The indefinite delay of Major League Baseball due to the coronavirus pandemic has left teams with much more time for evaluation than originally planned.
In the American League East, the uncertainty of when the games will begin has unique implications for each team.
Here is a look.
Toronto’s No. 5 rotation job will still be Trent Thornton’s to lose, but the order of depth starters behind him and the final two to three bullpen jobs will be impacted by the delay. Anthony Kay still has a chance to position himself as the top option from Triple-A Buffalo when the year opens, but the big variable in all of this is No. 1 prospect Nate Pearson. With Pearson originally expected to round out his development with Buffalo before an in-season promotion, how does the delay impact that plan for one of baseball’s best young arms?
In the bullpen, right-hander Rafael Dolis now has time to fully recover from having his appendix removed and could be back in the mix for the setup job. A crowded field of internal options and veterans on Minor League deals will be considered for the final spots, but that competition could reset altogether. — Keegan Matheson
The biggest thing the delay does for the Orioles is give them time to assess the health status of Trey Mancini, who underwent surgery to remove a malignant tumor from his colon the day Spring Training was halted. The face of the franchise and their unquestioned best player, Mancini had been dealing with vague flu-like symptoms and lethargy this spring before a colonoscopy revealed the tumor; the timeline for his recovery is expected to become clearer when more lab results come in.
Elsewhere on the roster, the delay allows rehabbing outfielder DJ Stewart to recover fully from right ankle surgery, and several pitchers to overcome minor bumps and bruises that afflicted them during camp. — Joe Trezza
While pitchers like Blake Snell, who received a cortisone shot on his left elbow and was working his way back to full strength, will benefit from the delay, other players such as Yoshitomo Tsutsugo could be affected by the stoppage. Tsutsugo was in the middle of his first Spring Training in the United States, which revolved around making adjustments. He was learning a new practice routine, Major League pitching and velocity, as well as defensive positioning.
Despite leading the team with 13 strikeouts in the spring, Tsutsugo pleased the Rays with both his adjustments and the presence he provided to their lineup. With the season not starting until at least mid-May, Tsutsugo will have to continue his adjustment period, but he will have to do it away from the baseball field.
Tsutsugo will now go an extended period of time without stepping into the box against Major League pitching. That’s difficult for any hitter who was starting to get into a groove during the spring, but it’s especially hard for a player that is making a transition to a different country after playing 10 seasons in Japan. — Juan Toribio
Back in early March, when the Red Sox first revealed that ace Chris Sale had a flexor strain in his left elbow, a logical best-case scenario was that he would miss the first six to eight weeks of the season. Well, depending on when the season starts, Sale could miss a lot less time than feared if he progresses well in the coming weeks. Sale has resumed playing catch — and if he can eventually advance to mound work without discomfort in his elbow, perhaps he can pitch Opening Day after all. However, Boston and Sale are both bracing for the chance his elbow doesn’t well respond and surgery is required, which would make 2020 a total wash for him.
Outfielder Alex Verdugo, the big return piece in the trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers, should also play a much higher percentage of games this season than he would have if the season had started on time. The left-handed-hitting outfielder is recovering from a stress fracture in his back and had just started swinging the bat again when camp was shut down. Verdugo was very optimistic about the way he was responding and the Red Sox look forward to seeing what kind of impact he can have in the lineup. — Ian Browne
Perhaps no team benefits more from the layoff than the Yankees. Now, the Bombers could have Aaron Judge, James Paxton and Giancarlo Stanton all on the Opening Day roster, which was not expected originally.
Judge will have a CT scan to evaluate his recovery from a stress fracture in his right rib, and Paxton has resumed throwing with a target of being ready to pitch in big league games by the middle of May.
Stanton has been hitting on the field as he recovers from a right calf strain. Having those three players healthy would make Yankees manager Aaron Boone's early-season lineup decisions far less difficult. — Bryan Hoch