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Orioles preparing to promote Reimold on Tuesday

Posted on 08 June 2015 by Luke Jones

As they continue to receive abysmal production in left field, the Orioles are prepared to add a familiar name to the outfield mix.

Multiple outlets reported Monday that outfielder Nolan Reimold is expected to have his contract selected from Triple-A Norfolk in time for the start of a three-game set with the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night. Signed to a minor-league contract in the offseason, the 31-year-old had an opt-out clause he could exercise next month and the Orioles are still searching for solutions at the corner outfield positions.

Orioles left fielders are hitting just .200 with four home runs and a .550 on-base plus slugging percentage this season with a number of players failing to provide consistent production.

In 194 plate appearances for the Tides this season, Reimold was hitting .286 with two home runs, 12 doubles, 13 RBIs, five stolen bases, and a .739 OPS. After a slow start, the 2005 second-round pick is hitting .422 over his last 14 games in the International League.

A well-documented injury history prevented Reimold from realizing his once-encouraging potential when he hit .279 with 15 homers and an .831 OPS as a 25-year-old rookie with the Orioles in 2009. While other ailments hindered his development, Reimold’s career nearly came to an end in 2012 when he underwent spinal fusion surgery and needed a second fusion a year later.

After beginning the 2014 season on the disabled list, Reimold was designated for assignment by the Orioles and had stints with Toronto and Arizona before becoming a free agent in the offseason. Because he is out of minor-league options, the Orioles had been hesitant to call him up to the majors this season as they believe he would not pass through waivers if they tried to send him back to the minors.

Reimold hit .340 in the Grapefruit League to establish himself as a potential option for the 2015 club.

It remains unclear who the Orioles will remove from the 25-man roster to make room for Reimold as they are currently playing a man short with left-handed reliever Brian Matusz needing to serve five more games of an eight-game suspension. It’s possible that Baltimore could option a reliever to the minors and go with a six-man bullpen as the current bench has just three position players.

Current Baltimore outfielders David Lough, Travis Snider, and Steve Pearce are all out of minor-league options.

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Orioles send De Aza to Boston for minor-league pitcher, cash

Posted on 03 June 2015 by Luke Jones

After designating Alejandro De Aza for assignment last week, the Orioles announced Wednesday that they had traded the veteran outfielder to the Boston Red Sox.

Baltimore received minor-league pitcher Joe Gunkel and cash considerations in return as Boston is dealing with outfielder concerns of its own so far in 2015. De Aza was hitting .214 with three home runs and seven RBIs this season and carries a $5 million salary for the 2015 season.

The 23-year-old Gunkel is from nearby Hershey, Pa. and was an 18th-round selection in the 2013 draft. He carries a 12-7 career record with a 3.05 ERA in 54 appearances — 20 of them starts — over three professional seasons while fanning 178 over 165 innings.

In 2015, Gunkel is a combined 3-2 with a 2.90 ERA split between Single-A Salem and Double-A Portland. He will be assigned to Double-A Bowie in Baltimore’s farm system.

In other news, right-handed pitcher Bud Norris completed his final rehab start pitching for Triple-A Norfolk, completing four hitless innings and retiring 12 of the 13 hitters he faced. He could be activated from the 15-day disabled list to make Sunday’s start in Cleveland, but it remains to be seen whether he will pitch effectively enough to stay in the starting rotation after a nightmarish beginning to the 2015 campaign.

Sunday would be rookie Mike Wright’s turn in the rotation.

Catcher Matt Wieters went 3-for-5 with a homer, two singles, a walk, and one RBI for the Tides in the final two games of his minor-league rehab assignment as he caught the opener and served as the designated hitter in the nightcap of Norfolk’s doubleheader. He is expected to be activated from the 60-day DL on Friday to play in his first game for the Orioles since May 10, 2014.

