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A.L. Central week in review

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A look back at the action around the American League Central during the season's first week.


AL Central standings through Monday, April 8:

Chicago 4 2 - 22 19 +3
Kansas City 4 3 .5 33 24 +9
Minnesota 4 3 .5 29 28 +1
Detroit 3 3 1 24 27 -3
Cleveland 3 4 1.5 34 34 0

As you can see, no one on either end of the stick did much to separate themselves from the pack in the first week of the season (to the extent that's even possible).

Chicago White Sox

The White Sox began their season by hosting the Royals. Chris Sale was pretty brilliant on Opening Day (7.2 innings, 0 runs, 7 K) and the bullpen pitched a combined 7.1 innings of shutout baseball over the course of the series, as Chicago took two of three. Seattle came to town next, for a series featuring three one-run games, two of which went to extra frames. Alex Rios homered in all three games (maybe he's going to break his pattern of good year, bad year with consecutive good years for the first time since 2007 and 2008) and Sale pitched well again as the White Sox again won two of three.

What jumps out at me for the White Sox is that they led the division by allowing just 19 runs, but scored just 22 runs, the fewest of any Central team. Heading into the season, the book on Chicago said very good pitching, but a mediocre lineup. Obviously we shouldn't read too much into anything from a six-game sample, but so far they've stuck to the script. That was good enough for 1st place after a week, but not every game will be at home against the likes of Kansas City and Seattle.

Player of the Week: Alex Rios - .364/.440/.773, 8 hits, 3 HR, 2 SB, 4 runs, 5 RBI. Rios was abysmal in 2011, one of the worst players in the league, but he bounced back in 2012 and is off to a good start in 2013.

Player of the Weak: Jeff Keppinger - .048/.048/.048. That's a 1 for 21 line, in case you were curious. The White Sox "big" free agent acquisition of the offseason isn't going to be very popular on the South Side if this continues.

Kansas City Royals

The Royals began play in Chicago, where they debuted their big offseason acquisition, James Shields. He pitched well (6 innings, 1 R, 6 K), but the offense didn't show up and that one run was all it took. K.C. also lost game two, but won the finale (with a three-run outburst). On the weekend the Royals faced the Phillies. A little NL opposition can be good for what ails you: The Royals put up 13 runs Friday night after totaling 5 against Chicago. Among the19 hits were 4 by Eric Hosmer, who struggled so mightily last year. The Royals lost on Saturday, but won Sunday's rubber match (on the strength of a franchise record 7 RBI by Billy Butler) to take the series. On Monday they hosted Minnesota and won, getting 8 strong innings from Ervin Santana.

A 3-3 road trip (followed by a win in the home opener) is a solid start to the year. If Kansas City is going to justify trading away Wil Meyers by contending this year, they're going to need good production from the new members of their rotation (Especially Shields and Santana, to a lesser extent Wade Davis) and in week one, they got that. We'll see if it keeps up.

Player of the Week: Alex Gordon - .379/.419/.552, 11 hits, 4 XBH, 7 runs, 6 RBI. Gordon has become one of the best players in the American League over the last couple years. Proof that sometimes patience with a prospect will pay off.

Player of the Weak: Salvador Perez - .200/.226/.233. The young catcher was great in the half-season he played last year, but he got off to a rocky start in 2013.

Minnesota Twins

MInnesota hosted Detroit to begin its 2013. They lost on Opening Day (no shame in being beaten by Justin Verlander), but rebounded to win the next two, getting back-to-back strong outings from Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey (that probably won't be something I type regularly this season). Next came a trip to Baltimore. The Twins again dropped the first game before bouncing back to take the last two. On Monday Minnesota began a three-game series in Kansas City. Correia again pitched well, with seven shutout innings. Sadly for Minnesota, they left him in for the 8th. Their lead vanished and they dropped the series opener again, but maybe that's their plan this year.

Anything can happen in one week of baseball, but it's still a little surprising to see the Twins with both a winning record and a positive run differential, since at no point in either of the last two years did they have either of those things. This may prove to be the high-water mark of 2013 for Minnesota, so I'd suggest Twins fans savor this moment.

