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Spring position battle: American League Central

Posted on: February 8, 2012 4:11 pm

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Gearing up for spring training, we're headed east -- -but not too far east, just east from west, or in other words, to the Central, starting in the American League and what positional battles will be fought in the American League Central this spring, continuing the spring position battles series.

Chicago White Sox
Closer: Matt Thornton vs. Jesse Crain vs. Addison Reed

With Sergio Santos in Toronto and Chris Sale headed to the rotation, the White Sox are once again looking for a closer. Thornton saved three games last season and Crain one, but both are more or less keeping the seat warm for Reed, the team's top (and perhaps only) prospect. Thornton, an All-Star in 2010, won the closer battle last season before blowing his first four save opportunities to start the season and he was ultimately replaced by Santos. Crain pitched well last season, but it's Reed that has a chance to be special.

Cleveland Indians
Fifth starter: Kevin Slowey vs. David Huff vs. Jeanmar Gomez vs. Zach McAllister

Ubaldo Jimenez is the team's opening-day starter followed by Justin Masterson, Derek Lowe and Josh Tomlin. The fifth spot is probably Slowey's to lose. The 27-year-old right-hander was twice traded this offseason, first to Colorado and then to Cleveland. While he struggled last season (0-8 with a 6.67 ERA in eight starts and 14 games), he's a proven back-of-the-rotation starter with a 39-29 record and 4.66 ERA. He's also familiar with the AL Central. Gomez made 10 starts for the Indians last season, as did Huff, the only lefty of the group. McAllister made four starts and wasn't overly impressive.

Detroit Tigers
Third base: Miguel Cabrera vs. third base

When the Tigers signed Prince Fielder, the stated plan was that Cabrera will move to third, leaving the DH spot for Victor Martinez -- who isn't playing this year. The Tigers, it appears, are trying to keep Cabrera from getting too big to play third in preparation for 2013 when they'll really have a logjam at the position with Fielder, Cabrera, Martinez and Delmon Young. For now, it seems like wishful thinking that Cabrera can play a passable third base. But if he can, it helps the team out -- especially defensively in the outfield with Young not trying to figure out what to do with that that thing on his left hand.

Kansas City Royals
Second base: Johnny Giavotella vs. Chris Getz vs. Yuniesky Betancourt

What you've heard is true -- there's a ton of talent in Kansas City. In fact, the lineup is nearly set, except for second base and center field. Center should be manned by Lorenzo Cain, who doesn't have a realistic competitor for the spot, but second could be a question. Giavotella came up in 2011 to middling results - .247/.273/.376 with two homers and five stolen bases in 187 plate appearances, but he has a chance to take the position if he can play at the level he established in the minors, where he was a .305/.375/.437 hitter since being taken in the second round of the 2008 draft. While just 5-foot-8, he has shown the ability to make contract (striking out no more than 67 times in any of his minor league seasons) and walk nearly as much as he strikes out (192 minor-league walks to 212 strikeouts). He's not the best defender, but he's adequate. Getz is nobody's idea of a long-term answer. He hit .255/.313/.287 last season, but plays good defense. And then there's Betancourt, who was signed not add depth. The former Royals shortstop will not and should not be pressuring light-hitting Alcides Escobar, but he could add some pop to the infield at second.

Minnesota Twins
Disabled list: Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau vs. the disabled list

No two players may be as essential to their team's success as Mauer and Morneau. The two made a combined $37 million last season -- more than the entire Royals team. And, by the way, Kansas City finished eight games ahead of the Twins in the AL Central. The Twins just barely avoided being a $100-million, 100-loss team, but it took a 1-0 victory over the Royals on the last season to do it. Mauer played in 82 games, while Morneau played in just 69, with the two combining to hit seven home runs between them. Morneau's never seemed to fully recover from the concussion he suffered in July of 2010 and Mauer's had a variety of injuries, missing games with a leg injury, as well as lower back stiffness, a bruised shoulder, neck stiffness and pneumonia. Both players will play first base and DH some to try to keep them healthy, but questions will continue until either plays a productive 130-game-or-so season.

