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Today we look around the division for a member of each team that fans and front offices were hoping to see take a step forward in the spring this year but have not done so.
the BLUE JAYS
Brandon Morrow has been a source of both hope and frustration for Toronto Blue Jays’ fans in the last couple of years. The right hander has phenomenal stuff and often looks the part of a Cy Young contender when he’s on the mound pitching. Last year injuries limited him to just 10 starts, but he also was not his usual dominant self when he was healthy. The Jays and their fans wanted to see Morrow come out strong this spring, looking to get him good and stretched out in the hopes that he’d be able to go the distance this year. He has yet to show anything of the sort. He made two appearances so far this spring, one start and one in relief, and his ERA currently sits at 10.80. Batters teed off on him to a .400 average, and he has made his subsequent starts at a minor league complex. The results have been reportedly promising, but nonetheless it’s troubling when a pitcher with #2 potential is being officially relegated to the 5th starter role to give them time to catch up before the season has even begun.
After two serviceable seasons befitting of a back-of-the-rotation starter, the Baltimore Orioles are hoping for more of the same from Wei-Yin Chen this year. The lefty has not impressed thus far in the spring, starting four games and only pitching a total of 12.2 innings. He’s got a 6.39 ERA in that time that seems even low considering he’s been hit quite hard. His 1.658 WHIP and 13.5 hits per nine innings indicate that he’ll benefit from another couple of appearances in the spring before he gets into games that matter. There doesn’t appear to be any cause for concern for Chen, who has been one of the more reliable back-end guys in the game when he’s been healthy the past couple seasons. His career ERA+ is 104, meaning he’s been 4% better than the league average starting pitcher. If the O’s can get that kind of run prevention from their fifth spot this year they’ll be in good shape.
The New York Yankees infield situation has been well documented and roundly criticized for the entire offseason, but the spring has really highlighted the decaying-veteran problem that seems to be plaguing New York. Mark Teixeira is hitting .115, only having hit two singles and a double the entire spring. The formerly-slugging first-baseman underwent wrist surgery that kept him out for most of last year. That kind of operation is always scary for a power hitter, and combined with age decline it’s fair to question just how much the Yankees will come to regret the giant contract they’re paying him come 2016. His Grapefruit League OBP is .324, as he’s drawn an impressive 8 walks so far, and this bodes well for at least his batting eye to be intact. The Yankees are hoping for a bit of a rebound to his career statistics this year, as well as a healthy and productive season from Derek Jeter during his farewell tour, and neither has shown much to get excited about at the plate this spring.
the RED SOX
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David Ortiz was in the news this weekend after he signed yet another contract extension with the Boston Red Sox that will see him receive 16 million dollars to hit baseballs for them in 2015. Ortiz has not been making headlines, however, with his strong play this spring. Big Papi is has just two hits in his 35 grapefruit league at-bats, one of which was a home run, and his average has sunk down to a depressing .057. The Red Sox will need Ortiz to find his swing sometime in the next week, as FanGraphs expects him to be the team’s best hitter by far. (his .383 wOBA dwarfs the second-best projected mark of .353 by Mike Napoli) Hopefully, with the contract issue off his mind, Ortiz will get locked into the zone that has made him one of the most fearsome hitters in the game and a cornerstone of a franchise that’s won three World Series with him as their DH.
The Tampa Bay Rays big disappointments have mostly turned their springs around in recent days, but their biggest disappointment probably was not really all that disappointing. After throwing 17 innings for Joe Maddon this spring that netted him a 6.88 ERA, Erik Bedard opted out of his contract to seek employment with another team and to hope for a chance at starting somewhere. The Rays’ brass signed Bedard as depth in case their internal options weren’t going to be able to cover the hole being left by Jeremy Hellickson‘s injury, but they have got to be relieved, as any team would, that things did not become so dire that they needed Erik Bedard. Prospect Jake Odorizzi, part of the haul from the James Shields trade, officially claimed the fifth starter spot this week after a strong spring. The Rays surely miss Shields, but between Odorizzi now stepping up and Wil Myers‘ success so far they have got to be pretty happy with the return they’ve already received on their investment there.