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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, March 31, 2010

MLB: AL preview capsules


By Rick Hummel
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Teams are listed in predicted order of finish, with a coaching theme.

AL CENTRAL DIVISION

Detroit Tigers

2009 record 86-76 (tied for first, lost in playoff)

2010 outlook Tigers, fairly toothless on offense with loss of Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco, could overcome that deficiency with young, hard-throwing rotation featuring 19-game winner Justin Verlander, 14-game winner Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer. Jose Valverde should be a more dependable closer than Fernando Rodney.

Coaching fast fact The Tigers' staff has three men who used to manage the Pittsburgh Pirates manager Jim Leyland and coaches Gene Lamont and Lloyd McClendon.

Minnesota Twins

2009 record 86-76 (first)

2010 outlook Discovery of premier closer Joe Nathan's torn ligament in his right elbow set the Twins on their heels this spring. Three-time batting champion Joe Mauer and first baseman Justin Morneau head up a veteran lineup that has added Orlando Hudson, Jim Thome and J. J. Hardy, but there really is no No. 1 starter and there may be a big hole in the back of the bullpen.

Coaching fast fact Jerry White's total of 21 big-league homers is 20 more than any of the other Twins' coaches. Pitching coach Rick Anderson had just four big-league wins.

Chicago White Sox

2009 record 79-83 (third)

2010 outlook A revitalized Jake Peavy he was 3-0, 1.35 ERA for the White Sox after his damaged ankle healed last year gives the White Sox potentially the best Big Four in the league, with Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd and John Danks. Offensively, Sox need comebacks from outfielders Alex Rios (.199 with Chicago last year) and Carlos Quentin (.236).

Coaching fast fact Harold Baines has the most hits of any active coach (2,866).

Cleveland Indians

2009 record 65-97 (tied for fourth)

2010 outlook Indians could contend if injured righthanders Jake Westbrook and Fausto Carmona return. Closer Kerry Wood ($11.5 million) might be dealt before the season gets too far along.

Coaching fast fact Hitting coach Jon Nunnally was in Cardinals' camp in 2003 but didn't make team and went to Memphis.

Kansas City Royals

2009 record 65-97 (tied, fourth)

2010 outlook The Royals have the reigning Cy Young winner in Zack Greinke (16-8, 2.16) and one of the top young closers in the game in Joakim Soria (2.21, 30 saves), but their pitchers will be put to the test by an unproven offense. Billy Butler (21 homers, 93 RBI) was their only real power threat last year.

Coaching fast fact Pitching coach Bob McClure was the losing pitcher in Game 7 of the Cardinals' 1982 World Series win over Milwaukee and then played for the Cardinals in 1991-92.

AL EAST DIVISION

New York Yankees

2009 record 103-59 (World Series champions)

2010 outlook The rich get richer. Yankees acquire a 30-homer hitter (Curtis Granderson) and 15-game winner (Javier Vazquez) at modest expense. Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer ever, is 40 now but at 39, he had a 1.76 ERA and 44 saves.

Coaching fast fact Coaching staff wasn't quite as formidable offensively as current-day Yankees. Former Cardinals infielder Mick Kelleher hit .213 with no homers in his career and had only eight extra-base hits in nearly 1,100 at-bats.

Boston Red Sox

2009 record 95-67 (second, wild card)

2010 outlook Acquisition of John Lackey from Angels gives Red Sox three No. 1 starters in Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Lackey. Red Sox trying to remake themselves into pitching-defense team by also signing outfielder Mike Cameron and letting Jason Bay go to the Mets.

Coaching fast fact Hitting coach Dave Magadan was in the starting lineup for the Florida Marlins' first game in 1993, going one for four.

Tampa Bay Rays

2009 record 84-78 (third)

2010 outlook Rafael Soriano, who had 27 saves for Atlanta, might be the closer Rays were lacking last year. Starting pitching surely will be better than 2009 when no Rays hurler won more than 13 games.

Coaching fast fact First-base coach George Hendrick drove in go-ahead run with a single for Cardinals in Game 7 of 1982 World Series. Also the last person (as a coach) to wear No. 25 for the Cardinals before Mark McGwire.

Baltimore Orioles

2009 record 64-98 (fifth)

2010 outlook Longtime standout Brian Roberts might not be ready for opener because of herniated disc in back. Miguel Tejada returns but will be at third base this time, rather than shortstop, where former Cardinal Cesar Izturis plays.

Coaching fast fact Pitching coach Rick Kranitz never played in big leagues. Manager Dave Trembley never played professionally at all.

Toronto Blue Jays

2009 record 75-87 (fourth)

2010 outlook Shawn Marcum, who didn't pitch last season after elbow surgery, could start opening day. Roy Halladay started the previous seven, but he's with Philadelphia as the Jays begin what could be a long rebuilding process.

Coaching fast fact Third-base coach Nick Leyva was brought to the big leagues for the first time as a coach by Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog in the 1980s.

AL WEST DIVISION

Seattle Mariners

2009 record 85-77 (third)

2010 outlook Mariners acquired Cliff Lee, perhaps for only one year, to team with righthander Felix Hernandez (19-5) as best 1-2 pitching punch in division. Seattle signed Chone Figgins to get on base along with Ichiro Suzuki at top of the lineup, but who will drive them in is questionable. Milton Bradley?

Coaching fast fact Hitting coach Alan Cockrell started two bowl games at quarterback for University of Tennessee.

Los Angeles Angels

2009 record 97-65

2010 outlook Changing of the guard with DH Vladimir Guerrero and staff ace John Lackey moving on after six and eight years, respectively. Former Cardinal Joel Pineiro, 15-12, will take Lackey's spot. Hideki Matsui (28 homers, 90 RBI) replaces Guerrero.

Coaching fast fact Hitting coach Mickey Hatcher has been with manager Mike Scioscia for 11 seasons with Angels.

Texas Rangers

2009 record 87-75 (second)

2010 outlook President (and Hall of Famer) Nolan Ryan says 92 wins "is realistic." Part of Ryan's optimism is based on his hope that Josh Hamilton, oft-injured last season, will play more than 89 games and hit more than 10 homers. Lefthander Darren Oliver (39) is back for a third time.

Coaching fast fact Clint Hurdle is the Rangers' new hitting coach after managing Colorado in the previous eight seasons.

Oakland Athletics

2009 record 75-87 (fourth)

2010 outlook Ben Sheets, who hasn't pitched since the end of the 2008 season, will be the A's opening day starter. Infielder Eric Chavez, who has had two back operations and three shoulder operations in fewer than three years, is trying one more comeback.

Coaching fast fact Tye Waller was one of three players the Cardinals sent to the Chicago Cubs (Ken Reitz, Leon Durham were the others) to acquire relief ace Bruce Sutter after the 1980 season.