- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Capsules of American League East teams, listed in order of finish last year:


Boston Red Sox

2013: 97-65, first place (World Series champions).

Manager: John Farrell (second season).

He’s Here: OF Grady Sizemore, C A.J. Pierzynski, LHP Chris Capuano, RHP Edward Mujica, RHP Burke Badenhop, INF Jonathan Herrera.

He’s Outta Here: OF Jacoby Ellsbury, C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, SS Stephen Drew, RHP Ryan Dempster, LHP Franklin Morales.

Projected Lineup: CF Grady Sizemore (.224, 10 HR, 32 RBI in 2011, DNP 2012-13), RF Shane Victorino (.294, 15, 61, 21 SB), 2B Dustin Pedroia (.301, 9, 84, 193 H, 42 2B), DH David Ortiz (.309, 30, 103, .564 SLG), 1B Mike Napoli (.259, 23, 92, 187 Ks), LF Daniel Nava (.303, 12, 66, .831 OBP) or Jonny Gomes (.247, 13, 52), 3B Will Middlebrooks (.227, 17, 49), C A.J. Pierzynski (.272, 17, 70 with Texas), SS Xander Bogaerts (.250, 1, 5).

Rotation: LH Jon Lester (15-8, 3.75, 177 Ks), RH John Lackey (10-13, 3.52, 161 Ks), LH Felix Doubront (11-6, 4.32), RH Jake Peavy (12-5, 4.17 with Chicago White Sox and Boston), RH Clay Buchholz (12-1, 1.74).

Key Relievers: RH Koji Uehara (4-1, 1.09, 21/24 saves, 101Ks, 9 BB), RH Junichi Tazawa (5-4, 3.16), LH Craig Breslow (5-2, 1.81), RH Edward Mujica (2-1, 2.78, 37/41 saves with St. Louis), LH Andrew Miller (1-2, 2.64).

Hot Spots: The Red Sox began spring training planning to have two rookies in the starting lineup, SS Bogaerts and CF Jackie Bradley Jr. Bogaerts started all six World Series games against St. Louis at 3B and moved to SS to replace Drew, who became a free agent. Bradley competed to take over for Ellsbury, who signed a seven-year contract with the New York Yankees after batting .298 with 52 steals as the leadoff hitter. But Sizemore, who missed the past two seasons with right knee and back injuries that required surgery, has remained healthy and outplayed Bradley.

Outlook: After their third World Series championship in 10 years, the Red Sox stuck with the strategy that worked last offseason. They resisted giving free agents expensive, long-term contracts and signed Mujica for two years and Pierzynski, Sizemore and Capuano for one year each. The rotation is the same group of solid veterans led by Lester. The bullpen is deep with the addition of Mujica. He could close games when Uehara needs a rest but primarily will join Breslow and Tazawa as setup men. Uehara was nearly unhittable in the postseason, pitching 13 2-3 innings in 13 games and striking out 16 while allowing no walks and one earned run with seven saves in seven opportunities. Despite the loss of Ellsbury, the lineup remains potent with Ortiz and Napoli providing power. The defense took a hit when Ellsbury and Drew left, but Pedroia and Victorino are outstanding fielders. Still, the Red Sox won’t take anyone by surprise after their stunning rebound last year from a 69-93 record.


Tampa Bay Rays

2013: 92-71, 2nd place, lost to Boston in division series.

Manager: Joe Maddon (ninth season)

He’s Here: C Ryan Hanigan, RHP Grant Balfour, RHP Heath Bell, RHP Brad Boxberger, INF Logan Forsythe, RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo, INF Jayson Nix, INF Wilson Betemit.

He’s Outta Here: RHP Fernando Rodney, DH Luke Scott, OF Kelly Johnson, DH Delmon Young, OF Sam Fuld, INF Ryan Roberts, RHP Roberto Hernandez, RHP Jamey Wright, LHP Alex Torres.

