American League season preview

MIKE GANTER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

NEW YORK YANKEES

2005: 95-67

1st in AL East

CHANGES: CF Johnny Damon was the key off-season acquisition. Mariano Rivera's set-up people will change with Kyle Farnsworth and left-handers Mike Myers and Ron Villone taking over from Tom Gordon and Alan Embree. Octavio Dotel won't be ready to start the year but he will bolster the pen when he returns.

OUTLOOK: Only an idiot would bet against a $190-million payroll but there are chinks in the Yankee armour. Starting pitching is both old and injury prone. Already they will begin the year without Carl Pavano. The only question is whether this lineup can overcome any pitching problems.

ROTATION

LH Randy Johnson

RH Mike Mussina

RH Shawn Chacon

RH Chien-Ming Wang

RH Jaret Wright

Closer

RH Mariano Rivera

LINEUP

CF Johnny Damon

SS Derek Jeter

3B Alex Rodriguez

RF Gary Sheffield

LF Hideki Matsui

1B Jason Giambi

C Jorge Posada

DH Bernie Williams

2B Robinson Cano

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

2005: 80-82

3rd in AL East

CHANGES: Spending spree netted new No. 2 starter in A.J. Burnett, new closer in B.J. Ryan and new No. 1 catcher in Bengie Molina. Trades brought more offence in 3B Troy Glaus and 1B Lyle Overbay. Aaron Hill takes over at second for gold-glover Orlando Hudson. Eric Hinske moves to right field where he will platoon with Alex Rios.

OUTLOOK: Team improved in every facet of the game with the exception of defence. Chances of contending appear to rest with health of A.J. Burnett and whether double-play combo of Russ Adams and Aaron Hill can provide solid defence in the middle infield.

ROTATION

RH Roy Halladay

RH A.J. Burnett

LH Ted Lilly

RH Josh Towers

LH Gustavo Chacin

Closer

LH B.J. Ryan

LINEUP

SS Russ Adams

LF Frank Catalanotto

CF Vernon Wells

3B Troy Glaus

1B Lyle Overbay

DH Shea Hillenbrand

C Bengie Molina

RF Eric Hinske

2B Aaron Hill

BOSTON RED SOX

2005: 95-67

2nd in AL East

CHANGES: Entire new infield with 1B Kevin Youkilis, 2B Mark Loretta, SS Alex Gonzalez (the other one) and third baseman Mike Lowell. New centre fielder in Coco Crisp replacing Johnny Damon while Josh Beckett joins an already decent rotation

OUTLOOK: This team could go either way. Pitching is decent, not great, but offence still has both Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz as its heart so scoring should not be a problem. Bullpen questions revolve around Keith Foulke's health although they appear to have a decent Plan B in rookie Jonathan Papelbon. All the changes make this team tough to predict.

ROTATION

RH Curt Schilling

RH Tim Wakefield

RH Josh Beckett

RH Matt Clement

LH David Wells

Closer

RH Keith Foulke

LINEUP

CF Coco Crisp

2B Mark Loretta

DH David Ortiz

LF Manny Ramirez

RF Trot Nixon

C Jason Varitek

3B Mike Lowell

1B Kevin Youkilis

SS Alex Gonzalez

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

2005: 74-88

4th in AL East

CHANGES: RH Kris Benson joins O's rotation. Kevin Millar comes over from division rival Red Sox to DH. Second-year pitcher Chris Ray takes over closing duties. Biggest off-season acquisition just might be former Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone. Acquired Corey Patterson to play centre field, but now looks like rookie Nick Markakis has won that job. Addition of C Ramon Hernandez allows Javy Lopez to move to first.

OUTLOOK: If Mazzone can work his magic like he did in Atlanta, O's could be very good,but with an unproven closer and an unproven bullpen behind him chances of contending are slim.

ROTATION

RH Rodrigo Lopez

LH Erik Bedard

RH Kris Benson

RH Daniel Cabrera

LH Bruce Chen

Closer

RH Chris Ray

LINEUP

2B Brian Roberts

3B Melvin Mora

SS Miguel Tejada

RF Jay Gibbons

DH Javy Lopez

1B Jeff Conine

LF Kevin Millar

C Ramon Hernandez

CF Luis Matos/C. Patterson

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

LOS ANGELES ANGELS

2005: 95-67

1st in AL West

CHANGES: Loss of Gold Glove C and key clutch hitter Bengie Molina is going to hurt. Added RH Jeff Weaver to the starting staff. Former Jay Kelvim Escobar returns from bullpen to fill out rotation. Bullpen got deeper with additions of J.C. Romero and Hector Carrasco. Tim Salmon is healthy again and gives the Angels plenty of bench depth

OUTLOOK: Much will depend on whether Garret Anderson can stay healthy. Healthy, Anderson and Guerrero are a scary proposition, but when Anderson is hurting like he was much of last year, Guerrero gets pitched around making runs hard to come by.

