The Royals' unbeaten streak to open Cactus League play has people talking, although some (twitter link) would advise not reading too much into the early returns. Here is a look at a few of the clubs competing in the American League's increasingly interesting Central division:
- The Royals clubhouse "has been transformed" by the offseason moves of GM Dayton Moore, writes Danny Knobler of CBS Sports, especially the heavily-debated decision to trade for James Shields and Wade Davis. "It seemed like we had been building prospects forever," said outfielder Alex Gordon. "You can't make everyone happy, but I can tell you, in this clubhouse it made us happy."
- Meanwhile, in Cleveland, the Indians' acquisition of Mark Reynolds was overshadowed by later signings, but might just have been more important than it first seemed, Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer opines. While he carries high strikeout totals and defensive limitations, Reynolds adds pop from the right side of the plate to a team that had little of it last season. Likewise, Pluto notes, pitchers Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw were not the most publicized pieces acquired by the Indians in the Shin-Soo Choo trade, but will be especially important to the club now that closer Chris Perez figures to miss time with a shoulder injury.
- Indians manager Terry Francona sounds like he is committed to giving a 25-man roster spot to Jason Giambi to start the season, according to Bud Shaw of The Plain Dealer. Francona has spoken fondly of the aging slugger's presence, patience, bat speed, and veteran savvy.
- The division-winning Tigers, meanwhile, remain somewhat unsettled at the back end of their bullpen after deciding early on not to bring back the still-unsigned Jose Valverde to reprise his role as closer. With would-be replacement Bruce Rondon struggling early in the spring, Jason Beck of MLB.com wonders whether the young pitcher could lose his chance to finish games in Detroit this year. Following yesterday's reports of manager Jim Leyland's possible lack of confidence in Rondon, the skipper said today that "it's too early to get excited about anything," explaining that, "right now, he's throwing pretty hard, and they're hitting it pretty hard."