The Yankees have started off the year 4-4, and if this group can keep this up for another month, they would be more than happy with that. The AL East might very well be the deepest division in all of baseball, but deep divisions usually lead to tight division races, as they beat each other up throughout the year. If the Yankees can stay put with a .500 record into the early stages of May, they will be poised to stay relevant in the divisional race as their injury plagued All-Stars prepare to return.
This week the Yanks have received positive reports on the progress of Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira. Jeter has begun running sprints and has been taking limited batting practice, along with fielding ground balls. This might not sound like much, but any baseball activity is progress for the Captain. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear him taking part in simulated/minor league games in the very near future. Granderson, was cleared to begin throwing a baseball this week as his forearm has finally healed. He should begin to swing a bat this weekend and will be playing in extended spring training games shortly there after. The Yankees are hopefully he will be returning to the line-up within a month. Teixeira, may have been the best news of all, he will begin to start taking swings today. The Yankees have him on the fast track to return, he will take BP with the team during next weeks series with Tampa and hope to have him back by the end of April/early May.
Without the above mentioned superstars, the Yankees have been what I expected of them, erratic. The pitching staff has been up and down and the offense went from anemic to exploding the past three games. Sabathia and Kuroda rebounded from poor starts to open the season with back to back wins, all while the ageless wonder, Andy Pettitte, continues to win ballgames. Sabathia, is notorious for his slow starts, but if he can continue to build on his last start, this could be a good sign for things to come. Kuroda, settled down in his second start, but his command still wasn’t there, he was able to work his way out of trouble after walking four batters, but he will need to improve on his command in his upcoming starts. Pettitte, continues to prove himself as the most stable man in the rotation, he might be the key in this rotation with struggling Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes following him.
The lineup started off slowly, to say the least. But the bats have really come to life the last few games. Most notably, Robinson Cano, looks to of returned to All-Star form. He has his batting average up to .360 with three home runs. Although Cano was put in the two spot by Giradi in the Cleveland series in an effort to add more protection behind him, look for him to return to his rightful place in the middle of this line up where he can do the most damage. So far so good, for Brian Cashman’s additions of Kevin Youkilis, Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner. The three of them have all produced at a high level in the early stages of the season, giving the middle of that lineup some much-needed pop in the absence of Teixeria and Granderson.
Every team in the AL East has their own set of flaws, which will prevent anyone from running away with this division. The Blues Jays, winner of the off-season, added the core of the 2012 Marlins, which by the way, won a total of 69 games last season. I’m not sure why everyone was so eager to award them the division champions despite many of these players underachieving on the same team just last season. Will the Orioles be able to go 29-9 in one-run ball games again? Doubtful. The Rays have the starting pitching to take on anyone, but once again they lack offensive fire power. The Red Sox look to bounce back with a rebuilt roster but plenty of questions remain on both sides of the ball for them.
This leaves the division open for the takings in my opinion. All of these teams are capable of winning it, I don’t know if the Yankees have it in them, but if they can hold put into the middle of May-June, they will have a shot.