Red Sox favored in AL East, though path to title won't be an easy one

The Red Sox are favored to win the American League East, but that is not as obvious as it looks.

The Red Sox have strong pitching with Rick Porcello, the 2016 AL Cy Young winner, and Chris Sale in the rotation, but David Price starts the season on the disabled list, thanks to a sore elbow. After that, the Red Sox rotation is iffy with guys like Steven Wright, Drew Pomeranz and Eduardo Rodriguez.

Every AL East team is in the same boat.

The Orioles are without Chris Tillman. The Yankees aren't sure how their rotation will pitch after Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia. Will Luis Severino live up to potential? Same for Bryan Mitchell and Luis Cessa.

The Blue Jays rotation questions: Will J.A. Happ and Marco Estrada repeat strong 2016 seasons?

Tampa Bay has likely the strongest rotation, but the Rays, as usual, are challenged to score runs.

Presenting the AL East:

BALTIMORE: The Orioles aren't much different from last year's team, a team that lost a wild card playoff game after leading the AL in home runs (253) and finishing seventh in runs scored (744) while stealing 19 bases in 32 tries, the fewest attempts since that statistic started in 1951. ... Tillman won't pitch in April and his shoulder injury is scary for the Orioles until they see him pitch. ... Kevin Gausman could be in the Cy Young conversation this season and Dylan Bundy's innings - he threw 109 1/3 last season - will be interesting to watch. ... Wade Miley and Ubaldo Jiménez can be either good or bad, but that's nothing new for the Orioles, especially with Jimenez. ... The bullpen's depth is a strength leading up to closer Zach Britton and his deadly sinker. ... The Orioles' new catcher is Welington Castillo. He could hit 20 home runs, but his defense can be suspect. Caleb Joseph is the backup and Chance Sisco, who has a .402 on-base percentage in the minors, should soon be ready to take over the job. ... With Chris Davis, who leads the majors with 187 home runs and 968 strikeouts since 2012, and Mark Trumbo, who led the AL with 47 home runs last season, leading the way, the Orioles should once again lead the AL in home runs. ... Adam Jones is an excellent player whose leadership skills shined in the World Baseball Classic. ... Manny Machado, who had 78 extra-base hits last season, is an all-world third baseman and still only 24. ... Jonathan Schoop at second base has good power as well and while he's got All-Star potential, there's strong competition at that position for the AL.

BOSTON: After a 93-win season in 2016, the Red Sox, with an improved rotation and bullpen, are the favorites to win the AL East. Last season, the Red Sox lost to Cleveland in the first round of the playoffs. ... After 14 seasons in Boston, Red Sox legend David Ortiz has retired and will be replaced by Hanley Ramirez at DH. Ramirez has tried left field and first base, so DH might be the best position for him. ... Dustin Pedroia is the last remaining links to the Red Sox's World Series title teams. ... In addition to Ramirez, the Red Sox will likely have four other players with 20-plus home runs this season, including Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mitch Moreland, the new first baseman. ... Craig Kimbrel was a consistent closer with the 2011-14 Braves and the Red Sox hope mechanical adjustments will help him rebound from an inconsistent first season (3.40 ERA) in Boston. Tyler Thornburg, a setup man acquired from Milwaukee, is a strikeout power guy. ... The rotation has pitchers with Cy Young credentials. Sale is consistently voted into the top five. Price, who starts the season on the disabled list with a sore left elbow, won the 2006 award with Tampa Bay and Porcello, 28, is the reigning AL Cy Young. Now there's no more second-guessing about the $82 million contract Porcello signed. ... Third baseman Pablo Sandoval has a chance to redeem himself after weight issues and injury cost him credibility with Red Sox fans last season.

NEW YORK: The Yankees have hit the reset button in a weird way: They are rebuilding with a talented group of prospects, yet they spend $86 million closer Aroldis Chapman, who had a 1.55 ERA for the Cubs and Yankees last season. ... Dellin Betances and former National Tyler Clippard will set up Chapman, so the bullpen can dominate. ... The Yankees' spring training went well and the only problem was that shortstop Didi Gregorius returned from the WBC with a shoulder injury. He could be out six weeks. ... The new building blocks include catcher Gary Sánchez, who hit 20 home runs in 201 at-bats in the final two months last season; outfielder Aaron Judge is a 6-foot-7 kid that struck out 42 times in 84 at-bats last season, and first baseman Greg Bird, who missed last season with a shoulder injury. ... Bird is a left-handed hitter who will benefit from Yankee Stadium's short right field porch. Sánchez improved his contact hitting this spring. ... Second baseman Starlin Castro, 26, has 1,147 career hits. ... The rotation is led by lefty Sabathia, 36, who had knee surgery last year and relies on location instead of power and Masahiro Tanaka, who has a deadly splitter. Tanaka had a 3.07 ERA last season while Sabathia was at 3.91. ... The Yankees need consistent pitching from Michael Pineda and from prospects such as Cessna, Mitchell and Severino. Severino showed promise in 2015, but slipped last season. Severino can be nasty if he figures out how to use his 99-mph fastball. ... The next contract that looks like a waste of money: 33-year-old Jacoby Ellsbury has four years left on his $153 million deal and he's not the base stealing threat he used to be. ... The new DH is Matt Holliday, a former Rockie and Cardinal learning the role for the first time.