Lefty reliever Brian Matusz had his appeal hearing for his eight-game suspension on Wednesday afternoon with manager Buck Showalter and executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette in attendance. It remains unclear when a decision will be rendered on whether he will serve the full suspension for having a foreign substance on his right forearm while pitching in a game at Miami on May 23.

To prepare for Matusz’ absence and to give themselves extra length in the bullpen, the Orioles recalled left-handed pitcher T.J. McFarland from Norfolk and optioned right-hander Oliver Drake to the Tides. Baltimore will be forced to play a man short on the active roster during the suspension.

Shortstop J.J. Hardy was out of the lineup for the third straight game Wednesday night as he deals with a left oblique issue. The Orioles hope he can avoid the 15-day DL, but it remains unclear when he will return to the lineup.


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Orioles feeling better after regrouping against Boston

Posted on 26 April 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — You often hope a dramatic moment like David Lough’s walk-off homer against Boston on Saturday night will be the sign of better fortunes to come.

It helped the Orioles snap a five-game losing streak and sent fans home happy after a tense day in downtown Baltimore, but “magical” occurrences like this can be found in virtually any season with most being of little consequence in the scope of a 162-game schedule. That’s what made Sunday’s demolition of the Red Sox that much more encouraging.

Manager Buck Showalter often quotes the late Earl Weaver’s philosophy of momentum being as good as the next day’s starting pitcher, and Bud Norris delivered with 6 2/3 strong innings despite his nightmarish beginning to the 2015 season. Of course, he received plenty of support as the Orioles lineup matched its highest run total since April 19, 2006.

“It was one we kind of needed,” said right fielder Delmon Young, who drove in five runs in Sunday’s 18-7 final. “We’ve been playing sloppy baseball for about a week or so. Good to get out of the rut. We had been swinging the bats well, [but] just hadn’t been playing on the defensive side well. And Bud pitched a strong game.”

The Orioles played sound defense — something that shouldn’t be taken for granted of late — and Norris quieted questions about his status in the starting rotation for the time being by holding the Red Sox scoreless until surrendering a three-run home run to Pablo Sandoval with two outs in the seventh inning. Norris lowered his ERA from 17.42 to 12.18 in his first four starts covering 17 innings.

It was his outing that was the most encouraging development of the afternoon despite the Orioles collecting 20 hits in a game for the first time in over a year.

“Bud, without a doubt,” said Showalter when asked if he placed more importance on the performance of his starting pitcher or the offense. “That’s the Bud that pitched well for us last year. This guy won 15 games last year, and he was in attack mode today. He got a little tired there at the end. Threw a lot of strike ones. He was around the zone the whole day. Bud was good.”

Norris showed improved fastball command in allowing seven hits and three earned runs while walking three and striking out two to help the Orioles win their third series of the season. His six clean innings were more than his total number of clean frames (five) in his first three outings combined.

After completing six innings just four times in their first 16 games, Orioles starters are on a mini-roll with Miguel Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen, and Norris each turning in six or more innings over the weekend. But Norris needed a good outing more than any pitcher on the roster after a rough spring and two of the worst starts of his major league career coming in his first three outings of 2015.

“It feels really good, to be honest, just to prove to these guys that I’m here to help out again,” Norris said. “These guys know who I am. We’re trying to find our stride. We have a good group in this clubhouse, and we’re excited with the year to go.”

Yes, the Orioles regrouped nicely this weekend to calm some nerves after a 7-10 start and their ugly five-game slide. Still dealing with injuries, they need to see their pitching step up and the defense to stabilize with some new pieces until the likes of J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters are able to return.

The offense is certainly doing its part, entering Sunday ranking sixth in the majors in runs scored and taking over the major-league lead with its highest run total in almost a decade.

Fans will hope Lough’s walk-off homer and a drubbing of the Red Sox on Sunday are the catalysts for a hot streak to even out the early struggles, but the next indicator comes against the Chicago White Sox with Ubaldo Jimenez taking the hill against Hector Noesi on Monday night.

“Momentum stops once you go to sleep,” Young said. “It’s a new pitcher, a new day.”

