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Spring training capsules for the American League

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American League Central

Chicago White Sox (Glendale, Ariz. Spring training site)

There are high expectations for Cuban refugee Jose Abreu, who is slated to take over as the No. 1 first baseman, moving Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko into a battle for time at DH. Nate Jones will move up from a setup role to his first shot at being an everyday closer.

Cleveland Indians (Goodyear, Ariz.)

John Axford gets the chance to prove he can still be a reliable closer in the big leagues. Another former Brewer, injury-prone Shaun Marcum, will attempt to make the rotation as a non-roster invitee.

Detroit Tigers (Lakeland, Fla.)

With Prince Fielder gone, Miguel Cabrera moves back across the diamond to first base, opening third base for highly touted prospect Nick Castellanos. New manager Brad Ausmus is counting on closer Joe Nathan to continue warding off Father Time.

Kansas City Royals (Surprise, Ariz.)

New rightfielder Norichika Aoki gives the Royals the leadoff hitter they were seeking, allowing Alex Gordon to move down to a run-producing spot. Jason Vargas was given a four-year deal to shore up a starting rotation that was already a strength of the club.

Minnesota Twins (Fort Myers, Fla.)

Additions Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes will be counted on to bolster a rotation that was a real problem area last season. The Twins hope the move of Joe Mauer to first base will keep him healthy and earning his big salary.

American League East

Baltimore Orioles (Sarasota, Fla.)

The Orioles will learn how close stud third baseman Manny Machado is to returning from a major knee injury. With prolific Jim Johnson gone, camp will be an open tryout to find a new closer.

Boston Red Sox (Fort Myers, Fla.)

With Jacoby Ellsbury suiting up for the hated Yankees, rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. and veteran Grady Sizemore will vie for the No. 1 job in center. There are high expectations for rookie Xander Bogaerts as the new starting shortstop.

New York Yankees (Tampa, Fla.)

The big question is: Will shortstop Derek Jeter be able to recover from his severe ankle injury to be a regular player again? And all former setup man David Robertson has to do is replace the greatest closer (Mariano Rivera) in the game's history.

Tampa Bay Rays (Port Charlotte, Fla.)

The Rays must find a replacement in the rotation for Jeremy Hellickson, who recently underwent elbow surgery. They also must hope that new closer Grant Balfour doesn't justify the Orioles flunking him on a physical exam.

Toronto Blue Jays (Dunedin, Fla.)

Right-handers Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison provide pitching depth after recovering from elbow injuries. Ryan Goins must prove he will hit enough to be the everyday starter at second base.

American League West

Houston Astros (Kissimmee, Fla.)

The fact that newcomer Scott Feldman immediately moved to the top spot in the rotation shows how much work the Astros have to do in that area. Josh Fields, who recorded his first five saves in the majors last year, will attempt to protect any leads his teammates give him.

Los Angeles Angels (Tempe, Ariz.)

The Angels will need bounce-back seasons from first baseman Albert Pujols, outfielder Josh Hamilton and new third baseman David Freese to give Mike Trout some offensive help. Kole Calhoun gets the chance to prove he should be the everyday rightfielder.

Oakland Athletics (Phoenix)

The Athletics remade their already solid bullpen by adding closer Jim Johnson and setup man Luke Gregerson. Eric Sogard, Nick Punto and Alberto Callaspo will battle for time at second base.

Seattle Mariners (Peoria, Ariz.)

Robinson Cano can't carry the offense single-handedly, so the Mariners will count on Corey Hart returning to health and youngsters Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak meeting expectations. There is considerable buzz around pitching prospect Taijuan Walker joining the starting rotation.

Texas Rangers (Surprise, Ariz.)

The Rangers changed their offensive look by adding a new leadoff hitter, Shin-Soo Choo, and left-handed slugger Prince Fielder. Now they will count on Neftali Feliz's return as closer to protect late leads and look for a replacement for starter Derek Holland while he recovers from knee surgery.

(c)2014 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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Distributed by MCT Information Services


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