With spring training camps now underway, we here at Walkoff Walk should really get off our rumps and start taking a look at the pole positioning for premium positions among the six divisions. With the country stuck in the dregs of the Xtreme Depressionⓒ, folks'll be working extra hard to get the premium salaries that come along with starting jobs. Today, we finally finish our arduous task with the American League East:
- Boston Red Sox shortstop: This really shouldn't be a contest, but Julio Lugo is due $9 million in aught-nine and young turk Theo Epstein will be damned if he lets that money go to waste. Jed Lowrie is not made of magic, isn't much of a contact guy, and doesn't inspire Ripken-esque visions of an All Star shortstop power hitter, but he knows how to use a glove. Lugo, on the other hand, is a butcher in the field, averaging 20 errors a year in his career, and his proclivity for GIDPs is well-documented. Okay, maybe not well-documented but it's been documented. This could all be for naught if Mike Lowell's arms and legs fall off, pushing Lowrie to third.
- New York Yankees center field: Manager Joe Girardi seems to think the right field job is up for grabs, too, but with three gents jockeying for center field, it's the race of the season. Melky Cabrera fell off a cliff last year but looks to win back the job against youngster Brett Gardner and import Nick Swisher. Gardner's value seems to come with his supersonic speed and high OBPs throughout his short minor league career. Melky's value is an irritating nickname. Swisher would just rather win the right field job and not have to embarrass himself trying to field a position at which he has not succeeded in the past.
- Tampa Bay Rays right field: With the acquisition of young buck Matt Joyce from a pitching-starved Tigers team, the Rays have set up a nice group of gents to compete for the right field job. The two Gabes and New Jersey's own Fernando Perez will do their best to wrest time away from Joyce. Joyce has the power, Perez has the brains, Gross has the glove, and Kapler has the menschy good looks. I'll be darned if I know who Overmanagin' Joe Maddon will choose to win the job.
- Toronto Blue Jays fifth starter: Last year's surprise Shaun Marcum is out for the year with an ouchie elbow, freeing up a spot in the Jays rotation for someone, anyone, who can nail down 10-15 quality starts and help out what will prove to be another light-hitting Toronto lineup. Our own resident Canadian Crazy would have you believe that that the young southpaw Brett Cecil is ready for his closeup, but if he can't fulfill Lloyd's wildest dreams, there are others. Casey Janssen missed the entirety of '08 with a shoulder injury that might prevent him from eating too many innings. Former Pirate and Indian Bryan Bullington would knock over your gramma for another shot at a rotation spot. But really, we all know who is going to win AL Comeback Player of the Year, so why even bother?
- Baltimore Orioles left field: Luke Scott thought he had this job wrapped up a couple months ago. That was so, until the O's brought in Felix Pie from the Cubbies, Ryan Freel from the Redlegs, and Ty Wigginton from the Astros, not to mention the presence of prospect Nolan Reimold lurking in the wings. Forget it, Luke. It's Baltimore. The best you can hope for now is a trade to the outfield-hungry Braves.