Baseball 2011 preview: AL East outlook

Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz loosens

Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz loosens up prior to batting practice. (March 23, 2011) (Credit: AP )

1. BOSTON RED SOX

2010 Record: 89-73 (Third place)

Manager: Terry Francona (seventh season, 654-480, .577; 11th overall 939-843, .527)

GM: Theo Epstein

Last World Series: 2007 (def. Colorado, 4-0)

Outlook: A barrage of injuries kept the 2010 Red Sox home for the playoffs, the first empty October for the franchise since 2006. They responded with a pair of monster acquisitions in OF Carl Crawford and 1B Adrian Gonzalez.

Keep an eye on: RHP Josh Beckett. He's looking to rebound from a horrendous 2010, and he has struggled in spring training.

Final word: Sure, the Red Sox have question marks -- about their rotation, their bullpen and their catchers. But the front of the rotation, the bulk of the lineup and the bullpen depth are all admirable. They'll win their first AL East crown since 2007.

PROJECTED LINEUP BA

CF Jacoby Ellsbury .192

2B Dustin Pedroia .288

LF Carl Crawford .307

1B Adrian Gonzalez .298

3B Kevin Youkilis .307

DH David Ortiz .270

RF J.D. Drew .255

C J. Saltalamacchia .167

SS Marco Scutaro .275

PROJECTED ROTATION (W-L)

LH Jon Lester (19-9)

RH Josh Beckett (6-6)

RH Clay Buchholz (17-7)

RH John Lackey (14-11)

RH Daisuke Matsuzaka (9-6)

CLOSER (Saves)

RH Jonathan Papelbon (37)

2. NEW YORK YANKEES

2010 Record: 95-67 (Second place)

Manager: Joe Girardi (fourth season, 287-199, .591; fifth overall 365-283, .563)

GM: Brian Cashman

Last World Series: 2009 (def. Philadelphia, 4-2)

Outlook: You might have heard they experienced a rough winter, with LHP Cliff Lee going to Philadelphia and LHP Andy Pettitte heading home to Texas. They enjoyed a fruitful spring training, for what that's worth, and their concerns appear less glaring than they did six weeks ago.

Keep an eye on: CF Curtis Granderson. Assuming he can get over this early oblique injury, he's the one everyday Yankee with real breakout potential. The others are either too old or arguably have peaked already.

Final word: It figures to be more nerve-wracking than most Yankees regular seasons, but they have the lineup, bullpen and financial flexibility to eke out a playoff spot.

PROJECTED LINEUP BA

SS Derek Jeter .270

RF Nick Swisher .288

1B Mark Teixeira .256

3B Alex Rodriguez .270

2B Robinson Cano .319

DH Jorge Posada .248

CF Curtis Granderson .247

C Russell Martin .248

LF Brett Gardner .277

PROJECTED ROTATION (W-L)

LH CC Sabathia (21-7)

RH A.J. Burnett (10-15)

RH Phil Hughes (18-8)

RH Ivan Nova (1-2)

RH Freddy Garcia (12-6)

CLOSER (Saves)

RH Mariano Rivera (33)

3. TAMPA BAY RAYS

2010 Record: 96-66 (First place, lost ALDS to Texas)

Manager: Joe Maddon (sixth sea- son, 404-406, .499; overall 431-430, .501)

GM: Andrew Friedman

Last World Series: 2008 (lost to Philadelphia, 4-1)

Outlook: The '10 Rays won their second AL East title in three years and then lost four starting players, a starting pitcher and their entire bullpen. Whoa! But their signings of OF Johnny Damon and DH Manny Ramirez showed they're not writing off the 2011 season.

Keep an eye on: RHP James Shields. "Big Game James" endured a brutal '10 season. Can he turn it back around?

Final word: You'd be a fool to underestimate these guys, but gosh, they're building a bullpen on the run and counting on great development from their rotation. They'll miss the playoffs in a spirited run.

PROJECTED LINEUP BA

C John Jaso .263

LF Johnny Damon .271

3B Evan Longoria .294

DH Manny Ramirez .298

RF Ben Zobrist .238

CF B.J. Upton .237

1B Dan Johnson .198

2B Sean Rodriguez .251

SS Reid Brignac .256

PROJECTED ROTATION W-L

LH David Price 19-6

RH James Shields 13-15

RH Wade Davis 12-10

RH Jeff Niemann 12-8

RH Jeremy Hellickson 4-0

CLOSER Saves

RH Kyle Farnsworth 0

4. TORONTO BLUE JAYS

2010 Record: 85-77 (Third place)

Manager: John Farrell (first season)

GM: Alex Anthopoulos

Last World Series: 1993 (def. Philadelphia, 4-2)

Outlook: Following a surprisingly good 85-77 record in 2010, the Blue Jays sold high on RHP Shaun Marcum (traded to Milwaukee), shuffled their bullpen and committed long-term to 3B-OF Jose Bautista.

Keep an eye on: 1B Adam Lind. He's enjoying a strong spring training as he tries to become a middle-of-the-lineup force like he was in 2009.

Final word: The Jays are definitely headed in the right direction; as always, though their challenge is to somehow uproot the AL East's "Big Three." They won't cross that threshold this year.

PROJECTED LINEUP BA

CF Rajai Davis .284

SS Yunel Escobar .256

3B Jose Bautista.260

1B Adam Lind .237

2B Aaron Hill .205

LF Travis Snider .255

DH Edwin Encarnacion .244

RF Juan Rivera .252

C J.P. Arencibia .143

PROJECTED ROTATION W-L

LH Rickey Romero 14-9

RH Brandon Morrow 10-7

LH Brett Cecil 15-7

RH Kyle Drabek 0-3

RH Jesse Litsch 1-5

CLOSER Saves

RH Frank Francisco 2

5. BALTIMORE ORIOLES

2010 Record: 66-96 (Fifth place)

Manager: Buck Showalter (first full season, 34-23, .596; overall 916-856)

President, Baseball Operations: Andy MacPhail

Last World Series: 1983 (def. Philadelphia, 4-1)

Outlook: Can magic return following a six-month hiatus? The Orioles went a remarkable 34-23 when new manager Buck Showalter came aboard. Even after signing a bunch of veterans to enhance the roster, it'll be extremely difficult to post so much as a winning record.

Keep an eye on: DH Vladimir Guerrero. He looked pretty done in the second half last year, yet he has climbed back before. How much does he has left?

Final word: It'll be back to the cellar for the O's, who will have to work on developing their farm system further.

PROJECTED LINEUP BA

2B Brian Roberts .278

RF Nick Markakis .297

1B Derrek Lee .260

DH Vladimir Guerrero .300

LF Luke Scott .284

3B Mark Reynolds .198

CF Adam Jones .284

C Matt Wieters .249

SS J.J. Hardy .268

PROJECTED ROTATION W-L

RH Jeremy Guthrie 11-14

LH Brian Matusz 10-12

RH Justin Duchscherer 2-1

RH Brad Bergesen 8-12

RH Jake Arrieta 6-6

CLOSER Saves

RH Kevin Gregg 37

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