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Sports Major League Baseball Preview: American League East

Major League Baseball Preview: American League East

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Robert Francis
Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

Sports writer Barry Svrluga analyzed the 2014 baseball season for The Washington Post. Here is how he sees the teams lining up in the American League’s East Division:

1. Boston Red Sox

97-65, first, won World Series

Manager: John Farrell, second season.

Biggest additions: Catcher A.J. Pierzynski has a way of making opponents hate him and teammates love him. CF Grady Sizemore missed the past two years with back and knee injuries, but he might be the everyday leadoff man. Reliever Edward Mujica could strengthen an already lights-out bullpen.

Biggest losses: CF Jacoby Ellsbury not only left – but left for the Yankees. C Jarrod Saltalamacchia signed with Miami, and SS Stephen Drew remains unsigned, leaving the job for talented Xander Bogaerts, 21.

Guy who makes the manager look good: The legend of David Ortiz, 38, grows. Forget the postseason. Since 2011, he has hit .311 with a .972 OPS.

2. Tampa Bay Rays

92-71, second, lost division series to Boston

Manager: Joe Maddon, ninth season.

Biggest additions: Because so many expected LHP David Price to be traded a year before he hits free agency, his return almost feels like an addition – and he anchors a terrific rotation. Grant Balfour, who saved 38 games with a 2.59 ERA last year for Oakland, replaces departed closer Fernando Rodney.

Biggest losses: RHP Jeremy Hellickson, who made 31 starts last year, is out until May after elbow surgery. Versatile Kelly Johnson signed with the Yankees.

Guy who makes the manager look good: 3B Evan Longoria’s numbers aren’t extraordinary – .269 with an .842 OPS last year. But he is the Rays’ face, a clutch hitter who makes the lineup go.

3. Baltimore Orioles

85-77, tied for third

Manager: Buck Showalter, fifth season.

Biggest additions: RHP Ubaldo Jimenez was inconsistent in Cleveland, but he provides the rotation with electric stuff. OF Nelson Cruz, who averaged 27 homers over the past five years, signed after a Biogenesis suspension.

Biggest losses: Closer Jim Johnson, a former all-star, was traded to Oakland for Jemile Weeks, who becomes the new 2B. RHP Jason Hammel signed with the Cubs.

Guy who makes the manager look good: The Orioles have so many, including home run king Chris Davis. But if he comes back from knee surgery after starting the season on the DL, none has more potential than 3B Manny Machado – who led the AL with 51 doubles and is still 21.

4. New York Yankees

85-77, tied for third

Manager: Joe Girardi, seventh season.

Biggest additions: Welcome aboard, C Brian McCann, RF Carlos Beltran, CF Jacoby Ellsbury, 3B Kelly Johnson, 2B Brian Roberts and, most interestingly, RHP Masahiro Tanaka, who will try to translate success in Japan to the majors.

Biggest losses: Argue whether the suspension of 3B Alex Rodriguez helps or hurts. The bigger loss is certainly 2B Robinson Cano, who surprisingly departed for Seattle.

Guy who makes the manager look good: For years, this was Derek Jeter. What will we get in his 20th and final season, coming off injury? He hit .316 in 2012, his last full year.

5. Toronto Blue Jays

74-88, fifth

Manager: John Gibbons, second season.

Biggest additions: The major shake-up came last year, when the Jays brought aboard nearly a whole new team – and still finished last. This year: The more modest addition of C Dioner Navarro.

Biggest losses: Toronto let RHP Josh Johnson walk after a disappointing 2013.

Guy who makes the manager look good: OF Jose Bautista keeps producing – 152 homers and a .960 OPS over the past four seasons.  

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