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Manager: Ron Gardenhire (10th season).

He’s Here: INF Tsuyoshi Nishioka, LHP Dusty Hughes.

He’s Outta There: RHP Matt Guerrier, RHP Jesse Crain, SS J.J. Hardy, 2B Orlando Hudson, INF Nick Punto.

Projected Lineup: CF Denard Span (.264, 3, 58, 26 SBs), 2B Tsuyoshi Nishioka (.346, 11, 59 RBIs, 121 runs, 22 SBs with Chiba Lotte in Japan), C Joe Mauer (.327, 9, 75, 43 2Bs), 1B Justin Morneau (.345, 18, 56 in 81 games), DH Jim Thome (.283, 25, 59, .412 OBP in 276 ABs) or Jason Kubel (.249, 21, 92), RF Michael Cuddyer (.271, 14, 81), LF Delmon Young (.298, 21, 112 RBIs, 46 2Bs), 3B Danny Valencia (.311, 7, 40 in 85 games), SS Alexi Casilla (.276, 1, 20 in 69 games).

Rotation: RH Carl Pavano (17-11, 3.75 ERA, 7 CGs), LH Francisco Liriano (14-10, 3.62, 201 Ks), RH Nick Blackburn (10-12, 5.42, .302 opponents’ batting average), LH Brian Duensing (10-3, 2.62, 13 starts, 53 appearances), RH Scott Baker (12-9, 4.49).

Key Relievers: RH Joe Nathan (injured all last season, 2-2, 2.10, 47 saves in 2009), RH Kevin Slowey (13-6, 4.45 in 28 starts, LH Dusty Hughes (1-3, 3.83, 3 HR, 57 appearances with Kansas City), LH Jose Mijares (1-1, 3.31), RH Matt Capps (2-0, 2.00, 16 saves in 27 games after trade from Washington).

Hot Spots: 1B, 2B, SS, Nos. 3-5 starters, closer. Morneau missed the last four months of last season with a concussion and has gradually eased his way back this spring. Twins lineup is much different with him hitting cleanup. If he can’t overcome the injury, Cuddyer will move from RF to 1B and Kubel will go to RF. The Twins are also breaking in a new middle infield after Hardy and Hudson were let go. Stepping in are Casilla and Nishioka, both of whom are unproven. They also need some consistency at the back end of their rotation after Blackburn, Baker and Slowey all struggled to be reliable for most of last season. Nathan was an All-Star before missing the entire 2010 season after reconstructive surgery on his elbow, and Twins hope he regains his form.

Outlook: The Tigers and White Sox made big moves in the offseason in hopes of chasing down the two-time defending division champions. But the Twins always seem to find a way to be in the race in September, and that doesn’t figure to change this year _ unless Mauer and Morneau are out of the lineup. Mauer had arthroscopic knee surgery in the offseason and didn’t start catching in spring training until last week. He begins the first season of an eight-year, $184 million contract extension, the biggest sign yet that the Twins are no longer a small-market club thanks to cash cow Target Field, which opened last season.


Chicago White Sox

Manager: Ozzie Guillen (8th season).

2010: 88-74, second place.

He’s Here: DH Adam Dunn, RHP Jesse Crain, LHP Will Ohman.

He’s Outta There: RHP Bobby Jenks, RHP Freddy Garcia, DH Manny Ramirez.

Projected lineup: LF Juan Pierre (.275, 1, 47, 68 SBs), 2B Gordon Beckham (.252, 9, 49), DH Adam Dunn (.260, 39, 103, 199 Ks with Washington), 1B Paul Konerko (.312, 39, 111), CF Alex Rios (.284, 21, 88, 34 SBs), RF Carlos Quentin (.243, 26, 87), C A.J. Pierzynski (.270, 9, 56), SS Alexei Ramirez (.282, 18, 70), 3B Brent Morel (.231, 3, 7 in 21 games) or Mark Teahen (.258, 4, 25 in 77 games).

Story Continues →