AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
1. NEW YORK YANKEES
Who’s new: P Juan Acevedo, Jose Contreras, Chris Hammond and Antonio Osuna, OF Hideki Matsui and Bubba Trammell, INF Todd Zeile.
Who’s gone: 3B Ron Coomer, P Ramiro Mendoza, Orlando Hernandez and Mike Stanton, OF Shane Spencer, John Vander Wal and Rondell White.
Strengths: As usual, Yankee pitching should be dominant if everyone stays healthy and committed. Mariano Rivera had three stints on the disabled list last year, and will start on the DL again this season because of a groin injury. The Yankee hallmarks of power and experience remain constants.
Weaknesses: The Yankees led the AL last season in run production (5.57 runs a game) -- and strikeouts (1,171). With Roger Clemens already 40 and David Wells set to turn 40 in May, the Yankees have to wonder about the durability of their starting rotation.
Outlook: Still the front-runner in the East if everyone has comparable years and Japanese sensation Matsui and Cuban defector Contreras contribute as expected. The Yankees can only hope that Robin Ventura and Jorge Posada, who disappeared in the second half last season, can rebound. The Yankees must improve their fielding after committing 127 errors last year, third most in the league.
At Edison Field: April 22-24, July 29-31.
2B Alfonso Soriano
SS Derek Jeter
1B Jason Giambi
CF Bernie Williams
LF Hideki Matsui
C Jorge Posada
RF Raul Mondesi
3B Robin Ventura
DH Nick Johnson
2. BOSTON RED SOX
Who’s new: P Chad Fox, Ramiro Mendoza and Mike Timlin, DH Jeremy Giambi, 3B Damian Jackson, 2B Bill Mueller and Todd Walker, 1B Kevin Millar and David Ortiz.
Who’s gone: P Rolando Arrojo, Rich Garces, Dustin Hermanson and Ugueth Urbina, DH Carlos Baerga, 1B Tony Clark and Brian Daubach, 2B Rey Sanchez, OF Rickey Henderson.
Strengths: The Red Sox are capable of producing a lot of runs while shutting down opponents behind starters Pedro Martinez, Derek Lowe and Tim Wakefield, who went a combined 52-17 in 2002.
Weaknesses: The infield defense could be disastrous, especially considering the loss of the sure-handed Sanchez at second base. Nomar Garciaparra led AL shortstops in errors last season, and Shea Hillenbrand tied Robin Ventura for most errors among AL third basemen.
Outlook: The Red Sox could go the way of their closer-by-committee system. With Urbina gone to Texas, Manager Grady Little is going to use a combination of Mendoza, Fox, Alan Embree, Bobby Howry and Timlin as early as the seventh inning of tight games. One key to overtaking the Yankees could be the performance of bottom-of-the-rotation starters John Burkett and Casey Fossum.
At Edison Field: April 25-27.
CF Johnny Damon
2B Todd Walker
SS Nomar Garciaparra
LF Manny Ramirez
1B Kevin Millar
DH Jeremy Giambi
3B Shea Hillenbrand
RF Trot Nixon
C Jason Varitek
3. TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Who’s new: INF Mike Bordick, OF Frank Catalanotto, C Greg Myers, P Doug Creek, Cory Lidle, Aquilino Lopez, Tanyon Sturtze and Jeff Tam.
Who’s gone: P Chris Carpenter, Felix Heredia, Esteban Loaiza, Steve Parris and Luke Prokopec, OF Jose Cruz Jr., SS Felipe Lopez.
Strengths: The Blue Jays feature a solid offensive lineup including Shannon Stewart, Carlos Delgado, Eric Hinske, Josh Phelps and Vernon Wells. The bullpen, anchored by closer Kelvim Escobar, is much improved over last season with the additions of Creek, Tam and Lopez. Manager Carlos Tosca and his staff have made fundamentals a point of emphasis, a real weakness in the past.
Weaknesses: Starting pitching is thin beyond ace Roy Halladay, though Lidle will provide needed innings and Mark Hendrickson has had a solid spring, finishing with a 1.04 earned-run average. The free-swinging Blue Jays endure more than their share of strikeouts. They’ll live with it as long as the homers keep coming.
