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Division breakdown: American League Central

SHARE Division breakdown: American League Central


2006: 95-67, second place, wild card, AL champions

Manager: Jim Leyland (second season)

Projected Lineup: CF Curtis Granderson, 2B Placido Polanco, DH Gary Sheffield, RF Magglio Ordonez, SS Carlos Guillen, C Ivan Rodriguez, 1B Sean Casey, LF Craig Monroe, 3B Brandon Inge

Rotation: RH Jeremy Bonderman, RH Justin Verlander, LH Nate Robertson, LH Mike Maroth, RH Chad Durbin

Key Relievers: RH Todd Jones, RH Joel Zumaya, RH Fernando Rodney

Hot Spot: Between the ears. If the Tigers forget what helped them win the AL pennant, preparing diligently almost every day and playing hard, they might slip back to the pack.

Bottom Line: The Tigers gave themselves a chance to contend by essentially bringing back the same team — plus Sheffield. Outstanding pitching pushed the Tigers to the top last year, and there's no reason to think the front of the rotation and back of the bullpen can't be among baseball's best again — even without Kenny Rogers.


2006: 78-84, fourth place

Manager: Eric Wedge (fifth season)

Projected Lineup: CF Grady Sizemore, RF Trot Nixon, DH Travis Hafner, C Victor Martinez, 1B Casey Blake, LF David Dellucci, 3B Andy Marte, SS Jhonny Peralta, 2B Josh Barfield

Rotation: LH C.C. Sabathia, RH Jake Westbrook, LH Cliff Lee, LH Jeremy Sowers, RH Paul Byrd, RH Fausto Carmona

Key Relievers: RH Joe Borowski, RH Roberto Hernandez, LH Aaron Fultz

Hot Spot: The bullpen, which was baseball's worst in 2006 and the biggest reason the Indians won 15 fewer games than in '05.

Bottom Line: A loaded division will make it tough for the Indians, who must leapfrog three teams — Minnesota, Chicago and Detroit — to make the playoffs for the first time since 2001. The Indians can hit and pitch, no doubt. It's the catching and throwing part that bewildered them a year ago.


2006: 96-66, first place

Manager: Ron Gardenhire (sixth season)

Projected Lineup: 2B Luis Castillo, 3B Nick Punto, C Joe Mauer, RF Michael Cuddyer, 1B Justin Morneau, CF Torii Hunter, DH Jason Kubel, LF Rondell White, SS Jason Bartlett

Rotation: LH Johan Santana, RH Boof Bonser, RH Ramon Ortiz, RH Sidney Ponson, RH Carlos Silva

Key Relievers: RH Joe Nathan, RH Juan Rincon, LH Dennys Reyes

Hot Spot: The rotation. After two-time AL Cy Young Award winner Santana, it's anybody's guess.

Bottom Line: Almost everyone is back from a team that thrilled fans last season by coming from 12 1/2 games back to win its fourth division title in five seasons. But the two they lost hurt. Brad Radke was a rock in the rotation, and Francisco Liriano was brilliant as a rookie last season until arm troubles surfaced in August.


2006: 90-72, third place

Manager: Ozzie Guillen (fourth season)

Projected Lineup: LF Scott Podsednik, CF Darin Erstad, DH Jim Thome, 1B Paul Konerko, RF Jermaine Dye, 3B Joe Crede, C A.J. Pierzynski, 2B Tadahito Iguchi, SS Juan Uribe

Rotation: RH Jose Contreras, RH Jon Garland, LH Mark Buehrle, RH Javier Vazquez, LH John Danks

Key Relievers: RH Bobby Jenks, RH Mike MacDougal, RH David Aardsma

Hot Spot: Left field and center field. Podsednik had sports hernia surgery in the offseason, and Erstad is coming off an injury-shortened season.

Bottom Line: The White Sox went from World Series champions in 2005 to playoff spectators in 2006, but instead of a major overhaul, they opted to tweak the roster and add prospects. The rotation in center and left is a question mark.


2006: 62-100, fifth place

Manager: Buddy Bell (third season)

Projected Lineup: CF David DeJesus, 2B Mark Grudzielanek, RF Mark Teahen, DH Mike Sweeney, 3B Alex Gordon, LF Emil Brown, 1B Ryan Shealy, C John Buck, SS Tony Pena Jr.

Rotation: RH Gil Meche, LH Odalis Perez, RH Zack Greinke, LH Jorge De La Rosa, RH Brandon Duckworth

Key Relievers: RHP Octavio Dotel, RHP David Riske, RHP Joakim Soria

Hot Spot: Pitching and overall depth. Since being hired last May 31, general manager Dayton Moore has overseen a major overhaul of the worst staff in the major leagues.

Bottom Line: If a few of their new players come through, especially Meche, Dotel and Gordon, late-night comics will have to mine their material from some other source.