Around the AL East

What’s happening with the other teams we’re going to get familiar with (at least 19 times each) this season?
Baltimore Orioles
– Javy Lopez is not adjusting well to first-base. Despite being upbeat, Lopez is going to have to improve if he wants to play the field, or he’s going to become a DH. “He seems out of place during relay throws and often forgets to cover a specific base. He will throw wildly while practicing a double play and his feet can become entangled when he tries to reach and tag a base.”
– The Orioles signed Richard Hidalgo to a minor league contract … after proving to be more deserving of a contract than Jeromy Burnitz and Kevin Millar. Hidalgo should provide cheap offensive production and should parlay this season into a multi-year contract next year. The Orioles look to be an okay group of ballplayers, but just that – okay. They can contend, but it’s going to take a lot of people playing above their heads.
New York Yankees
– Randy Johnson will make his 13th Opening Day start, this one for the Yankees. Mike Mussina and Chien-Ming Wang are slated to follow Johnson. Shawn Chacon, Aaron Small, Jaret Wright, and Darrell Rasner are all in the mix with the final two spots, as Carl Pavano is expected to start the season the DL. I expect Johnson to have a better season than last year, but that’s about all I can say about this motley crew. The Yankees come September will have gone through the meat grinder in terms of starters yet again.
– Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui are hurting. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them both take a slight dip in value this year. Damon’s going to help stave off the decline of the Yankees, but it’s been coming for a couple of years, and they can’t stop it.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
– Don’t feel bad, Sam. I got nothing, either. Hence this column. The Rays actually don’t have much fodder going on. There’s a lot of competition, unlike the Sox, but there’s nothing noteworthy. However… a conversion from first base to third base is being asked of Wes Bankston, who can play anywhere he wants because of his offense. Speaking of offense, Rocco Baldelli is going to play for the first time since October 2004 today. Rocco gives the Devil Rays incredible depth in the outfield, and they need to parlay that into something that can help the Rays.
– That could be Scott Olsen of the Marlins, as the Devil Rays are chewing over acquiring Olsen for Joey Gathright. They feel that Gathright is worth more, but with the depth at OF they have, they need to make the trade to get more pitching. Speaking of pitching, Doug Waechter had his mechanics tweaked. This is probably his last shot to stick as a starter before being completely converted to a reliever. 2005 wins leader Mark Hendrickson (that was, while factual, completely tongue in cheek) is ailing a bit … not that it matters.
Toronto Blue Jays
– It’s been a very quiet camp for the Jays thus far. The significant news is that Vernon Wells, who has been ailing a bit, has recieved a ringing endorsement from the Jay brass in his decision to play in the World Baseball Classic. The WBC is starting to become a running joke, but it was an idea long overdue, and I’m not sold the recent agitation to have it moved to the All-Star Break – I think now is a good time.
– Eric Hinske is going to try to move to right field, his third such position adjustment. Alexis Rios, his main competition, made a statement with two HRs and six RBI in a game yesterday. There has been nothing on AJ Burnett, BJ Ryan, or Bengie Molina. They’re all quite happy to be a Blue Jay and are doing just fine, thank you for asking.
Also, if you missed it yesterday, Coco Crisp had a single, double, and triple in three at-bats. Here’s the game summary.

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