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Analysts clash on Jays' outlook
By SHARON GINN
Published April 2, 2006
Some of baseball's best-regarded broadcasters see the American League East race as one of the most intriguing stories of 2006. Once again, though, none of them has the Devil Rays anywhere near the drama that will unfold.
Will the Yankees' pitching be good enough to win the division? Will the Red Sox improve their bullpen, rated the worst in the AL last season? And will offseason moves be enough to help the Blue Jays compete? The main voices of ESPN's Baseball Tonight have starkly different opinions.
"I feel like Toronto is going to contend," analyst Harold Reynolds said. "I still think it's going to be the Yankees at the top. They have to pitch, but their offense is the best in baseball. They're going to score runs. ... I see it as Yankees, Blue Jays, Red Sox."
The show's other lead analyst strongly disagreed (as he has been known to do). John Kruk said is not sure the addition of pitche r A.J. Burnett, who will miss two starts on the disabled list with elbow pain apparently caused by scar tissue, will be enough to get Toronto to the top of the standings.
"I don't even think the Blue Jays are in the equation right now," Kruk said. "I'm still not sold on A.J. Burnett. ... I don't know if they're good enough defensively to compete. It's the Red Sox and Yankees. One reason is those teams know how to win.
"It all comes down to pitching. For the Yankees it's their starting pitching, for the Red Sox it's their relief corps. If the Red Sox relievers can pitch, I think you'll see what we saw two years ago: both teams in a race that goes down to the wire."
In host Karl Ravech's mind, the race is wide open. "Put the three names in a hat and pick," he said. "I think the Red Sox are as strong or stronger as they've been. If you put a gun to my head, I would have the Red Sox ahead of the Yankees and the Blue Jays."
RAYS ON TV: FSN Florida is expanding its series of monthly indepth features on Florida pro athletes to baseball. The network will premiere Inside the Devil Rays on Monday at 2 p.m., right before the season opener. The first episode will profile the team's new ownership and front office as they attempt to turn around the faltering franchise.
Two new cameras have been added to the FSN Florida broadcasts this season. A slow-motion camera will be used in a limited number of home games in May, and a midfield "robo camera" will be used in all home games during the regular season. The robo camera is designed to make it easier to see the pitcher's release point.
THINGS YOU WON'T SEE (FOR NOW): FSN Florida is producing 30 Devil Rays games in high definition, but the games are not available to any Tampa Bay area viewers, cable or satellite. That may change during the season, though, if cable or satellite systems reach agreements to air the games. Fans with HD may want to check FSNFlorida.com periodically for updates.
Also, FSN Florida will produce 55 more Marlins games this season, but the only cable or satellite system in the Tampa Bay area that is planning to carry them (as of now) is Verizon.
NOTES: In an effort to hold the interest of viewers who can now find highlights almost anywhere, Baseball Tonight will use its resources this season to get live phone commentary from players who can discuss on the air significant plays or major events of the day. "Our biggest challenge is continuing to serve the viewers the best we can," senior coordinating producer Jay Levy said. ... ESPN's Peter Gammons makes his Sunday Night Baseball debut tonight as a reporter, with the White Sox facing the Indians.