AL Central: It should be a wide-open race

Compensation and BenefitsCoco CrispCarlos QuentinJoe CredeJose ContrerasPaul KonerkoOzzie Guillen

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
CLEVELAND INDIANS (81-81, 3rd)
MANAGER: Eric Wedge (7th season)
PAYROLL: $80 million
X-FACTOR: Matt LaPorta, the key piece in last summer's CC Sabathia deal, could be up early in the year to claim left field.
BEST CASE: Carl Pavano, freed of the media spotlight of New York, reverts to the 18-win form he showed as a Marlin in 2004. … Getting Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez back from injury puts the offense in overdrive. … Kerry Wood gives them their best power closer since Jose Mesa in the mid-90s.
WORST CASE: The rotation struggles after the top two spots. … Wood's star-crossed career includes another injury-marred season. … A schedule that has them playing 27 of their first 45 games on the road puts them in an early hole.
LINEUP
CF Grady Sizemore
3B Mark DeRosa
C Victor Martinez
DH Travis Hafner
SS Jhonny Peralta
RF Shin-Soo Choo
1B Ryan Garko
LF Ben Francisco
2B Asdrubal Cabrera
ROTATION
LHP Cliff Lee
RHP Fausto Carmona
RHP Carl Pavano
RHP Anthony Reyes
LHP Scott Lewis
BULLPEN
CL Kerry Wood
RHP Rafael Betancourt
LHP Rafael Perez

DETROIT TIGERS (74-88, 5th)
MANAGER: Jim Leyland (4th season)
PAYROLL: $127 million
X-FACTOR: RHP Rick Porcello, 20, received the Josh Beckett contract out of a New Jersey high school and has the hype to match.
BEST CASE: New closer Brandon Lyon successfully replaces the retired Todd Jones despite recording just one season of more than 14 saves. … A deep lineup challenges the 900-run mark the way it was supposed to a year ago. … Jim Leyland steers them back into the postseason for the first time since losing the '06 World Series.
WORST CASE: Dontrelle Willis never makes it back from anxiety disorder and essentially wastes another year of his fading career. … Post-WBC fatigue causes slow starts for the quartet of Tigers who reached the semifinals. … Last year wasn't as much of an aberration as most thought.
LINEUP
CF Curtis Granderson
2B Placido Polanco
RF Magglio Ordonez
1B Miguel Cabrera
LF Carlos Guillen
DH Marcus Thames
C Gerald Laird
3B Brandon Inge
SS Adam Everett
ROTATION
RHP Justin Verlander
RHP Edwin Jackson
RHP Armando Galarraga
RHP Jeremy Bonderman
LHP Rick Porcello
BULLPEN
CL Brandon Lyon
RHP Fernando Rodney
LHP Bobby Seay

CHICAGO WHITE SOX (89-74, 1st)
MANAGER: Ozzie Guillen (6th season)
PAYROLL: $98 million
X-FACTOR: Ozzie Guillen has replaced Lou Piniella as the most combustible skipper in the game. His reaction to wins, losses and just about anything else shapes entire news cycles in the Windy City.
BEST CASE: The top of the lineup gets on base enough to keep them in the top five in AL runs. … They lead the majors in homers again while keeping their strikeouts within reason. … Experience trumps youth in a highly competitive division.
WORST CASE: Paul Konerko's slugging and on-base numbers decline for a third straight season. … Anything happens to Carlos Quentin, whose injury absence last September changed the course of their season. … Jose Contreras, coming off a torn Achilles, sees his strikeout total drop for a fourth straight season at age 37 (wink, wink).
LINEUP
CF Dewayne Wise
2B Chris Getz
LF Carlos Quentin
RF Jermaine Dye
DH Jim Thome
1B Paul Konerko
C A.J. Pierzynski
SS Alexei Ramirez
3B Josh Fields
ROTATION
LHP Mark Buehrle

RHP Gavin Floyd
LHP John Danks
RHP Jose Contreras
LHP Clayton Richard
BULLPEN
CL Bobby Jenks
RHP Scott Linebrink
LHP Matt Thornton

MINNESOTA TWINS (88-75, 2nd)
MANAGER: Ron Gardenhire (8th season)
PAYROLL: $62 million
X-FACTOR: Young lefty Francisco Liriano could be Johan Santana Lite if he could just stay healthy for a full season.
BEST CASE: Joe Crede's back cooperates and he gives them another much-needed power bat. … Team Piranha gnaws its opponents into submission as usual. … Ron Gardenhire guides them back into the playoffs for the fifth time in eight years after missing out in a playoff last season.
WORST CASE: Joe Mauer's back problems slow him all season, robbing the lineup of a vital cog. … The speedsters at the top don't get on base nearly enough to keep the offense humming. … The rotation turns out to be just a collection of Nos. 3 and 4 starters, lacking that one big horse at the top.
LINEUP
CF Denard Span
2B Alexi Casilla
C Joe Mauer
1B Justin Morneau
3B Michael Cuddyer
DH Jason Kubel
3B Joe Crede
LF Delmon Young
SS Nick Punto
ROTATION
RHP Scott Baker
LHP Francisco Liriano
RHP Kevin Slowey
LHP Glen Perkins
RHP Nick Blackburn
BULLPEN
RHP Joe Nathan
RHP Jesse Crain
RHP Luis Ayala

KANSAS CITY ROYALS (75-87, 4th)
MANAGER: Trey Hillman (2nd season)
PAYROLL: $74 million
X-FACTOR: 3B Alex Gordon has been compared to a young George Brett, but he's still looking for that breakout season.
BEST CASE: Another round of offseason additions allows them to improve their win total for a fourth straight year. … Coco Crisp, finally out of Boston, tightens up the defense and starts hitting again. … The young pitching starts to fall into place behind Gil Meche and they challenge for a playoff spot.
WORST CASE: Adding all-or-nothing Mike Jacobs to a lineup coming off a .320 on-base percentage doesn't exactly help matters. … Anything happens to Meche, placing too much pressure on the kids. … Make it 24 years and counting since their last postseason trip.
LINEUP
CF Coco Crisp
SS Mike Aviles
LF David DeJesus
RF Jose Guillen
1B Mike Jacobs
DH Billy Butler
3B Alex Gordon
C Miguel Olivo
2B Willie Bloomquist
ROTATION
RHP Gil Meche
RHP Zack Greinke
RHP Kyle Davies
RHP Luke Hochevar
RHP Brian Bannister
BULLPEN
CL Joakim Soria
RHP Juan Cruz
RHP Kyle Farnsworth

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