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AL Central Preview

The AL Central was the closest division last season and needed an extra tie-breaker game between Minnesota and Detroit to decide the champ. The division should be a barn-burner again, with the White Sox hoping to join the fray. The Twins move into their new outdoor stadium this season and they would like to christen it with another AL Central title. That became harder to do after elite closer Joe Nathan was lost for the season, but they’re still the favorite at +130. The Twins may not have a standout ace in their rotation, but they have five solid pitchers that give them a chance to win every night.

Keep an eye on Francisco Liriano this season. After struggling to return from Tommy John surgery last season Liriano has been lights out in spring training and could once again be the dominant pitcher he was before the surgery. In the field the Twins have two former MVP winners in Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, but in a search for more power they brought in slugger Jim Thome to DH. Minnesota could also get some more pop from J.J. Hardy if he can return to form, and Delmon Young remains a mystery after an inconsistent 2009 season.

The Tigers stumbled down the stretch last season and not surprisingly they made a few offseason moves. The added a live young arm in Max Scherzer by trading away Edwin Jackson, and he’ll plug in behind Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, and Rick Porcello. Johnny Damon found a new home in the outfield in place of Curtis Granderson. Magglio Ordonez returns after slumbering through last season, and rookie Austin Jackson will try to make a mark. Miguel Cabrera remains their biggest power threat, as he tries to put last year’s off-field troubles behind him.

The White Sox could surprise some people if Jake Peavy adapts to the switch to the AL. He’ll fit into a rotation that also includes Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, and John Danks. Chicago needs a full season from slugger Carlos Quentin, and a bounce-back year from Alex Rios would also help offensively. Return on new investments Juan Pierre and Mark Teahen would also be a big boost in helping the ChiSox compete in the Central. AL Central futures: Minnesota +130 Chicago White Sox +180 Detroit +240 Kansas City +1100 Cleveland +1600