ROTATION

RH Bartolo Colon

RH John Lackey

RH Jeff Weaver

RH Kelvim Escobar

RH Ervin Santana

Closer

RH Francisco Rodriguez

LINEUP

3B Chone Figgins

SS Orlando Cabrera

RF Vladimir Guerrero

LF Garret Anderson

CF Darin Erstad

DH Juan Rivera

1B Casey Kotchman

C Jeff Mathis

2B Adam Kennedy

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

2005: 88-74

2nd in AL West

CHANGES: Three big changes to the Oakland roster. Overpaid Esteban Loaiza to round out a very strong rotation. Addition of Frank Thomas, assuming he's over his ankle problems as he appears, is key for this previously offensively-challenged lineup. Milton Bradley's addition should also help in that regard ... if he stays sane.

OUTLOOK: Considered by many to be the deepest roster in the American League, the A's will give the Angels all they can handle. PItching staff is strong and deep and if Frank Thomas can regain any of his previous form and stay healthy, scoring runs, an A's bugaboo in 2005, should not be a problem.

ROTATION

LH Barry Zito

RH Rich Harden

RH Dan Haren

RH Esteban Loaiza

RH Joe Blanton

Closer

RH Huston Street

LINEUP

2B Mark Ellis

CF Mark Kotsay

DH Frank Thomas

3B Eric Chavez

RF Milton Bradley

SS Bobby Crosby

1B Dan Johnson

C Jason Kendall

LF Nick Swisher

TEXAS RANGERS

2005: 79-83

3rd in AL West

CHANGES: Rotation is almost completely overhauled with Kevin Millwood replacing Kenny Rogers as staff ace. Two other newcomers -- Adam Eaton and Vicente Padilla -- come over from the National League while Josh Rupe makes the jump from the minors. Kameron Loe is the only returnee with any real history here. Brad Wilkerson is new to the outfield while rookie Ian Kinsler takes over for Alfonso Soriano at second.

OUTLOOK: Pitching at Ameriquest Field is not like most parks and how quickly or if this new staff gets a handle on that will determine how well the Rangers do.

ROTATION

RH Kevin Millwood

RH Vicente Padilla

RH Kameron Loe

RH R.A. Dickey

LH John Koronka

Closer

RH Francisco Cordero

LINEUP

LF Brad Wilkerson

SS Michael Young

1B Mark Teixeira

DH Phil Nevin

3B Hank Blalock

RF Kevin Mench

CF Laynce Nix

C Rod Barajas

2B Ian Kinsler

SEATTLE MARINERS

2005: 69-93

4th in AL West

CHANGES: Tapped into their pipeline to the East and brought in C Kenji Johjima to bring some stability back behind the plate where seven different guys saw time last season. Pitching staff welcomes LH Jarrod Washburn from division-rival Angels although his impact isn't expected to be large. DH Carl Everett of the defending World Series champs is the only other upgrade offensively.

OUTLOOK: Outside of Felix Hernandez, pitching staff is nothing to get excited about while addition of Everett hardly answers the offensive shortcomings when they finished 13th in the league in homers and runs scored.

ROTATION

LH Jamie Moyer

RH Joel Piniero

LH Jarrod Washburn

RH Gil Meche

RH Felix Hernandez

Closer

LH Eddie Guardado

LINEUP

RF Ichiro Suzuki

SS Yuniesky Betancourt

LF Raul Ibanez

1B Richie Sexson

3B Adrian Beltre

DH Carl Everett

C Kenji Johjima

CF Jeremy Reed

2B Jose Lopez

CINCINNATI REDS

2005: 73-89

5th in NL Central

CHANGES: Brought in LH Dave Williams and 1B Scott Hatteberg. Hatteberg though didn't have a starting spot until the Reds shipped outfielder Wily Mo Pena to Boston midway through the spring and brought right-hander Bronson Arroyo into the fold. That allowed the Reds to send Adam Dunn back out to the outfield, freeing up first for Hatteberg.

OUTLOOK: Probably another tough season in store for Reds fans. Late addition of Arroyo should help but on the other hand loss of Sean Casey should take a bite out of the team's offence. Best case scenario sees the Reds finish in the middle of the division.

ROTATION

RH Aaron Harang

RH Bronson Arroyo

LH Brandon Claussen

LH Eric Milton

LH Dave Williams

Closer

-- Committee

LINEUP

2B Tony Womack

SS Felipe Lopez

CF Ken Griffey

LF Adam Dunn

1B Scott Hatteberg

RF Austin Kearns

3B Edwin Encarnacion

C Jason LaRue

AMERICAN CENTRAL

CLEVELAND INDIANS

2005: 93-69

2nd in AL Central

CHANGES: Lost the AL ERA champ in Kevin Millwood replacing him with Angels Paul Byrd who will start the year as the team's No. 4 starter. Gave up centre fielder Coco Crisp to get potential future star in 3B Andy Marte but he'll begin the year in the minors. Aaron Boone has the third base job for now.