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Pearce trying to snap out of early-season slump

Posted on 25 April 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — While the Orioles were trying to snap their longest losing streak since 2013 on Saturday night, Steve Pearce continues to fight his own struggles to begin the 2015 campaign.

Starting only once in the club’s last seven games, the 32-year-old is trying to recapture the magic that made him one of the best stories of the 2014 season. After hitting a career-high 21 home runs and posting a club-best .930 on-base plus slugging percentage in 383 plate appearances last year, Pearce appeared ready to pick up where he left off with two homers in the first two games of the 2015 season, which followed a strong spring performance. Since starting the year with three hits in his first five at-bats, however, Pearce has gone 5-for-41 with 12 strikeouts, dropping his average to .167 and his OPS to .551.

The activation of the hot-hitting Jimmy Paredes and Pearce’s struggles have largely left the latter on the bench. But Pearce can’t fault manager Buck Showalter for going with hotter hitters in recent days.

“I’ve been like a one-man rally-killer these past weeks,” Pearce said. “It’s just been frustrating, and I think Buck sees that I’m very frustrated. I’m not swinging the bat like I’m capable of doing. But baseball comes around; it always does. I just want to get back to where I know I can play.”

Pearce offered signs of snapping out of his slump Friday night with two strong at-bats off the bench against the Boston bullpen. Hitting for left field Alejandro De Aza in the bottom of the seventh, the right-handed hitter quickly fell behind 0-2 against Alexi Ogando before coaxing a walk in an eight-pitch at-bat to load the bases. Then, facing Red Sox closer Koji Uehara in the ninth, Pearce ripped an 0-2 pitch into the left-field corner for a long single.

The Orioles dropped their fifth consecutive game in a 7-5 final, but the flashes from Pearce are an encouraging development, especially when he was identified by executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and Showalter as a big reason why the Orioles could endure the offseason departures of Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz. Despite starting Saturday’s game on the bench once again, Pearce was happy to get a return for the behind-the-scenes work he’s completed in recent days.

“It definitely builds some confidence, but I’m working every day and working hard,” Pearce said. “Just mechanically, I want to get right and help the team get back on the right track.”

Seeing Pearce relegated to reserve duties for such an extended time is surprising considering his struggles have come in a small sample size.

His success from last year has allowed him to remain confident, but the journeyman outfielder and first baseman even recalls similar struggles in 2014 that weren’t magnified like they are now at the start of a new season. From July 6 through Aug. 16 of last year, Pearce batted just .167 with one homer and a .504 OPS in 82 plate appearances.

He bounced back to post an 1.144 OPS with 10 home runs over his final 118 plate appearances of the regular season.

“It helps a lot. I know I can play at this level,” said Pearce about drawing inspiration from 2014. “I went through the same period last year. I think it was after the All-Star break that I struggled exactly like this. I know there is light at the end of the tunnel.”


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Walks again pivotal in Orioles’ 7-5 loss to Boston

Posted on 25 April 2015 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — Orioles pitching entered Friday’s series opener against the Boston Red Sox leading the major leagues with 67 walks in 16 games.

And free passes at inopportune times once again hurt the Orioles in dropping their fifth consecutive game in a 7-5 final at Camden Yards.

“We only walked two guys tonight, and the two really bit us against a good team,” said manager Buck Showalter, who pointed to the high number of bases on balls being his biggest pet peeve of the young season prior to Friday’s game. “The walks hurt us, but at least we cut down on them. They really bit us.”

In the fifth inning, starter Miguel Gonzalez issued a bases-empty, two-out walk to Mookie Betts before eventually allowing a three-run homer to David Ortiz and a solo shot by Hanley Ramirez. The four-run frame spoiled an otherwise-solid outing by the Orioles right-hander.

