- Associated Press - Friday, April 3, 2015

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

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Baltimore Orioles

2014: 96-66, 1st place, lost to Kansas City in AL Championship Series.

Manager: Buck Showalter (fifth full season).

He’s Here: OF Travis Snider, C J.P. Arencibia, RHP Eddie Gamboa, LHP Cesar Cabral, SS Rey Navarro.

He’s Outta Here: OF Nelson Cruz, RF Nick Markakis, LHP Andrew Miller, C Nick Hundley, INF Steve Lombardozzi, 2B Jemile Weeks, OF Quintin Berry.

Projected Lineup: LF Alejandro De Aza (.252, 8 HRs, 41 RBIs, 17 steals with White Sox and Orioles), 3B Manny Machado (.278, 14, 50 in 82 games), 1B Chris Davis .196, 26, 72), CF Adam Jones (.281, 29, 96, Gold Glove), DH Steve Pearce (.293, 21, 49), RF Travis Snider (.264, 13, 28 with Pirates), SS J.J. Hardy (.268, 9, 52, Gold Glove), 2B Jonathan Schoop (.209, 16, 45), C Caleb Joseph (.207, 9, 28).

Rotation: RH Chris Tillman (13-6, 3.34 ERA, 34 starts), LH Wei Yin-Chen (16-6, 3.34), RH Bud Norris (15-8, 3.65), RH Miguel Gonzalez (10-9, 3.23 ERA), RH Kevin Gausman (7-7, 3.57) or RH Ubaldo Jimenez (6-9, 4.81 ERA, team-high 77 walks).

Key Relievers: LH Zach Britton (3-2, 1.65 ERA, 37 saves/41 opportunities), RH Darren O’Day (5-2, 1.70, 4 saves), RH Tommy Hunter (3-2, 2.97 ERA, 11 saves), LH Brian Matusz (2-3, 3.48 ERA).

Hot Spots: Offensive production. The Orioles figured to lose Cruz to free agency and can survive Markakis leaving for Atlanta, but they have few players with a high on-base percentage and will rely heavily on Machado, Davis, Jones and Pearce for power. Problem is, Davis struggled in 2014, Machado is returning from knee surgery and Pearce might be pressed to duplicate a career season. Not only that, catcher Matt Weiters will likely start the season on the DL with a sore elbow as he strives to return from ligament-replacement surgery. If Davis and Hardy bounce back from their 2014 power outage and De Aza produces as Markakis’ replacement atop the lineup, the Orioles should score enough to back to solid starting rotation.

Outlook: The Orioles upped their budget in 2015 but still don’t have the funds to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East. General manager Dan Duquette did an exceptional job adding supplemental pieces when needed last year, and after a quiet offseason he might have to again shop around for replacement parts if the current squad can’t duplicate its success from a year ago. Jimenez, a flop in his first season in Baltimore, might be a welcome addition to an underrated rotation and an effective bullpen hasn’t changed much since October. Showalter is a master at getting the most out of a pitching staff and juggling his lineup, skills that will be essential if the Orioles are to remain atop a very competitive division.

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New York Yankees

2014: 84-78, second place.

Manager: Joe Girardi (eighth season).

He’s Here: LHP Andrew Miller, RHP Scott Baker, DH-1B-OF Garrett Jones, RHP Nathan Eovaldi, RHP Chris Martin, LHP Justin Wilson, SS Didi Gregorius, INF Gregorio Petit.

He’s Outta Here: SS Derek Jeter, RHP David Robertson, RHP Hiroki Kuroda, OF Ichiro Suzuki, RHP David Phelps, RHP Shawn Kelley, C Francisco Cervelli, RHP Shane Greene, INF-OF Martin Prado.

Projected Lineup: LF Brett Gardner (.256, 17, 58, 21 SBs), CF Jacoby Ellsbury (.271, 16, 70, 39 SBs), RF Carlos Beltran (.233, 15, 49), C Brian McCann (.232, 23, 75), 1B Mark Teixeira (.216, 22, 62), DH Alex Rodriguez (served yearlong suspension), 3B Chase Headley (.243, 13, 49 with San Diego and Yankees), 2B Stephen Drew (.162, 7, 26 with Boston and Yankees), SS Didi Gregorius (.226, 6, 27 with Arizona).

