Al Preview Orioles '94

April 01, 1994|By Jim Henneman

EAST

ORIOLES

1993 record: 85-77 (tied for third, AL East)

Manager: Johnny Oates

Pitching: The staff has improved in each of the past two years and might be substantially better this year. Lee Smith must replace Gregg Olson as closer, and Sid Fernandez has to more than compensate for the loss of Rick Sutcliffe. The rotation is headed by two of the AL's best young right-handers, Mike Mussina and Ben McDonald. Jamie Moyer was excellent after being called up from Triple-A, but a knee injury slowed Arthur Rhodes' progress. Alan Mills, Mark Eichhorn and Jim Poole provide a good mix to fit with Smith in the bullpen.

Offense: The Orioles added two productive hitters through free agency: first baseman Rafael Palmeiro and third baseman Chris Sabo. With left fielder Brady Anderson and center fielder Mike Devereaux hitting ahead of Palmeiro, DH Harold Baines and shortstop Cal Ripken, and with catcher Chris Hoiles, Sabo, right fielder Jeffrey Hammonds and second baseman Mark McLemore hitting behind them, the offense has no glaring weaknesses. The lineup has speed at the top and bottom, with power and consistency in the middle.

Defense: The Orioles finished third in the AL in fielding percentage (.984) but made 100 errors for the first time in five years. Anderson, Devereaux and Hammonds cover as much ground as any outfielders in the AL. The infield will be consistent, but not spectacular. Hoiles has improved, making defense another area with no glaring weaknesses.

Outlook: This is the best Orioles team in more than a decade. They have to deal with the Toronto Blue Jays, two-time World Series champions, and the toughest division in baseball, but they should contend all the way.

BOSTON RED SOX

1993 record: 80-82 (fifth, AL East)

Manager: Butch Hobson

Pitching: Roger Clemens (11-14, 4.46) started only 29 games because of injuries, but he has had a pain-free spring. His return to Cy Young form is essential. Danny Darwin (15-11, 3.26), Frank Viola (11-8, 3.14) and Aaron Sele (7-2, 2.74) give the Red Sox a solid rotation. Jeff Russell (1-4, 2.70, 33 saves) anchors a good bullpen that also includes Greg Harris (6-7, 3.77, 8 saves) Scott Bankhead (2-1, 3.50 in 40 games) and future closer Ken Ryan (7-2, 3.60). Paul Quantrill (6-12, 3.91) can start or pitch long relief.

Offense: The Red Sox's 686 runs were the third fewest in the AL. They were tied for last in homers (114) and will have to be innovative to improve. With that in mind, Otis Nixon (.269, 47 steals) was signed as a free agent to bat leadoff and play center field. Greg Blosser, who hit 23 home runs in Triple-A, had a big spring and probably will platoon in right with Billy Hatcher or Lee Tinsley. First baseman Mo Vaughn (.297-29-101) and left fielder Mike Greenwell (.315-13-72) are productive. DH Andre Dawson (.273-13-67) can't go on forever.

Defense: The Red Sox were near the bottom of the AL with 122 errors and a .980 fielding percentage. Nixon helps in center. Catcher Dave Valle, who has a strong arm, replaces Tony Pena.

Outlook: The Red Sox contended for much of last year without an effective Clemens, so they can't be dismissed. But the offense has to improve considerably for them to finish higher than third.

DETROIT TIGERS

1993 record: 85-77 (tied for third, AL East)

Manager: Sparky Anderson

Pitching: The Tigers gave up more runs (837) than any AL team other than the Oakland Athletics (846). They are gambling that free-agent acquisition Tim Belcher, Bill Gullickson (13-9, 5.37 ERA) and Mike Moore (13-9, 5.22) will bounce back. David Wells (11-9, 4.19) was effective early last year. The best hope for improvement is John Doherty (14-11, 4.44), who is only 26. Mike Henneman (5-3, 2.64, 24 saves) is a durable closer.

Offense: Batten down the hatches. The Tigers led the universe with 899 runs and aren't any weaker this year. First baseman Cecil Fielder had an off year (.267-30-117) that most hitters would take as a career season. Catcher-first baseman-outfielder Mickey Tettleton (.245-32-110), third baseman Travis Fryman (.300-22-97), shortstop Alan Trammell (.329-12-60), second baseman Lou Whitaker (.290-9-67) and left fielder Tony Phillips (.313, 113 runs) provide threats throughout the lineup. Center fielder Eric Davis hit six home runs in 23 games after joining the club in midsummer.

Defense: Trammell and Whitaker have mileage, but they still operate fluidly. Fryman has a strong arm and is a superstar in the making. But the Tigers were among the AL's worst defensive teams a year ago, with 132 errors and a .979 fielding percentage, so they get no better than a below-average rating.

Outlook: If the Tigers can score 950 runs, or if they can hold opponents to 700, they have a chance, but don't count on either happening.

NEW YORK YANKEES

1993 record: 88-74 (second, AL East)

Manager: Buck Showalter

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