Player of the Week: Glen Perkins - Perkins pitched in three games, each of which had only a one-run margin at the time. He recorded two saves and one win without allowing a single base runner.

Player of the Weak: Aaron Hicks - .067/.125/.067, 13 strikeouts. The Twins handed their center field job to the rookie, but he's going to be back on the farm if he has another week like this. He was also caught stealing after one of the few times he reached base.

Detroit Tigers

Detroit started its season in Minnesota, in a battle between the Central's presumptive favorite and presumptive basement dweller. Of course, since you can't predict baseball, the Tigers dropped two of three to the Twins, winning only the game in which they had Verlander on the bump (which seemed to be how the first half of their 2012 went). The Tigers returned home for the weekend, hosting the Yankees and taking two of three from them.

The big story for Detroit last week was thee bullpen. You may recall that closer Jose Valverde imploded in the playoffs last October, and was not brought back this season. Young Bruce Rondon was viewed as his potential heir, but a wild spring training kept him from the roster. Skipper Jim Leyland said the team would have no set closer, instead playing match ups. Phil Coke got the save in game one, and in game two he was brought on again with the Tigers up 2-1 in the 9th. Three batters (and two hits later), the lead was blown and the game was over, with Detroit on the losing end. The next morning Detroit inked Valverde to a minor league deal.

Player of the Week: Austin Jackson - .385/.473/.417, 9 hits, 5 BB, 1 SB, 7 runs. Jackson is right back to the great production he put up in 2012, giving Detroit another great bat (and unlike their other bats, Jackson can play defense too).

Player of the Weak: Victor Martinez - .143/.240/.143. 3 for 21. After missing all of 2012, Martinez still seems to have a lot of rust to shake off.

Cleveland Indians

It's been an up and down (and up... and down) start to 2013 for the Tribe. Taking two of three in Toronto was a good beginning, especially Justin Masterson beating 2012 NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey on Opening Day. The weekend series in Tampa started dreadfully, with consecutive shutouts on Friday and Saturday, but the bats came alive in a big way Sunday, led by two home runs from Mark Reynolds and the first five-hit game of Carlos Santana's career. Also, Masterson was on point again, this time topping reigning AL Cy Young winner David Price. I say bring on Cy Young himself next! (that guy is way old, so how good could he be at this point?) In Monday's home opener, the Indians lost to the Yankees, which is awful, but 3-4 against those opponents isn't too bad.

All of that was nearly overshadowed by something that happened in the 9th inning of Monday's disappointing loss: Carlos Santana exited the game after being struck on the hand when he was crossed up by the fastball Perez delivered. Any injury that causes Santana to miss extensive time would be a major blow to the Indians, so Tribe fans everywhere uneasily awaited the results of X-rays taken after the game. Fortunately, those X-rays came back negative and Carlos is now listed as day-to-day. I suspect he'll miss Tuesday's contest, but perhaps be back in the lineup by Wednesday.

Player of the Week: (tie) Justin Masterson - Bested both of the reigning Cy Young winners, getting off to a 2-0 start while allowing just 1 run in 13 innings, while striking out 13.

(tie) Carlos Santana - .500/.567/.885. That tremendous slash line is good for an OPS of 1.451. Santana collected 13 hits, including 4 2B and 2 HR, and also drew 4 walks. He scored 5 runs and drove in 5 more.

Player of the Weak: Drew Stubbs - .160/.160/.160, that's a 4 for 25 week, with no walks and no extra-base hits. He also struck out 11 times. Nowhere to go but up (or out, I suppose)!

2013 Player Power Poll

t1) Justin Masterson (Indians): 2-0, 13 IP, 13 K, 7 BB, 0.69 ERA, 0.92 WHIP

t1) Carlos Santana (Indians): .500/.567/.885, 1.451 OPS, 4 2B, 2 HR, 5 R, 5 RBI

3) Alex Rios (White Sox): .364/.440/.773, 1.213 OPS, 3 HR, 2 SB, 4 R, 5 RBI

4) Alex Gordon (Royals): .379/.419/.552, .971 OPS, 3 2B, 1 3B, 7 R, 6 RBI

5) Chris Sale (White Sox): 1-0, 14.2 IP, 14 K, 3 BB, 1.84 ERA, 1.02 WHIP