Tight divisional races loom in race for AL pennant

Wed Mar 26, 2014 4:00pm EDT
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By Larry Fine

(Reuters) - Competition should be keen given the prospects of tight division races that could provide another nail-biting season's finish when American League baseball action gets under way on March 31.

The Major League Baseball campaign officially opened last weekend in Sydney, Australia, where early World Series favorites the Los Angeles Dodgers swept two games from National League West rivals the Arizona Diamondbacks.

On Sunday, the Dodgers make the shorter trip down the California coast to San Diego to play the Padres in the U.S. opening, and on Monday the American League gets started with seven home games on the schedule.

For many, MLB's Opening Day ushers in Spring and the promise of warmer days ahead - an occasion coming in the nick of time for local fans eager to move on after a bitter winter.

This particular six-month-long MLB campaign could be a doozy considering how many teams look to have a legitimate shot at contending.

The World Series champion Boston Red Sox could have all four of their AL East rivals pushing for a place in the postseason.

The New York Yankees committed over $450 million in the offseason to sign reinforcements including Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka after missing the playoffs for the second time in 19 years.

The small market Tampa Bay Rays resisted the urge to trade 28-year-old ace David Price and stockpile even more young, cheap talent and so return a pitching staff capable of booking another World Series trip following their Fall Classic berth in 2008.   Continued...

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu throws a pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the bottom of the second inning in their Major League Baseball game at the Sydney Cricket Ground March 23, 2014. REUTERS/David Gray