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04/02/10 6:41 PM ET

Right off the bat, Rays, O's begin East play

Bailey Stephens/MLB.com

In the competitive American League East, every game counts. This couldn't be more true for the Orioles and Rays who, in addition to the Red Sox, Yankees and Blue Jays, have to contend with each other, and they'll meet on Opening Day on Tuesday at 7:10 p.m. ET at Tropicana Field.

The season opener is the first of 18 matchups between the two AL East rivals, who will both lean heavily on their young pitching staffs this season.

The Rays are hoping to ride their young hurlers -- the oldest of whom is Opening Day starter James Shields at 28 -- to a postseason berth. Touted young pitchers David Price and Wade Davis add to a rotation that will only get better with experience. They also upgraded the bullpen, adding Rafael Soriano to the mix.

The Orioles hope 2010 is the year their young arms put it all together at the Major League level. To aid in that process, Baltimore brought in veteran Kevin Millwood to mentor the staff. In addition to his Opening Day responsibilities, the O's are hoping Millwood can bring along youngsters Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen and Chris Tillman.

While these two teams' pitching staffs will decide their club's fate down the stretch, the Opening Day showdown could be a preview to the pecking order in the AL East.

Orioles: Youth is served
With a solidified bullpen and a rotation stacked with talented youngsters, the Orioles should no doubt improve from last season. But in a division that is equally packed with talent, it will take a big effort to fight off the beasts of the AL East. There shouldn't be any shortage of excitement in Baltimore though, as Matusz, Bergesen and Tillman ooze potential. Millwood got the nod for Opening Day, a role he has filled six times over the years. He joins the Orioles after a strong year with the Rangers. (13-10, 3.67 ERA). After taking on the Rays, the O's head home to Camden Yards for a series against the Blue Jays.

Rays: Key stars back in business
Without many big changes, the Rays are back in 2010 with many of the same key players. Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford still hold the keys to Tampa Bay's offense. Shields will provide the veteran force in the young rotation. He's logged more than 200 innings in each of the past three seasons, and Tampa Bay is counting on more of the same. As with all young teams, there are a lot of question marks, but if the Rays can solve some of them quickly, they could make some noise in the AL East. After taking on the Orioles at home, the defending World Series champion Yankees stroll in for a three-game set.

Worth noting
Shields faced Baltimore on Opening Day in 2008 at Camden Yards and earned the win, going seven strong innings. This will be the Rays' fourth Opening Day game against the Orioles, making Baltimore their most popular Opening Day opponent in their 13-year existence. ... Millwood has struggled at Tropicana Field in his career, going 1-1 with a 6.63 ERA.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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