First week of new seasons brings unexpected twists and turns in AL East

A week into the season, the Yankees are already on Plan C at shortstop. Gleyber Torres played the position Thursday against the Orioles in the Camden Yards home opener.

It worked fine.

Torres, batting seventh, hit two home runs in the Yankees’ 8-4 victory against the Orioles. His single in the eighth inning gave him a career-high four hits.

The Yankees’ standing-room-only injured list is the biggest story from the American League East’s first week.

The Yankees knew their regular shortstop, Didi Gregorius, was going to start on the injured list because of elbow surgery. He’s not expected back for at least a couple of months. The Yankees acquired Toronto shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who went on the injured list Thursday with a calf strain.

So Torres, who is supposed to be the second baseman, is the Yankees shortstop. Tyler Wade, who came up from the minors after third baseman Miguel Andújar went on the injured list, takes over for second for Torres.

The Yankees’ new third baseman is D.J. LeMahieu, the former Rockies second baseman who has played third only four times since 2014.

The new backup infielder is Thairo Estrada, who is getting his first chance in the big leagues. He’s a career .283 hitter in six minor league season and is best known for getting shot in the leg during a robbery while at a restaurant with his wife in his Venezuela home town.

In all, the Yankees have 11 players sidelined with injuries, including Giancarlo Stanton, CC Sabathia, Luis Severino, Dellin Betances and Aaron Hicks.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone said before the game that his players, despite the injuries, are in the “right frame of mind. Such is the nature of big-league baseball. We will be better for having gone through this.’‘

And, while the Yankees battle injuries, the Red Sox are trying to find their rotation.

Last season, Boston started 17-2 and had few - if any - issues in going on to win the World Series. This season, they are looking for a starter to give them a quality start. Eduardo Rodriguez couldn’t do it Thursday in Oakland.

And who is going to be the Red Sox closer?

Manager Alex Cora wouldn’t name one at the end of spring training, and the Red Sox haven’t needed a regular closer early, so no one knows for sure. It’s likely closer by committee.

The Red Sox haven’t played a home game yet. They started in Seattle, went to Oakland and are in Arizona this weekend.

Teams that play in the World Series, which stretches into November, deal with hangover fatigue the following season because pitchers need more rest and can’t get into their normal spring training rhythm.

World Series teams usually don’t start winning immediately. The Dodgers started 16-26 last year but made it to a second consecutive World Series.

The 2014 World Series champion Giants were 9-13 after April the next season. The Cubs won the World Series in 2016 and were two games under .500 going into June 2017. Kansas City won the World Series in 2015 and was a game above .500 for the first month of the next season.

Like the Orioles, the Blue Jays are rebuilding, but their starting pitching looks healthy and strong. Marcus Stroman, limited by a shoulder injury in 2018 after two consecutive seasons of 200-plus innings, is throwing free and easy.

Aaron Sanchez, who has made 18 starts in the last two years combined because of injuries, is throwing in the upper 90s, and Matt Shoemaker has two scoreless starts.

Tampa Bay, a 90-game winner last season, has its usual pitching strength. The Rays’ 1.52 ERA is the lowest ERA in the league and 35-year-old Charlie Morton has pitched well in his first two games, including eight strikeouts against his former Astros teammates.

Reigning AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell had 13 strikeouts in a game against Colorado. With Tyler Glasnow, the first three slots in the rotation are excellent. And the Rays will use the opener strategy twice through the rotation.

The Orioles have been impressive the first week. David Hess pitched well in Toronto. The defense looks solid. Trey Mancini is hitting.

But, there are questions: Will Andrew Cashner build on a solid second start? Will Dylan Bundy be consistent? Will manager Brandon Hyde find a fifth starter or use Nate Karns as an opener?

Will Hyde settle on bullpen roles? (Mychal Givens, the assumed closer, pitched in the seventh inning Thursday.)

Shortstop Richie Martin looks good on defense, but will his .300 average and .368 on-base percentage at Double-A Midland (Texas) transfer to the bigs?

For now, Martin looks overmatched. But, hey, a week into the season, it’s too early to judge.