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SPECIAL SECTION / BASEBALL 2001

American League

April 01, 2001|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

(in predicted order of finish)

EAST

NEW YORK YANKEES

WHO'S NEW: P Mike Mussina and Carlos Almanzar, OF Henry Rodriguez, C Joe Oliver.

WHO'S GONE: P David Cone, Dwight Gooden and Jeff Nelson, DH Jose Canseco, OF Glenallen Hill.

STRENGTHS: They were a little dinged up this spring, with shortstop Derek Jeter slowed by arm and leg injuries, pitcher Orlando Hernandez limited by elbow problems and outfielder David Justice recovering from double hernia surgery, but the three-time defending-champion Yankees have one of the best rotations in recent baseball history--four of their starters would be aces on most staffs.

WEAKNESSES: Mariano Rivera is still baseball's best closer, but the bullpen won't be as deep because of Jeff Nelson's departure. Second baseman Alfonso Soriano was touted as a top prospect for years, but he hit .180 in 22 games in his first exposure to big league pitching last season. Aging right fielder Paul O'Neill, third baseman Scott Brosius and first baseman Tino Martinez must bounce back from poor seasons.

OUTLOOK: Many thought the Yankees were vulnerable in 2000, but they saved their best baseball for October. This is a veteran group that has two of the game's best players, Jeter and Bernie Williams, a superb rotation and the experience of performing in pressure situations. The Yankees may not win their fourth consecutive World Series, but they should win their division title.

AT EDISON FIELD: Aug. 24-26.

PROJECTED LINEUP

LF Chuck Knoblauch

SS Derek Jeter

RF Paul O'Neill

CF Bernie Williams

DH Dave Justice

C Jorge Posada

1B Tino Martinez

3B Scott Brosius

2B Alfonso Soriano

STARTING PITCHERS

Roger Clemens

Andy Pettitte

Mike Mussina

Orlando Hernandez

Christian Parker

BULLPEN

Mariano Rivera

Mike Stanton

Ramiro Mendoza

Randy Choate

Carlos Almanzar

*

BOSTON RED SOX

WHO'S NEW: OF Manny Ramirez, P Hideo Nomo, David Cone and Frank Castillo, IF Chris Stynes.

WHO'S GONE: P Ramon Martinez.

STRENGTHS: Every fifth day, the Red Sox will have the luxury of sending baseball's best pitcher, Pedro Martinez, to the mound. The bullpen, a group headed by closer Derek Lowe, is a strength and was a big reason Boston had the league's lowest team ERA (4.23) last season. There is plenty of power in a lineup that was bolstered by the addition of free agent Manny Ramirez.

WEAKNESSES: The rotation drops off dramatically after Martinez, and both David Cone and Bret Saberhagen will start the season on the disabled list. The Red Sox will be in big trouble if shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, who sat out much of spring training because of a split tendon in his right wrist, is not sound. Ramirez has also been bothered by a slight hamstring strain.

OUTLOOK: If Garciaparra should need surgery, he could be out 10-16 weeks, and the Red Sox would be looking at Lou Merloni, Craig Grebeck or Mike Lansing at short. That's a scary thought. Jose Offerman (groin strain) and Chris Stynes (calf strain) were also hurt this spring. If they can keep enough players out of the training room, the Red Sox should contend for the wild card.

AT EDISON FIELD: Aug. 20-23.

PROJECTED LINEUP

2B Jose Offerman

3B Chris Stynes

SS Nomar Garciaparra

RF Manny Ramirez

CF Carl Everett

DH Dante Bichette

LF Troy O'Leary

1B Brian Daubach

C Jason Varitek

STARTING PITCHERS

Pedro Martinez

Hideo Nomo

Frank Castillo

Tomo Ohka

Paxton Crawford

BULLPEN

Derek Lowe

Rod Beck

Rich Garces

Tim Wakefield

Rolando Arrojo

*

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

WHO'S NEW: P Steve Parris, Dan Plesac, Mike Sirotka and Kevin Beirne.

WHO'S GONE: P David Wells, OF Marty Cordova, DH Todd Greene.

STRENGTHS: A deep and talented bullpen is headed by one of baseball's best but least-recognized closers, Billy Koch, whose fastball occasionally hits 100 mph. The offense features a nice blend of speed (Shannon Stewart) and power (Carlos Delgado, Raul Mondesi, Tony Batista). With Homer Bush back at second, the Blue Jays are stronger defensively up the middle.

WEAKNESSES: Toronto thought Mike Sirotka, acquired from the White Sox for pitcher David Wells, would be its ace, but the left-hander is out because of a shoulder injury, leaving the Blue Jays without a dominant starter. An offense of mostly free swingers needs to be more disciplined and do a better job of manufacturing runs.

OUTLOOK: If the Red Sox keep falling apart, the Blue Jays could slip into second place and wild-card contention. Though there is decent depth in the rotation, Toronto does not have any standout starters, and certainly no one who can match up with the Yankees' top four pitchers. Like the Rangers, they may have to slug their way into playoff contention.

AT EDISON FIELD: May 15-17; Aug. 10-12.

PROJECTED LINEUP

LF Shannon Stewart

SS Alex Gonzalez

RF Raul Mondesi

1B Carlos Delgado

3B Tony Batista

DH Brad Fullmer

C Darrin Fletcher

CF Jose Cruz Jr.

2B Homer Bush

STARTING PITCHERS

Esteban Loiaza

Steve Parris

Joey Hamilton

Chris Carpenter

Chris Michalak

BULLPEN

Billy Koch

Dan Plesac

Kelvim Escobar

Paul Quantrill

Kevin Beirne

Lance Painter

*

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

WHO'S NEW: OF Ben Grieve, P Ariel Prieto and Mike Judd.

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