Rotation: RH Masahiro Tanaka (13-5, 2.77), RH Michael Pineda (5-5, 1.89), LH CC Sabathia (3-4, 5.28), RH Nathan Eovaldi (6-4, 4.37 for Miami), RH Adam Warren (3-6, 2.97).

Key Relievers: LH Andrew Miller (5-5, 1.51, 1 save for Baltimore and Boston), RH Dellin Betances (5-0, 1.40, 1 save), RH David Carpenter (6-4, 3.54 for Atlanta), LH Justin Wilson (3-4, 4.20 for Pittsburgh), RH Esmil Rogers (2-0, 5.72 for Toronto and Yankees), RH Chris Martin (0-0, 6.89 for Colorado), LH Chasen Shreve (0-0, 0.73 for Atlanta in 15 games), RH Andrew Bailey (out for 2014, shoulder surgery).

Hot Spots: Rodriguez returns from a yearlong drug suspension, is relegated to a designated hitter as he approaches his 40th birthday in July. Beltran, 37, is back from September elbow surgery after pain limited him to 32 outfield appearances. Gardner returns from offseason abdominal surgery. Drew must show he can regain offensive form, and Gregorius (7 for 51, .137, against left-handers) must prove he can be an everyday shortstop as Jeter’s successor. Sabathia (knee surgery), Tanaka (partially torn elbow ligament) and Pineda (shoulder) are all coming off injury-interrupted seasons, and Ivan Nova (Tommy John surgery) is due back in June; New York’s projected rotation combined for just 77 starts last year. Betances and Miller are competing to succeed Robertson as closer.

Outlook: The Core Four is history now following Jeter’s retirement, and the Yankees have missed consecutive postseasons for the first time since 1992 and ‘93. New York has had had declining wins totals in three straight seasons for the first time since 1986-90 and is coming off a season in which it set team records for players (58) and pitchers (33). To reach the postseason, the Yankees must improve an offense that scored 633 runs (13th in AL) and had a .307 on-base percentage (14th). Rodriguez will try to fill a DH spot that was among the worst in the AL with a .230 average (12th), 18 homers (11th) and 63 RBIs (13th). McCann, Teixeira, Ellsbury and Gardner all are coming off subpar seasons.

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Toronto Blue Jays

2014: 83-79, third place.

Manager: John Gibbons (third season).

He’s Here: 3B Josh Donaldson, RHP Marco Estrada, C Russell Martin, OF Michael Saunders, 1B Justin Smoak, 2B Devon Travis.

He’s Outta Here: OF Melky Cabrera, INF Juan Francisco, RHP Kendall Graveman, OF Anthony Gose, LHP J.A. Happ, RHP Casey Janssen, 3B Brett Lawrie, 1B Adam Lind, RHP Brandon Morrow, LHP Sean Nolin, OF Colby Rasmus, RHP Sergio Santos.

Projected Lineup: SS Jose Reyes (.287, 9, 51), C Russell Martin (.290, 11, 67 with Pittsburgh), RF Jose Bautista (.286, 35, 103), DH Edwin Encarnacion (.268, 34, 98), 3B Josh Donaldson (.255, 29, 98 with Oakland), LF Michael Saunders (.273, 8, 34 with Seattle), 1B Justin Smoak (.202, 7, 30 with Seattle), CF Dalton Pompey (.231, 1, 4 in 17 games) or Kevin Pillar (.267, 2, 7), 2B Devon Travis (.298, 10, 52 at Double-A).

Rotation: RH R.A. Dickey (14-13, 3.71), LH Mark Buehrle (13-10, 3.39), RH Drew Hutchison (11-13, 4.48), RH Aaron Sanchez (2-2, 1.09 in 24 relief appearances), LH Daniel Norris (12-2, 2.53 at three minor league levels).

Key Relievers: LH Brett Cecil (2-3, 2.70, 5 saves), LH Aaron Loup (4-4, 3.15, 4 saves), RH Marco Estrada (7-6, 4.36 with Milwaukee), LH Colt Hynes (1-4, 3.65 at Triple-A), RH Miguel Castro (8-2, 2.69 at Class-A), RH Roberto Osuna (0-2, 6.26 ERA at Class-A), RH Todd Redmond (1-4, 3.24).

