In an effort to keep our readers up to date with our most direct rivals, RAB has gotten together with a number of AL East bloggers to produce a weekly AL East roundup. Every Monday you’ll get a capsule of each division rival’s past week. It’s a basic summary of the week’s happenings, followed by team record, injuries, and a look at the week to come. If you’ve got some free time, be sure to check out the blogs we’ve partnered with. They’re passionate fans of their respective teams and provide excellent coverage.
Boston Red Sox – Surviving Grady
Tough going out of the gate for the Sox, dropping 2 of 3 to the Rays at Fenway to kick off the season, then hopping a flight to the left coast where they dropped another 2 of 3 to the Angels. Hey, it’s only the first week, but a couple things have us concerned: After Josh Beckett’s stellar performance in the season opener, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Timmy Wakefield struggled. Brad Penny didn’t fare much better in his Sox debut against Anaheim, but was saved by some timely offense. Speaking of hitting, the team’s first full season of Life After Manny may be tougher than we’d imagined; through the first six games, the team is averaging just 3.4 runs per game, and some of the big guns we’re counting on — Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, JD Drew and Mike Lowell — are a wretched 10-for-65 combined.
On the bright side, Youk is tearing it up at .526, and Rocco Baldelli has been a pleasant surprise thus far, legging out a key hit in Saturday’s game against Anaheim and flashing some pretty imrpessive leather in the field. This week it’s on to Oakland for three games, then back home for Baltimore. Things should be getting better fast. Or so I pray to the Gods of Baseball.
Week’s record: 2-4
Season record: 2-4
This week: Mon – Wed @ Oakland; Fri – Sun BALTIMORE
Baltimore Orioles – Dempsey’s Army
Overall, a good opening week for the Orioles as they win a series with last year’s AL East champ (Rays) and one from this year’s favorite (Yankees). However, glaring weaknesses were on display as SP Alfredo Simon got knocked around by New York on Thursday, SP Adam Eaton got pounded by the Rays on Sunday and the performance of the bullpen was up and down all week. A shoddy rotation and a bullpen that is a work in progress indicate that Baltimore will have trouble competing on a regular basis with the rest of the AL East.
It’s not all bad for the pitching staff though. SP Jeremy Guthrie shook off his bad Spring Training and WBC performances and went 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA this week. Koji Uehara earned a win in his U.S. debut giving up a lone run over 5.0 innings against New York.
Considering the level of pitching they were facing this week (Sabathia, Burnett, Wang, Kazmir, Shields), the Oriole batters fared pretty well. Standouts included RF Nick Markakis (.364/.423/.591), 2B Brian Roberts (.375/.444/.458), 3B Melvin Mora (.313/.421/.500) and CF Adam “Don’t Call Me Pacman” Jones (.409/.462/.682). It is especially good to see the 23 year old Jones get off to a good start as the Orioles are counting on him to take a big step forward this season.
Notes: I was at the game on Thursday and got to witness firsthand the inhospitable welcome for Maryland native Mark Teixeira. Teixeira was booed long and hard by the Oriole faithful for spurning his hometown team and signing with the hated Yankees. Sure, some of this logic is misguided but it was nice to see the (lately) apathetic fan base find something to get excited about. Besides, it was a lot of fun….LF Felix Pie was reported to be having problems adjusting to his new position in Spring Training; through the first week of games I see no evidence of that at all. The Oriole outfield should be a lot of fun to watch this season…RP Matt Albers was optioned to AAA Norfolk to make room for SP Adam Eaton…Speaking of Norfolk, top prospect C Matt Wieters started his AAA career by going 1 for 11 this week. On the other hand, SP Brad Bergesen (5.0 IP, 6 K, 1 BB, 1.80 ERA) and SP David Hernandez (4.2 IP, 9 K, 2 BB, 1.93 ERA) had good starts this week for the Tides. Look for the 23 year old Bergesen to break into the Baltimore rotation by the end of May.
Week’s record: 4-2
Season record: 4-2
This week: Mon – Wed @ Texas; Fri – Sun @ Boston
Tampa Bay Rays – Rays of Light
The story of the week for the Rays starts and ends with Evan Longoria, with a little bit more Evan Longoria sprinkled in during the middle chapters. Though it’s a little early to be talking about these things, Evan is on pace to shatter the April record for dingers as he hit 5 home runs in the Rays’ 6 games. He’s already silencing anyone who thinks that there’s a “sophomore slump” about to happen. Along with those 5 round trippers, Evan hit .481 with 10 RBI, 4 doubles, and 5 runs scored (that’s a 1.185 slugging percentage, for those of you keeping count).
All told, it was a rather pedestrian opening act for the rest of the Rays. After looking pretty good in taking 2-out-of-3 from Boston to start the week, the Rays then came out all sorts of flat against the Orioles on Friday and Saturday before beating the tar out of the orange-birds on Sunday. A 3-3 start to the season when going to Boston and Baltimore isn’t the worst of ways to start the season, but the team has to be disappointed that couldn’t head into the home opener with a 4-2 mark instead.
This was all done without the services of centerfielder B.J. Upton, who will be activated from the disabled list prior to Monday’s night’s home opener against the Yankees. To make room for Upton, the Rays sent outfielder Matt Joyce to Triple-A Durham. Joyce hit .100 (1-for-10) with a home run and an RBI in 3 games for the Rays this week. In all likelihood, he would be the first man recalled should another outfielder go down with some kind of injury.
Week’s record: 3-3
Season record: 3-3
Next week: Mon – Wed NEW YORK; Thu – Sun CHICAGO
Toronto Blue Jays — Drunk Jays Fans
Note: DJF is here for a one-week cameo. We’ll have a different Jays blogger next week.
The biggest news of the first week of the season for the Jays, other than nearly forfeiting on Opening Day because of debris being thrown onto the field by fans, was that they actually went out and won. After an off-season of lowered expectations, following on the heels of a season where Jays pitchers were arguably the best in the majors, but the hitters simply couldn’t score, the Jays’ lineup actually looked like the “best case scenario” that disappointingly didn’t materialize in 2008. And for the most part, the production was coming from outside the 3 and 4 spots in the lineup, held down by Alex Rios and Vernon Wells. Youngster Adam Lind led the way with an MLB-leading 12 RBIs, and Aaron Hill, back after missing most of last season with post-concussion syndrome, looks like his old self. Marco Scutaro (.385/.485/.731 with 2 HR and 5 RBI) has also been swinging a hot bat. The rotation held it’s own as well, with strong outings from rookie Ricky Romero, second-year man David Purcey, and naturally, a pair of gems from Roy Halladay.
The Jays’ main concern– apart from the fact that the torrid hitting certainly won’t last, and that the young pitchers are going to suffer through ups and downs– has been for $10M closer BJ Ryan. Nearly a full two years removed from Tommy John surgery, Ryan is still struggling to find his command, and his fastball is down a couple notches to the 88-89mph range– which is up from earlier in the spring, when he was throwing fastballs that would occasionally top out at 84. Ryan blew a save against Detroit, though the Jays came back to win that game, and entered in a non-save situation against Cleveland, only to load the bases with two outs (two of them by walk), and then watch Mark DeRosa hit a double that would have been a home run if not for a stiff wind off Lake Erie, turning a comfortable 5-1 lead, into a 5-4 game with a runner on second in the bottom of the ninth. Jason Frasor relieved Ryan to close out the game.
Week’s record: 5-2
Season record: 5-2
Injuries: RHP Casey Janssen – shoulder – 15 day DL, out indefinitely.
Next week: Mon – Thu @ Minnesota; Fri – Sun OAKLAND