox and White Sox), LF Vernon Wells (.230, 11, 29 in 77 games with Angels), DH Travis Hafner (.228, 12, 34 in 66 games with Indians), 1B Lyle Overbay (.259, 2, 10 in 65 games with Diamondbacks and Braves), C Francisco Cervelli (spent 2012 at Triple-A Scranton; .266, 4, 22 in 124 at-bats with Yankees in 2011) or Chris Stewart (.241, 1, 13 in 141 at-bats), CF Brett Gardner (.323, 0, 3, .417 OBP in 31 at-bats; missed most of season with elbow injury).
Rotation: LH CC Sabathia (15-6, 3.38 ERA, 200 IP, 197 Ks), RH Hiroki Kuroda (16-11, 3.32, 191 1-3 IP, 165 Ks), LH Andy Pettitte (5-4, 2.87, 75 1-3 IP, 69 Ks), RH Ivan Nova (12-8, 5.02, 170 1-3 IP, 153 Ks), RH David Phelps (4-4, 3.34, 99 2-3 IP, 96 Ks in 33 games, 11 starts).
Key relievers: RH Mariano Rivera (1-1, 2.16, 5 of 6 saves in 9 games before knee injury), RH David Robertson (2-7, 2.67, 2 saves, 60 2/3 IP, 81 Ks), RH Joba Chamberlain (1-0, 4.35, 22 games), LH Boone Logan (7-2, 3.74, major league-high 80 games).
Hot spots: The trainer's room. The aging Yankees entered spring training with a long list of health concerns -- third baseman Alex Rodriguez (hip surgery) is out until at least the All-Star break -- and things immediately got worse. Center fielder Curtis Granderson (sidelined until May) broke his right forearm when he was hit by a pitch and first baseman Mark Teixeira could be out until June with a partially torn tendon sheath in his right wrist after he was injured while swinging in the batting cage during warmups for the World Baseball Classic. Jeter's return from ankle surgery will be delayed into early April at least after he experienced stiffness. He has played minimally in the field this spring. Hughes injured his back in February and will begin the season on the DL, and Sabathia is coming back from elbow surgery. The one player coming off an injury who has looked like his usual dominant self: 43-year-old Mariano Rivera, who tore the ACL in his left knee last May while shagging flies during batting practice.
Outlook: Injuries and austerity leave the Yankees heading into the season in a more precarious position than they have in years. Budget conscious with the $189 million luxury-tax threshold for 2014 in mind, the Yankees let Swisher and Martin leave as free agents. Their biggest moves in the offseason were to sign Youkilis to take over at third for Rodriguez until he's ready -- if at all -- in July, re-sign Suzuki and Kuroda, and what looks almost like desperation, the late spring training acquisition of Wells from the Angels at a bargain price and signing of Overbay after the Red Sox cut him Tuesday. The Bronx Bombers hit a team-record 245 home runs in 2012. This season their opening-day lineup will include only one player who hit more than 20 last year: Cano. With a bevy of All-Stars sidelined, the Yankees will turn to Overbay and Wells, both past their prime, to fill in. With Jeter beginning the season on the DL, look for Gardner to be paired with Suzuki atop the order and Eduardo Nunez, a shaky defender, to start at shortstop. The Yankees still can't be ruled out, though, in the deep AL East. The pitching staff led by Sabathia could be one of baseball's best and if Rivera is still a one-pitch wonder, then the game's career saves leader can still hope his final pitch before retirement will be the World Series clincher.
2012: 93-69, second place (lost to New York in division series).
Manager: Buck Showalter (eighth season).
He's here: 1B Travis Ishikawa. INF Danny Valencia, 2B Alexi Casilla, RHP Jair Jurrjens, INF-OF Yamaico Navarro, OF Trayvon Robinson.
He's outta here: 1B Mark Reynolds, LHP Joe Saunders, 2B Robert Andino, OF Endy Chavez, OF Bill Hall, DH Nick Johnson, INF Omar Quintanilla, DH Jim Thome, LHP Randy Wolf.
