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Spring Training 2004

Team goals

By Times Staff
Published March 4, 2004

Grapefruit League:

Atlanta Braves

SPRING GOAL: The disassembling of one of history's great rotations has left Atlanta to choose from among Jaret Wright, Paul Byrd and Andy Pratt to fill the No. 5 hole. The infield corners are wide open, and Eli Marrero could challenge Johnny Estrada at catcher.

Baltimore Orioles

SPRING GOAL: After Sidney Ponson, there are no sure bets for the rotation. Melvin Mora is penciled in at third, a position he has occupied for seven career games. Jerry Hairston and Brian Roberts will battle at second, with prospect Mike Fontenot a possible wild card.

Boston Red Sox

SPRING GOAL: There aren't too many question marks on a team that should challenge the Yankees. Mostly it needs to adjust to new manager Terry Francona, who was handpicked by a front office that never seemed completely behind Grady Little.

Cincinnati Reds

SPRING GOAL: As Ken Griffey begins his annual routine of vowing to stay healthy, Cincinnati holds its breath for fellow outfielder Austin Kearns, a budding star coming off rotator cuff surgery, and begins its annual routine of building a rotation out of castoffs.

Cleveland Indians

SPRING GOAL: Cleveland's farm system is so deep that there are few sure things, especially in the starting rotation. Ben Broussard and Travis Hafner will duke it out at first, and the Indians would love for one-time phenom Brandon Phillips to make himself felt in camp.

Detroit Tigers

SPRING GOAL: Psychological healing. After a 119-loss season, no one expects competitiveness. A roster overhaul, highlighted by the free-agent acquisition of catcher Ivan Rodriguez, should help the team take a step toward respectability.

Florida Marlins

SPRING GOAL: Catcher Ivan Rodriguez is gone, and Mike Redmond and Ramon Castro will battle to replace him. A healthy A.J. Burnett would give them one of the most imposing rotations in the league; the stopgap appears to be . . . Darren Oliver?

Houston Astros

SPRING GOAL: The only "hole" appears to be in the bullpen after the trade of All-Star closer Billy Wagner, by some measures the equal of Cy Young winner Eric Gagne. Octavio Dotel is likely to take over, but Brad Lidge also has shown the ability to dominate.

Los Angeles Dodgers

SPRING GOAL: New GM Paul DePodesta is just starting to learn about his team, and his ongoing evaluation could extend deep into the season. Expect him to apply his Moneyball principles first to a punchless middle infield, possibly by capitalizing on his pitching depth.

Minnesota Twins

SPRING GOAL: The ongoing saga of billionaire owner Carl Pohlad's cries of poverty have helped to create a new set of holes. The biggest are in the bullpen, where Joe Nathan is the favorite to pick up the departed Eddie Guardado's saves.

Montreal Expos

SPRING GOAL: The trade of Javier Vazquez has left Montreal with unproven (Zach Day, Tomo Ohka) and fragile (Tony Armas) rotation options. The Expos will have to cobble one together with little help from the farm system or the collective ownership of MLB.

New York Mets

SPRING GOAL: Having finally acknowledged its need to rebuild, New York is loaded with questions. Can Mike Piazza handle first part-time? Will the DP combo click with Jose Reyes at second, where he has no experience? Who brings up the back end of the rotation?

Pittsburgh Pirates

SPRING GOAL: What to do with Craig Wilson? Arguably the Pirates' best returning hitter, Wilson appeared on the verge of winning an everyday job before the signings of outfielder Raul Mondesi and first baseman Randall Simon, now a likely platoon partner.

St. Louis Cardinals

SPRING GOAL: With Albert Pujols moving to first base, the rather uninspiring options in leftfield appear to be Kerry Robinson and So Taguchi. A thin and fragile rotation could leave an opening for prospect Adam Wainwright, acquired from Atlanta.

Cactus League:

Anaheim Angels

SPRING GOAL: They need to figure out what to do with their excess outfielders. Supposedly the additions of Vlad Guerrero and Jose Guillen will push Garret Anderson to centerfield and Darin Erstad to first, only Erstad's superior glove and subpar bat would seem to be wasted there. A trade is still possible.

Arizona Diamondbacks

SPRING GOAL: With the departures of Curt Schilling and the underrated Miguel Batista, at least one rotation spot is wide open. Shane Reynolds was signed to fill the No. 4 hole, leaving Steve Sparks, John Patterson and Jim Parque to battle for one job.

Chicago Cubs

SPRING GOAL: The only seemingly unsettled position is second base, where Todd Walker was signed to back up Mark Grudzielanek but might at least force his way into a platoon. Corey Patterson appears to be mostly recovered from ACL reconstruction.

Chicago White Sox

SPRING GOAL: Closer Billy Koch might be on a short leash after a disappointing season, and he could find himself pushed by newcomer Shingo Takatsu, Japan's career saves leader. The fifth starter job is up for grabs. And new manager Ozzie Guillen needs to mend fences with slugger Frank Thomas.

Colorado Rockies

SPRING GOAL: They're breaking in a new closer, Shawn Chacon, who's taking lessons from former Yankee great Goose Gossage. They have high hopes for several young pitchers, including Chin-hui Tsao and ex-Devil Ray Joe Kennedy.

Kansas City Royals

SPRING GOAL: Left-hander Jeremy Affeldt remains the pitcher with the best front-line potential, and the Royals hope he can prove it after an offseason spent working on his chronic blister problem. If it crops up again, it might force him into a seemingly much-improved bullpen.

Milwaukee Brewers

SPRING GOAL: Try not to get ahead of themselves. The Brewers have as many star-caliber prospects (notably Prince Fielder, J.J. Hardy and Richie Weeks) as any team in baseball, but all are likely to need at least a half-season of minor-league seasoning.

Oakland A's

SPRING GOAL: It was assumed that newcomers Bobby Kielty and Mark Kotsay would join Jermaine Dye in a revamped outfield, but Eric Byrnes, not to mention Dye's knee and shoulder, might have something to say about that. Dye is the key: Healthy, he gives Oakland a power bat it sorely needs.

San Diego Padres

SPRING GOAL: Rookie Khalil Greene is penciled in as the starting shortstop, but the Padres covered themselves by signing former Devil Ray Rey Ordonez to a minor-league deal. Closer Trevor Hoffman, who appeared in only nine games last season, seems to be fully recovered, but Rod Beck is around just in case.

San Francisco Giants

SPRING GOAL: Overcome the distractions, for starters. It's a given that most of the media focus will be on the steroid rumors swirling about Barry Bonds (all unsubstantiated, it's worth noting, and "look how big he is" doesn't count). A more relevant question is who takes over in rightfield, where the options seem to be born fourth outfielders Michael Tucker, Jeffrey Hammonds and Dustan Mohr.

Seattle Mariners

SPRING GOAL: Manager Bob Melvin would love for Ben Davis to step up and claim the starting catching job. He has struggled to put two good halves together, but he clearly has more upside than Dan Wilson, with whom he shared the job last season.

Texas Rangers

SPRING GOAL: They traded Alex Rodriguez, but some of the truly bad contracts remain. The worst still belongs to Chan Ho Park, who claims to be healthy and ready to bounce back from two miserable seasons. We'll see. An outfield glut will have to be sorted out.

[Last modified March 4, 2004, 01:15:01]


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