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Since: Sep 3, 2010
Posted on: February 18, 2012 8:17 am

Spring position battle: American League Central

The Tigers should be the sultans of swat, but are making a mistake thinking Cabrera can play 3rd base. It is OBP that matters, much more than the solo long ball. Tigers fate will lie with their defense and with how successful they are with getting the rest of their line-up on base. Cleveland and KC should continue their long hard climb toward respectability. Chicago always seems to look better on paper than on the field. This year they don't even look good on paper. The Twins could surprise, if they can keep their core players healthy.

Since: Jan 7, 2012
Posted on: February 17, 2012 5:53 pm

Spring position battle: American League Central

All it takes is for an injury to Verlander and the Tigers are in trouble.  They dont have the depth of pitching they had a few years ago.  I'd like to believe in Cleveland and Kansas City because they have alot of potential and compete with the division this year.  Both teams are better than they were when last year started so it is very possible.  Cleveland especially with their pitching and if Choo gets back to where he was the year before and how Cabrera performed last year they have the pieces to compete with the Tigers.

Since: Aug 26, 2006
Posted on: February 11, 2012 5:20 pm

Spring position battle: American League Central

I don't think there is anyway possible that Miguel could lose any where near the number of games he will win with his bat. Both of them together in the lineup will make them awesome.

Since: Oct 1, 2006
Posted on: February 11, 2012 2:27 pm

Spring position battle: American League Central

You are correct, you can not move a player who starts the game playing a pos. to can pinch hit for a DH but you can not move a player to DH from a pos. during a game. So M-Cab will be stuck at third or the tigers will have to hope for the best out of him in tight games.

Since: May 21, 2011
Posted on: February 11, 2012 1:03 pm

Spring position battle: American League Central

If reports are true, Miggy is already down about 25 pounds from his playing weight from last year.  Now that could mean he is around 245 which i think is still too big for 3rd, but i like the fact that he is dropping weight.  If Miggy can stay in the 235-245 range, he could be a beast at 3rd.  I'm not going to expect Miggy to be an all-star/gold glove guy at 3rd, but if he just can pound AL Central pitching like he has been doing, i will take whatever he gives us defensively.  

Championships can drive players to push themselves, and I think that Miggy realizes that he needs to be lighter to play 3rd.  Plus having Prince and Miggy in the middle of order is just going to be exciting to watch.  We may not have alot of speed, but this lineup could pound the ball all over the park 

Since: Aug 2, 2011
Posted on: February 11, 2012 6:54 am

Spring position battle: American League Central

This is a straight shootm out between Twins and Tigers. Personally, I believe that White Sox will fall short and the Indians are likely to maybe make a push for the division title however, will fall short and the Royals could be the team that decides who takes the crown. The Tigers are genuine post season candidates.

Since: Aug 2, 2010
Posted on: February 10, 2012 10:39 am

Spring position battle: American League Central

in re to PCAurand comment, the tribe can still be good, and still win the division. they did it in 2007, and only finished in 2nd place last year. The tribe may not win consecutively like they did in the 90's, but to talk about them like thier hopeless is false, I am not overly excited about current ownership penny pinching ways as well, but they have had success and it could be worse, you could be a pirates fan. AL central is such a great division, highly competitive, and anyone can come out on top with some good play and lil luck. Go Tribe!

Since: Feb 26, 2010
Posted on: February 10, 2012 10:09 am

Spring position battle: American League Central

First off, I agree with you, the Tigers should walk away with the Central this year. However your comment about moving Miggy from 3rd to DH late in games is not happening. As far as I know (someone correct me if I'm wrong), but I don't think you can move a positional player to DH during a game if he starts the game at a different position. Obviously you're not going to replace him for defensive reasons and take his bat out of the lineup so they're just going to have to roll with sub par D at the hot corner. You never know though, maybe he'll prove everyone wrong and end up playing a decent 3rd base. You don't have to have a gold glove over there to win a championship...can't wait for the sesason!   

Since: Jun 13, 2007
Posted on: February 10, 2012 9:50 am

Spring position battle: American League Central

The health of Mauer and Morneau are still very much in question, especially Morneau.  I hope the Twins enjoyed their recent success because those days are over.  The Mauer contract will set the Twins back for the next 5+ years at least.  That was not a typical Twins deal and the results are starting to speak for themselves.  

Since: Sep 2, 2006
Posted on: February 10, 2012 9:13 am

Spring position battle: American League Central

Umbaldo will be in the minors by May 1. "You got any more in the back?"

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