With the scored tied 4-4 with two outs and the bases empty in the top of the eighth, lefty specialist Brian Matusz was summoned to pitch to the switch-hitting Pablo Sandoval, who was 0-for-13 against southpaws so far in 2015. Instead of following up Tommy Hunter’s 1 2/3 innings of strong work by getting his man, Matusz walked Sandoval and was promptly lifted in favor of Darren O’Day. A Manny Machado fielding error and a Brock Holt three-run homer later, Baltimore trailed 7-4.

Of course, the home runs were the death knells, but the two-out walks paved the way for trouble.

“We didn’t do the little things tonight,” said O’Day, who credited Holt for hitting a quality 1-2 pitch over the right-field scoreboard. “We made a lot of small errors, and our strength is paying attention to detail. We just didn’t do it tonight — both sides of the ball.”

Machado’s fielding miscue — the Orioles have now committed eight errors over their last five games  — came after he had struck out in an eight-pitch at-bat with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh.

It didn’t take much, but the Orioles continue to do the little things poorly and it cost them another game on Friday.

* Baltimore has now lost five straight for the first time since a six-game losing streak from Sept. 19-24, 2013.

* Matusz has walked seven batters in 7 1/3 innings, which is tied for fourth on the club. He’s tied for 11th in innings pitched.

* Gonzalez gave the Orioles only their fifth start of the season to go six innings or more. The 30-year-old has provided the last two, both coming at home.

* Counting the 2014 postseason, O’Day has given up seven homers in his last 20 innings dating back to Sept. 2 of last year.



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Ortiz’s response to Palmer reeks of his entitlement

Posted on 21 April 2015 by Luke Jones

Who would have guessed it would be a 69-year-old Hall of Fame pitcher to provide the biggest spark to the Orioles-Red Sox rivalry in a few years?

If you’re a social media participant, you’re likely already aware of Orioles broadcaster Jim Palmer using Twitter to criticize David Ortiz after the Boston designated hitter’s antics led to his ejection from Sunday’s game. Major League Baseball announced Tuesday afternoon that Ortiz had been suspended one game and fined an undisclosed amount for making contact with home plate umpire John Tumpane in the moments after he was thrown out, but the veteran hitter will appeal the decision.

Yes, you could argue Palmer shouldn’t have fanned the flames of the story by responding to and posting a number of replies from angry Red Sox fans who view “Big Papi” as an infallible figure, but the beauty of social media can be the interaction with a famous figure, right? In reading Palmer’s Twitter timeline, it was amusing to see some show off their baseball ignorance in saying they’d never heard of one of the greatest pitchers of the last 50 years.

To no one’s surprise, Palmer’s criticism didn’t sit well with Ortiz, who again showed off the same entitlement that led to him being tossed from Sunday’s game in the first place.

“That’s how he wants to get respect from us? Is that how he wants me to respect him?” Ortiz said to reporters in Boston on Monday. “It’s not going to happen.”

Of Ortiz’s 11 career ejections, the last three have come against the Orioles, which provides extra ammunition for Palmer’s hard truths. Perhaps the Red Sox slugger had forgotten about a certain dugout phone he destroyed a couple years ago?

What takes the cake, however, is Ortiz suggesting Palmer made the comments to garner more attention for himself. Never mind the fact that we’re talking about a Hall of Fame pitcher who’s never been afraid to share his opinion in his three decades as a broadcaster.

“Actually, I thought that he was one of my guys,” Ortiz said. “All of a sudden, now he’s killing me, huh? I guess anybody who wants to get famous or make some noise comes to Papi, right?”

Or, Palmer just sees a tired act, whether we’re talking about Ortiz’s intimidation of umpires or the general way in which he makes everyone wait on him in the midst of a game. There’s no disputing how great his career has been or how beloved Ortiz is in the city of Boston, but to suggest a Hall of Famer — a title Ortiz hopes to enjoy one day — is trying to become famous at his expense is as arrogant as it gets.

It’s just Ortiz’s world and we’re all living in it, I suppose.