Hot Spots: Starting rotation and closer. When right-hander Marcus Stroman sustained a season-ending knee injury during a pregame fielding drill in early March, Sanchez moved from closer candidate to starter and veteran left-hander Cecil was tabbed to finish games. Norris will join Sanchez in one of baseball’s youngest rotations. While highly touted, Sanchez, 22, and Norris, 21, lack significant experience, with only one major league start between them. Hutchison, meanwhile, has made just 43 career starts. As for Cecil, he hasn’t been a full time closer since college and struggled with shoulder soreness early this spring.

Outlook: Youth will be served with this Blue Jays team, which breaks camp with six rookies (Castro, Norris, Osuna, Pompey, Sanchez, and Travis) and plans to make Hutchison, 24, the youngest opening day starter in team history. Castro, 20, will become the youngest ever Blue Jays pitcher when he debuts. He wasn’t even born when the Blue Jays last made the playoffs in 1993, winning their second straight World Series. Toronto’s 21-year drought isn’t just baseball’s longest, it’s the longest in all four major North American leagues. To snap the slump, they’ll need solid performances from their youngsters and plentiful power from the lineup core of Bautista, Encarnacion and Donaldson. The Blue Jays have already said team president Paul Beeston won’t be returning next season, and general manager Alex Anthopoulos is also in the final year of his contract. If Toronto’s playoff skid hits 22 seasons, both executive offices could have new inhabitants by 2016.

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Tampa Bay Rays

2014: 77-85, fourth place.

Manager: Kevin Cash (first season).

He’s Here: INF Asdrubal Cabera, C Rene Rivera, RHP Kevin Jepsen, RHP Ernesto Frieri, C-DH John Jaso, OF Steven Souza Jr., RHP Burch Smith.

He’s Outta Here: Manager Joe Maddon, executive vice president, baseball operations Andrew Friedman, OF Wil Myers, INF-OF Ben Zobrist, SS Yunel Escobar, C Ryan Hanigan, OF Matt Joyce, RHP Jeremy Hellickson, C Jose Molina, LHP Cesar Ramos, RHP Joel Peralta, INF-OF Sean Rodriguez.

Projected Lineup: DH John Jaso (.264, 9, 40 in 99 games with Oakland), RF Steven Souza, Jr. (.350, 18, 75 at Triple-A Syracuse; .130, 2, 2, in 21 games with Washington), SS Asdrubal Cabrera (.241, 14, 61, 31 2Bs in 146 games with Cleveland and Washington), 3B Evan Longoria (.253, 22, 91, 26 2Bs), 1B James Loney (.290, 9, 69), LF Desmond Jennings (.244, 10, 36), 2B Logan Forsythe (.223, 6, 26), C Rene Rivera (.252, 11, 44), CF Kevin Kiermaier (.263, 10, 35, in 108 games).

Rotation: RH Chris Archer (10-9, 3.33), RH Jake Odorizzi (11-13, 4.13), RH Nathan Karns (9-9, 5.08 in 27 starts at Triple-A Durham), RH Matt Andriese (11-8, 3.77 with Durham), RH Burch Smith (0-2, 18.56 in two starts for Triple-A El Paso).

Key Relievers: LH Jake McGee (5-2, 1.89, 19/23 saves in 73 appearances), RH Grant Balfour (2-6, 12/15 saves 4.91), RH Brad Boxberger (5-2, 2.37), RH Kevin Jepsen (0-2, 2.63 with Los Angeles Angels), LH Jeff Beliveau (0-0, 2.63 in 30 appearances), RH Ernesto Frieri (1-4, 7.34, 11/14 saves in combined 48 appearances with Angels and Pittsburgh).

Hot Spots: Starting rotation. Despite trading 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner David Price last summer, pitching remains the Rays’ strongest asset. But with left-hander Matt Moore still recovering from elbow surgery that sidelined him most of last season, and expected opening-day starter Alex Cobb (forearm tendinitis) and lefty Drew Smyly (shoulder tendinitis) likely to begin the season on the disabled list, it could be a while before the rotation is at full strength. A revamped bullpen also will be missing a key piece, with McGee recovering from offseason elbow surgery. With him out, the closer’s role likely will be filled by committee.

