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Rotation: LH Jon Lester (19-9, 3.25 ERA, 225 Ks), RH John Lackey, (14-11, 4.40), RH Clay Buchholz (17-7, 2.33), RH Josh Beckett (6-6, 5.78), RH Daisuke Matsuzaka (9-6, 4.69).

Key Relievers: RH Jonathan Papelbon (5-7, 3.90, 37/45), RH Daniel Bard (1-2, 1.93, 76 Ks), RH Bobby Jenks (1-3, 4.44, with Chicago White Sox), RH Dan Wheeler (2-4, 3.35, with Tampa Bay), LH Hideki Okajima (4-4, 4.50), RH Tim Wakefield (4-10, 5.34).

Hot Spots: Catcher, No. 5 starter. The Red Sox hope Saltalamacchia, once a top prospect with the Texas Rangers, can handle the starting job. If not, veteran Jason Varitek is still around. The big question mark in a deep rotation is Matsuzaka, entering the fifth year of a $52 million, six-year contract. He’s had an inconsistent exhibition season and must cut down on his pitch count that plagued him in the past. Beckett, dropped in the rotation after an injury-plagued season, also needs a solid comeback.

Outlook: Boston may have the most potent lineup, with the additions of Crawford and Gonzalez, and strongest rotation in the AL after outstanding seasons by the 27-year-old Lester and 26-year-old Buchholz. The speedy Ellsbury had a solid spring after rib injuries limited him to 18 games last year and can team up with Crawford to cause trouble on the basepaths. Pedroia and Youkilis are healthy again after missing significant time. Papelbon is coming off his worst season, but the Red Sox are well stocked with closers-in-waiting Bard and Jenks.


Toronto Blue Jays

2010: 85-77, fourth place.

Manager: John Farrell (1st season).

He’s Here: OF Rajai Davis, RHP Octavio Dotel, RHP Frank Francisco, INF Brett Lawrie, RHP Jon Rauch, OF Juan Rivera, RHP Carlos Villanueva.

He’s Outta There: LHP Scott Downs, RHP Kevin Gregg, RHP Shawn Hill, RHP Shaun Marcum, 1B Lyle Overbay, LHP Brian Tallet, OF Vernon Wells.

Projected Lineup: CF Rajai Davis (.284, 5, 52 with Oakland), SS Yunel Escobar (.275, 4, 16 in 60 games with Toronto), 3B Jose Bautista (.260, 54, 124), 1B Adam Lind (.237, 23, 72), 2B Aaron Hill (.205, 26, 68), DH Edwin Encarnacion (.244, 21, 51), LF Travis Snider (.255, 14, 32), RF Juan Rivera (.255, 15, 52 with Angels), C J.P. Arencibia (.301, 32, 85 at Triple-A Las Vegas, PCL MVP).

Rotation: LH Ricky Romero (14-9, 3.73), RH Brandon Morrow (10-7, 4.49), LH Brett Cecil (15-7, 4.22), RH Jesse Litsch (1-5, 5.79 in nine starts before season-ending injury), RH Kyle Drabek (14-9, 2.94 at Double-A New Hampshire).

Key Relievers: RH Frank Francisco (6-4, 3.76, 2 saves with Texas), RH Octavio Dotel (3-4, 4.08, 22 saves 28 chances with Colorado, the Dodgers and Pittsburgh), RH Jon Rauch (3-1, 3.12, career high 21 saves in 25 with Minnesota), RH Jason Frasor (3-4, 3.68), RH Shawn Camp (4-3, 2.99).

Hot Spots: Catcher, closer, Nos. 4 and 5 starters. The Blue Jays are prepared to weather the inevitable struggles that Arencibia will face in his first full season. A first-round pick in 2007, he was Pacific Coast League MVP in 2010 but hit just .143 in limited big league action last year and has struggled with the bat again this spring. Francisco (shoulder, chest) and Dotel (hamstring) have been slowed by injuries during camp, giving Rauch the early edge in the competition to win the closer’s role. Litsch and Drabek are the presumed favorites to round out the rotation, but left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes isn’t out of the running.

Outlook: Toronto exceeded expectations in 2010 but could be hard-pressed to duplicate its success after trading Marcum and Wells over the winter and losing Buck, Downs and Gregg to free agency. Farrell, the former Red Sox pitching coach, takes on his first managerial job after being hired to replace the retired Cito Gaston, and has expressed a desire to make the Blue Jays, major league leaders with 257 homers last season, less dependent on the long ball. Newly-signed to a five-year, $65-million contract, will Bautista produce another power-packed season after leading baseball with a career-best 54 home runs in 2010?

Story Continues →