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How Far Can the Tigers Bounce Back in 2009?

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In his Sunday Notes column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo ranks the Tigers second among teams that could improve the most in 2009.

2. Tigers - So many prognosticators selected them to win in '08 (I was one of them) and couldn't have been more wrong. But there's optimism, especially from manager Jim Leyland, who said, "I like our team a lot. I never saw last year coming because of the talent we have on the field. We have that talent still."

They have improved their defense with Brandon Inge returning to third and Adam Everett at shortstop, with Carlos Guillen moving to left.

Leyland feels Justin Verlander is a much better pitcher than he showed, as is Jeremy Bonderman. Armando Galarraga exceeded expectations with 13 wins. They will incorporate a power arm in Edwin Jackson, obtained from Tampa Bay, hope Nate Robertson bounces back, and Dontrelle Willis finds himself.

Cafardo also says Gary Sheffield is worth keeping an eye on, and shares a Captain Obvious quote from a NL scout who says Detroit needs to find bullpen help. (And judging from the comments posted here in recent days, Tiger Town is starting to get mighty restless about the lack of recent activity in The Quest For Relief.)

It's nice to see the Tigers listed as a team due for a possible turnaround, but really, do they have anywhere else to go but up? Besides, other than the Indians (who have made some notable moves for Kerry Wood and Mark DeRosa), have any of the teams in the AL Central improved themselves?

The first team listed was the Yankees, by the way. For $423.5 million worth of free agents, you'd hope they'd improve...