Projected lineup: LF Nate McLouth (.268, 7 HRs, 18 RBIs, 12 SBs), SS J.J. Hardy (.238, 22, 68), RF Nick Markakis (.298, 13, 54), CF Adam Jones (.287, 32, 82), C Matt Wieters (.249, 23, 83), 1B Chris Davis (.270, 33, 85, 169 Ks), DH Wilson Betemit (.261, 12, 40), 3B Manny Machado (.262, 7, 26), 2B Brian Roberts (.182, 0, 5 in 17 games)
Rotation: RH Jason Hammel (8-6, 3.43 ERA, 113 Ks), LH Wei-Yin Chen (12-11, 4.02, team-high 154 Ks), RH Miguel Gonzalez (9-4, 3.25), LH Chris Tillman (9-3, 2.93), RH Jake Arrieta (3-9, 6.20).
Key relievers: RH Jim Johnson (2-1, 2.49, 51 of 54 saves), RH Darren O'Day (7-1, 2.28), RH Pedro Strop (5-2, 2.44, 3 of 10 saves), Brian Matusz (6-10, 4.87).
Hot spots: Second baseman Brian Roberts, 35, hopes he has gotten past the numerous injuries that have kept him sidelined for most of the past three seasons. He has been healthy at spring training and should start, but Roberts probably lost his role as leadoff hitter and could be sharing time with Danny Valencia if he struggles with the day-to-day grind of being a starter again. Also, the Orioles will closely monitor the health of Markakis and Nolan Reimold, who missed significant time with injuries last season.
Outlook: The Orioles hope to duplicate their success of 2012 season with a roster that is quite similar to the one that produced a turnaround from 93 losses to 93 wins and a berth in the playoffs as a wild-card team. Showalter and vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette did a marvelous job of juggling the roster last season, and they will need similar success this year to survive in the tough AL East and get back in the playoffs. The Orioles ended a run of 14 consecutive losing seasons in 2012, and the goal this year is to build on the success.
Tampa Bay Rays
2012: 90-72, third place.
Manager: Joe Maddon (eighth season).
He's here: 1B James Loney, SS Yunel Escobar, OF Shelley Duncan, RHP Jamey Wright, RHP Roberto Hernandez, 2B Kelly Johnson.
He's outta here: RHP James Shields, RHP Wade Davis, OF B.J. Upton, 1B Carlos Pena, RHP Burke Badenhop, LHP J.P. Howell, 2B Jeff Keppinger, OF Ben Francisco.
Projected lineup: CF Desmond Jennings (.246, 13 HRs, 47 RBIs, 31 SB, 85 runs), SS Yunel Escobar (.253, 9, 51 with Blue Jays), 3B Evan Longoria (.289, 17, 55 in 74 games), RF Ben Zobrist (.270, 20, 74, 14), DH Luke Scott (.229, 14, 55 in 96 games), LF Matt Joyce (.241, 17, 59), 1B James Loney (.249, 6, 41 with Dodgers and Red Sox), 2B Kelly Johnson (.225, 16, 55 with Blue Jays), C Jose Molina (.223 8, 32 in 102 games).
Rotation: LH David Price (20-5, 2.56 ERA, 2 CGs, 205 Ks, AL Cy Young winner), RH Jeremy Hellickson (10-11, 3.10), RH Roberto Hernandez (0-3, 7.53 with Indians), LH Matt Moore (11-11, 3.81), RH Alex Cobb (11-9, 4.03).
Key relievers: RH Fernando Rodney (2-2, 0.60, 48 of 50 saves), RH Kyle Farnsworth (1-6, 4.00), LH Jake McGee (5-2, 1.95), RH Joel Peralta (2-6, 3.63), LH Cesar Ramos (1-0, 2.10), RH Jamey Wright (5-3, 3.72 with Dodgers), RH Jeff Niemann (2-3, 3.08 in eight games).
