Typically still reeks of winter in these here parts of the USA...
This year is no different.
As each year passes my tolerance for the cold and snow takes a hit.
Now I understand the method and madness of the “Snow Birds”
A group of blue haired early bird diners that leave the cool North about mid October and head south to where the weather suits their flashy clothes.
They return in late April or early May wearing winter coats to protect themselves against the harsh 50+ temps so often seen in April.
I’m not one of them yet…but I can see the transition…beginning to take shape.
I'm ready for some baseball.
The AL East is shaping up to be a real race this season.
Toronto (74-88 5th place)
The Blue jays disappointed their fans last season after going on a spending spree and selling their field manager John Farrell to rival Boston (where he led the Red Sox to the World Series Championship by the way!!!) The Jays need to win the fans back and win on the field.
The Blue Jays starting pitching will be the key to any success this season. The opening day starter is slated to be R A Dickey and the rotation as is looks now will be:
RA Dickey 14-13 4.21
Mark Buehrle 12-10 4.15
Brandon Morrow 2-3 5.63
J A Happ 5-7 4.56
Todd Redman 4-3 4.32
And, Kyle Drabec competing for the 5th starter
The Jays will hit the ball and score runs but without a pitching ace it could be another long season in Ontario.
Edwin Encaracion 1B, Jose Baustista, RF and Adam Lind,DH lead a group including Reyes SS, Laurie 3B, Cabrera LF , Rasmus CF, Navarro C and Izturis 2B
OH projects the Jays to win 74 games and finish dead last again.
New York (85-77 tied 3rd place)
Yankees made some off season moves to try to get back to the top of the AL East.
Additions Jacoby Ellsbury from Boston, Carlos Beltran OF, Brian Roberts 2B and Catcher Brian McCann. Derek Jeter will be back for his last season on a retirement tour.
The Yankees return a few veterans and will hit the ball and score runs. Their fate still falls into the hands of the pitching rotation led by CC Sabathia. Tanaka cost a lot but the Yanks are planning on him being a big part of their bounce back year. His first pre season performance, 2 shut out innings with 2 hits and 3 K’s was positive. His fast ball hit 94 once and was basically 92-93. His curve was more of a show me pitch than a K pitch but his splitter looked nasty. Overall it was a good outing.
The starting rotation:
CC Sabathia 14-13 4.78
Hiroki Kuroda 11-13 3.31
Ivan Nova 9- 6 3.10
Masahiro Tanaka 24-0 in the Japanese league he played in last season
David Phelps 6- 5 4.98
There was optimism that Michael Pineda would be available but after missing the past two full seasons he is yet to throw off a mound in anger, his last season was with Seattle in 2011 when he posted a 9-10 record and a 3.31 era.
If Tanaka can live up to his billing and CC can bounce back from a sub par ‘13 season, the Yankees will be in the mix in a very competitive division. OH says they will win 92 games and take a wildcard spot to the playoffs.
Baltimore (85-77 tied 3rd place)
The O’s off season wasn’t as splashy as the Yankees, GM Dan Duquette is optimistic that the O’s can make up the distance between them and the Red Sox and win the division. The lineup has everyday potential All Stars Nelson Cruz, Adam Jones, Chris Davis and Nick Markakis
The starting rotation is solid but not spectacular, featuring:
Ubaldo Jimenez 13-9 3.30
Chris Tillman 16-7 3.71
Wei-Yin Chen 7-7 4.07
Miguel Gonzalez 11-8 3.78
Bud Norris 10-12 4.18
Tommy Hunter will be depended on in the closers roll with only 4 saves last year.
OH says this Baltimore team will be competitive but will end up in 4th place just over .500 on the season with 83 wins
Tampa ( 92-71 2nd place)
The Rays finished five behind the Red Sox in 2013 and will come back as strong as ever.
Longoria, Wil Myers, James Loney, Ben Zoberest and Logan Forsythe (from SD) will have to lead an offense that needs to score enough to win. As usual the Rays hopes are hanging on their always superior starting pitching. With a rotation of:
David Price 10-8 3.33
Alex Cobb 11-3 2.76
Matt Moore 17-4 3.29
Chris Archer 9-7 3.27
Jake Ordozzi 0-1 3.94 ( over from KC with Wil Myers)
Will fill the five spot with Jeremy Hellikson recovering from elbow surgery.
Grant Balfour with 38 saves in 2013 is the closer
The Rays will compete for the AL East title with Boston and New York but their 90 wins will place them 3rd and out of the playoffs
Boston ( 97-65 first place & defending WS Champion
The Red Sox will be coming back in John Farrell’s second season with lots of expectations. Off season loss of Jacoby Ellsbury to the Yankees opens the door for Jackie Bradly Jr to battle for a starting job in CF. Steven Drew turning down $14 mil to stay and play for Boston has opened the door for Xander Boagarts to show what he’s got at SS. Who will lead off is the biggest question the Sox have going into ’14. Ellsbury was the only true leadoff man on the roster. Personally I’d like to see Dustin Pedroia give it a shot. This team has a knack for getting on base and scoring runs. Other questions are; will David Ortiz and Mike Napoli hit as they age, will Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes be clutch, will Will Middlebrooks hit (other than off field with his hot girlfriend Jenny Dell) and can the aging catching combo hold up for the season.
The rotation is mainly intact from the ’13 champions
Jon Lester 15-8 3.75 (contract year)
Clay Buchholz 12-1 1.74 (fragile)
John Lackey 10-13 3.52 (stay focused)
Felix Dubront 11-6 4.32 (stay away from food)
Jake Peavey 12-5 4.17 (recover from his fishing injury)
Brandon Workman 6-3 4.37 ( pick up where he left off)
Closer Koji Uehara 21 saves 1.09 era will be back.
The chance of repeating isn’t ever good but winning the AL East is within the Red Sox reach, 95 wins will do it and I think it does.
Next Week: AL Central and West previews
Turn your clocks ahead this Sunday and think SPRING