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Miguel Cabrerhas had his problems off field but there aren’t many hitters as dangerous as he is. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Miguel Cabrera has had his problems off the field, but there aren’t many hitters as dangerous as he is. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 1, 2011 12:41AM



It’s the usual cat-and-mouse in the American League Central. The Minnesota Twins look to do very little to improve their product over the winter, the White Sox and even the Detroit Tigers get better on paper, and then we all know how this ends: The little engine that could does, and the Sox and Tigers are left questioning what happened.

On paper — specifically the green kind that stacked $125 million high — the Sox would seem to be the team to beat. When right-hander Jake Peavy becomes healthy, there are no holes in the starting rotation. They have a hard-throwing bullpen. Then add Adam Dunn and his blue ox, Babe, to the lineup, and the Sox are headed for their third division title since 2005.

The Tigers have a few question marks at the back end of the rotation, but with the health of the bullpen, there’s no doubt they can hit with anyone. The addition of Victor Martinez, along with Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez, gives Detroit a dangerous middle of the lineup and makes it a threat in the division.

But the Twins might have the final say in this three-team race, despite no real ace in the rotation and closer Joe Nathan coming back from Tommy John surgery. Offensively, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are MVP candidates as long as they’re healthy, and Delmon Young had a breakout year in 2010.

This division always seems to come down to the intangibles, and that’s where the ‘‘Twins way’’ usually shines brightest.

Kansas City and Cleveland are in rebuilding projects Nos. 12 and 10, respectively.

AL CENTRAL CY YOUNG: Justin Verlander, Tigers: John Danks could make a push for this title, but Verlander is now, and has been, the best pitcher in the division over the last five years.

AL CENTRAL MVP: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers: He may be Arthur off the field, but on the field there’s no hitter as dangerous as Cabrera. If not for Josh Hamilton last season, Cabrera would have been the AL MVP.

FANTASY SLEEPER: Gordon Beckham, White Sox: After a dismal first half in 2010, Beckham seemed to figure things out. That carried over to this offseason and into spring training. His numbers at second base could be monstrous.

YOU’LL KNOW THE SOX ARE IN TROUBLE WHEN . . . : They’re shopping pitchers Edwin Jackson and Mark Buehrle in June because the team has underachieved and attendance isn’t meeting the payroll.

NO CHANCE: Royals and Indians — it’s a three-team race, and you weren’t invited.

PRINT IT! The Twins’ run is over this year. They’ll finish third.



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