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American League Central capsules

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 25, 2014 at 4:58 pm •  Published: March 25, 2014
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Capsules of American League Central teams, listed in order of finish last year:

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Detroit Tigers

2013: 93-69, first place (lost to Boston in ALCS).

Manager: Brad Ausmus (first season).

He's Here: RHP Joba Chamberlain, OF Rajai Davis, SS Alex Gonzalez, 2B Ian Kinsler, LHP Ian Krol, RHP Joe Nathan, SS Andrew Romine.

He's Outta Here: Manager Jim Leyland, RHP Joaquin Benoit, 1B Prince Fielder, RHP Doug Fister, 2B Omar Infante, C Brayan Pena, SS Jhonny Peralta, RHP Jose Veras.

Projected Lineup: 2B Ian Kinsler (.277, 13 HRs, 72 RBIs with Texas), RF Torii Hunter (.304, 17, 84), 1B Miguel Cabrera (.348, 44, 137 to win second straight MVP award), DH Victor Martinez (.301, 14, 83), CF Austin Jackson (.272, 12, 49), C Alex Avila (.227, 11, 47), 3B Nick Castellanos (.278 in 11 games in MLB debut), LF Rajai Davis (.260, 6, 24, 45 steals with Toronto), SS Alex Gonzalez (.177, 1, 8 with Milwaukee).

Rotation: RH Justin Verlander (13-12, 3.46 ERA, 217 Ks), RH Max Scherzer (21-3, 2.90, 240 Ks to win Cy Young Award), RH Anibal Sanchez (14-8, 2.57, 202), RH Rick Porcello (13-8, 4.32), LH Drew Smyly (6-0, 2.37 in 63 relief appearances).

Key Relievers: RH Joe Nathan (6-2, 1.39, 43 saves with Texas), RH Joba Chamberlain (2-1, 4.93 with New York Yankees), RH Al Alburquerque (4-3, 4.59), LH Ian Krol (2-1, 3.95 with Washington).

Hot Spots: A recent rash of major injuries — albeit not to the team's top players — left the Tigers scrambling. Outfielder Andy Dirks is expected to miss the first couple months of the season while recovering from a back injury, and shortstop Jose Iglesias will likely be out even longer with stress fractures in his legs. Detroit will also be without reliever Bruce Rondon because of elbow surgery. Davis may have a chance to be more than a platoon player in left, although Don Kelly is also an option there. Rondon's injury puts more pressure on Chamberlain and Alburquerque to perform well in the late innings.

Outlook: The Tigers are probably still the favorites to win a fourth straight AL Central title, but it's been an unsettling spring training. In addition to the injuries, Scherzer's stalled contract talks — he's a free agent after this season — add to the sense of uncertainty about the team's future. As long as Scherzer, Verlander and Miguel Cabrera are healthy, however, Ausmus will have plenty to work with in his managerial debut. Detroit still has perhaps the game's best starting rotation, and after three straight appearances in the AL championship series — and a pennant in 2012 — Detroit is still very much a threat to win it all.

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Cleveland Indians

2013: 92-70, second place (AL wild card).

Manager: Terry Francona (second season).

He's Here: RHP John Axford, OF David Murphy, LHP Josh Outman, RHP Shaun Marcum, OF Jeff Francoeur, OF Nyjer Morgan, RHP David Aardsma, RHP Kyle Davies.

He's Outta Here: RHP Chris Perez, RHP Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP Joe Smith, LHP Scott Kazmir, OF Drew Stubbs, RHP Matt Albers, LHP Rich Hill, OF Jason Kubel, C Lou Marson.

Projected Lineup: CF Michael Bourn (.263, 6 HRs, 50 RBIs, 23 steals), 1B Nick Swisher (.246, 22, 63, 77 BBs), 2B Jason Kipnis (.284, 17, 84, All-Star), DH Carlos Santana (.268, 20, 74, 93 BBs), LF Michael Brantley (.284, 10, 73, zero errors), SS Asdrubal Cabrera (.242, 14, 64, 114 Ks), C Yan Gomes (.294, 11, 38, threw out 38 percent of runners), RF David Murphy (.220, (career-low) 13, 45 with Rangers), 3B Lonnie Chisenhall (.225, 6, 26, 94 games).

Rotation: RH Justin Masterson (14-10, 3.45 ERA, 195 Ks, All-Star), RH Corey Kluber (11-5, 3.85), Zach McAllister (9-9, 3.75, DL for finger), RH Carlos Carrasco (1-4, 6.75, missed '12 with surgery), RH Danny Salazar (2-3, 3.12, started year in Double-A).

Key Relievers: RH John Axford (7-7, zero saves with Brewers and Cardinals), RH Cody Allen (6-1, 2.43, club-high 77 appearances), RH Bryan Shaw (7-3, 3.24, 70 games), LH Marc Rzepczynski (0.89 in 27 games, LHs hit just .128).

Hot Spots: With Cabrera's contract up at the end of this season, he needs to bounce back from a sub-par 2013 to have a future in Cleveland — or anywhere. He hit .031 points below his career average last season, when he missed time with a leg injury. Cabrera hit into some tough luck as well, but there's no time for excuses, not with hot prospect Francisco Lindor waiting in the wings to take his spot. Cabrera has been mentioned in trade rumors and that's likely to continue throughout 2014.

Outlook: "Unfinished Business" is the theme in 2014 as the Indians intend to go deeper in the playoffs after losing in the wild-card game to Tampa Bay. Francona did a masterful job in his first season, guiding his team through some difficult stretches while instilling a belief in his players that they can beat anyone. Replacing Jimenez and Kazmir — who combined for 23 wins — will be a key along with Axford regaining his 2011-12 form, when he saved 81 games for Milwaukee. Brantley and Kipnis are two of the AL's best young players with the potential of blossoming into perennial All-Stars. The Indians, who won their last 10 games to make the postseason a year ago, went just 4-15 against Detroit and have to do better than that to unseat the AL Central champions.

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Kansas City Royals

2013: 86-76, third place.

Manager: Ned Yost (fifth season).

He's Here: LH Jason Vargas, 2B Omar Infante, RF Norichika Aoki, 3B Danny Valencia, LHP Patrick Schuster.

He's Outta Here: RH Ervin Santana, LH Will Smith, 2B Chris Getz, RF David Lough, C George Kottaras, 3B Irving Falu, RH Felipe Paulino, RH Luis Mendoza, 3B Jamey Carroll. Projected Lineup: RF Norichika Aoki (.286, 8 HRs, 37 RBIs, 20 SBs with Brewers), 2B Omar Infante (.318, 10, 51 with Tigers), 1B Eric Hosmer (.302, 17, 79), DH Billy Butler (.289, 15, 82), LF Alex Gordon (.265, 20, 81), C Salvador Perez (.292, 13, 79), 3B Mike Moustakas (.233, 12, 42), CF Lorenzo Cain (.251, 4, 46), SS Alcides Escobar (.234, 4, 52).

Rotation: RH James Shields (13-9, 3.15 ERA, 196 Ks), LH Jason Vargas (9-8, 4.02, 109 with Angels), RH Yordano Ventura (0-1, 3.52, 11), RH Jeremy Guthrie (15-12, 4.04, 111), LH Bruce Chen (9-4, 3.27, 78). Key Relievers: RH Greg Holland, (2-1, 1.21 ERA, 47/50 saves), RH Aaron Crow (7-5, 3.38), RH Wade Davis (8-11, 5.32), RH Kelvin Herrera (5-7, 3.86), LH Tim Collins (3-6, 3.54), LH Danny Duffy (2-0, 1.85).

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