AL East Beat: 5 Things, Week Four

It was another exciting week in the American League East. Of course, there was another pitcher scheduled for Tommy John Surgery. There were transfer rule problems that actually may have cost the Orioles. And, there was even a bit too much pine tar. The AL East is still the toughest division in the sport, even with injuries and controversies impacting teams. 

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The pine tar incident once again involved New York Yankees’ starter Michael Pineda, who was thrown out of his start against the Boston Red Sox for having pine tar on his neck. This came a week or so after cameras caught Pineda with a substance on his wrist. The controversy will cost Pineda a 10 game suspension. Because the Yankees have an off day, they will need just one spot starter. As for Pineda, the 25 year old’s comeback is marred because of this substance. Some may look at it as cheating, but hearing the YES announcing tandem of Al Leiter and David Cone discuss how pine tar use is an acceptable practice indicates that Pineda wasn’t really doing something out of the ordinary. He was simply caught because he didn’t hide it well. 

When Pineda was seen with the pine tar during his first start against the Red Sox, David Ortiz even said that every pitcher uses it. On New York talk radio, Orioles Director Pitching Rick Peterson stated that pine tar is widely used. Every expert, former pitcher, and current pitcher willing to go on record has stated that pine tar use doesn’t impact ball movement and is simply used to get a grip on the ball. 

This is where Major League Baseball gets itself in trouble. There are all these unwritten rules and rules with various interpretations. There is a rule saying that a foreign substance cannot be on a person. But, pine tar has been widely used. It just looks poor. If a rosin bag isn’t cutting it and teams are turning towards pine tar, sun screen, whatever, Major League Baseball must provide an alternative to rosin that every team uses and eliminates the secrecy. It’s common sense, which likely means it will take some time.

As for Pineda, he’ll likely be fine. His stuff is there and he will hopefully be counseled by a veteran pitcher on his team or someone on the Yankees’ staff about a smarter way to get a grip.

5 Things…

Pineda Impact

The fact that Michael Pineda is missing just one start hides some definite repercussions that hurt that Yankees over the next week and a half. First, they had to unload their bullpen just to finish Pineda’s start. Because of that, they needed fresh relievers for Thursday’s game. The casualty was Dean Anna, the career minor leaguer who finally made a Major League roster and was doing a credible job as Derek Jeter’s backup. The numbers game forced the Yankees to send Anna down for two weeks, leaving them without a true backup shortstop for their 40 year old starter. In addition to Anna, Preston Claiborne was sent down while Shane Greene and Bruce Billings were called up to provide innings to an exhausted bullpen. David Phelps will likely make that start, but the Yankees will now not be able to give their starters an extra day of rest with the off day. For a veteran staff that already lost Ivan Nova, that is a big deal. 

Red Sox Starting To Get Healthy

Shane Victorino was finally activated for Thursday’s game. Will Middlebrooks is expected to be back by the weekend. Once Middlebrooks is back, it will be the first time that the Red Sox will be able to pencil in their expected lineup all season. With a 10-13 record and coming off of a series loss against the Yankees. The Red Sox rank fourth in the American League in team ERA, but their everyday lineup will need to help boost just a slugging percentage that ranks just 12th in the league. They have survived and remained close during early injuries. They’ll hope that the regulars will help in the surge.

Defensive Division

The AL East should have five teams that play stellar defense. Last season, defense was a major factor in the Rays winning the division. Early returns according to defensive runs saved show a much slower start for the division on the defensive end.

Blue Jays: +6 DRS

Rays: -1

Yankees: -5

Orioles: -6

Red Sox: -9

Machado’s Return Key

In many ways, the return of Manny Machado is key to the Orioles’ chances of gaining a playoff spot. Jonathan Schoop is struggling defensively while Machado is an elite defender at third base. If Machado can show that he still has excellent range, his presence infinitely improves the defense. Offensively, Machado still has to develop, but he showed plus power last season as he blasted 51 doubles, 3 triples, and 14 home runs. The Orioles rank just 12th in the American League in home runs and are currently fielding a lineup that includes Ryan Flaherty and/or Steve Lombardozzi. While both are quality utility players, neither is a quality starter. Machado adds more power and lengthens the lineup. The Orioles do not have a dynamic offense or one that can get on base regularly. Extra base hits are needed throughout the lineup. Machado can provide that while neither of his replacements can. 

Gausman Needs To Earn It

Out of spring training, Kevin Gausman deserved a rotation spot with the big club. The Orioles chose to put their best pitcher in the Minor Leagues. Recently, Gausman has struggled with control, now totaling 10 walks in just 16.2 innings. He’s also allowed 18 hits, and has struck out 15 batters. While the Orioles’ rotation ranks 14th according to WAR value, Gausman should not be called up until he proves his control issues won’t deter his success. This likely falls under “small sample size”, but the Orioles would be wise to give him a couple more starts before considering a promotion. By the end of the season, Gausman should be the Orioles’ best pitcher. Right now, that walk total has to get better before he can help the big league club. 

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About the author

Gary Armida  

Gary Armida is a Father to the best little girl in the world. After that, he is a writer who has been covering Major League Baseball since 2007. During that time, Gary operated, one of the first independent online sites that gained Major League Baseball media credentials. Over the years, he has covered two Winter Meetings and has written feature articles for a variety of outlets while interviewing Major League personnel such as Rick Peterson, Jason Giambi, Zack Wheeler, Jeff Luhnow, Jack Zduriencik, Michael Bourn, and many others. In addition to his work at BSL, Gary contributes to USA Today Sports Weekly and maintains his personal site,, that serves as his portfolio as well as a place for additional content.

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