Hot spots: Keeping Longoria healthy figures to be one of the keys to getting back to the playoffs after falling short a year ago, when the three-time All-Star appeared in 74 games because of a partially torn left hamstring. The club struggled offensively and defensively in his absence, yet still managed to win at least 90 games for the fourth time in five seasons. How important is Longoria's bat? The Rays went 47-27 with him in the starting lineup and 41-44 without him. The offseason trade that sent Shields and Davis to Kansas City created openings in the rotation and bullpen, but Maddon has an abundance of arms to fill the void. The manager also is counting on the acquisition of Escobar and Johnson to shore up the middle of the infield defensively.
Outlook: The budget-conscious Rays made a huge commitment by signing Longoria to a $136.6 million, 10-year deal that added six seasons and $100 million to his contract this winter, however one of the best pitching staffs in baseball is what gives Tampa Bay a chance, even when the offense is sputtering. The hard-throwing Price led the AL in wins (20) and ERA (2.56) en route to winning the Cy Young Award in his third full season in the majors. He will be counted on even more with Shields, the franchise's career leader in wins, starts, innings pitched and strikeouts departed. A solid bullpen is anchored by Rodney, who posted a club-record and career-high 48 saves in 50 opportunities while setting a major league record for a reliever working a minimum of 50 innings with a 0.60 ERA last season. After making the playoffs three of the past five seasons, anything less than another postseason berth will be a big disappointment.
Toronto Blue Jays
2012: 73-89, fourth place.
Manager: John Gibbons (first season).
He's here: SS Jose Reyes, RHP R.A. Dickey, RHP Josh Johnson, LHP Mark Buehrle, OF Melky Cabrera, INF Maicer Izturis, C Josh Thole, C Mike Nickeas, C Henry Blanco, OF-INF Emilio Bonifacio, INF Mark DeRosa, RHP Jeremy Jeffress, RHP Esmil Rogers.
He's outta here: Manager John Farrell, C John Buck, SS Yunel Escobar, SS Adeiny Hechavarria, RHP Henderson Alvarez, C Jeff Mathis, RHP Carlos Villanueva, 2B Kelly Johnson, RHP Jason Frasor, RHP Sam Dyson.
Projected lineup: SS Jose Reyes (.287, 11 HRs, 57 RBIs, 12 triples, 40 SBs with Marlins) LF Melky Cabrera (.346, 11, 60 with Giants before PED suspension), RF Jose Bautista (.241, 27, 65 in 92 games), 1B Edwin Encarnacion (.280, 42, 110), DH Adam Lind (.255, 11, 45), 3B Brett Lawrie (.273, 11, 48), CF Colby Rasmus (.223, 23, 75), C J.P. Arencibia (.233, 18, 56), 2B Maicer Izturis (.256, 2, 20 with Angels).
Rotation: RH R.A. Dickey (20-6, 2.73 ERA, 230 K, 5 CGs with Mets, NL Cy Young winner), RH Brandon Morrow (10-7, 2.96, 3 shutouts in 21 starts), LH Mark Buehrle (13-13, 3.74 with Marlins), RH Josh Johnson (8-14, 3.81 with Marlins), LH J.A. Happ (10-11, 4.79 with Astros and Blue Jays).
Key relievers: RH Casey Janssen (1-1, 2.54, 22 of 25 saves), RH Sergio Santos (0-1, 9.00, 2 of 4 saves in six games), LH Darren Oliver (3-4, 2.06, 2 of 4 saves), RH Steve Delabar (3-4, 3.82 with Mariners and Blue Jays), RH Esmil Rogers (3-3, 4.69 with Rockies and Indians), LH Aaron Loup (0-2, 2.64).