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Orioles bullpen picks great time to right itself

Posted on 19 April 2015 by Luke Jones

If you’d been told going into the weekend that Orioles starters would pitch only 14 innings in the first three contests of a four-game set at Fenway Park, you’d probably think there’s a good chance they’d be waking up Monday morning trying to avoid a sweep.

Instead, Baltimore will have an opportunity to earn the series win against the Boston Red Sox, and they can thank a bounce-back performance from the bullpen for it. After being scored upon in each of the first 10 games of the 2015 season, Orioles relievers pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings to preserve wins on Saturday and Sunday.

The Orioles had to figure the bullpen would be busy this weekend with Red Sox hitters’ propensity for taking pitches, but that expectation grew scarier Friday night with the surprising ejection of starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez in the fourth inning. Kevin Gausman, Brian Matusz, and Tommy Hunter didn’t quell those concerns when they combined to give up three earned runs in three innings of work in the 3-2 series-opening loss.

But the rest of the weekend was excellent for manager Buck Showalter as Brad Brach, Darren O’Day, and Zach Britton pitched 3 2/3 shutout innings to preserve a 4-1 win on Saturday and Hunter and Gausman turned in four scoreless frames to back up Miguel Gonzalez in Sunday’s 8-3 final. Staked to a five-run lead when Adam Jones hit a three-run double in the top of the sixth, Hunter and Gausman didn’t exactly enter in a pressure-filled situation, but the Red Sox have reminded you many times over the years that no lead is completely safe at Fenway.

Hunter induced four grounders and a strikeout in two perfect innings while Gausman relied more on his fastball than we’ve seen recently in striking out one and allowing a two-out double to Pablo Sandoval in the eighth in an otherwise stress-free outing.

The Orioles are supremely confident in Britton and O’Day in the back end of the bullpen, but they need the quartet of Hunter, Gausman, Brach, and Brian Matusz to consistently bridge the gap from the starters to the late innings. With the bullpen currently hamstrung by Rule 5 pick Jason Garcia — he’s pitched only twice in the first dozen games of the season — Showalter needs more efficiency than usual from the rest of his relievers.

With the lineup currently missing former All-Star selections J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters as well as young second baseman Jonathan Schoop, the Orioles need their pitching to pick up some of the slack in the coming days and weeks to continue winning games.

Jones rightfully received the headlines for another blistering day at the plate Sunday that included a home run and five RBIs, but it was the improved work from Hunter and Gausman that was the most encouraging development for the Orioles as they pulled into a first-place tie with Boston in the American League East going into Monday morning’s Patriots’ Day finale.

And the Orioles bullpen turned what could have been a nightmarish weekend in Boston into a chance to take three of four from the offense-happy Red Sox.

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Schoop out indefinitely with partially-torn PCL, sprained MCL

Posted on 18 April 2015 by Luke Jones

The injury bug continues to bite the Orioles as second baseman Jonathan Schoop has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right knee injury suffered in Friday’s loss to Boston.

The 23-year-old suffered a partial tear of the posterior cruciate ligament and a mild sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee when he tripped over first base running out a grounder. Fortunately, he did not suffer any damage to his anterior cruciate ligament.

Manager Buck Showalter told reporters in Boston that Schoop’s injury was not caused by the hard slide of Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval trying to break up a double play in the second inning.

There is no timetable for Schoop’s return, but Showalter expressed optimism that the young infielder will return at some point this season. His injury will not require surgery and is apparently not as serious as the PCL tear suffered by veteran infielder Wilson Betemit in spring training two years ago. Betemit did not return until late August of that season and appeared in only six games before being released a few weeks later.

Schoop is expected to travel to Sarasota to begin rehabbing the injury. This is the third significant knee injury suffered by an Orioles infielder under age 24 in less than two years after third baseman Manny Machado suffered serious knee injuries in each of the last two seasons.