Projected Lineup: LF David DeJesus (.251, 8 HRs, 38 RBIs with Cubs, Nationals, Rays), 2B Ben Zobrist (.275, 12, 71, 36 doubles), 3B Evan Longoria (.269, 32, 88, 39 doubles), RF Wil Myers (.293, 13, 53, in 88 games, AL rookie of the year), 1B James Loney (.299,13, 75), DH Matt Joyce (.235, 18, 47), CF Desmond Jennings (.252, 14, 54, 31 doubles, 20 SBs), C Ryan Hanigan (.198, 2, 21 in 75 games with Reds) or Jose Molina (.233, 2, 18), SS Yunel Escobar (.256, 9, 56).

Rotation: LH David Price (10-8, 3.33 ERA , 151 Ks), RH Alex Cobb (11-3, 2.76, 134 Ks), LH Matt Moore (17-4, 3.29,143 Ks), RH Chris Archer (9-7, 3.22, 101 Ks), RH Jake Odorizzi (0-1, 3.94 in 7 appearances, 4 starts) or LH Cesar Ramos (2-2, 4.14 in 48 relief appearances).

Key Relievers: RH Grant Balfour (1-3, 2.59, 72 Ks, 38/41 saves with Athletics), RH Heath Bell (5-2, 4.11, 72 Ks with Diamondbacks), RH Brandon Gomes (3-1, 6.52), LH Jake McGee (5-3, 4.02, 75 K’s), RH Joel Peralta (3-8, 3.41, 74 Ks).

Hot Spots: With little roster turnover in the offseason, the Rays entered spring training with fewer than usual battles for jobs. Maddon faces a decision on a No. 5 starter who’ll fill in for the first six to eight weeks of the season while RH Jeremy Hellickson recovers from elbow surgery. Most of the change has come in the bullpen, where Balfour was brought as the closer and Bell is looking to get his career back on track after struggling the past two seasons with the Marlins and Diamondbacks.

Outlook: The budget-minded Rays don’t have the financial capability of the AL East rival Red Sox and Yankees, but principal owner Stuart Sternberg spent generously this winter - boosting payroll to about $80 million, a team record - to ensure most of the key components of a team that won 92 games and made the playoffs for the fourth time in six seasons remained together. In addition to not trading Price, instead giving him a $14 million, one-year contract, the Rays re-signed Loney; picked up options on Zobrist and Escobar; traded for Hanigan, Bell and Forsythe; and signed Balfour in free agency. With Price anchoring one of the strongest starting rotations in baseball and Longoria and Myers providing a powerful one-two punch in the middle of the batting order, the Rays feel they not only have what it takes to get back to the playoffs but win the World Series.


Baltimore Orioles

2013: 85-77, third place (tie).

Manager: Buck Showalter (fifth season).

He’s Here: RHP Ubaldo Jimenez, DH Nelson Cruz, RHP Ryan Webb, INF Jemile Weeks, OF David Lough, OF Francisco Peguero, OF Delmon Young, OF Xavier Paul, RHP Edgmer Escalona, SS Alex Gonzalez, RHP Alfredo Aceves.

He’s Outta Here: RHP Jim Johnson, 2B Brian Roberts, LF Nate McLouth, RHP Jason Hammel, DH Wilson Betemit, RHP Scott Feldman, OF Michael Morse, C Taylor Teagarden, DH Danny Valencia, RHP Francisco Rodriguez.

Projected Lineup: RF Nick Markakis (.271, 10 HRs, 59 RBIs), 3B Manny Machado (.283, 14, 71, 51 doubles), CF Adam Jones (.285, 33, 108, 100 runs), 1B Chris Davis (.286, ML-leading 53, 138, 103 runs, 42 doubles), DH Nelson Cruz (.266, 27, 76 with Texas), C Matt Wieters (.235, 22, 79), SS J.J. Hardy (.263, 25, 76), LF David Lough (.286, 5, 33 with Kansas City), 2B Ryan Flaherty (.224, 10, 27 in 85 games).

