Capsules of American League teams, listed in order of finish last year:
Tampa Bay Rays
2010: 96-66, first place, lost in first round.
Manager: Joe Maddon (6th season).
He’s Outta There: LF Carl Crawford, 1B Carlos Pena, SS Jason Bartlett, RHP Matt Garza, RHP Rafael Soriano, RHP Joaquin Benoit, RHP Grant Balfour, RHP Dan Wheeler, LHP Randy Choate, RHP Chad Qualls, C Dioner Navarro, OF-1B Brad Hawpe, OF Rocco Baldelli.
Projected Lineup: 2B Ben Zobrist (.238, 10 HRs, 75 RBIs, 23 stolen bases), LF Johnny Damon (.271, 8, 51 in 145 games with Detroit), 3B Evan Longoria (.294, 22, 104), DH Manny Ramirez (.298, 9, 42 in 90 games with Dodgers and White Sox), RF Matt Joyce (.241, 10, 40 in 77 games), 1B Dan Johnson (.198, 7, 23 in 40 games), CF B.J. Upton (.237, 18, 62), C John Jaso (.263, 5, 44 in 109 games) SS Reid Brignac (.256, 8, 45 in 113 games).
Rotation: LH David Price (19-6, 2.72 ERA, 188 Ks), RH James Shields (13-15, 5.18, 187 Ks), RH Wade Davis (12-10, 4.07), RH Jeff Niemann (12-8, 4.39), RH Jeremy Hellickson (4-0, 3.47 in 10 appearances, four starts).
Key Relievers: RH Andy Sonnanstine ( 3-1, 4.44 ERA), RH Kyle Farnsworth (3-2, 3.34 in 60 games with Kansas City and Atlanta), RH Joel Peralta (1-0, 2.02 in 39 games with Washington), LH Jake McGee (0-0, 1.80 in 8 appearances), RH Adam Russell (0-0, 4.02 in 12 appearances with San Diego), LH J.P. Howell (injured all last season, 7-5, 2.84 in 69 appearances in 2009), RH Juan Cruz (0-0, 3.38 in 5 appearances with Kansas City).
Hot Spots: Bullpen. The defending AL East champions are rebuilding one of baseball’s top bullpens almost from the ground up after losing six relievers, including Soriano, the All-Star closer, to free agency. Sonnanstine, slated for the long relief role, is the only holdover and Howell, a key performer in 2008 and 2009 before missing all of 2010 following shoulder surgery, is not expected to return until May at the earliest. That leaves Maddon to try to reconstruct the unit around newcomers Farnsworth, Cruz, Peralta and McGee, a rookie. With no proven closer on the roster, Maddon plans to fill the role by committee.
Outlook: Despite losing Crawford, Pena, Garza and Bartlett via free agency or trades while trimming payroll, the Rays believe they can remain competitive with the big-spending Red Sox and Yankees in baseball’s toughest division. The biggest reason is a strong young nucleus of talent that includes Longoria, Upton, and well as a solid pitching rotation featuring 2010 AL Cy Young runnerup Price, Shields, Davis, Niemann and Hellickson, a rookie, whose development is why the Rays were comfortable with parting with Garza, last year’s No. 2 starter. The offseason acquisition of Damon and Ramirez fill the need for a left fielder and cleanup hitter. Maddon is counting on them to provide veteran leadership in the clubhouse, too.
2010: 95-67, second place, wild card.