The first of a once-a-week look at where things stand in the AL East:
SARASOTA, Fla. — Another year, another thing going wrong for the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Jays were garnering some respect among prognosticators, given their enhanced lineup with offseason acquisitions Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson.
But, lo and behold, they suffered what may be an insurmountable injury when front-end starter Marcus Stroman, ironically one of their most athletic players, tore an ACL while doing pitchers' fielding practice drills.
This is devastating, because the Jays were lacking an ace, and Stroman may well have been on his way to being that. Now they have to scramble to find another starter.
It may bode well for lefty prospect Daniel Norris, but most likely the Jays will put Aaron Sanchez, whom they were eyeing as their closer, back in the rotation.
"Our plan for Sanchez was always the same," said general manager Alex Anthopoulos. "I think it certainly gives him a better opportunity to start, but we still have [Marco] Estrada being stretched out, still have Norris being stretched out, still have the remainder of camp.
"I think we still continue down that path, but there's no doubt about it, there's another opportunity there with Stroman being down."
The Jays are dealing with a ripple effect.
They could add a closer — a Jonathan Papelbon from the Phillies or a free agent like Rafael Soriano, who has had AL East success.
They have been mentioned in the Cole Hamels mix, but they weren't going to go down that road. Might they now?
"Those guys aren't normally available in March — actually there might be one [Hamels] but I don't know that we can afford that right now," said Anthopoulos.
Manager John Gibbons, already on the hot seat, has to live with the consequences of the injury.
"Everybody has them," said Gibbons. "You don't expect it to be that extreme. His foot got hung up.
"It's tough. He's a big part of this. Pencil him in right near the top. You figure he was going to build on last year.
"He's more than just a good pitcher. He's an emotional guy for the team. I got to believe we're looking for starters, and [Sanchez] looks even better in that rotation now. Nothing definite."
BALTIMORE: Dan Duquette is out to prove he was right by not making a lot of expensive moves to make up for the losses of 40-homer man Nelson Cruz, right fielder Nick Markakis (a good complementary player), and lefty Andrew Miller.
Duquette said he's also resigned to seeing Chris Davis and Matt Wieters head into free agency after this season, indicating that he made two attempts to sign Wieters long-term and one attempt on Davis. Both are represented by Scott Boras.
"All of our guys coming back have looked good so far," Duquette said. "Matt will start catching on the 17th, so he has a good amount of time to get ready."
The Orioles are pretty much set. Duquette spoke highly of former Red Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway, who is having a good camp. Also, former Red Sox pitcher Jason Garcia has made a good impression.
The wild card remains Ubaldo Jimenez, the sixth pitcher in a five-man rotation. He remains erratic.
TAMPA BAY: Drew Smyly (3-1, 1.70, in seven starts for Tampa Bay) outpitched the man he was traded for last season, David Price (4-4, 3.59, in 11 starts for Detroit). But Smyly has come up with a sore shoulder, and even usually optimistic manager Kevin Cash said, "I think it's fair to say there is a concern."
The Rays won't get their other lefty, Matt Moore, back until June. A team that has relied on its depth of pitching because of a pedestrian offense is now really in a bind.
The Rays were contemplating Alex Colome, Nathan Karns, and Burch Smith for the fourth and fifth spots, but now the competition may wind up being a resignation that two of the three will be in a much weaker rotation than expected for the first two months of the season.
The bullpen will be challenged as well, with closer Jake McGee not likely to be ready until sometime in May.
The Rays will continue to have offensive challenges, relying on cheap solutions like youngsters Kevin Kiermaier and Steve Souza to man key outfield spots while making veteran outfielder David DeJesus available in trade in an effort to cut payroll.
So there will be big demands on veteran third baseman Evan Longoria, who played in all 162 games last season, and is looking to elevate his game from a .253 average/724 OPS. He doesn't have much protection in the order, especially with Ben Zobrist gone.
First baseman James Loney remains a steady offensive player, and the additions of shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and DH John Jaso also bring some offense.
Cash has big shoes to fill — Joe Maddon's — but he seems to have gotten the attention and respect of players. Still, he already has major issues to deal with.
NEW YORK: The early camp has been all about Alex Rodriguez, and as far as his hitting goes, he's been very good. Rodriguez homered Wednesday off Brandon Workman's 89 m.p.h. fastball and is off to a .455 start.
The condition of Rodriguez's hips will likely be the determining factor in how effective he will be in his comeback bid. So far, so good. The Yankees will use him primarily as a DH but he'll likely be a part-time third baseman and first baseman as well (he played third base vs. the Red Sox).
The Yankees are trying to get through spring training without major upheaval to their fragile starting rotation. Masahiro Tanaka's balky elbow has held up so far after he avoided Tommy John surgery with rehab, and he makes his first start on Thursday. CC Sabathia had thrown strong bullpens and is about to be uncorked in a major league game to test his surgically repaired knee.
Another big issue could be up the middle. Didi Gregorius will enhance the shortstop position defensively, but between him and Stephen Drew at second base, will the Yankees get any offensive production?
The Yankees continue to tout 22-year-old right fielder Aaron Judge (6 feet 7 inches, 235 pounds) as the next Dave Winfield or Giancarlo Stanton, and with good reason.
BOSTON: The ongoing story will be Allen Craig, who is trying to regain the form that made him one of the best hitters in the National League as recently as two years ago.
Scouts are watching closely. In fact, it's a daily question: What are the Red Sox doing with Craig? They would deal him for the right package, but are mindful of the fact that Mike Napoli is in the final year of his contract.
The only other riddle seems to be, who starts in right field, Rusney Castillo or Shane Victorino? Could it become a lefty/righty platoon now that Victorino is switch hitting again?
It seems as though Mookie Betts is going to be the starting center fielder. Craig, Victorino, and Daniel Nava could all be susceptible to deals.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.