The Associated Press
A team-by-team look at the American League Central entering spring training, including key players each club acquired and lost, and dates of the first workout for pitchers and catchers, and the full squad:
Manager: Brad Ausmus (second season).
2014: 90-72, first place, lost to Orioles in ALDS.
Training Town: Lakeland, Florida.
Park: Joker Marchant Stadium.
First Workout: Feb. 20/24.
He’s Here: OF Yoenis Cespedes, RHP Shane Greene, RHP Alfredo Simon, OF Anthony Gose, RHP Alex Wilson, LHP Tom Gorzelanny, RHP Josh Zeid.
He’s Outta Here: RHP Max Scherzer, RHP Rick Porcello, OF Torii Hunter, RHP Joba Chamberlain, SS Eugenio Suarez, LHP Phil Coke, UT Don Kelly, OF Ezequiel Carrera.
Going campin’: After four straight AL Central titles, the Tigers look a bit more vulnerable following Scherzer’s departure via free agency. The big issue heading into spring training is the health of Detroit’s two big sluggers, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. Cabrera had ankle surgery early in the offseason, and Martinez had knee surgery Feb. 10. Martinez is expected back by the start of the season, and the Tigers are hopeful that Cabrera can continue to be one of the game’s most productive hitters. After losing Scherzer and trading Porcello, Detroit slotted Greene and Simon into the back of the rotation. The bullpen remains a concern after a rough 2014. Closer Joe Nathan returns at age 40, hoping his second season in Detroit will be smoother than the first. The Tigers also brought back reliever Joakim Soria after acquiring him for the stretch run last year. Hard-throwing right-hander Bruce Rondon could give Detroit’s bullpen a boost after missing 2014 with a torn ligament in his pitching elbow.
Kansas City Royals
Manager: Ned Yost (sixth season).
2014: 89-73, second place, lost to Giants in World Series.
Training Town: Surprise, Arizona.
Park: Surprise Stadium.
First Workout: Feb. 20/25.
He’s Here: RHP Edinson Volquez, DH Kendrys Morales, OF Alex Rios, RHP Kris Medlen, RHP Jandel Gustave, RHP Ryan Madson.
He’s Outta Here: RHP James Shields, DH Billy Butler, OF Nori Aoki, LHP Scott Downs, RHP Aaron Crow, 2B Johnny Giavotella, INF Jayson Nix, OF Raul Ibanez, OF Josh Willingham.
Going campin’: Just about the only way the Royals can build on last season is by winning it all. The long-downtrodden franchise ended a 29-year playoff drought in a big way, winning a wild wild-card game and then streaking all the way to Game 7 of the World Series, where it finally fell to the Giants. Kansas City lost one of the faces of the franchise in Butler and a fiery, dependable ace in Shields to free agency. But the notoriously frugal organization paid out for Volquez, Rios and Morales as replacements, and took a flyer on Medlen, who is big on talent but coming off Tommy John surgery. But for all the changes, the real key to this season may be the returnees. Right-hander Yordano Ventura and left-hander Danny Duffy need to take the next step toward being front-line starters, making the loss of Shields a little easier to handle. And position players such as first baseman Eric Hosmer and third baseman Mike Moustakas need to provide more consistent run production for an offense that is short on power. The defense should remain strong with Gold Glove winners Hosmer, catcher Sal Perez and left fielder Alex Gordon, along with slick shortstop Alcides Escobar. But can Kansas City’s historically dominant bullpen deliver again? It returns intact with setup men Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis laying the groundwork ahead of All-Star closer Greg Holland.
Manager: Terry Francona (third season).
2014: 85-77, third place.
Training Town: Goodyear, Arizona.
Park: Goodyear Ballpark.
First Workout: Feb. 20/24.
He’s Here: DH-1B Brandon Moss, RHP Gavin Floyd, RHP Shaun Marcum, RHP Anthony Swarzak.
He’s Outta Here: DH Jason Giambi, INF Justin Sellers, C Chris Gimenez.
Going campin’: The Indians were one of the least active teams during the offseason for a reason. They’ve got most of their players — including a key core — under contract and didn’t have a major pressing need other than a big bat. Unfortunately, they’re priced out of that market. Despite injuries and sub-par seasons from several notable players, Francona had his team in the playoff mix until the final week last season. The Tribe needs bounce-back years from second baseman Jason Kipnis, outfielder Michael Bourn and first baseman-right fielder Nick Swisher, who underwent surgery on both knees. Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and outfielder Michael Brantley are emerging superstars but they can’t carry this squad. Defense will be a major emphasis this spring as the Indians try to cut down on a major league-leading 116 errors.
Chicago White Sox
Manager: Robin Ventura (fourth season).
2014: 73-89, fourth place.
Training Town: Glendale, Arizona.
Park: Camelback Ranch.
First Workout: Feb. 20/24.
He’s Here: 1B Adam LaRoche, RHP Jeff Samardzija, RHP David Robertson, OF Melky Cabrera, LHP Zach Duke.
He’s Outta Here: 1B-DH Paul Konerko.
Going campin’: It’s hard to say which Chicago team had a busier offseason. While the Cubs hired manager Joe Maddon and signed ace Jon Lester, the White Sox made a series of moves that sent expectations soaring on the South Side. Now, they are hoping to contend in the AL Central after back-to-back losing seasons. They injected left-handed pop into their lineup when they signed LaRoche, complementing AL Rookie of the Year Jose Abreu, and added to the top of the order with the addition of Cabrera. He figures to slot into the No. 2 spot behind Adam Eaton. The White Sox also strengthened their rotation and their bullpen by acquiring Samardzija from Oakland and signing Robertson and Duke. Samardzija, an Indiana native who grew up rooting for the White Sox, figures to take the second spot in the rotation between ace Chris Sale and ahead of Jose Quintana. Robertson, who had 39 saves in 44 chances with the Yankees, and Duke bolster a bullpen that ranked among baseball’s worst last season. Chicago tied for seventh in the majors with 21 blown saves and had the fourth-lowest save percentage (63.2)
Manager: Paul Molitor (first season).
2014: 70-92, fifth place.
Training Town: Fort Myers, Florida.
Park: Hammond Stadium at CenturyLink Sports Complex.
First Workout: Feb. 23/28.
He’s Here: RHP Ervin Santana, RF Torii Hunter, RHP Tim Stauffer.
He’s Outta Here: Manager Ron Gardenhire, RHP Jared Burton, RHP Yohan Pino, RHP Anthony Swarzak, 1B-RF Chris Colabello, RF-1B Chris Parmelee.
Going campin’: Molitor takes over for Gardenhire, who managed the team for 13 seasons. As a minor league instructor with the organization, Molitor had a strong influence on and gained the respect of many young players. Now, under greater scrutiny, he’ll continue to help develop up-and-comers like shortstop Danny Santana, center fielder Aaron Hicks, left fielder Oswaldo Arcia, designated hitter Kennys Vargas and catcher Josmil Pinto, not to mention rising stars in center fielder Byron Buxton and third baseman Miguel Sano, who could make their major league debuts later this year. Setting a confident tone for the season will be important for a team that has lost an average of 96 games over the last four years. A return to his standard of productivity by first baseman Joe Mauer is badly needed by the Twins, too, so a strong and healthy spring will be important for him. Hicks must win the job again after losing it last season, with speedy Jordan Schafer pushing for playing time. Signing Santana bolstered the rotation, but one spot is still wide open with Alex Meyer, Trevor May, Tommy Milone and Mike Pelfrey the leading candidates.
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