- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 28, 2007

CHICAGO WHITE SOX

2006: 90-72

Manager: Ozzie Guillen

Probable starters

LF Scott Podsednik

CF Darin Erstad

DH Jim Thome

1B Paul Konerko

RF Jermaine Dye

3B Joe Crede

2B Tadahito Iguchi

C A.J. Pierzynski

SS Juan Uribe

Rotation: Jose Contreras, Jon Garland, Mark Buehrle, Javier Vazquez, Gavin Floyd

Closer: Bobby Jenks

Bottom line: The Sox raised eyebrows when they traded away starters Freddy Garcia and Brandon McCarthy over the winter, but they think they still have a deep-enough rotation to return to the postseason. Floyd could be the key addition. If he pitches the way he was supposed to in Philly, he could jump to the front of the rotation.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

2006: 78-84

Manager: Eric Wedge

Probable starters

CF Grady Sizemore

RF Trot Nixon

DH Travis Hafner

C Victor Martinez

LF David Dellucci

1B Casey Blake

2B Josh Barfield

3B Andy Marte

SS Jhonny Peralta

Rotation: C.C. Sabathia, Jake Westbrook, Cliff Lee, Jeremy Sowers, Paul Byrd

Closer: Joe Borowski

Bottom line: They were everyone’s surprise pick a year ago, then watched as the Tigers stole their thunder. They’ll give it another try in 2007, banking on a good, young rotation and a potent lineup led by “Pronk” Hafner. But it’s probably asking too much to leapfrog the Tigers, White Sox and Twins in one fell swoop.

DETROIT TIGERS

2006: 93-67

Manager: Jim Leyland

Probable starters

CF Curtis Granderson

2B Placido Polanco

DH Gary Sheffield

SS Carlos Guillen

RF Magglio Ordonez

1B Sean Casey

LF Craig Monroe

C Ivan Rodriguez

3B Brandon Inge

Rotation: Kenny Rogers, Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson, Mike Maroth

Closer: Todd Jones

Bottom line: What do you get when you take last year’s AL champs and add Sheffield to the lineup? A strong candidate to repeat. The Tigers now have a big-time bopper in the middle of the order, and along with a five-deep rotation, that makes them poised for another big season in Motown.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS

2006: 62-100

Manager: Buddy Bell

Probable starters

CF David DeJesus

2B Mark Grudzielanek

RF Mark Teahen

DH Mike Sweeney

1B Ryan Shealy

3B Alex Gordon

LF Emil Brown

C John Buck

SS Angel Berroa

Rotation: Gil Meche, Odalis Perez, Luke Hudson, Jorge De La Rosa, Brian Bannister

Closer: Octavio Dotel

Bottom line: They think they’re finally starting to make some progress in K.C., and that’s probably true. Gordon (who was drafted ahead of Ryan Zimmerman) is an early favorite for AL Rookie of the Year. But all eyes will be on Meche. Was he worth $55 million, or is the new poster child for wasteful spending?

MINNESOTA TWINS

2006: 96-66

Manager: Ron Gardenhire

Probable starters

2B Luis Castillo

3B Nick Punto

C Joe Mauer

RF Michael Cuddyer

1B Justin Morneau

CF Torii Hunter

LF Rondell White

DH Jason Kubel

SS Jason Bartlett

Rotation: Johan Santana, Carlos Silva, Ramon Ortiz, Boof Bonser, Matt Garza

Closer: Joe Nathan

Bottom line: With batting champ Mauer, MVP Morneau and Cy Young-winner Santana back, they’ll once again have to be reckoned with. But with Francisco Liriano out for the season, it’ll be tough to repeat as AL Central champs. Still, you can never doubt this scrappy team’s ability to always be there come September.

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