Infielder Jimmy Paredes was activated from the 15-day DL to take Schoop’s place on the 25-man roster. With Schoop joining shortstop J.J. Hardy on the DL, the Orioles’ decision to sign veteran infielder Everth Cabrera appears that much wiser less than two months later. Cabrera was starting at shortstop with Ryan Flaherty playing second base in Saturday’s game against the Red Sox.

The Orioles will clearly miss Schoop’s strong defense at second base, but his strong start offensively had fans salivating at his potential in his second full season as he was batting .259 with three home runs, seven RBIs, and a .940 on-base plus slugging percentage in 29 plate appearances.


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Jimenez ejected from Friday night’s game

Posted on 17 April 2015 by Luke Jones

The Orioles’ four-game series with the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park got off to a bizarre start Friday night with the fourth-inning ejection of starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez.

Jimenez had yet to allow a hit when he plunked Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval in the upper back on the first pitch of a plate appearance that came with two outs and nobody on base in the fourth. Without warning, home plate umpire Jordan Baker ejected the right-hander from the game, much to the disgust of manager Buck Showalter and the Orioles.

In the second inning, Sandoval had slid hard into second baseman Jonathan Schoop trying to break up a potential double play, but no one from the Orioles had appeared to react with any initial animosity. The former San Francisco Giants third baseman entered the night 11-for-34 with two home runs and five RBIs in his career against Jimenez.

After the 4-3 loss, Showalter labeled the decision to throw Jimenez out of the game “professionally embarrassing” in an interview with MASN and wanted Major League Baseball to be aware of his disenchantment with Baker’s decision.

Baker’s decision to toss the Baltimore hurler was unusual to put it kindly considering neither side had even been issued a warning and Jimenez is notorious for having control problems after walking 5.5 batters per nine innings last season. Even though he hadn’t allowed a hit, the 31-year-old had already walked three hitters on the evening.

With the Orioles facing one of the best lineups in baseball for four games at Fenway this weekend, the forced exit was not an encouraging development in forcing Showalter to go to his bullpen in the fourth inning of the opener. Right-hander Kevin Gausman came on to relieve Jimenez.

It’s clear that Baker thought Jimenez threw at Sandoval intentionally, but issuing a warning to each side would have been the more appropriate action without upsetting the competitive balance of the game — and possibly the series — and potentially creating more bad blood in the first of 19 games between the clubs this season.

Baker is a fourth-year major league umpire and has gained attention for an unusual ritual, making you wonder if Jimenez inadvertently — or intentionally, in the umpire’s mind — stole some of his bubblegum before the game.


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2015 American League East preview

Posted on 04 April 2015 by Luke Jones

No team has won the American League East with fewer than 95 wins since the 2000 New York Yankees won just 87 games in the regular season before eventually winning the World Series.

That 14-year run will end this season with the division showing more parity — and vulnerability — than it has in a long time.

Below is a capsule of the five AL East clubs in their predicted order of finish:

1. BALTIMORE (2014 record: 96-66, first place)
Notable additions: INF Everth Cabrera, OF Travis Snider, LHP Wesley Wright
Notable losses: OF Nelson Cruz, OF Nick Markakis, LHP Andrew Miller
Why to like them: The defense remains excellent, which will again transform a solid but unspectacular rotation and an already-strong bullpen into a pitching staff good enough to seriously contend.
Why to dislike them: Dan Duquette rested on his laurels by not bringing in a safer bet to replace either Cruz or Markakis, which puts much dependence on players returning from injuries.
Player to watch: Snider is a former first-round pick and is coming off an excellent second half with Pittsburgh, making him a solid candidate to be the Orioles’ annual surprising performer.
2015 outlook (89-73): I don’t love this Orioles club, but the Buck Showalter effect as well as bounce-back years from Manny Machado and Chris Davis will be enough to offset the void left behind by Cruz and Markakis. It’s tough to shake the feeling that 2014 was their last best chance to win a pennant with this core, but the Orioles don’t have as many glaring weaknesses or questions as their AL East foes.

