Go ahead, pick an American League East champion.

Lots of people are in love with the Blue Jays, who won the offseason. They probably will be the consensus pick when teams leave Florida. But you wouldn't be nuts to pick the Yankees, Rays or Orioles. You'd need some imagination, but you probably even could pick the Red Sox.

Now pick the last-place team.

Just reverse the process. From here, it's hard to see the Blue Jays falling that far. But if the Red Sox bounce back as they are designed to do, then the Yankees, Rays and Orioles all could be in danger of finishing last, maybe even with 80 wins. Wouldn't that be something? This is a loaded division, and anything's possible.


Last year: 95-67, survived a five-game division series against the Orioles before being swept by the Tigers in the ALCS, with the lasting memory a postseason average of 2.4 runs per game.

Manager: Joe Girardi, who pushed the right buttons with Raul Ibanez in the Orioles series, seems firmly in control, but the Yankees are heading into dangerous waters.

Key reinforcements: 3B Kevin Youkilis, DH Travis Hafner, OF Matt Diaz, 1B Dan Johnson.

Gone, not forgotten: OF Nick Swisher, RHP Rafael Soriano, C Russell Martin, DH Raul Ibanez, RHP Freddy Garcia, OF Andruw Jones, 3B Eric Chavez.

Big fun: Watching Youkilis change sides in baseball's biggest rivalry.

Big worry: The health of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Michael Pineda is critical for a team that knows it won't have Alex Rodriguez until after the All-Star break, if then.


Last year: 93-69, with a 29-9 record in one-run games sending them to the playoffs for the first time since 1997. Beat the Rangers in a wild-card playoff, lost to the Yankees in the ALDS.

Manager: Buck Showalter turned in a Hall of Fame performance with his handling of a pitching staff that seemed to have closer Jim Johnson as its only wire-to-wire strength.

Key reinforcements: DH Russ Canzler, 2B Alexi Casilla, 1B-OF Travis Ishikawa, LHP Daniel Schlereth.

Gone, not forgotten: 3B-1B Mark Reynolds, LHP Joe Saunders, LHP Randy Wolf, DH Jim Thome, OF Endy Chavez.

Big fun: Dylan Bundy will try to make his case to stick in the rotation he soon will lead.

Big worry: Can Showalter find enough firepower in his lineup? A poor spring showing could cause him to pursue available hitters, including the Cubs' Alfonso Soriano.


Last year: 90-72, with Evan Longoria's surgery to repair a torn hamstring leaving them out of the playoffs despite a Cy Young season from David Price.