|ESPN.com: News||[Print without images]|
A lot has happened in the baseball world since the San Francisco Giants closed out the Texas Rangers to win the 2010 World Series and cap off the "Year of the Pitcher." Sure, there is something called the "offseason," but trades, free-agent signings (although ironically, not that many for the Yankees, who failed to land prize free agent Cliff Lee), injuries and even some retirements (I'm looking at you, Andy Pettitte) have revamped and reshaped many team lineups. It's a lot to keep track of, which is why we've done it for you in our spring training guide.
Whether it's the Grapefruit (Florida) or Cactus (Arizona) League, everything you need to know is right here in one place: new faces in new places, key departures and what to watch for during spring training, team by team, division by division. All divisions are presented in order of the 2010 standings. Up first: American League East.
Tampa Bay Rays (2010 record: 96-66, first place in AL East)
• New faces: OF Johnny Damon, DH Manny Ramirez, RP Kyle Farnsworth, 1B Casey Kotchman, RP Joel Peralta.
• Key departures: OF Carl Crawford, 1B Carlos Pena, SS Jason Bartlett, SP Matt Garza, almost every relief pitcher including Rafael Soriano, Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour, Randy Choate and Dan Wheeler.
• The Rays underwent one of the biggest offseason makeovers in baseball. More than 40 percent of the roster is new. How will the new-look Rays, especially former teammates and rivals Damon and Ramirez, above, respond after winning the AL East last season?
• Closer questions: Soriano and his AL-leading 45 saves went to the Yankees. Who will step in and fill that spot? A closer by committee approach is likely, with Farnsworth, Peralta and possibly J.P. Howell when/if he returns from injury.
• Rays bloggers celebrated when Bartlett was traded, opening up the full-time shortstop gig for Reid Brignac. Will he live up to high expectations?
New York Yankees (2010 record: 95-67, second place in AL East)
• New faces: RP Rafael Soriano, RP Pedro Feliciano, SP Freddy Garcia, C Russell Martin, pitching coach Larry Rothschild.
• Key departures: SP Andy Pettitte (retirement), SP Javy Vazquez, RP Kerry Wood, DH Marcus Thames.
• While everybody is talking about weight gain (Joba Chamberlain) and weight loss (CC Sabathia), the big story is the search for desperately needed starting pitching. Who will fill out the Nos. 4 and 5 spots in the rotation?
• The Yankees took a flier on free agent Mark Prior, who hasn't pitched since August 2006. Can he make a comeback?
• The team needs Rothschild to fix A.J. Burnett, whose struggles last season are too numerous to recount.
• Season story to watch: Derek Jeter is 74 hits shy of 3,000 for his career, all as a Yankee.
Boston Red Sox (2010 record: 89-73, third place in AL East)
• New faces: OF Carl Crawford, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, RP Bobby Jenks, RP Dan Wheeler.
• Key departures: C Victor Martinez, 3B Adrian Beltre, INF/OF Bill Hall.
• With Crawford, Gonzalez and a deep starting rotation, pundits have designated the Red Sox as the World Series favorites before a game has been played.
• Boston's success depends on SPs Josh Beckett and John Lackey returning to form.
• Gonzalez's health is key as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery.
• Jarrod Saltalamacchia moves into the role of starting catcher.
Toronto Blue Jays (2010 record: 85-77, fourth place in AL East)
• New faces: Manager John Farrell, OF Juan Rivera, OF Rajai Davis, RP Frank Francisco, RP Jon Rauch, RP Octavio Dotel.
• Key departures: OF Vernon Wells (and his four-year, $86 million contract), C John Buck, 1B Lyle Overbay, RP Kevin Gregg, RP Scott Downs, SP Shaun Marcum.
• Slugger Jose Bautista (franchise-record 54 home runs in 2010) signed a five-year deal and assumes a leadership position with Wells shipped out to Anaheim.
• Francisco, Rauch and Dotel battle for the closer's role, with Francisco (who closed in Texas before losing his job to Neftali Feliz) having the edge.
• The Jays' rotation is solid at 1-4, but Toronto needs a No. 5 starter. Jesse Litsch, Marc Rzepczynski and rookie Zach Stewart will compete for the final spot.
Baltimore Orioles (2010 record: 66-96, fifth place in AL East)
• New faces: 1B Derrek Lee, SS JJ Hardy, 3B Mark Reynolds, DH Vladimir Guerrero, RP Justin Duchscherer, RP Kevin Gregg, RP Jeremy Accardo.
• Key departures: 3B Ty Wigginton, SP Kevin Millwood, RHP David Hernandez, OF Corey Patterson.
• The O's made several short-term moves to improve this offseason, especially offensively, and hope to improve upon the team's last-place finish in the AL East.
• Can manager Buck Showalter continue the turnaround after a strong final two months of the 2010 season?
• 2B Brian Roberts is the key to the offense and should be back and healthy this season after missing most of 2010 with back problems, though he's already experienced back spasms in camp.