If you threw a towel, maybe even a face cloth, over the top 2014 contenders in the AL East, it likely would cover them all. They’re that close. I see the Red Sox, Rays, Orioles and Yankees as bunched together. Forget the Jays. Let’s take a look at the most significant questions that likely will make or break each AL East team’s pennant chances.
Masahiro Tanaka: Yu Darvish or Dice-K? The Yankees got decent starting pitching from Ivan Nova and Kuroda last year. CC Sabathia had a brutally bad year. The Yanks spent a fortune to bring Masahiro Tanaka over from Japan. They can’t win the division if he turns out to be Dice-K. If he’s Yu Darvish, however, they have a darned good chance.
Can Will Meyers be big for the Rays? The Rays have great starting pitching. Price, Cobb, Moore. Archer. Grant Balfour is an improvement as the closer, but the offense is just mediocre. The key question is finding somebody to support All-Star 3B Evan Longoria. Will Meyers came up from AAA last year in June to hit .293 with power. If he repeats that the Rays will be very tough.
Ubaldo Jimenez: Trick or treat for the O’s? The O’s will score runs, likely a ton of them. They can mash, but the starting pitching? It was just Chris Tillman in 2013. Then earlier this year they acquired free agent Ubaldo Jimenez. But which one? The first half of 2013 he had a 4.56 ERA for the Indians. The second half he was brilliant posting a 1.82. They’re hoping it’s the second half one.
Who’s going to lead off for the Red Sox? Good question. Jacoby Ellsbury was a darned good catalyst. He needs to be replaced. Sizemore? Victorino? Nava? Somebody has to step up.
The Red Sox need a better left-side. Let’s face it. The Red Sox need Xander Bogaerts to hit, if not field better than Stephen Drew at shortstop. And they need the 2014 Will Middlebrooks to hit much better than the 2013 Middlebrooks.
It’s kind of a shame; the Jays have Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Jose Reyes and Adam Lind playing every day. But they also have terrible pitching. They need a group of surprises. R.A. Dickey and JA Happ need to turn it around.
Can the Yankees replace the greatest closer of All-Time? David Robertson has the unenviable task of replacing future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera. Can he? Can anybody? Robertson has 8 saves in his career. Mariano had a mere 652. Not to mention another 42 in the playoffs and World Series. Robertson did have 33 “holds” in 2013–second in the league. Still…..
Manny Machado: hurt or healthy? After joining the Orioles briefly in 2012, Machado played virtually every game last year and was brilliant. He had 14 homers, 51 doubles and played a terrific third base. Then he tore a knee ligament late in the season. Now we learn that he’s going to start the 2014 season on the disabled list. If he’s out for any length of time it would be a huge blow to the O’s.