Al East Preview

April 02, 1993|By Peter Schmuck


1992 record: 96-66 (first)

Manager: Cito Gaston

Pitching: Blue Jays ranked ninth in the AL with a 3.91 team ERA, and that could rise with a revamped pitching staff. The club lost three of the top pitchers on the staff to free agency -- David Cone, Jimmy Key and Tom Henke -- and also let injured Dave Stieb go to the Chicago White Sox. Still, the starting rotation is solid with Jack Morris, Juan Guzman, Dave Stewart and Todd Stottlemyre, and Duane Ward will save 35 games.

Hitting: The talent gap in the AL narrowed further when the Blue Jays lost designated hitter Dave Winfield to free agency. He may be in his 40s, but he still drove in 108 runs. Toronto also lost outfielder Candy Maldonado and shortstop Manuel Lee and traded third baseman Kelly Gruber. The acquisitions of Paul Molitor and Darrin Jackson will help offset losses, but the Blue Jays may evolve into a more speed-oriented team as a result of the personnel changes.

Defense: It could be a difficult year for Gaston, who has had to replace the left side of his infield. Unproven Eddie Zosky could play a lot at shortstop and catcher/infielder Ed Sprague will get significant playing time at third base. The outfield is solid. So is catcher Pat Borders.

Outlook: The Blue Jays still have enough talent to win the AL East, but they no longer can expect to outclass the rest of the field. Diminished pitching depth and offensive clout could leave them vulnerable.


1992 record: 89-73 (third)

Manager: Johnny Oates

Pitching: The Orioles have three of the best young starting pitchers in baseball in Mike Mussina, Ben McDonald and Arthur Rhodes, and the club had enough pitching depth this spring to make the competition for fifth starter interesting. Club ERA (3.79) was fifth best in the league and third best in the division last year. Bullpen is solid and could be better with Mark Williamson throwing well.

Hitting: The acquisition of Harold Baines and Harold Reynolds left the club with far more offensive potential than a year ago, though a lot depends on the health of Glenn Davis. If he plays first base, Oates has all sorts of lineup options. If he doesn't, the club's offense becomes far less dependable.

Defense: No team has prided itself more on its history of defensive excellence, and this year should not tarnish that reputation. Third baseman Leo Gomez doesn't have great range and the defense could be spotty in right field, but the club still has a chance to commit fewer than 100 errors for an unprecedented fifth straight year.

Outlook: The opening is there. If the Orioles put it together, they have the talent to overtake the Blue Jays and get back into the playoffs for the first time since 1983.


1992 record: 76-86 (tied for fourth)

Manager: Buck Showalter

Pitching: The Yankees front office was so buoyed by the promising preseason performance of its pitching staff that the club left open the possibility of trading a pitcher to acquire some offensive help. What a turnaround. Pitching has been a major reason the Yankees have not been competitive in recent years. The acquisition of Jim Abbott, the solid 1992 performance of Melido Perez and the development of youngsters Sam Militello, Scott Kamieniecki and Bob Wickman could give the Yankees one of the AL's top starting rotations.

Hitting: This is where it gets sketchy. The Yankees made some big moves in the off-season, but it still is difficult to tell if they will be a solid offensive club. The acquisition of Wade Boggs should help, but the jury remains out on the trade that send Roberto Kelly to the Reds for Paul O'Neill. The health of Danny Tartabull and Don Mattingly also remains in question.

Defense: Yankees should be better defensively with acquisition of third baseman Boggs and shortstop Spike Owen. O'Neill should help in the outfield. He made just one error in 304 total chances last year (.997 fielding percentage).

Outlook: The future looks bright for the Yankees, but the return of owner George Steinbrenner leaves the chemistry of the club in question.


1992 record: 92-70 (second)

Manager: Phil Garner

Pitching: The Brewers led the league with a 3.43 team ERA last year, but they lost one of their top starting pitchers when Chris Bosio (16-6, 3.62) became a free agent and went to the Seattle Mariners. That won't help, but the club tried to remedy the situation by bringing 24 rostered pitchers to camp this spring. The rotation will include promising Cal Eldred and Ricky Bones as well as 17-game winner Jaime Navarro and solid veteran Bill Wegman. Doug Henry (29 saves) will be back as the stopper.

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