Outlook: A club on the rise but still chasing both New York and Boston in the East. Having finished third in each of the past five years in the division, they are looking to move up. Second isn’t out of the question if the Red Sox fail to live up to expectations.
At Edison Field: May 9-11, August 1-3.
LF Shannon Stewart
3B Eric Hinske
CF Vernon Wells
1B Carlos Delgado
DH Josh Phelps
RF Frank Catalanotto
SS Chris Woodward
2B Orlando Hudson
C Ken Huckaby
4. BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Who’s new: P Omar Daal, Rick Helling and Kerry Ligtenberg, SS Deivi Cruz, OF B.J. Surhoff.
Who’s gone: P Chris Brock, Yorkis Perez and Josh Towers, SS Mike Bordick, INF Luis Lopez, OF Chris Singleton, 1B Chris Richard.
Strengths: The addition of Ligtenberg should boost a solid bullpen that already includes setup man Buddy Groom (1.60 ERA in 2002) and closer Jorge Julio (25 saves). Rodrigo Lopez was an outstanding find last season.
Weaknesses: The Orioles return essentially the same lineup that last season drove in only 4.12 runs a game, fewer than even the feeble Tampa Bay Devil Rays. There are doubts as to whether anyone can supplement the power of Tony Batista, who last season hit 31 home runs and drove in 87 runs. The Orioles are still waiting for Sidney Ponson to put it together; if he doesn’t soon, he may be traded.
Outlook: Still reeling from the recent death of pitcher Steve Bechler, the Orioles head into the season with a dark cloud hovering above them on and off the field. A .500 finish would exceed expectations, with 70-75 wins a more realistic possibility. Now that he has the starter’s job he so coveted last year with the Dodgers, Daal could turn out to be a pleasant surprise.
At Edison Field: May 20-22.
2B Jerry Hairston Jr.
CF Gary Matthews Jr.
LF B.J. Surhoff
1B Jeff Conine
RF Jay Gibbons
3B Tony Batista
DH Marty Cordova
SS Deivi Cruz
C Geronimo Gil
5. TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS
Who’s new: 2B-OF Marlon Anderson, SS Rey Ordonez, 1B Travis Lee, P Jim Parque, Steve Parris and Mike Venafro, C Javier Valentin, OF Al Martin, INF Terry Shumpert.
Who’s gone: P Wilson Alvarez, Ryan Rupe, Tanyon Sturtze, Paul Wilson and Esteban Yan, 1B Steve Cox, SS Chris Gomez, 2B Andy Sheets, C John Flaherty, DH Greg Vaughn, OF Randy Winn.
Strengths: Ordonez, a three-time Gold Glove winner at shortstop, will spearhead an improved defense. Center fielder Rocco Baldelli, 21, is an early candidate for rookie of the year. He led the team in home runs this spring, and he has great speed and a strong arm. Starting pitcher Joe Kennedy has shown great promise, but gets little support.
Weaknesses: Where do you start? An anemic offense became even more listless when the team waived Vaughn last week. The Devil Rays feature little speed, and their pitching is thin in the bullpen and starting rotation.
Outlook: Despite his track record, new Manager Lou Piniella probably isn’t going to make much of a difference for a team that lost 106 games last season. The Devil Rays have little chance to finish out of the cellar. In fact, there is no guarantee the team can match last year’s 55 wins.
At Edison Field: May 23-25.
LF Carl Crawford
CF Rocco Baldelli
3B Aubrey Huff
DH Ben Grieve
1B Travis Lee
C Toby Hall
RF Marlon Anderson
2B Brent Abernathy
SS Rey Ordonez
AL WORLD SERIES DROUGHTS
*--* Longest current span without winning a World Series: Years Team Latest appearances since win 86 Chicago White Sox 1919, 1959 85 Boston Red Sox 1946, 1967, 1987, 1986 55 Cleveland Indians 1954, 1995, 1997 42 Texas Rangers None 26 Seattle Mariners None 20 Baltimore Orioles None 19 Detroit Tigers None 18 Kansas City Royals None 14 Oakland A’s 1990 12 Minnesota Twins None 10 Toronto Blue Jays None 5 Tampa Bay Devil Rays None 3 New York Yankees 2001 Note: Seattle, Tampa Bay and Texas have never appeared in the World Series