Hot spots: Left-hander Ricky Romero, who went 9-14 with a 5.77 ERA and AL-high 105 walks in 2012, struggled again in spring training and was optioned to Class-A Dunedin in the final days of camp, with Happ taking his spot in the rotation. Lawrie will start the season on the disabled list because of a strained muscle in his left side, an injury sustained at the World Baseball Classic. Rather than picking a personal catcher for Dickey, the Jays will let Arencibia and Henry Blanco handle the knuckleballer. Janssen and Santos made the opening day roster despite being limited in spring training as they recovered from shoulder operations.
Outlook: Excitement and expectations are high for a Blue Jays team remade by an offseason of wheeling and dealing. Gibbons is returning for a second stint as manager after John Farrell went back to Boston. Gibbons has knuckleballer Dickey, the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, at the head of a deep rotation. Former All-Star Reyes and Cabrera, a free-agent signing, join resident sluggers Bautista and Encarnacion at the top of a potent lineup. With AL East rivals New York affected by injury woes and Boston coming off a rare 90-loss season, the Blue Jays are determined to end their playoff drought at 20 years and return to October for the first time since back-to-back World Series championships in 1992 and 1993.
Boston Red Sox
2012: 69-93, fifth place.
Manager: John Farrell (first season).
He's here: RHP Ryan Dempster, RHP Joel Hanrahan, 1B Mike Napoli, SS Stephen Drew, OF Shane Victorino, OF Jonny Gomes, C David Ross.
He's outta here: Manager Bobby Valentine, RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka, RHP Vicente Padilla, RHP Scott Atchison, 1B James Loney, SS Mike Aviles, RF Cody Ross, OF Scott Podsednik.
Projected lineup: CF Jacoby Ellsbury (.271, 4 HRs, 26 RBIs, 14 SB), 2B Dustin Pedroia (.290, 15, 65, 39 2B, 20 SB), RF Shane Victorino (.255, 11, 55, 39 SB with Phillies and Dodgers), 1B Mike Napoli (.227, 25, 56, 125 Ks with Rangers), 3B Will Middlebrooks (.288, 15, 54), C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.222, 25, 59), DH Jonny Gomes (.262, 18, 47 with A's) LF Jackie Bradley Jr. (.315, 9, 63, in Class A and Double A), SS Jose Iglesias (.118, 1,2).
Rotation: LH Jon Lester (9-14, 4.82 ERA, 3 CGs), RH Clay Buchholz (11-8, 4.56), RH Ryan Dempster (12-8, 3.38 with Cubs and Rangers), LH Felix Doubront (11-10, 4.86), RH John Lackey (missed season after elbow surgery).
Key relievers: RH Joel Hanrahan (5-2, 2.72, 36 of 40 saves with Pirates), RH Andrew Bailey (1-1, 7.04), LH Andrew Miller (3-2, 3.35), RH Koji Uehara (0-0, 1.75 43 Ks, 3 Ws with Rangers), RH Alfredo Aceves (2-10, 5.36), RH Daniel Bard (5-6, 6.22, will start season in minors).
Hot spots: Designated hitter David Ortiz is expected to start the season on the disabled list after experiencing inflammation in both heels. He played only one game last year after July 16 because of a strained right Achilles' tendon. He was expected to bat cleanup in a revamped lineup. Shortstop Stephen Drew also is expected to miss time at the start of the season because of a concussion. Farrell, Boston's former pitching coach, should bring stability after one season under the unpredictable Valentine. Ellsbury's ability to stay healthy after being hurt two of the past three seasons is a key.
Outlook: Expectations have been dampened after last season's 69-93 record and last-place finish. The Red Sox concentrated on signing short-term contracts with mid-level players after trading pitcher Josh Beckett, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and left fielder Carl Crawford to the Los Angeles Dodgers last August, cutting $250 million from the books. Starting pitching has been strong in spring training with the addition of Dempster and the return of Lackey. The bullpen appears deep with Hanrahan taking the closer's role and Bailey able to fill that spot after a poor, injury-plagued season. Top prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. could make an impact early in the season in the outfield with his speed, arm strength and hitting.
-- ASSOCIATED PRESS