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Thursday, April 5, 2012

THE YANKEES GUIDE TO THE AL EAST

It’s almost time again, Opening Day is around the corner and I can hardly wait! The Yankees made a lot of moves during the off season, and now it is time to see Cashman’s plan put into motion. The AL East is always a tough division, which also makes it so exciting to watch every year. You can find it all here from fierce rivalries to some of the best hitters in the game. This year will be no different, the Yankees aren't the only one to make changes and it is about to get interesting….so let’s break out the scouting report!

Baltimore Orioles

(In Photo: Brian Matusz)
Buck Showalter has a very young team that has a lot of potential but depends heavily on a few key players. Last year, the Orioles young and promising pitching staff did not pan out as they had hoped. This year, Brian Matusz is likely headed back to AAA and and Jake Arrieta is looking for a bounce back year after having shoulder surgery. Showalter has already named Arrieta as his opening day starter, so all eyes are on him. The Orioles are also going to count on Mark Reynolds to make more contact with the ball than he does with thin air since the Orioles do not have a lineup rich in offense. Another key to the offense will be Brian Roberts. Although he is currently on the disabled list with a concussion, he is the best lead-off hitter they have, and if his bat is out of the lineup it is noticeable. Matt Wieters is also crucial to the lineup, and while he is pretty solid defensively he has a hard time batting from the left side. The Orioles are still going through some growing pains, but they have a lot of potential.

Toronto Blue Jays

(In Photo: Ricky Romero)
The Blue Jays become even more dangerous with every year, if the Blue Jays were in the AL Central, they might be division winners. This team has a lot of young talent including a strong starting rotation and two closers. Ricky Romero has turned into the ace of a young staff, who has inexplicably managed to induce ground balls at an amazing ratio but has a higher than average fly ball ratio to go with it. Somehow, he keeps batters guessing and it works for him. The bullpen is also going to be a strength for them with two potential closers Francisco Cordero and Sergio Santos both capable of shutting down the game. Offensively, the Blue Jays have a big question mark with Adam Lind who is very streaky but can hit for power. Of course, Jose Bautista knows how to hit for power. After putting up similar numbers in both 2010 and 2011 there is no reason to think his numbers will be any less impressive.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays have one of the strongest starting rotations in the entire league along with a productive offense to back it up. David Price is back again along with James “Big Game” Shields who are one of the most dangerous 1-2 pitching combinations in the game. Last year’s Rookie of the Year award winner Jeremy Hellickson is also back after working on some adjustments. One notable difference this year is Wade Davis transitioning to the bullpen, which will only make the bullpen bridge to Kyle Farnsworth even stronger. Offensively, the Rays may not hit for as much power but BJ Upon, Evan Longoria and newly reunited Carlos Pena (yes, again) can come in and deliver during a clutch situation. One of the biggest strengths that the Rays have is their defense, which is fundamentally sound. It will be interesting to see how the lineup changes without Johnny Damon this year, but make no mistake, this is a dangerous lineup.

Boston Red Sox

Oh can you feel the rivalry? The team has gone through a drastic makeover. Goodbye Theo, Francona, Captain Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield, and Jonathon Papelbon….and hello change. After an epic collapse, it is time to see what Bobby Valentine brings out of the announcers box and onto the field. The starting rotation is still a big question mark with Daniel Bard taking on a starting position, Matsuzaka still out and John Lackey missing all of 2012. New closer Andrew Bailey is now dealing with a thumb problem which makes things even more complicated. The Red Sox have options, but they could use some depth. The offense is still as lethal as always, but it will be interesting to see how the lineup changes now that Marco Scutaro is not on the team, can Nick Punto handle a starting role at shortstop? Carl Crawford is still injured and will be looking for a comeback, but the Red Sox still have a lot of power in Adrian Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Dustin Pedroia. It’s a new look to an old rivalry and I can’t wait to watch the drama unfold!

On Friday the long 162 game season starts and I can’t wait to see how the Yankees new roster stacks up against everyone else. The battle for the AL East is always exciting, but this year it is going to be even more intense. It is hard to predict anything, but you can count on one thing…..it will be a fight to the finish. PLAY BALL!



--Jeana Bellezza --BYB Writer and Editor


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