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Valuable Tigers on the rebound from injuries

Key pieces of AL Central kings look to bounce back from ailments
MLB.com @beckjason

DETROIT -- The Tigers face a lot of questions in their quest to keep command of the American League Central. Players on the mend or the rebound would be foremost among them.

On the surface, it's a surprising question for a team that won a fourth straight division crown last season with an American League MVP runner-up, a two-time former MVP and multiple former Cy Young winners. The true injury cost to Detroit's chances, however, didn't become apparent until after the season was over.

DETROIT -- The Tigers face a lot of questions in their quest to keep command of the American League Central. Players on the mend or the rebound would be foremost among them.

On the surface, it's a surprising question for a team that won a fourth straight division crown last season with an American League MVP runner-up, a two-time former MVP and multiple former Cy Young winners. The true injury cost to Detroit's chances, however, didn't become apparent until after the season was over.

If Miguel Cabrera's return from a bone spur in his ankle and a stress fracture in his foot wasn't enough of a challenge, Victor Martinez's second offseason knee injury in four years added another wrinkle. Both appear likely to be ready for Opening Day or shortly thereafter, but there's at least the possibility that the two major cogs in Detroit's lineup could be on the mend.

1B Miguel Cabrera: The fact that Cabrera put up the offensive production he did down the stretch with a broken foot is incredible. His challenge for 2015 will be to open the season on time. After that, he'll try to get off to a solid start in spite of limited offseason workouts, something that hampered him starting out last season after recovering from core muscle surgery.

Video: Outlook: Miggy's elite stats should continue in '15

SS Jose Iglesias: The long-running mystery of shin splints that had hampered Iglesias for over a year turned out to be stress fractures that required a season off to heal. It was a lost year for Iglesias at an age when he should have been blossoming into one of the game's brightest shortstops. Healthwise, doctors say Iglesias should be fine. Now, he'll have to work to regain the footwork and footspeed that made him such a gifted player at such a relatively young age.

DH Victor Martinez: The good news for Martinez and the Tigers is that the surgery he underwent on the torn medial meniscus in his left knee should sideline him just four-to-six weeks, giving him enough time to get at-bats at the end of Spring Training. However, what impact the surgically repaired knee has on Martinez's age-defying swing remains to be seen. He has always been a great hitter for average, but his career-best power last season came from his lower body.

RP Bruce Rondon: The days of Rondon as Detroit's closer in waiting now seem like a distant memory, as does the 103-mph reading Rondon put up on the Fenway Park radar gun. The latter was Labor Day 2013, and he has pitched in exactly one Major League regular-season game since then, having lost his 2014 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. He just turned 24, so he still has time on his side, plus a manager who's preaching patience with him.

Video: Outlook: Veteran Sanchez a strong mid-tier option

SP Anibal Sanchez: Of all the Tigers recovering from injury, Sanchez is the most likely to be fine. He was healthy last October, just famously limited after missing nearly two months with a right pectoral muscle strain. He also missed a few weeks with a right middle finger laceration, so he never really had a chance to find the form that won him the American League ERA title in 2013. 

Video: Outlook: Verlander's days as elite option in the past 

RHP Justin Verlander: This is where the notion of a rebound becomes more complicated than simple health. Sure, Verlander lost offseason training last year to core muscle surgery, then missed a start in August with a sore right shoulder that he believes suffered the effects of him compensating for the core muscle surgery. Still, he made 32 starts that ranged from OK early in the year to disastrous in midseason to coolly effective in September. A rebound to that pitcher who once threw 99 mph whenever he wanted probably isn't going to happen. Many believe Verlander needs to adjust his approach to get the results he expects from himself.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.

Detroit Tigers, Miguel Cabrera, Jose Iglesias, Victor Martinez, Bruce Rondon, Anibal Sanchez, Justin Verlander