It’s not too early to start thinking about baseball

By Gary Thorne, Special to the News
Posted Jan. 14, 2011, at 7:33 p.m.

Nothing like below-freezing temps to give meaning to the hot-stove season.

Believe it — pitchers and catchers report around Feb. 14 to most MLB camps and the so-called offseason will be over.

Pour another cup of coffee and just for fun, an early look at the AL East.

The major new Sox attractions are Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, which translates to a lot of team speed and defense. Time for a full year from Jacoby Ellsbury so the Sox can see just what they have there.

The Yankees have countered with re-signing Derek Jeter and bolstering the back of the bullpen with closer Rafael Soriano from Tampa Bay. He will now set up Mariano Rivera.

The team is aging and will hope that Father Time does not undo its season.

Tampa Bay is back to rebuilding. The Rays have a quality starting staff to do that around, they had the third-best starting ERA in the AL last year, but behind the arms are different faces.

Shortstop Jason Bartlett is gone. Former center fielder Crawford’s presence in Boston could give the Rays nightmares watching him play 18 games against them.

Starter Matt Garza, first baseman Carlos Pena and closer Soriano have all moved on.

Struggling to put fans in the dome while quietly searching out support for an outdoor ballpark, the Rays will be a different team.

Toronto is hoping another year under their belts for the starters will make them the core of their team. The starters were ninth in the league in ERA last year. They will need the home-run bat of Jose Bautista to be on again, and a few others to help out offensively.

Baltimore will have a new infield with Mark Reynolds at third, J.J. Hardy at short and Derek Lee at first. Kevin Gregg has been added to the pen, but as with everyone else, the burden will fall on the young rotation.

The dealing is not yet done, but it will be hard to match the surprise signing by the Phillies of Cliff Lee.

The Sox are right behind in that category with Crawford and Gonzalez, and pending further moves, these are the two teams that have to be heavy favorites entering the season.

The season opens with spring training games on March 1 and opening day on March 31.

The Sox open on April 1 at Texas. Let the saga for 2011 of Beltre vs. his former teammates begin.

The Rangers could not re-sign Lee, but they have used the cash to acquire Beltre, and they have redone their pen. They will contend in the West again.

The effort to end the postseason before the snow flies has pushed everything back to earlier dates. The snow may be flying for spring training this year.

For now, just don’t look out the window. Close your eyes and pretend you hear the thud of the ball into the mitt.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/01/14/sports/its-not-too-early-to-start-thinking-about-baseball/ printed on September 20, 2014