Outlook: In the wake of losing Maddon to the Chicago Cubs and watching Friedman flee for a similar job with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Rays overhauled their roster with a series of trades that shipped out nine players, including 2013 AL rookie of the year Myers and three-time All-Star Zobrist. Just three players in the projected opening-day lineup - Longoria, Loney and Jennings - remain from the first game a year ago. Former team president Matt Silverman is calling the baseball shots, now, and he insists the budget-minded Rays aren’t conceding anything after making the playoffs four of the past seven seasons. Silverman’s first order of business was hiring Cash, who has no previous managerial experience. At 37, he’s the youngest manager or head coach in the four major professional sports. The team is counting on Longoria and Jennings to bounce back offensively after batting .253 and .244, respectfully. Even if they do, though, there’s a lingering question of whether the Rays will be able to score enough runs to contend for a postseason berth.

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Boston Red Sox

2013: 71-91, last place.

Manager: John Farrell (third season).

He’s Here: LHP Wade Miley, RHP Rick Porcello, RHP Alexi Ogando, RHP Justin Masterson, RHP Robbie Ross, RHP Anthony Varvaro, LHP Zeke Spruill, C Ryan Hanigan, 3B Pablo Sandoval, OF Hanley Ramirez.

He’s Outta Here: RHP Burke Badenhop, LHP Drake Britton, RHP Rubby De La Rosa, RHP Allen Webster, RHP Anthony Ranaudo, RHP Alex Wilson, INF Will Middlebrooks, INF Ryan Roberts, OF Yoenis Cespedes, C David Ross.

Projected Lineup: CF Mookie Betts (.291, 5, 18 in 189 ABs), 2B Dustin Pedroia (.278, 7, 53), DH David Ortiz (.263, 35, 104), LF Hanley Ramirez (.283, 13, 71 with Dodgers), 3B Pablo Sandoval (.279, 16, 73 with Giants), 1B Mike Napoli (.248, 17, 55), RF Shane Victorino (.268, 2, 12) or Allen Craig (.215, 8, 46 with St. Louis and Boston), SS Xander Bogaerts (.240, 12, 46), C Ryan Hanigan (.218, 5, 34 with Tampa Bay)

Rotation: RH Clay Buchholz (8-11, 5.34), RH Rick Porcello (15-13, 3.43 with Detroit), LH Wade Miley (8-12, 4.34 with Arizona), RH Joe Kelly (6-4, 4.20 with St. Louis and Boston), RH Justin Masterson (7-9, 5.88 with Cleveland and St. Louis).

Key Relievers: RH Koji Uehara (6-5, 2.52, 26/31 saves), RH Edward Mujica (2-4, 3.90, 8 saves), RH Junichi Tazawa (4-3, 2.86), LH Craig Breslow (2-4, 5.96), RH Alexi Ogando (2-3, 6.84 with Texas).

Hot Spots: Starting rotation. Who’s the ace? That seems to be the offseason question the club will need to answer after Jon Lester spurned them in free agency and signed with the Chicago Cubs. Porcello and Buchholz both seem most likely to be the top-of-the-rotation types. If they don’t get off to good starts, the club could be in the market for an ace at the trade deadline. The bullpen will be tested early with Uehara expected to start the season on the DL because of a strained right hamstring that’s limited his outings this spring. The soon-to-be 40-year old closer struggled at the end of last season, going 1-3 with a 12.15 ERA and three blown saves in his final eight appearances. Mujica and Ogando may be tested in that role the first few games. The club is hoping for a rebound-year from Masterson to strengthen the rotation’s depth.

Outlook: With the offseason free-agent signings of Ramirez and Sandoval, general manager Ben Cherington hopes he fixed the weak link of last year’s last-place team - the offense. Despite another strong year by Ortiz, the club was 11th in the AL in scoring - far from its potent lineup of the early 2000s. A strong spring by Betts gives the Red Sox a leadoff hitter that was lacking at the start of 2014 following a free-agent departure by Jacoby Ellsbury to the Yankees. Moving Napoli down in the order behind Ramirez and Sandoval gives the lineup depth and makes it appear much tougher than what the team had last season. The offseason pickup of Ogando, who had a solid run with Texas from 2010-13 before spending most of last year struggling with poor results and injuries, could be a pleasant surprise the way he’s thrown the ball this spring. The Red Sox had a setback when starting catcher Christian Vazquez, an outstanding defender and handler of pitchers, went on the 60-day disabled list with an elbow injury. The theme for the club will be just like 2013 - trying to go from worst to first. Two years ago, Boston followed its last-place finish by capturing the World Series.


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