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AL East division round-up: April 5

The first in a season-long look at what the rest of the American League East is up to


What the Red Sox are doing is important, but they aren't achieving (or failing) in a vacuum. While we don't need to necessarily keep up with what's happening with all of baseball or even the American League, keeping an eye on the stacked AL East -- which has five teams who could all realistically be playoff-caliber in 2013 -- makes sense. With that in mind, we'll be checking in on the AL East each Friday of the regular season, so you can get a sense of what is going on with Boston's nearest rivals.

It's too early in the season to get into all of that adjusted standings stuff, or into playoff odds, so for now, we'll just order the teams by their current place in the standings.

Baltimore Orioles (2-1, 0 Games Back)

The Orioles lead the division after one series, thanks to taking two of three from the Tampa Bay Rays. While they are considered the weakest of the five, we're talking about a club that just last year was in the playoffs, and might make enough legitimate improvements to their rotation and lineup to remain dangerous in 2013. It's too early to know if that's what's happening, of course, but this first series was at least a good start.

Chris Davis is currently destroying everything in his path, as he's hitting a league-leading .636 while also topping the AL in hits, homers, slugging, OPS, OPS+, and total bases. Not a bad start to the year, in a season in which his primary goal is to prove that his 2012 (.270/.326/.501 with 33 homers) was for real, and not just a fluke from a guy who has been below-average offensively prior to that breakout.

The Orioles are exiting the division this weekend to take on the Minnesota Twins, so there's a good chance they'll still be atop the AL East as of Monday morning. They'll have to do it without Brian Roberts, though, as the second baseman is headed to the disabled list yet again.

Boston Red Sox (2-1, 0 Games Back)

The Red Sox are heading off to Toronto to conclude their road trip with three games against the Blue Jays. They took two of three from New York, notching a W before the fan base went insane for the first time in three years. Progress!

New York Yankees (1-2, 1 Game Back)

Thanks to dropping the season's first series to Boston, the Yankees find themselves tied for third place with both the Rays and the Jays. The Yankees are going to be a dangerous team, so it's a good thing if they lose series like that one to the Red Sox now, when the likes of Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira are missing from the lineup. The more they lose now, the more ground they have to make up later. That's about the only way you'll keep the Yankees from separating themselves from the rest of what should be a tightly packed division.

Photo credit: The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

Hiroki Kuroda's finger injury, suffered when he was struck by a Shane Victorino line drive, shouldn't keep him out of action. Nor is CC Sabathia's early season low velocity much of a concern, since he typically begins a little slower in that department. If the finger ends up being a problem, though, or Sabathia's velocity doesn't recover, then the Yankees might end up in a hole they can't climb out of. Of course, it's far too early to expect that, believe that, or even hope for that sort of thing, if you're the kind of fan who is into that. We'll have a better sense of all of that in a few weeks, when more than a handful of games have come off the schedule. Next up, the Tigers, who certainly can keep the Yanks under .500 for at least one series more.

Tampa Bay Rays (1-2, 1 Game Back)

The Rays had a couple of uncharacteristic poor pitching performances from their starters, with Jeremy Hellickson giving up five runs in 6-1/3 innings, while Roberto Hernandez (the former Fausto Carmona) allowed four runs over 6-2/3. The bullpen didn't help much, either, with nine runs allowed in eight innings of work. Given everyone involved in both of those areas, though, this is a temporary setback. If you're a Red Sox fan, it's a good one, however. Any time the Orioles, Rays, Blue Jays, and Yankees are beating up on each other, it makes competing that much more realistic for the Sox.

Desmond Jennings did well in his first series where he was the regular center fielder, now that B.J. Upton is a Brave, hitting two doubles and collecting four hits and a walk in 12 plate appearances. His performance is a key to the season, as the Rays are used to getting production out of that position.

The Rays are facing the Indians next, leaving just the Red Sox and Jays in the AL East while everyone else heads to the Central.

Toronto Blue Jays (1-2, 1 Game Back)

The Jays opened at home, and lost two of three to the Indians. J.P. Arencibia and Jose Bautista both went deep twice in the series, but no one else hit much at all. Brandon Morrow pitched very well in his outing, with eight punch outs in six frames with just one run allowed, but otherwise, it was a ho-hum pitching effort. R.A. Dickey walked as many as he struck out, while Mark Buehrle's reintroduction to the American League featured seven hits, six runs, and two homers in 5-1/3 innings of work.

Toronto is going to have a very good team, so putting them in an early hole would be advantageous to the Red Sox. It's too early for said hole to mean anything, but as Red Sox fans know, sometimes having to climb out of an early hole is what can you do your season in.

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