Five AL East players with something to prove

August 22nd, 2019

With six weeks remaining in the 2019 season and the lone Trade Deadline already in the rear-view mirror, teams looking for a boost will now need to find that internally.

Whether it be an injured player returning for the stretch run or an established player looking to turn things around after an uncharacteristic season, teams around the Majors will be looking to capitalize on these edges into September and beyond.

Here is a look at which players in the American League East have an opportunity to show something down the stretch.

Blue Jays: Ryan Tepera, RHP

entered the season as one of Toronto’s most reliable bullpen arms over the past four seasons, but something wasn’t right early on. The 31-year-old started the season on the injured list, then returned to post a 6.55 ERA over 12 appearances before hitting the IL again with an elbow impingement. In late May, he underwent elbow surgery to remove bone spurs. Tepera has made four rehab appearances so far, and he should rejoin the Blue Jays at some point, when he’ll have an opportunity to set himself up well for 2020. In the spring, manager Charlie Montoyo frequently brought up Tepera’s name when asked whom his ideal opener would be, so that role could still be in play.

Orioles: Mark Trumbo, DH/OF

The Oriole with the most to prove is , who has not played yet this season while rehabbing from right knee surgery. Simply put, he needs to prove that his knee is healthy enough to continue playing.

The former home run champion and two-time All-Star has not played since last August and is in the final year of a three-year $37.5 million contract. Trumbo's procedure was to repair a chondral defect, similar to the condition that has complicated Dustin Pedroia's career in recent years. Trumbo has had multiple rehab attempts cut short due to problems with the knee. He says he wants to return in September. If the 33-year-old can, maybe he can convince someone to make him a low-risk offer this winter. If not, he'll probably retire.
-- Joe Trezza

Rays: Jose Alvarado, LHP

entered the season as the Rays’ closer and, until the middle of May, it looked like the 24-year-old left-hander was emerging as one of the best relievers in the AL East. Over those first 18 appearances, Alvarado posted a 1.04 ERA with 26 strikeouts over 17 1/3 innings while holding opponents to a .397 OPS before control issues started to pop up. Alvarado then had to leave the club to attend to a family matter and only pitched two games in the month of June. In July, a right oblique strain landed him on the IL, forcing him to miss another five weeks before returning on Aug. 13. Alvarado hasn’t been able to build much momentum on the mound this season but, now that he’s back healthy, the Rays need him to rediscover his dominance from earlier in 2019.
-- Juan Toribio

Red Sox: Nathan Eovaldi, RHP

started slow this season, then underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove loose bodies from his right elbow in late April. The 29-year-old finally returned to a Major League mound on July 22 and, after making 11 relief appearances, he returned to the rotation on Sunday. It wasn't pretty, though, as Eovaldi allowed five runs over just two innings. Boston’s rotation needs all the help it can get at this point and, after signing a four-year, $68 million contract last offseason, the Red Sox need Eovaldi to contribute down the stretch.
-- Ian Browne

Yankees: Luis Severino, RHP

The Yankees have overcome an incredible number of injuries in 2019, but it’s particularly impressive that they’ve done all this without their projected ace, , throwing a single inning. Severino has dealt with right rotator cuff and right lat injuries, but he’s heading to Tampa, Fla., to ramp up his throwing program and could be in Minor League games soon. If the 25-year-old right-hander can return in time for the postseason -- either as a starter or reliever -- that would be another boost for the Yankees.
-- Bryan Hoch