A.L. East is up for grabs this year

A.L. East is up for grabs this year
March 25, 2013, 5:15 pm
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SARASOTA, Fla. --  In recent memory, picking the potential leaders of the American League East had become a case of ‘rounding up the usual suspects’. That may change this year with perennial titans Boston and New York facing significant challenges. 
“I think you want to say ‘balanced ‘ because you look on paper and Toronto should be in the World Series according to what the paper would say or the roster would say,” said Red Sox – and for the past two seasons, Blue Jays – manager John Farrell.  “The talent they’ve added is substantial. But I think there’s somewhat of an overview that it’s going to be very competitive. And I would say that start to finish teams are going to be beating up on one another for those 72 games that you play or if it’s that many that they end up playing against one another it’s [not] a lot of separation.”
For now anyway, on the proverbial paper, Toronto has become the favorite for most to win the division.
“It seems like they’ve garnered that attention,” Farrell said. “They’ve added a lot of very good players and there’s been a lot of players returning from health issues of a year ago that give them a deep lineup.  They’ve got a lot of speed. They’ve got power. Their rotation is much improved. They’re a good team.”
It’s at this point in spring training where more focus is placed on the early regular season opponents. The Yankees, the Sox Opening Day foe who have been hit hard by injuries, are working to acquire outfielder Vernon Wells from the Angels, according to reports.
“You get into the final week and you start paying attention to your first two opponents a little bit more in earnest,” Farrell said. “And as you’ve seen overnight, things can change. It’s not like you ever feel like there’s not going to be good players there. They’re all going to be good players. And we’ll prepare accordingly for whoever’s on the roster. Their pitching seems to be in decent shape and that’s a talented staff. So they’re still going to be a good team. There’s no doubt about it.”
And with the struggles the Sox have had going back to September 2011, they have now become underdogs. Could it be a good thing for his team to go into the season with lowered expectations?
“I don’t know,” Farrell said. “I really don’t have a response to that because we really don’t look outward and pay too much attention to what people think of us. We have to be concerned with how we work and how we’re prepared and how we get guys back on the field that are currently injured. And if we take care of our own business, we’ve got a lot of very good players here that should make us a very good team.
“I don’t know that teams ever really lay in the weeds. We have good players here. We’re going to have a good team. I like our team. And what’s been encouraging is the way we’ve pitched consistently throughout camp. And to me coming out of spring training, having pitching set up  or at least some level of dependability or consistency is probably the number one objective or priority. And we’ve been able to accomplish that so far. So going forward, that would be the key to our overall ability to win games consistently.”