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TeamBoone
03-03-2006, 01:25 PM
March 2, 2006, 06:16:02
A look at the spring training goals
What are the teams aiming for this spring?
By ALAN RITTNER

New York Yankees
SPRING GOAL: The Yankees seemed to have filled their biggest holes this offseason, signing Johnny Damon to man centerfield and adding bullpen depth. But before they're conceded anything, they need to know what they can expect from the back of their rotation. GM Brian Cashman says he believes in Carl Pavano, but as camp opened, the right-hander's back was still bothering him amid rumors he didn't want to be a Yankee at all. It's fair to assume this team would rather not have to rely on repeat performances from Aaron Small, Shawn Chacon and Chien-Ming Wang.

Philadelphia Phillies
SPRING GOAL: The everyday lineup appears set, but the pitching staff is awfully shaky behind Brett Myers, Jon Lieber and former Devil Ray Cory Lidle. Ryan Franklin was signed to fill the No. 4 hole after going 12-31 with a 4.99 ERA and one steroid suspension in his past two seasons in Seattle, a pitcher's haven. Ryan Madson, primarily a reliever in his two-year career, is favored to fill out the rotation. The fallback for either would be former top prospect Gavin Floyd, who suffered through a miserable 2005.

Toronto Blue Jays
SPRING GOAL: Alex Rios' 10 homers last season look good only in comparison with the one he hit as a rookie. So Toronto is challenging him and easing a glut of first base/designated hitter types by converting Eric Hinske into a rightfielder. The Jays might platoon the right-handed Rios and left-handed Hinske, or they might bench or demote Rios, though they have to consider the damage that might do to a 25-year-old they recently considered a future star. They'll have to sort out playing time between catchers Bengie Molina, signed last month, and incumbent Gregg Zaun, whom Toronto's pitchers love to throw to.

Atlanta Braves
SPRING GOAL: It's difficult to have much confidence in a bullpen anchored by Chris Reitsma, though in fairness he pitched brilliantly as the closer last July before leg injuries started to hamper him. Still, the Braves had Joey Devine on the fast track from the moment they drafted him last June, and they believe in him despite the battering he took in his big-league cameo. Even Jorge Sosa, the former Devil Ray who had stunning success as an emergency starter, could emerge as a closer candidate, especially if Kyle Davies makes a strong bid for the rotation.

Baltimore Orioles
SPRING GOAL: The Orioles signed Ramon Hernandez and want to move Javy Lopez out from behind the plate. Of course, this being the Orioles, they're already overrun with first baseman/designated hitters. It remains to be seen how they'll align Lopez, Jeff Conine, Kevin Millar, Jay Gibbons, Richard Hidalgo, et al. Hillsborough High product Chris Ray is the front-runner to replace B.J. Ryan as closer. Second baseman Brian Roberts needs to prove he's healthy after a September collision tore up his left elbow and ended a breakout season.

Boston Red Sox
SPRING GOAL: Keith Foulke is penciled in as the closer, but he needs to show something after knee ailments and off-field distractions sabotaged his '05. Backup plans might include veteran Mike Timlin and rookies Craig Hansen and Jon Papelbon. Curt Schilling likely will face questions about his health until he either finishes the season or breaks down. First base appears to be a battle between two guys not known for power, walks maestro Kevin Youkilis and six-time Gold Glover J.T. Snow. Prospect Dustin Pedroia is waiting in the wings if second baseman Mark Loretta or shortstop Alex Gonzalez falters.

Cincinnati Reds
SPRING GOAL: With Felipe Lopez secure at shortstop, Rich Aurilia, Ryan Freel and Tony Womack get to duke it out over second base. One option might be to move Aurilia to third and ship top prospect Edwin Encarnacion back to the minors for seasoning. Adam Dunn is learning to play first base, giving outfielder Austin Kearns another chance to prove he can stay healthy and focused. Somewhere in a bullpen that currently runs about 13 deep, there might be someone who can close.

Cleveland Indians
SPRING GOAL: The biggest hole in last year's lineup was at third base. Now Cleveland has hauled in top prospect Andy Marte to challenge Aaron Boone for the starting job, though many believe he needs more time in the minors. Franklin Gutierrez and Brad Snyder might threaten Casey Blake in rightfield as well, though more likely that battle won't happen until midseason or later.

Detroit Tigers
SPRING GOAL: How close are Justin Verlander and Joel Zumaya? Two of the best pitching prospects in baseball, they made minor-leaguers look silly last season. But they've combined for 10 starts above Double A, including Verlander's two in the majors. They'll battle for the No. 5 starter's job along with Ramon Colon and Wilfredo Ledezma.

Florida Marlins
SPRING GOAL: Where to start? Two everyday players are assured starting jobs, Miguel Cabrera (who's moving from the outfield to third base) and rightfielder Jeremy Hermida, a rookie of the year favorite. After Dontrelle Willis, the rotation candidates include Sergio Mitre, Brian Moehler, Jason Vargas, Scott Olsen, Josh Johnson, um . . . Rick Honeycutt, Jon Matlack, Mudcat Grant . . . who knows? Joe Borowski, most recently a Devil Ray, is the favorite for the closer role. And ownership is traveling the country seeking a place to move the team.

