Maddon sees AL East as 'wide open' this year

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Rays manager Joe Maddon didn't hesitate to offer his comments when asked to handicap the American League East for the coming season.

The Rays manager began by noting: "It's wide open."

"Everybody's denigrating the Yankees for their age over experience," Maddon said. "Then you talk about the Red Sox and what happened last year. I expect them both to be very good this year."

Maddon then looked over at the opposing dugout in Dunedin and spoke about Toronto after its massive offseason overhaul.

"What the Blue Jays have done is very exciting for Toronto," Maddon said. "Part of it for them is how quickly they can get it together as a group. And if they do, they could be very dangerous. Baltimore showed what they could do last year. Baltimore started playing on another mental level last year. That's why they got so tough. And I think we're as good as we've ever been. So I think things can be very interesting."

When a reporter commented that the Orioles showed everyone that anything is possible with what they accomplished in 2012, Maddon smiled and responded: "I think we showed that in 2008."

"That's been rather contagious the last several years," Maddon said. "Baltimore, I really appreciate what they do and how they do it. They come to play. [Buck  Showalter has] done a great job there. It's a different mindset among their players. They don't quit. ... They just don't quit and I expect the same thing."

Maddon agreed that picking a winner in the division would be difficult.

"Injuries will play a role in it at some point," Maddon said. "But I think it's going to be, who knows, but I think we'll all be good."