2. BOSTON (2014 record: 71-91, fifth place)
Notable additions: 3B Pablo Sandoval, OF Hanley Ramirez, RHP Rick Porcello, LHP Wade Miley, RHP Justin Masterson
Notable losses: OF Yoenis Cespedes, 3B Will Middlebrooks
Why to like them: After struggling to score runs last season, the revamped Red Sox are primed to have one of the best lineups in baseball with dependable veterans and high-upside youth.
Why to dislike them: Four of their five projected starting pitchers weren’t on the roster a year ago and all but Porcello posted an ERA above 4.00 in 2014.
Player to watch: Center fielder Mookie Betts has raked all spring as teammates and observers have gushed over his potential at the top of the Boston order.
2015 outlook (87-75): If a similar roster were constructed 10 years ago, the Red Sox would be the overwhelming favorite to win the AL East with such an imposing lineup and they still might do it anyway. However, the current pitching-rich era in baseball makes you doubt an underwhelming rotation and a suspect bullpen. The pitching is what will ultimately prevent Boston from seizing the AL East title.

3. TORONTO (2014 record: 83-79, third place)
Notable additions: 3B Josh Donaldson, C Russell Martin, OF Michael Saunders
Notable losses: OF Melky Cabrera, INF Brett Lawrie, LHP J.A. Happ
Why to like them: After already scoring plenty of runs last year, the Blue Jays have a more potent lineup with the addition of an MVP-caliber player like Donaldson and the veteran Martin.
Why to dislike them: The bullpen is suspect and the rotation will lean on graybeards R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle while hoping youngsters Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris develop quickly.
Player to watch: The 21-year-old lefty Norris has plenty of talent and will begin the season in the Toronto rotation despite logging just 58 1/3 innings above the Single-A level in the minors.
2015 outlook (83-79): Nothing gets people going more about a club’s potential than talented young pitching, but it rarely comes together as quickly as you’d like. That reality along with a bullpen lacking the arms to consistently back them up will be the Blue Jays’ undoing late in the season as they fade behind Baltimore and Boston.

4. TAMPA BAY (2014 record: 77-85, fourth place)
Notable additions: OF Steven Souza, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, OF/C John Jaso
Notable losses: UTI Ben Zobrist, OF Wil Myers, RHP Jeremy Hellickson
Why to like them: If they’re able to overcome some early injury concerns, the Rays probably have the best starting rotation in the division, which will keep them competitive.
Why to dislike them: Offense was always a weakness even in their best years, but no one scares you at all in the current lineup except for third baseman Evan Longoria.
Player to watch: The 25-year-old Souza shows promise, but the Rays desperately need the offensive success he enjoyed at Triple-A Syracuse last season to carry over with his new club.
2015 outlook (80-82): The overall makeup of this division would have screamed for you to bet on the underdog Rays in past years, but that was before the departures of manager Joe Maddon and general manager Andrew Friedman. With starting pitchers Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly, and Matt Moore currently on the mend, the Rays will lag behind in the division early before improving as the year continues.

5. NEW YORK (2014 record: 84-78, second place)
Notable additions: SS Didi Gregorius, LHP Andrew Miller, RHP Nathan Eovaldi
Notable losses: RHP Hiroki Kuroda, RHP David Robertson, SS Derek Jeter
Why to like them: The upside of starting pitchers Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, and Michael Pineda speaks for itself if they can stay healthy.
Why to dislike them: Old, injury-prone, and expensive is no way to go through a 162-game season, which is exactly what the Yankees are trying to do at this point.
Player to watch: Reliever Dellin Betances is coming off a terrific season, but his velocity is down and his command has been poor this spring, which will cause him to share closer duties with Miller early on.
2015 outlook (78-84): The names you’ll find up and down the Yankees’ lineup would have had you salivating in 2011, but age and injuries will put too much pressure on a starting rotation praying that Tanaka’s elbow holds up and the 34-year-old Sabathia bounces back from knee surgery. The Yankees won’t be awful, but they will finish in last place for the first time since 1990.

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