OUTLOOK: Went into the final weekend with a chance to win the wild card and fell apart. Have lost some key pieces but return a strong lineup to take another run at the White Sox. Last year was a learning experience for the Indians who have the talent level to not only reach the playoffs but win the division.

ROTATION

LH C.C. Sabathia

RH Jake Westbrook

LH Cliff Lee

RH Paul Byrd

RH Jason Johnson

Closer

RH Bob Wickman

LINEUP

CF Grady Sizemore

LF Jason Michaels

SS Jhonny Peralta

DH Travis Hafner

C Victor Martinez

1B Ben Broussard/E. Perez

2B Ron Belliard

3B Aaron Boone

RF Casey Blake

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

CHANGES: Went out and acquired a thumper in DH Jim Thome although it cost them the reliable and underappreciated centre fielder Aaron Rowand. Flipped pitcher Orlando Hernandez to Arizona for Javier Vazquez who takes his second run at the American League after a failed attempt with the Yankees. Brian Anderson takes over in centre field for Rowand.

OUTLOOK: Defending World Series champs have done nothing to suggest they won't make another run. Hard to believe, however, that they can repeat their run of incredible good fortune that helped make last season possible. If Thome stays healthy, though, don't bet against it.

ROTATION

LH Mark Buehrle

RH Freddy Garcia

RH Jon Garland

RH Jose Contreras

RH Javier Vazquez

Closer

RH Bobby Jenks

LINEUP

LF Scott Podsednik

2B Tadahito Iguchi

DH Jim Thome

1B Paul Konerko

RF Jermaine Dye

C A.J. Pierzynski

3B Joe Crede

SS Juan Uribe

CF Brian Anderson

MINNESOTA TWINS

2005: 83-79

3rd in AL Central

CHANGES: Another year, another homebred Twinkie flys the coop. This year it was Jacques Jones' turn as he's replaced in right field by the versatile Jason Kubel. Got in on the Florida fire sale and snagged Luis Castillo for second base while Rondell White arrives to DH. Former Jay Tony Batista is back from Japan to take over third base. Rookie Scott Baker rounds out the starting rotation.

OUTLOOK: Twins have plenty of talent on the pitching side but are coming off a year when they scored fewer runs than any team in baseball. Need big years from newcomers and a much better year from Justin Morneau.

ROTATION

LH Johan Santana

RH Brad Radke

RH Carlos Silva

RH Kyle Lohse

RH Scott Baker

Closer

RH Joe Nathan

LINEUP

LF Shannon Stewart

2B Luis Castillo

C Joe Mauer

DH Rondell White

CF Torii Hunter

1B Justin Morneau

3B Tony Batista

RF Jason Kubel

SS Juan Castro

DETROIT TIGERS

2005: 71-91

4th in AL Central

CHANGES: Brought in problem child Kenny Rogers to bolster rotation. Highly-touted prospect Justin Verlander is the only other newcomer to the rotation. Todd Jones returns after a renaissance year in Florida where he saved 40 games. Carlos Pena's 15 homers in the final 38 games weren't enough. He was released and Chris Shelton has the full-time job.

OUTLOOK: Rogers at 41 is being asked to be the ace of this staff. That is telling although Bonderman could easily be the No. 1 here. Offence should not be a problem although there is concern that catcher Pudge Rodriguez's days as a solid run producer are over.

ROTATION

LH Kenny Rogers

RH Jeremy Bonderman

LH Nate Robertson

LH Mike Maroth

RH Justin Verlander

Closer

RH Todd Jones

LINEUP

CF Curtis Granderson

2B Placido Polanco

C Ivan Rodriguez

RF Magglio Ordonez

DH Dmitri Young

1B Chris Shelton

LF Craig Monroe

SS Carlos Guillen

3B Brandon Inge

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

2005: 56-106

5th in AL Central

CHANGES: Upgraded with some veteran players in the form of 2B Mark Grudzielanek, 1B Doug Mientkiewicz and outfielder Reggie Sanders. Rotation also altered with former Twins starter Joe Mays arriving along with former Indians No. 5 guy Scott Elarton. Mark Redman starts the year on the DL but when he returns he'll push Jeremy Affeldt back to the bullpen.

OUTLOOK: The new faces are nice and all, but as far as changing the outlook for this team, it's going to take more than what they've done. In a division with three potential top-tiered teams, the only competition the Royals are in is the one for fourth place with the Tigers.

ROTATION

RHP Scott Elarton

RHP Joe Mays

LH Jeremy Affeldt

RH Denny Bautista

RH Runelvys Hernandez

Closer

RH Abiorix Burgos

LINEUP

CF David DeJesus

2B Mark Grudzielanek

DH Mike Sweeney

RF Reggie Sanders

1B Doug Mientkiewicz

LF Emil Brown

3B Mark Teahen

SS Angel Berroa

C John Buck


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