TAMPA BAY: The Rays have won 77, 80 and 68 games in the last three seasons. Before that, they were at 90-plus wins in five of six seasons. Their calling card has always been strong pitching and defense. Last season, they hit a franchise-record 216 home runs, but they weren't anywhere close to contention. ... Like Oakland, the Rays are in need of a new ballpark and an attendance boost, so would a winning team make a difference in ticket sales? ... As usual, their strength is the rotation with Chris Archer (4.02 ERA in 2016), Alex Cobb, Jake Odorizzi (3.69) and Blake Snell (3.54) in the top four slots. Cobb returned from elbow surgery and had a 8.59 ERA in September, but the Rays were encouraged by what they saw in his mechanics. ... Former Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos, 29, is expected to start behind the plate by midseason. He's recovering from a second knee surgery after hitting .307 with 22 home runs and an .850 OPS last season in D.C. ... Derek Norris is also on the team, signing with the Rays after being released by Washington earlier this month. ... The face of the franchise, Evan Longoria, is coming off a season where he hit 36 home runs with 98 RBIs. Longoria has played in at least 160 games in each of the last four seasons, including 162 in 2014. ... Trading second baseman Logan Forsythe to the Dodgers for pitching prospect Jose DeLeon wasn't popular, especially if DeLeon doesn't grow into a big-time pitcher. Forsythe's bat is going to be missed in Tampa Bay. ... Brad Miller, who hit .243 last season, will be the new second baseman. .... The outfield is anchored by center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who has won Gold Gloves in each of his first two seasons. Colby Rasmus and Steven Souza Jr. will flank him. Given the lack of offense, there will be pressure on Souza and Rasmus to not only hit home runs, but also hit for average as well. ... The closer, Alex Colome, a pitcher the Nationals thought about acquiring in a trade, posted a 1.91 ERA with 37 saves last season. But, the Rays didn't make any moves in the bullpen and their bullpen was one of the AL's worst last season.

TORONTO: The Blue Jays, who had 89 wins last year and beat the Orioles in the wild card game, have a new look this year: Power hitters Edwin Encarnacion and Michael Saunders are gone, so they'll be more dependent on pitching than a high-octane offense. ... Kendrys Morales, 33, who hit .263-30-93 with Kansas City, replaces Encarnacion as the DH, but while Morales' numbers impress, he's not the same dangerous bat as Encarnacion. ... Former Oriole Steve Pearce, who hit 15 home runs in 85 games with the Orioles and Rays last season, will be part of the solution in left field, along with Ezequiel Carrera and Melvin Upton Jr. Pearce will also see action at first and DH. ... Jose Bautista, 36, returned to the Blue Jays after he couldn't find a contract in the free agent market. He's coming off a slow year, so how much can be rebound? ... The Blue Jays' firepower will come from Josh Donaldson (.284-37-99 in 2016) and Troy Tulowitzki (.254-24-79). ... Second baseman Devon Travis is an underrated player and has a chance to be a .300 hitter. ... The Blue Jays' strength is their rotation, which led the AL last season in quality starts (99), innings by a rotation (995), ERA (3.64) and WHIP (1.22), but their thin bullpen could be a problem. Lefty J.P. Howell and Joe Smith are key relievers getting to closer Roberto Osuna, a power pitcher who had 36 saves and a 2.68 ERA last season. .... The rotation is led by Aaron Sanchez (18-2, 3.00) and includes J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada, Marcus Stroman, and Francisco Liriano. Stroman was the WBC MVP for Team USA. ... The catcher is Russell Martin, a strong defensive catcher and a good leader for the pitching staff, even if he doesn't hit. ... The biggest questions for the rotation: Can Happ repeat his 3.18 ERA from 2016 and will Estrada do the same with his 3.58?

Gausman on the wild side in last spring start
Orioles to celebrate Kids' Opening Day on April 9

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to