Here are what I feel to be the five most intriguing storylines going on in the AL East this spring.
Rounding Out the New York Yankees Rotation
With the Yankees missing out on Cliff Lee this offseason and the retirement of future Hall of Famer Andy Pettitte, the Yankee rotation is left looking very suspect. Atop the rotation the Yankees are set with C.C. Sabathia and Phil Hughes; not to mention the boom or bust AJ Burnett whom I think will be pitching on a short leash this season. This leaves two spots left for a handful of guys to compete for. The nominees are: Ivan Nova, who is one of the Yankees better pitching prospects that got his feet wet late last season, Bartolo Colon, the hefty Dominican that hasn’t pitched in the league for two years, Freddy Garcia, whom has been a shell of his former self and recent years, Sergio Mitre, who I believe is a long reliever at best, and a few young guns who have a very small chance of breaking with the team to start the season in Manny Banuelos, Andrew Brackmen, and Dellin Bentances. I also have a sneaking suspicion that the Yankees might not be done adding arms to compete for a rotation spot either.
The Rays New “Idiots” Getting Ready for the Season
I think it will be interesting to watch the self proclaimed “idiots” gear up for the 2011 season. Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez have joined the Rays this offseason in hopes to inject some veteran leadership in this young team. I will be tuned in to see if these guys are still in ball player shape and have the bat speed to really compete for the Rays. If nothing else, Manny should make things more entertaining in the dugout.
The Red Sox Health Concerns
Can anyone stay healthy on this team? Had it not been for half the team going down with injuries last season, I think the Sox would have made things a little more interesting in the East down the stretch in 2010. This year they added two stars and it will be a new season for everyone to turn the page and leave the 2010 injury plagued season behind. Right? Well that’s the plan anyway. Josh Beckett has already taken a ball hit in batting practice to the dome and has minor concussion symptoms. Who’s next?
Nick Markakis Watch
O’s fans have been waiting for this guy to break out for several years now. While he has put up solid seasons from 2007-2009, his power numbers have steadily declined. Last season was a major disappointment for Markakis with his power nowhere to be found and his ability to drive in runs pathetic as well. For a guy to bat in the heart of a lineup and play in 160 games, 60 RBI doesn’t cut it. The O’s are looking for him to have a bounce-back season and to provide a little more thump to the Baltimore lineup. On a good note, he did hit two home runs yesterday in a spring game against the Rays.
Blue Jays Catching Battle
Catching prospect J.P. Arencibia and veteran Jose Molina will be in a battle to see who will be behind the dish for the Jays in 2011. While the Jays aren’t handing the starting gig to J.P., he is the clear favorite heading into this spring. Late last season Arencibia made his MLB debut hitting two home runs while driving in four. To bad he only had one more hit in his next 31 at-bats. Jays fans were excited for his arrival because of the power he showed in the minors hitting 21 home runs in 09’ and 31 in 10’. If he can get on a role this spring, Molina might want to start getting comfy riding the pine.