On the comeback trail
A lot has happened in the baseball world since the San Francisco Giants closed out the Texas Rangers to win the 2010 World Series and cap off the "Year of the Pitcher." Sure, the past few months have been called the "offseason," but trades, free-agent signings (although ironically, not that many for the Yankees, who failed to land prize free agent Cliff Lee), injuries and even some retirements (I'm looking at you, Andy Pettitte) have revamped and reshaped many team lineups. It's a lot to keep track of, which is why we've done it for you in our spring training guide.
Whether it's the Grapefruit (Florida) or Cactus (Arizona) League, everything you need to know is right here in one place: new faces in new places, key departures and what to watch for during spring training, team by team, division by division. All divisions are presented in order of the 2010 standings. Up next: American League Central.
American League Central
Minnesota Twins (2010 record: 94-68, first place in AL Central)
• New faces: 2B/SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka (from Japan), RP Jim Hoey.
• Key departures: 2B Orlando Hudson, SS J.J. Hardy, INF Nick Punto, RP Matt Guerrier, RP Jon Rauch, RP Brian Fuentes, RP Jesse Crain.
• All-Star closer Joe Nathan missed the entire 2010 season following Tommy John surgery. Will he reclaim his role as closer and be as effective as he was before the injury?
• Former MVP 1B Justin Morneau missed the second half of last season with a concussion. He's still not 100 percent and as of Feb. 24 has yet to be cleared to play spring training games. How will he rebound?
• Where will Japanese import Nishioka play and fit in with the team?
Chicago White Sox (2010 record: 88-74, second place in AL Central)
• New faces: DH Adam Dunn, RP Jesse Crain, RP Will Ohman, INF Omar Vizquel.
• Key departures: RP Bobby Jenks, RP J.J. Putz, RP Scott Linebrink, OF Andruw Jones, DH Manny Ramirez, SP Freddy Garcia.
• Will SP Jake Peavy, above, be ready to start when the season begins? He's recovering from a detached shoulder muscle.
• Who will replace Jenks as the White Sox closer? Matt Thornton, Chris Sale and Crain are all in contention to start the spring.
• Battle at third base: Will the starter be Mark Teahen on the rebound or rookie Brent Morel?
Detroit Tigers (2010 record: 81-81, third place in AL Central)
• New faces: C/DH Victor Martinez, RP Joaquin Benoit, SP Brad Penny.
• Key departures: OF Johnny Damon, C Gerald Laird, SP Armando Galarraga, SP Jeremy Bonderman, RP Zach Miner.
• Miguel Cabrera's Feb. 17 arrest for DUI is a concern for a team that needs the MVP runner-up to have a strong season.
• 2B Carlos Guillen and OF Magglio Ordonez are both recovering from injuries and looking to rebound.
• Lefty Phil Coke moves from the bullpen to the starting rotation.
Cleveland Indians (2010 record: 69-93, fourth place in AL Central)
• New faces: DH/OF Austin Kearns, SS Orlando Cabrera.
• Key departures: None of note.
• Grady Sizemore missed most of 2010 with injuries and is coming back from microfracture surgery. He's participating, but will he be in the Opening Day lineup?
• Stud catcher Carlos Santana got crushed at home plate and missed the rest of the year. He's back and looks strong.
• It's an open competition for second and third base positions. Jason Donald and Jayson Nix are favored, respectively.
Kansas City Royals (2010 record: 67-95, fifth place in AL Central)
• New faces: Manager Ned Yost, SS Alcides Escobar, OF Lorenzo Cain, OF Jeff Francoeur, OF Melky Cabrera, SP Vin Mazzaro.
• Key departures: SP Zack Greinke, SP Gil Meche, SP Brian Bannister, CF David DeJesus.
• It's been 25 years since the Royals have played a postseason game. And now Greinke has been traded. Who will start for the Royals on Opening Day?
• The Royals have the top farm system in baseball. Will any of them make the team?
• There is a battle for center field between veteran Cabrera and upstart Lorenzo Cain.