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American League Preview from The Sports Network



Monday, March 31st (All times Eastern)

Kansas City Royals (0-0) at Detroit Tigers (0-0), 1:08 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Kansas City - James Shields (0-0, 0.00) Detroit - Justin Verlander (0-0, 0.00)

(SportsNetwork.com) - Just days after signing Miguel Cabrera to one of the richest contracts in baseball history, the Detroit Tigers will lift the lid on the 2014 season with the first of three games against the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park.

With two years and $44 million remaining on his current contract, Cabrera agreed to an eight-year extension that runs through the 2023 season. It also includes vesting options for 2024 and 2025.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but multiple reports have indicated the total package over the next 10 years will be worth close to $300 million.

The eight-time All-Star, who was a Triple Crown winner in 2012, won his second straight American League MVP award last season, as he captured a third consecutive batting title after hitting a career-high .348, while finishing second in the AL with 44 homers and 137 RBI.

Detroit opens the season with a new face on the bench, as Brad Ausmus took the reins this offseason from Jim Leyland, who retired after leading the Tiger to their third straight ALCS appearance.

While Cabrera paces the offense, which will have a different look following the offseason trade of Prince Fielder, Justin Verlander is still the ace of this Tigers team, despite a shaky 2013 season by his standards.

Verlander, who will be making his seventh straight Opening Day start, was just 13-12 last season with a 3.46 ERA. That included a 1-3 mark in six starts versus the Royals.

"That's the great thing about Opening Day -- you don't know what's going to happen," said Verlander, who is 16-5 lifetime against Kansas City. "I go back and look at us in '06, and nobody imagined us being where we were. That's the joy of Opening Day. We don't know. Nobody knows. This could be the first game of a (race) that comes down to the last game of the season. You never know."

Kansas City, meanwhile, might be the Tigers' biggest obstacle in winning a fourth straight AL Central title. The Royals may have missed the playoffs for the 28th straight season in 2013, but finished the year with the AL's best record in the second half of the season (43-27).

Now with young burgeoning stars such as Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon, along with new faces Norichika Aoki and Omar Infante a lot of people believe the Royals could return to the postseason for the first time since 1985.

"We're definitely a better team this year, so it's good to start out against them," Butler said. "It won't be the last time we see them, but we're starting it real early. We know what they're going to be bringing, just like they know what we are, so it should be fun. We're prepared for them, just like they are for us, so we'll see what happens."

Getting the call for Kansas City on Monday will be right-handed veteran James Shields, who will be taking the ball on Opening Day for the sixth time overall. In 34 starts last year for the Royals, Shields went 13-9 with a 3.15 ERA, striking out 196 and walking just 68 in 228 2/3 innings.

The Tigers, who lost the season series to the Royals last year, 10-9, have won three of the last four Opening Day matchups against them, the most recent being an 8-4 victory in 2010.

03/31 10:25:22 ET

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