A.L. Central Race Underway — in March

C.C. Sabathia had just finished striking out three batters in his first inning of work before heading back to the dugout. His teammates congratulated him on a successful inning pitched — against his teammates.
Eric Wedge and company made sure to get Sabathia some work, but they also made sure their opponent and division rival, the Detroit Tigers, didn’t get a good look at him.
Welcome to the A.L. Central my friends! A league not fit for meek baseball franchises — well, unless you play in Kansas City. Once considered frail a few years ago, the Central has become one of baseball’s most formidable divisions. With four out of the five Central teams threatening to compete for the division crown this year, even Spring Training games become potential advantages for some hitters.
Cleveland enters 2008 with potentially the best rotation in all of baseball. They boast two Cy Young candidates at the top of the roster. C.C. Sabathia finally exploded for his overdue Cy Young campaign posting career bests in virtually every statistical category. On top of that, Fausto Carmona, previously infamous for blowing two straight saves against the Red Sox in a dismal 2006 season, stunned the baseball community by throwing 215 innings, leading the A.L. in shutouts, and tying for second with 19 wins.
Throw in Paul Byrd quietly having one of the American League’s most solid seasons, winning two postseason games in the process, and you’ve got baseball’s best top of the rotation if they can repeat. Byrd admits pitching behind two of the game’s premiere hurlers isn’t exactly a bad gig.
But will it be enough?
Sure, they got plenty of hitting too. Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore will both receive their fair share of MVP votes and rightfully so, but the Tigers have traded their way to the top in most prognosticators minds. Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera certainly are two hefty pieces to add to the puzzle and will threaten to keep the Indians out of the postseason.
There’s only one thing we know for certain: in a topsy-turvy A.L. Central Division, nothing is for certain.
At least the Indians still have their not-so-secret weapon, the one that they kept under wraps on that Tuesday afternoon in the Florida sun. But the Indians won’t be doing the Tigers any favors when the regular season rolls around.
They’ll see C.C. in no time.
-Dave Carty, WINTER HAVEN

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