Rotation: RH Chris Tillman (16-7, 3.71 ERA, 179 Ks, 33 starts, 206 1-3 innings), RH Ubaldo Jimenez (13-9, 3.30, 33 starts with Cleveland), LH Wei-Yin Chen (7-7, 4.07), RH Miguel Gonzalez (11-8, 3.78, 120 Ks in 171 1-3 innings), RH Bud Norris (10-12, 4.18, 32 games with Houston and Baltimore).

Key Relievers: RH Tommy Hunter (6-5, 2.81, 4/6 saves), RH Darren O’Day (5-3, 2.18, 2/6 saves), RH Ryan Webb (2-6, 2.91, 0/3 saves), LH Brian Matusz (2-1, 3.53, stranded 32 of 37 inherited runners).

Hot Spots: Hunter is likely to get the nod at closer as the fill-in for Jim Johnson, who had 50 saves in 2013 before being traded to Oakland in a cost-cutting move. The Orioles reached agreement with Grant Balfour as a replacement, but he flunked the physical. That leaves Hunter, who has little experience as a closer but owns a fastball that has been clocked at 100 mph. Manager Buck Showalter has other options, but if Hunter succeeds that will enable the manager to use Webb and O’Day at the back end of a new-look bullpen.

Outlook: By signing Jimenez and Cruz after the start of spring training, Orioles VP Dan Duquette solidified the rotation and improved the offense of a team that hopes to make some noise in the AL East after finishing in a tie for third last season. Baltimore led the majors in HRs in 2013, and the addition of Cruz should enable the team to keep on slugging even if Davis experiences an inevitable drop off after hitting a career-high 53 last year. The Orioles shouldn’t have much trouble scoring runs but won’t have to if the pitching holds up. Jimenez provides depth to the rotation, but the back end needs to do its part for Baltimore to return to the playoffs and compete in a very tough division against the defending champion Red Sox and improved Yankees.


New York Yankees

2013: 85-77, third place (tie).

Manager: Joe Girardi (seventh season).

He’s Here: C Brian McCann, OF Jacoby Ellsbury, OF-DH Carlos Beltran, INF-OF Kelly Johnson, 2B Brian Roberts, INF Scott Sizemore, LHP Matt Thornton, RHP Masahiro Tanaka.

He’s Outta Here: 2B Robinson Cano, OF Curtis Granderson, 3B Alex Rodriguez (suspended), 3B Kevin Youkilis, DH Travis Hafner, OF-DH Vernon Wells, 1B-3B Mark Reynolds, 1B Lyle Overbay, C Chris Stewart, RHP Mariano Rivera, LHP Andy Pettitte, RHP Joba Chamberlain, LHP Boone Logan, RHP Phil Hughes.

Projected Lineup: CF Jacoby Ellsbury (.298, 9, 53, league-leading 53 SBs for Boston), SS Derek Jeter (.190, 1, 7, 17 games), RF Carlos Beltran (.296, 24, 84 for St. Louis), DH Alfonso Soriano (.255, 34, 101 with Yankees and Cubs), 1B Mark Teixeira (.151, 3, 12, 15 games), C Brian McCann (.256, 20, 57 for Atlanta), 2B Brian Roberts (.249, 8, 39 in 77 games for Baltimore), LF Brett Gardner (.273, 8, 52, 10 triples, 24 SBs), 3B Kelly Johnson (.235, 16, 52).

Rotation: LH CC Sabathia (14-13, 4.78 ERA, 175 Ks, league-leading 112 earned runs allowed), RH Hiroki Kuroda (11-13, 3.31), RH Ivan Nova (9-6, 3.10, 116 Ks in 139 1-3 innings), RH Masahiro Tanaka (24-0, 1.27, 183 Ks in Japan), RH Michael Pineda (has not pitched in majors since 2011; shoulder surgery).

Key Relievers: RH David Robertson (5-1, 2.04, 3/5 saves), LH Matt Thornton (0-4, 3.74 with White Sox and Boston); RH Shawn Kelley (4-2, 4.39, 71 Ks in 53 1-3 IP); RH David Phelps (6-5, 4.98 22 games, 12 starts); RH Dellin Betances (0-0, 10.80 in 6 games; 6-4, 2.68, 5 saves at Triple-A).

