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Profiles of American League teams

Reuters

By Larry Fine

(Reuters) - Following are brief profiles of the 15 American League (AL) teams ahead of the 2014 Major League Baseball season:

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EAST

Boston Red Sox

Manager: John Farrell

2013 record: 97-65 (Made thrilling worst-to-first turnaround from AL East basement to World Series title)

Had an inspired campaign under battle cry "Boston Strong" following fatal Boston Marathon bombings with slugger David "Big Papi" Ortiz leading the way. Need continued strong pitching and an encore from closer Koji Uehara. Relying on young shortstop Xander Bogaerts and missing free agent Jacoby Ellsbury.

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Tampa Bay Rays

Manager: Joe Maddon

2013 record: 92-71 (Won wild-card playoff game over Cleveland before losing to Boston in the Division Series)

Small-market Rays remain a contender with their vaunted stable of talented young pitchers. Hoping for bust-out season from young outfielder Wil Myers and steady closing by Grant Balfour, returning to Tampa Bay after three seasons in Oakland.

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New York Yankees

Manager: Joe Girardi

2013 record: 85-77 (Age and injuries combined to keep the Yankees out of the playoffs for the second time in 19 years)

Injuries to Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez crippled the offense. Opened the coffers to add free agents Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann and Japanese starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. Granderson, via free agency, and A-Rod, via a doping ban, not on the team.

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Baltimore Orioles

Manager: Buck Showalter

2013 record: 85-77 (Coming off first winning record and playoff berth since 1997, lost their magic in one-run games and extra-inning contests in an otherwise solid season)

Added veteran pitcher Ubaldo Jimenenz to young starting rotation and slugger Nelson Cruz, back after a doping ban, to a potent lineup. Hoping Tommy Hunter can replace departed free agent Jim Johnson as the closer.

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Toronto Blue Jays

Manager: John Gibbons

2013 record: 74-88 (Injuries spoiled hopes of a first playoff berth since 1993 after a slew of offseason changes)

A rebound could be in the offing from former National League Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey and shortstop Jose Reyes, who joined the team last season. Lineup, which includes Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, is potent but pitching needs to improve for Jays to become a division contender.

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CENTRAL

Detroit Tigers

Manager: Brad Ausmus

2013 record: 93-69 (Won AL Central third year in a row, beat A's in Division Series before losing to Boston in League Championship Series)

Strong favorite to win division again, led by rotation featuring Justin Verlander and Cy Young winner Max Scherzer. Added speed to an offense keyed by slugger Miguel Cabrera by trading slugger Prince Fielder for fast Ian Kinsler and improved at closer by adding Joe Nathan.

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Cleveland Indians

Manager: Terry Francona

2013 record: 92-70 (Won their last 10 games to win wild-card berth before losing one-game playoff to the Rays)

Justin Masterson blossomed at the head of a young rotation and second baseman Jason Kipnis keyed an attack that helped the Indians reach the postseason for first time in six years under new manager Terry Francona. Lost Ubaldo Jimenez to free agency but hope young Danny Salazar steps up.

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Kansas City Royals

Manager: Ned Yost

2013 record: 86-76 (Made 14-game improvement with young players beginning to emerge)

James Shields solidified a young rotation last season, and this season the focus has been on polishing the top of the batting order with additions of Norichika Aoki and Omar Infante to set table for Royals' crop of talented hitters. Looking for first playoff berth since 1985.

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Minnesota Twins

Manager: Ron Gardenhire

2013 record: 66-96 (Repeated same lacklustre record as they wait for development of young players)

Twins escaped third successive basement finish thanks to the White Sox. Added Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes to questionable rotation and hold out hope that young outfielders Oswaldo Arcia and Aaron Hicks emerge to support the polished hitting of Joe Mauer, shifting from catcher to first base this season.

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Chicago White Sox

Manager: Robin Ventura

2013 record: 63-99 (Took a huge step backwards, 22 games in the standings, after a surprisingly good showing in 2012)

A general offensive slump and some injuries led to a White Sox slide that ended in their worst record since 1970. Addition of Cuban slugger Jose Abreu at first base and young center fielder Adam Eaton begins a roster reshaping with more young talent in the minors waiting for their turn.

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WEST

Oakland Athletics

Manager: Bob Melvin

2013 record: 96-66 (Won the division title for a second year in a row, and fell to Tigers in five games for second year in a row in Division Series.)

A's were sparked by their fine young pitching staff and emergence of hard-hitting third baseman Josh Donaldson. Lost last year's leading starter Jarrod Parker to injury, but have young Sonny Gray taking over as Opening Day starter and added veteran Scott Kazmir to rotation.

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Texas Rangers

Manager: Ron Washington

2013 record: 91-72 (Narrowly missed a wild-card berth, losing tiebreaker game to the Rays)

Nearly overcame a late-season slump by winning their last seven. Offense suffered with loss of free agent Josh Hamilton and doping suspension of slugger Nelson Cruz in last two months of season. Have added slugger Prince Fielder in a trade, but must overcome some injuries in their starting rotation.

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Los Angeles Angels

Manager: Mike Scioscia

2013 record: 78-84 (Sub-par seasons from injury-slowed Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton sent them below .500 for second time in 10 years)

Despite another banner season by young Mike Trout, the offense struggled as Pujols and Hamilton failed to put up their usual power numbers. A return to health and production could do wonders for the Angels, who are counting on new pitchers Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs to contribute behind Jered Weaver.

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Seattle Mariners

Manager: Lloyd McClendon

2013 record: 71-91 (Another lackluster season led to departure of manager Eric Wedge)

Made some of the biggest signings of the offseason including Robinson Cano (10-year, 240 million deal), and Corey Hart, but the pieces may not fit with extra outfielders, extra infielders and too many left-handed bats in the lineup. Potentially strong rotation behind ace Felix Hernandez.

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Houston Astros

Manager: Bo Porter

2013 record: 51-111 (After setting franchise record with 107 losses in 2012, added four more to that dubious distinction)

The hapless Astros finished 45 games behind the A's with the worst record in the majors in their first season in the American League after being transferred from the NL West. Hope lies with several promising young players, including George Springer and Jonathan Singleton, who both may begin the season in the minors.

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(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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