AL Central spring training preview: Twins turn to Baldelli for fresh ideas

February 8, 2019

A team-by-team look at the American League Central entering spring training, including key players each club acquired and lost, and dates of the first workout for pitchers and catchers, and the full squad:


Cleveland Indians

Manager: Terry Francona (seventh season).

2018: 91-71, first place, lost to Houston in Division Series.

Training Town: Goodyear, Arizona.

Park: Goodyear Ballpark.

First Workout: Feb. 14/18.

He's Here: 1B-DH Carlos Santana, 1B Jake Bauers, C Kevin Plawecki, OF Jordan Luplow, RHP Chih-Wei Hu, RHP Nick Wittgren, LHP Oliver Perez, INF Ryan Flaherty, C Dioner Navarro.

He's Outta Here: OF Michael Brantley, DH Edwin Encarnacion, LHP Andrew Miller, RHP Cody Allen, C Yan Gomes, 1B Yonder Alonso, 3B Yandy Diaz, 2B Erik Gonzalez.

Going campin': The Indians followed up a third straight AL Central title with another postseason disappointment, getting swept in the Division Series by Houston. The offseason goal was to reduce payroll, and the Indians went at their roster with a wrecking ball. They wiped roughly $20 million off the books with several significant trades, dealing away slugger Encarnacion, All-Star catcher Gomes and Alonso. In addition, All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor will miss spring training with a strained right calf, a worrisome soft tissue injury that could keep the team's best player off the field into the season's first month. Cleveland also took a big hit in free agency, choosing not to re-sign closer Allen or lefty reliever Miller, two bullpen mainstays of the past, as well as Brantley. The club didn't pull the trigger on offers for ace Corey Kluber or All-Star right-hander Trevor Bauer, but those conversations could continue into this season. Despite the makeover, the Indians remain the team to beat in their division, but this club has much higher goals after getting to Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. The outfield is a major concern heading into the spring, but the returns of Bradley Zimmer and Leonys Martin from injuries should help. Francona's other objective will be rebuilding the back end of what was once one of the AL's best bullpens.


Minnesota Twins

Manager: Rocco Baldelli (first season).

2018: 78-84, second place.

Training Town: Fort Myers, Florida.

Park: Hammond Stadium at CenturyLink Sports Complex.

First Workout: Feb. 14/18.

He's Here: DH-OF Nelson Cruz, 2B Jonathan Schoop, RHP Blake Parker, 1B C.J. Cron, LHP Martin Perez, INF Ronald Torreyes, LHP Tim Collins.

He's Outta Here: Manager Paul Molitor, 1B Joe Mauer, OF-DH Robbie Grossman, 1B-DH Logan Morrison, 2B Logan Forsythe, RHP Ervin Santana, RHP Matt Belisle, RHP Alan Busenitz.

Going campin': Baldelli, who at 37 is the youngest manager in the majors, spent the last eight seasons either on the coaching staff or working in the front office with Tampa Bay. He has brought a fresh source of energy and ideas that the Twins are banking on to help bring out the best in some of their underperforming young players, with center fielder Byron Buxton and third baseman Miguel Sano at the top of that list following a rough 2018 season for both of them. Other players who will be closely watched throughout spring training are RHP Michael Pineda (elbow) and C Jason Castro (knee), with each coming off a major injury. Pineda didn't pitch in 2018, and Castro's season was over after 19 games. After adding RHP Jake Odorizzi, RHP Lance Lynn and Morrison last year, acquisitions made after spring training started, Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and general manager Thad Levine have said they underestimated the challenge of such late integrations after seeing them struggle through 2018. Lynn was among several key players traded last summer before the deadline. Falvey and Levine expressed caution about February or March moves this year despite the abundance of high-profile free agents remaining on the market. Baldelli has so far kept quiet about his preferred closer candidates, with Parker the only offseason addition to the bullpen. Returning relievers Trevor Hildenberger, Trevor May, Addison Reed and Taylor Rogers will all hold late-inning roles, if they're not in the mix with Parker for the ninth.


Detroit Tigers

Manager: Ron Gardenhire (second season).

2018: 64-98, third place.

Training Town: Lakeland, Florida.

Park: Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium.

First Workout: Feb. 13/18.

He's Here: LHP Matt Moore, RHP Tyson Ross, SS Jordy Mercer, 2B Gordon Beckham, 2B Brandon Dixon, 3B-RHP Kaleb Cowart.

He's Outta Here: DH Victor Martinez, SS Jose Iglesias, LHP Francisco Liriano, C James McCann, RHP Alex Wilson, C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, RHP Artie Lewicki.

Going campin': The Tigers have lost 98 games in each of the past two seasons, and the big question is how soon some of the team's top prospects might be ready to contribute in the big leagues. Right-hander Casey Mize, the top pick in last year's draft, was invited to major league camp, and while his debut in Detroit may still be way off, he'll be a player to watch in spring training. The Tigers are hoping for a bounce-back performance from slugger Miguel Cabrera, who played only 38 games last year before having season-ending biceps surgery.


Chicago White Sox

Manager: Rick Renteria (third season).

2018: 62-100, fourth place.

Training Town: Glendale, Arizona.

Park: Camelback Ranch.

First Workout: Feb. 13/18.

He's Here: RHP Ivan Nova, 1B-DH Yonder Alonso, RHP Kelvin Herrera, RHP Alex Colome, OF Jon Jay, C James McCann.

He's Outta Here: OF Avisail Garcia, DH-INF Matt Davidson, RHP James Shields.

Going campin': The White Sox would love to jumpstart their rebuild by signing Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. Even if they don't land one of the prized free agents, they believe they are setting themselves up to start climbing. They have six straight losing seasons and are coming off their highest loss total since the 1970 team dropped a franchise-record 106 games. They also struck out more times than any other team in major league history. But they have promising players on the roster and in the farm system. Touted infielder Yoan Moncada and pitchers Lucas Giolito and Michael Kopech — who will miss the season after having Tommy John surgery — have shown potential in the majors. Eloy Jimenez, one of baseball's top hitting prospects, could debut early this season. Dylan Cease might also get called up and join the rotation at some point.


Kansas City Royals

Manager: Ned Yost (10th season).

2018: 58-104, fifth place.

Training Town: Surprise, Arizona.

Park: Surprise Stadium.

First Workout: Feb. 13/18.

He's Here: OF Billy Hamilton, RHP Brad Boxberger, INF-OF Chris Owings, RHP Chris Ellis.

He's Outta Here: INF Cheslor Cuthbert, RHP Brandon Maurer, RHP Nate Karns, RHP Jason Hammel.

Going Campin': The Royals knew they'd go through growing pains as they jettisoned veterans and began a rebuild in earnest last season, and that was reflected in 100-plus losses just three years after a World Series championship. SS Adalberto Mondesi was a breakout star the last couple months of the season, and 3B Hunter Dozier and 1B Ryan O'Hearn showed promise. The Royals need more from starting LHP Danny Duffy and RHP Ian Kennedy, especially after RHPs Brad Keller and Jakob Junis flashed late in the season. The bullpen is the biggest question mark with only RHPs Wily Peralta and Kevin McCarthy safe bets to make the 25-man roster. Also of note this spring: former top prospect Kyle Zimmer says he is healthy and ready to attempt a comeback after injuries derailed his promising career.



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