Hot Spot: Infield. With Cano, a Gold Glove second baseman, gone to free agency and Alex Rodriguez suspended this season for his involvement in the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drug scandal, the Yankees will have an infield that is completely different than last year’s opening-day group. Teixeira is returning from wrist surgery that limited him to 15 games last season; Jeter played just 17 games because of a broken ankle, and the soon-to-be 40-year-old shortstop’s range is greatly diminished; the oft-injured Roberts has not played more than 60 games at second base in any of the past four seasons; and Johnson has started just 16 games at the hot corner in his eight-year career. Expect to see Ryan, one of the best fielding shortstops in baseball, replace Jeter in the field late.

Outlook: The Yankees committed $471 million on free agents, including the $20 million payment to Tanaka’s Japanese team, hoping the shopping spree has the same payoff as their last pricey offseason after missing the playoffs did: a World Series championship. That could be difficult. It’s been five years since Teixeira and Sabathia arrived in the Bronx, and both are coming off career lows - Sabathia a 4.78 ERA, Teixeira .151 average and three homers in 53 at-bats. Jeter, the last remaining member of the Core Four, is about to begin his retirement tour after missing nearly all of last season and career saves leader Rivera has already hung up his cutter - his closer job goes to Robertson, who has eight saves in 18 career chances. The addition of Tanaka and his masterful splitter, Ellsbury, McCann and Beltran might not be enough to propel the Yankees back to the postseason in a packed American league.


Toronto Blue Jays

2013: 74-88, fifth place.

Manager: John Gibbons (second season).

He’s Here: C Erik Kratz, C Dioner Navarro.

He’s Outta Here: C J.P. Arencibia, INF Mark DeRosa, RHP Josh Johnson, RHP Brad Lincoln, LHP Darren Oliver.

Projected Lineup: SS Jose Reyes (.296, 10 HRs, 37 RBIs), LF Melky Cabrera (.279, 3, 30), RF Jose Batiste (.259, 28, 73), 1B Edwin Incarnation (.272, 36, 104), DH Adam Lind (.288, 23, 67), 3B Brett Lawrie (.254, 11, 46), CF Colby Rasmus (.276, 22, 66), C Dioner Navarro (.300, 13, 34 with Chicago Cubs), 2B Ryan Goins (.252, 2, 8).

Rotation: RH R.A. Dickey (14-13, 4.21 ERA), RH Drew Hutchison (missed 2013 with elbow injury), LH Mark Buehrle (12-10, 4.15), LH J.A. Happ (5-7, 4.56 in 18 starts), RH Brandon Morrow (2-3, 5.63 in 10 starts).

Key Relievers: RH Casey Janssen (4-1, 2.56, 34/36 saves), RH Sergio Santos (1-1, 1.75), LH Brett Cecil (5-1, 2.82, All-Star), RH Steve Delabar (5-5, 3.22, All Star), LH Aaron Loup (4-6, 2.47).

Hot Spots: Morrow went 10-7 with a 2.96 ERA and three shutouts 2012, but was limited to 21 starts by a strained muscle in his side. He missed even more time last season, making just 10 starts before being shut down by a nerve problem in his forearm. If the former first-round pick can finally turn in a complete season of elite performance, it would be a massive boost to Toronto’s suspect rotation. Besides Morrow, the Blue Jays are counting on bounce-back efforts from Hutchison, out since elbow surgery in 2012, and Happ, who missed most of last season after taking a line drive off the head.

Outlook: Having failed to add reinforcements through trades or free agency, the Blue Jays will make another run for the playoffs with a roster strikingly similar that of 2013, when a much-touted team turned in a disappointing last-place finish. With a lineup led by former batting champion Reyes and former All Star Cabrera, and bolstered by sluggers Bautista and Encarnacion, the Blue Jays should boast a prolific offense as long as key players avoid injuries. All four were sidelined at some point in 2013. As usual, competition is expected to be fierce in the AL East, where the Yankees have retooled after missing the playoffs and the Red Sox are the reigning World Series champions.

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