The American League East has long been considered one of baseball’s toughest divisions, and that should hold true again in 2013. But it’s no longer a division dominated by a couple high-spending teams and the occasional upstart. Suddenly, the AL East is being recognized for its top-to-bottom depth.
The Orioles had their best finish in the division in 15 years in 2012, taking second place and earning a wild-card berth. The Blue Jays are the unofficial champions of the off-season, going from a fourth-place club to a World Series contender.
Meanwhile, the Yankees and Red Sox still have plenty of cash and veteran players (perhaps too many?), and the Rays continue to make shrewd moves in hopes of remaining a perennial threat.
With that in mind, we plan to keep a closer look at the O’s competition in the division with “Around the AL East,” a new feature on Orioles Insider. In these occasional posts, we’ll check in with what’s going on with the other four teams in the division.
So, without further ado, our maiden trip “Around the AL East”:
New York Yankees
In Tampa, the big story Wednesday was Mariano Rivera talking about his future. Joel Sherman of the New York Post says New York should be able to count on the 43-year-old closer this year.
Meanwhile, the New York Times’ baseball blog has items on Andy Pettitte passing on the World Baseball Classic and how Alex Rodriguez won’t be present when the Yankees’ position players report on Sunday.
Toronto Blue Jays
Up in Dunedin, the new Jays are starting to get to know each other. The Toronto Star has a story on Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle, acquired from the Marlins in the offseason, starting to fit in.
Ken Fidlin of the Toronto Sun goes in-depth on another issue facing Buehrle – his pit bull Slater won’t be allowed to live with him up in Toronto, as that breed is banned in Ontario.
In more baseball news, Jays closer Casey Janssen is going to take things slowly early in spring training after offseason shoulder surgery.
Boston Red Sox
Shane Victorino held court at Red Sox camp in Fort Myers, Fla., this morning, and the Flyin’ Hawaiian seemed fired up about joining Boston.
Elsewhere, ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes has a story on Jon Lester looking to regain his confidence and Joe McDonald wonders if the Red Sox’s improved clubhouse chemistry will translate to success.
And finally, it wounldn't be a report on the Red Sox without at least a little animosity, so Tim Britton of the Providence Journal has some sharp comments from David Ortiz about the failed Bobby Valentine era:
“A lot of players had a lot of issues with our manager last year,” Ortiz said. “An organization, a team, is like the human body. If the head is right, the body is going to function right. If the head is messed up, then the body is going to be all over the place. It seemed like that was part of our situation last year. Guys weren’t comfortable with the manager that we had."
Tampa Bay Rays
Rays closer Fernando Rodney spoke about his contract status Wednesday in Port Charlotte, saying he won’t be distracted despite not having an extension after setting an MLB relief record with an 0.60 ERA last year.
The Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin also has a notebook leading with how right-hander Jeff Niemann will again be scruitinized this spring.