The Yankees Believe the AL East Is Wide Open For the Taking

The New York Yankees are in first place in the American League East. They beat the Tampa Bay Rays Friday night, for their fifth victory in a row. They send Hiroki Kuroda to the mound tonight to keep the streak going against new human rain delay Erik Bedard, a left-hander, who starts for the first time this season.
The AL East was expected to be a powerhouse this season, with the defending world champion Boston Red Sox looking, if anything, improved, and the Rays and Orioles having helped themselves a little bit over the off-season. Boston got younger in the starting lineup. The Rays kept David Price and improved their bench. Baltimore added the free agents Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez.
Injuries have already changed the pre-season calculus in the AL East, as the Rays are without starting pitchers Jeremy Hellickson until sometime in June, and Matt Moore, who’s out for the season. He will have Tommy John surgery soon.
Who’s been good for the Yankees? Masahiro Tanaka, for starters. He’s racking up strikeouts and showing the command he was known for as a Rakuten Eagle. He could wind up fronting this staff, if Sabathia is in decline. They have guys they could lean on for 200+ innings, but that’s a stretch with pitchers such as Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda. Kuroda is reliable. He’s also 39.
Jacoby Ellsbury is getting on base from the leadoff spot. Carlos Beltran is hitting home runs. Yangervis Solarte has an OPS above 1.000. They are lefty heavy in the lineup, but they’re glad to have Brian McCann.
Take a closer look: they have a whole rotation of guys playing infield who don’t add up to one good position player at a particular position. With Teixeira still out, they played Scott Sizemore at first base Friday night. Jeter is hitting, but won’t he be overexposed at short, with Brendan Ryan hurt and the only option being Dean Anna? What is second base, with the 37-year-old Brian Roberts, and Kelly Johnson? Will the 26-year-old Solarte continue to come up big? Who the heck is John Ryan Murphy?
Outside of Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury, who are both 30, the guys who get it done with the bats are old. The average age of Beltran, Ichiro, Soriano, and McCann is 36. McCann is 30. As it has been for the last two years with the Yankees, their front-line, highly-paid players have to be available and producing for them to have a shot in 2014. Their hope is that the AL East may not be as strong as expected by the experts before the season began.

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