Baseball 2002 AL EAST

March 31, 2002|By Profiles by Roch Kubatka

Orioles

Manager: Mike Hargrove

2001 record: 63-98 (fourth)

What's new in 2002: Winter activity was scarce, but the Orioles added two outfielders, Marty Cordova and Chris Singleton, and reliever Chris Brock. Cordova rescued his career by hitting .301 with 20 homers last season with the Cleveland Indians. He'll be plugged into left field. Singleton takes over in center field, where he can chase down just about everything. Changes will be most evident in the farm system, where depth has improved.

On the spot: The team is counting on Jerry Hairston to solve the leadoff issue. If he fails, so do the Orioles, who got no production from atop the order last season. Hairston could be gone if the experiment fails. And how about Tony Batista, who has the small task of replacing future Hall of Famer Cal Ripken? Another slow start at the plate will put more pressure on Batista to adjust the game's most open stance.

Where they'll be in October: Ownership says .500, but the standings could still say fourth place.

Toronto Blue Jays

Manager: Buck Martinez

2001 record: 80-82 (third)

What's new in 2002: Perhaps the most significant change was the general manager, J.P. Ricciardi, who came over from Oakland. The Blue Jays also have a new third baseman, Eric Hinske, after dealing closer Billy Koch to the A's. He's got loads of potential. Error-prone Felipe Lopez moves from third to short as the replacement for Alex Gonzalez, who was traded to the Chicago Cubs. Pitcher Luke Prokopec came over from Los Angeles in the Paul Quantrill deal to fortify a promising young rotation. If only the bullpen was as exciting. Kelvim Escobar replaces Koch as the closer, as the Blue Jays attempt to define his role after moving him in and out of the rotation.

On the spot: Isn't it about time for Raul Mondesi to hit 45 homers, drive in 140 runs and make a run at the Triple Crown? Underachieving shouldn't be listed among his hobbies.

Where they'll be in October: Firmly entrenched in the middle of the division, heels dug in deep.

New York Yankees

Manager: Joe Torre

2001 record: 95-65 (first)

What's new in 2002: Start with Jason Giambi, whose run production and ability to reach base were badly needed last season. He heads an impressive group of newcomers in pinstripes, including starter David Wells, set-up man Steve Karsay, outfielder John Vander Wal and third baseman Robin Ventura, though outfielder Rondell White might not be ready by Opening Day because of a strained rib cage muscle. White is no stranger to injuries, which often makes him a stranger to lineups. The Yankees wanted Moises Alou, but settled for White when their money wasn't good enough for a change.

On the spot: Giambi is making a ton of money, and expectations are just as steep. Carrying the burden of being the perceived difference-maker, nothing less than MVP-caliber numbers will be accepted in the Bronx. Let's see how he handles the intense glare of the Yankee spotlight.

Where they'll be in October: Someplace where the lockers are covered in plastic and players are drenched in champagne.

Boston Red Sox

Manager: Grady Little

2001 record: 82-79 (second)

What's new in 2002: Not much besides ownership, the general manager and the manager. Oh yeah, and a bunch of players, including pitchers Dustin Hermanson, John Burkett and Darren Oliver, outfielders Johnny Damon and Rickey Henderson and infielders Tony Clark, Rey Sanchez and Carlos Baerga. Henderson might bat leadoff instead of Damon, who has been hitting second.

On the spot: Nomar Garciaparra's wrist problems must be behind him or the Red Sox will be behind in a lot of games. They simply can't afford another extended absence from one of baseball's best players. The same goes for Pedro Martinez. Take him out of the rotation and watch the Red Sox curl up in the fetal position. Closer Ugueth Urbina hasn't been the picture of health, either. His elbow has tired down the stretch and must be watched.

Where they'll be in October: Checking the wild-card standings and wondering if they can petition Major League Baseball to move the Yankees to another division.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Manager: Hal McRae

2001 record: 62-100 (fifth)

What's new in 2002: They signed outfielder Troy O'Leary to a minor-league contract. He wasn't expected to push them past the Yankees, and he won't - he was released before the team broke camp. Their other transactions aren't anything to shout about either: infielder Wilmy Caceres, who came in a trade with the Angels; left-hander Steve Kent, a Rule 5 pick from the Angels; and reliever Kevin McGlinchy, another Rule 5 pick from the Braves. The coaching staff has three new faces: hitting coach Milt May, pitching coach Jackie Brown and third base coach Tom Foley.

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