AL: What's important in September

Even if your team isn't in the pennant race, September is an important month. Here is what each American League team hopes to accomplish in the final month.

Boston Red Sox: As the Red Sox enter the season's final stretch, Terry Francona's focus will be on getting his team healthy and ready for the playoffs. Kevin Youkilis and J.D. Drew are poised to return from the DL later this week, and should provide some additional depth and offensive punch out of an already strong lineup. The biggest boost could come from Clay Buchholz, who recently started his rehabilitation program. While he likely won't be ready to start during the playoffs, he could play a key role teaming up with Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon as a ruthless three-pronged attack out of the bullpen. --Chip Buck: Fire Brand of the American League

New York Yankees: It's almost embarrassing to complain about anything hitting related to a team that's at the top of the league in most offensive categories, but other than good health, the Yankees' most obvious issue is that none of their designated hitters are any good at hitting right-handed pitching. Jorge Posada and Eric Chavez are struggling, and while Andruw Jones has been a good role player, it's been as a platoon player. Might Jesus Montero be able to help? --Brien Jackson: It's About the Money, Stupid!

Tampa Bay Rays: For the first time in three years, the Rays are in a weird limbo on Sept. 1. They are neither totally in the playoff race nor totally out. They cannot use September merely to evaluate the future, because the fans want a final push. They also can’t burn up young arms chasing the slim hope of a postseason berth. So, the most important thing for the Rays this month is to effectively balance the remainder of 2011 with 2012 and beyond. -Mark Heilig: The Ray Area

Toronto Blue Jays: The Jays will be looking at some young players like pitcher Henderson Alvarez and future star Brett Lawrie, but the most important goal may be to finish above .500, if only to help Jose Bautista's MVP bid. Only five times has a player from a losing team won an MVP Award. --David Schoenfield

Baltimore Orioles: Last year's strong stretch run provided hope for 2011, but it turned into another disastrous season for the O's. The biggest key is for Brian Matusz to regain his confidence and show the ace-like stuff he had in the second half last season, and for rookie Zach Britton and recently acquired Tommy Hunter to finish with some positive results. --David Schoenfield

Detroit Tigers: The pressing issue for the Tigers in September is finding a consistent rotation behind Justin Verlander. At times, Detroit's starting five -- or at least four of five (sorry, Brad Penny) -- has looked sturdy enough to be a scary proposition for a Division Series opponent. At others, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello have looked dreadful and scare only Tigers fans. If trade-deadline prize Doug Fister can continue the trend of his past three starts (21.2 IP, 2 ER, 15 hits, 1 walk and 18 strikeouts), the Tigers will feel considerably better about October. --Mike McClary, The Daily Fungo

Cleveland Indians: If the Indians want to play past September, they have to start hitting and pitching consistently. With some of their biggest bats on the DL, the players who've been called up from Triple-A must step up their game. On the pitching side, Ubaldo Jimenez and Fausto Carmona may not be able to channel their former selves, but they need to stop running hot and cold and just run hot. --Stephanie Liscio and Susan Petrone: It's Pronounced Lajaway

Chicago White Sox: The White Sox find themselves in an odd position going into September. They're five games out, they've won five of six and from now until Sept. 25 they will play 29 straight games against their AL Central foes. Still, with Detroit playing well of late, Chicago seems unlikely to take the division barring a huge September. Outspoken manager Ozzie Guillen recently said he wanted to stay with the team past his extension through next year. As players like Dayan Viciedo come up from the minors, balancing their playing time with that of the veterans who have badly underperformed this year -- we're looking at you, Adam Dunn and Alex Rios -- may prove important as to whether Ozzie stays on the South Side past next year. --You Can't Predict Baseball

Minnesota Twins: The Twins will simply hope for strong finishes from key players. Most of the prospects who might have been September call-ups have already found themselves summoned to patch holes for this injury-riddled club, but players like Ben Revere, Trevor Plouffe, Rene Tosoni and Scott Diamond will nevertheless seek to leave good impressions. Meanwhile, this downtrodden franchise would receive a considerable boost if Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer could show something in the final weeks. --Nick Nelson, Nick's Twins Blog

Kansas City Royals: It's important for the Royals to continue The Process that began in earnest in May with the debut of first baseman Eric Hosmer. With their eyes on the future and as the youngest team in the American League, it's important they continue to play and develop their young talent. Odds are the lineup we see on Sept. 1 will be the same lineup we see Opening Day 2012. --Craig Brown, Royals Authority

Texas Rangers: The Rangers have to find a way to keep their young rotation from collapsing under the strain of unprecedented workloads. Derek Holland and Matt Harrison are both approaching a 100-inning increase from 2010 and Alexi Ogando has surpassed his career innings total (majors and minors combined) in just this one season. All are showing signs of fatigue. Offensively, the key will be working Nelson Cruz and Adrian Beltre back into the lineup and ensuring that both are healthy and dialed in for the last two weeks of the pennant race. --Mike Hindman, Baseball Time in Arlington

Los Angeles Angels: The Angels now find themselves three and a half back in the AL West, but they've got a much easier schedule this month than Texas, so the AL West may be the only truly competitive race left in baseball. Ervin Santana has had a tremendous second half and Jered Weaver and Dan Haren have been great all year, but the most interesting issues may be with the position players. Will Jeff Mathis continue to hurt the team, or will Hank Conger at least get a chance? Is Vernon Wells going to lose his starting job to Mike Trout? The answers to these questions will likely help the Angels both in reaching the playoffs in 2011, however unlikely it may seem right now, and developing the team beyond this year. --You Can't Predict Baseball

Oakland A's: As the A's trudge through September, they need to evaluate what 2012 is going to be. Is it a push for another division championship, or is it rebuilding around a younger core that will challenge in 2013 and beyond? If it's the former, evaluating Josh Willingham and Coco Crisp to determine if they will be A's in 2012 is paramount, as well as determining if the current pitching staff (minus Brett Anderson and maybe Dallas Braden) is enough to seriously contend. If they're thinking about 2013, which I think they should be given the holes on the roster, there are young players who need to play -- Brandon Allen, Jemile Weeks and Scott Sizemore have made solid impacts, and Michael Taylor and Chris Carter deserve at least two cups of coffee. --Dan Hennessey: Baseballin' on a Budget

Seattle Mariners: The Mariners enter September without any hopes of reaching the postseason. Unlike a year ago, however, the club won't be playing out the string with a cast of veterans already thinking about which team will give them a non-roster invitation to spring training. Instead, Eric Wedge will take a long look at youngsters like Kyle Seager, Trayvon Robinson, Mike Carp, Casper Wells, Greg Halman, Chance Ruffin, Tom Wilhelmsen and more. Starting spots for next year are up for grabs and the next four weeks could play a big role in determining who wins them. --Brendan Gawlowski: Pro Ball NW