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NL East

By Times Staff
Published April 3, 2005


Philadelphia Phillies

2004: 86-76, 2nd.

MANAGER: Charlie Manuel.

PAYROLL: $96-million.

KEY ADDITIONS: RHP Jon Lieber, OF Kenny Lofton, RHP Terry Adams, LHP Aaron Fultz.

KEY LOSSES: LHP Eric Milton, RHP Kevin Millwood, OF Doug Glanville, RHP Felix Rodriguez, RHP Roberto Hernandez.

PROJECTED LINEUP:

SS Jimmy Rollins

CF Marlon Byrd

RF Bobby Abreu

LF Pat Burrell

1B Jim Thome

C Mike Lieberthal

2B Chase Utley

3B David Bell

ROTATION: RHP Jon Lieber, LHP Randy Wolf, RHP Cory Lidle, RHP Brett Myers, RHP Gavin Floyd.

CLOSER: LHP Billy Wagner.

BOTTOM LINE: Floyd should make two starts while Vicente Padilla recovers from elbow tendinitis. ... Manuel takes over for the autocratic Larry Bowa, and that means everybody is happy and, supposedly, plays better. ... Lieber was a sensible addition. ... Thome has started his decline but is still extremely dangerous. ... Phillies make the playoffs for first time since 1993.

Atlanta Braves

2004: 96-66, 1st.

MANAGER: Bobby Cox.

PAYROLL: $80-million.

KEY ADDITIONS: RHP Tim Hudson, RHP Danny Kolb, LF Brian Jordan, RF Raul Mondesi, LHP Gabe White, RHP Jay Powell.

KEY LOSSES: OF J.D. Drew, RHP Jaret Wright, RHP Russ Ortiz, RHP Paul Byrd, RHP Antonio Alfonseca, OF Charles Thomas, OF-C Eli Marrero, RHP Juan Cruz, INF Mark DeRosa, OF Dewayne Wise.

PROJECTED LINEUP:

SS Rafael Furcal

2B Marcus Giles

3B Chipper Jones

CF Andruw Jones

C Johnny Estrada

RF Raul Mondesi

1B Adam LaRoche

LF Brian Jordan or Ryan Langerhans

ROTATION: RHP John Smoltz, RHP Tim Hudson, LHP Mike Hampton, RHP John Thomson, LHP Horacio Ramirez.

CLOSER: RHP Danny Kolb.

BOTTOM LINE: Mondesi and Jordan combined last season for just eight home runs. ... Smoltz hasn't been a full-time starter since 1999. How's his elbow? He opened the spring with 14 scoreless innings. ... With Hudson and a healthy Ramirez, this could be the team's best recent rotation. ... Will challenge for 14th straight division title.

New York Mets

2004: 71-91, 4th.

MANAGER: Willie Randolph.

PAYROLL: $105-million.

KEY ADDITIONS: RHP Pedro Martinez, CF Carlos Beltran, 1B Doug Mientkiewicz, LHP Kazuhisa Ishii, 2B Miguel Cairo, LHP Felix Heredia, LHP Dae-Sung Koo, RHP Roberto Hernandez, LHP Scott Stewart, LHP Mike Matthews,

C Ramon Castro.

KEY LOSSES: LHP Al Leiter, RF Richard Hidalgo, RHP Ricky Bottalico, LHP Mike Stanton, LHP John Franco, 1B-3B Todd Zeile, C Vance Wilson, C Jason Phillips, INF-OF Joe McEwing, LHP Pedro Feliciano, INF Wilson Delgado.

PROJECTED LINEUP:

SS Jose Reyes

2B Kaz Matsui

CF Carlos Beltran

C Mike Piazza

LF Cliff Floyd

RF Mike Cameron

1B Doug Mientkiewicz

3B David Wright

ROTATION: RHP Pedro Martinez, LHP Tom Glavine, RHP Kris Benson, RHP Victor Zambrano, LHP Kaz Ishii.

CLOSER: RHP Braden Looper.

BOTTOM LINE: After a failed experiment at first base, Piazza is back at catcher. But at 36, how will he hold up? ... The team is much deeper, but that won't matter if the always-injured continue to disrupt continuity. ... Mientkiewicz should help the infield defense. ... Martinez and Beltran equal a shot at the playoffs.

Florida Marlins

2004: 83-79, third place.

MANAGER: Jack McKeon.

PAYROLL: $65-million.

KEY ADDITIONS: 1B Carlos Delgado, LHP Al Leiter, RHP Todd Jones, RHP Antonio Alfonseca, RHP Jim Mecir, RHP John Riedling.

KEY LOSSES: RHP Carl Pavano, RHP Armando Benitez, C Mike Redmond, RHP Rudy Seanez, C Ramon Castro.

PROJECTED LINEUP:

CF Juan Pierre

2B Luis Castillo

LF Miguel Cabrera

1B Carlos Delgado

3B Mike Lowell

C Paul Lo Duca

RF Juan Encarnacion or Jeff Conine

SS Alex Gonzalez

ROTATION: RHP A.J. Burnett, LHP Al Leiter, RHP Josh Beckett, LHP Dontrelle Willis, RHP Ismael Valdez.

CLOSER: RHP Guillermo Mota.

BOTTOM LINE: Delgado and his left-handed power makes the Marlins much more balanced. ... There's power here, but many pitching questions. Beckett and Burnett (13 DL trips combined since 2002) must stay healthy. The highly talented Willis must be consistent. ... If it all jells, the Marlins move up.

Washington Nationals

2004: 67-95, 5th (as Montreal Expos)

MANAGER: Frank Robinson.

PAYROLL: $47-million.

KEY ADDITIONS: OF Jose Guillen, 3B Vinny Castilla, SS Cristian Guzman, RHP Esteban Loaiza, RHP Antonio Osuna, 1B-OF Wil Cordero, C Gary Bennett.

KEY LOSSES: 3B Tony Batista, OF Juan Rivera, C Einar Diaz, RHP Rocky Biddle, LHP Scott Downs.

PROJECTED LINEUP:

CF Brad Wilkerson

SS Cristian Guzman

2B Jose Vidro

RF Jose Guillen

3B Vinny Castilla

1B Nick Johnson

LF Terrmel Sledge

C Brian Schneider

ROTATION: RHP Livan Hernandez, RHP Zach Day, RHP Esteban Loaiza, RHP Tomo Ohka, RHP John Patterson.

CLOSER: RHP Chad Cordero.

BOTTOM LINE: A lack of depth will be a problem if injuries strike. And wouldn't you know, starter Tony Armas Jr. (groin) is on the DL. ... Hernandez is the only pitcher who last season threw more than 140 innings. ... A permanent home and bigger crowds should create some energy. Will it be there when it becomes obvious the Nationals will finish last?#