2014 Previews: The American League Central

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2014 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the American League Central.

The Tigers always start the season as big favorites, but always seem to go down to the last week before clinching. Same script this year? Who’s their biggest challenge this year: the Indians or the Royals? The White Sox got better, but did they get relevant? The Twins, alas, are the Twins. Anything at all to look forward to there?

Below are our team-by-team previews for the AL Central as well as our HBT Extra feature on the division:

Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals
Cleveland Indians
Chicago White Sox
Minnesota Twins

Editor’s Note: Hardball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $100,000 Fantasy Baseball league for Opening Day’s games (March 31). It’s $25 to join and first prize is $15,000. Starts at 1:05pm ET on Opening Day. Here’s the FanDuel link.

Hanley Ramirez and Eduardo Rodriguez underwent surgery

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Red Sox DH Hanley Ramirez announced via Twitter on Tuesday that he underwent surgery — left shoulder arthroscopy and debridement, per Tim Britton of the Providence Journal. Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston reports that the operation is considered relatively minor.

Ramirez, 33, has been dealing with shoulder issues for a while, which explains his lackluster regular season numbers. He hit .242/.320/.429 with 23 home runs, 62 RBI, and 58 runs scored in 553 plate appearances. He turned things on in the postseason, though, racking up eight hits in 15 trips to the plate in the ALDS against the Astros.

Ramirez should be good to go heading into spring training. He has one more guaranteed year left on his contract at $22 million and has a vesting option for the 2019 season worth another $22 million.

Pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez also had surgery, Britton reports. The procedure was right knee patellofemoral ligament reconstruction and it was performed by Dr. James Andrews. Rodriguez has a six-month timetable, which Britton estimates will allow him to make his 2018 regular season debut around the All-Star break.

Rodriguez, 24, posted a 4.19 ERA with a 150/50 K/BB ratio in 137 1/3 innings this past season. He’ll be entering his first of four years of arbitration eligibility this offseason.