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04/03/10 12:21 AM ET

Tribe, White Sox start on different footing

John Schlegel/MLB.com

As recently as a year ago, an Indians-White Sox opener in April brought talk of October and how the two teams would be squaring off for the American League Central title by then. This year is a little different.

While the White Sox are arguably better equipped to make a run at the division title than they were a year ago, the Indians have made significant changes, including trading last year's Opening Day starter, Cliff Lee.

Jake Westbrook gets the ball on Monday, making his first Opening Day start since 2005 before he was beset by arm problems. Mark Buehrle will be making his eighth Opening Day start for the White Sox, surpassing Billy Pierce in the club annals. Westbrook and Buehrle met on that '05 Opening Day in a 1-0 White Sox victory.

Indians: Tribe not lacking for talent
The Indians enter the season with an exciting, and healthy, mix of hitters, including center fielder Grady Sizemore and designated hitter Travis Hafner. With the emergence of Shin-Soo Choo and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and the arrival of first baseman Matt LaPorta and outfielder Michael Brantley, there are reasons to be excited about the lineup. Westbrook leads a pitching staff that has Fausto Carmona and Justin Masterson at the top of the rotation. Kerry Wood's shoulder injury in Spring Training didn't get the staff off on the right foot, leaving the closer's role to Chris Perez, acquired for Mark DeRosa last year.

White Sox: Pieces are there for run
Look around the field and the pitching staff, and the White Sox appear pretty loaded for a run at toppling the Twins from the division's peak. With a lineup built more for speed than in years past, Chicago has veterans throughout the roster and an exciting young double-play combo in shortstop Alexei Ramirez and second baseman Gordon Beckham. With perhaps the strongest rotation in the AL and a strong bullpen, the White Sox have some balance to contend.

Worth noting
Mark Grudzielanek will start at second base for the Tribe in place of Luis Valbuena, who is day-to-day with a bruised right hand. ... Paul Konerko will be making his 10th consecutive Opening Day start for the White Sox, furthering his franchise record. .... The White Sox are 56-53 overall on Opening Day and 58-51 overall in their home openers. ... The Indians are 57-52 in openers, and they've opened on the road 13 of the past 16 years. ... The two teams have met 27 previous times on Opening Day, with the Tribe holding a 15-12 edge. They've met in the opener five times in the last six years, with the White Sox winning three of those five.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.