Houston Astros
SPRING GOAL: Jeff Bagwell's in camp trying to prove he can still play. If he can't, the Astros might move Lance Berkman from left and open a spot in the outfield for Chris Burke or Jason Lane. With no commitment from Roger Clemens, who couldn't sign with Houston until May 1 anyway, the Astros need to fill two rotation spots. Ezequiel Astacio and Wandy Rodriguez are favored but are far from cinches. Either could be threatened by a strong spring from the likes of Taylor Buchholz, who shined in the Arizona Fall League.

Los Angeles Dodgers
SPRING GOAL: For all the offseason shuffling, this remains an old and fragile club. Cy Young-winning closer Eric Gagne has looked solid in camp after a lost season, and rightfielder J.D. Drew says his wrist is fully healed. But they'll need to be tested in game situations. Chad Billingsley, considered by many to be baseball's best pitching prospect, will get a long look but probably will start the season at Triple A, especially with the memory of Edwin Jackson's struggles fresh. The inevitable Brad Penny injury could speed the timetable.

Minnesota Twins
SPRING GOAL: The Twins plugged some holes this offseason but remain shaky at shortstop, where an uninspiring battle looms among Jason Bartlett, Juan Castro and Nick Punto. Promising outfielder Jason Kubel, who missed last season after his left knee virtually blew up the previous October, is still an unknown quantity. First baseman Justin Morneau looks bigger and stronger after being weakened last season by multiple ailments. A deep rotation still might have to make room for Francisco Liriano, considered by some to be a Johan Santana clone.

New York Mets
SPRING GOAL: After trading Kris Benson and Jae Seo, the Mets could be crippled by an injury to one of the starting five, and ace Pedro Martinez is already nursing an ailing toe. A lot's going to be asked of Tom Glavine, who turns 40 this month, and Steve Trachsel, Victor Zambrano and Aaron Heilman, question marks all. Fading Bret Boone was brought in to challenge disappointing Kaz Matsui at second. Rightfield appears to be wide open, and the offense might continue to underachieve if leadoff hitter Jose Reyes doesn't learn a little plate discipline from spring instructor Rickey Henderson.

Pittsburgh Pirates
SPRING GOAL: There's a lot of talent and a lot of uncertainty in that starting rotation. Oliver Perez is hoping some mechanical adjustments and better conditioning help him recover from a brutal season. The conundrum that is Kip Wells posted a 5.09 ERA, and his status is unknown because surgery to repair a blood clot in his arm has been scheduled for Monday. Sean Burnett, who missed '05 after elbow and shoulder surgeries, will have to fend off Ian Snell, Ryan Vogelsong and Victor Santos for the final spot.

St. Louis Cardinals
SPRING GOAL: In theory, pitching coach Dave Duncan will wave his wand and turn veteran underachiever Sidney Ponson into an instant winner. Failure would surprise no one and might work to the Cards' advantage by opening a spot for rookie Anthony Reyes, coming off an impressive late-season audition. Offseason acquisition Larry Bigbie is expected to battle for the leftfield job with So Taguchi, who actually has the higher career slugging percentage (.422 to .398) and is a favorite of manager Tony La Russa.

Washington Nationals
SPRING GOAL: Stadium and ownership issues aside, the biggest question might be what the heck they do with Alfonso Soriano, who seems determined to remain at second base despite the presence of Jose Vidro. Soriano could force another trade. Without him, the leftfield battle probably comes down to the Marlons, Byrd and Anderson. At short, Royce Clayton was brought in to challenge Cristian Guzman, by some measures the majors' worst regular last season. Fragile Tony Armas and Ryan Drese will battle for a rotation spot.

CACTUS LEAGUE:

Arizona Diamondbacks
SPRING GOAL: Few teams have as much young hitting talent as the D'backs, yet only first baseman Conor Jackson seems likely to win a job. And even that's uncertain after Tony Clark signed a two-year deal. Luis Gonzalez and Eric Byrnes will man left and center for now, but Carlos Quentin and Chris Young are likely to have something to say about it. And there's little standing in Stephen Drew's way at shortstop. Miguel Batista seems assured of a rotation spot, but Brad Halsey's job is far from secure.

Chicago Cubs
SPRING GOAL: Both Mark Prior and Kerry Wood started camp behind their fellow pitchers, Prior because of a respiratory infection, Wood because of August shoulder surgery. The Cubs expect Prior to be ready for the season but are not counting on Wood until May. Manager Dusty Baker might opt for Jerry Hairston's glove over Todd Walker's bat at second base, and his well-documented preference for veterans could make spring performance crucial for leftfielder Matt Murton and shortstop Ronny Cedeno.

Chicago White Sox
SPRING GOAL: The White Sox rolled the dice on Jim Thome's ailing elbow and back. His health will be their biggest story of the spring. Brian Anderson is favored to replace traded Aaron Rowand in center, but rookie speedster Jerry Owens, who batted a Southern League-high .331 last season, could contend.

Colorado Rockies
SPRING GOAL: The next wave of young talent is at least a level or two away. So Colorado isn't facing many position battles, though a role needs to be found for slugger Ryan Shealy. The starting rotation is surprisingly stable with Sunny Kim battling Zach Day and Josh Fogg, among others, for the No. 5 spot.

Kansas City Royals
SPRING GOAL: They're not quite the Marlins. But they have plenty to sort out, especially in the starting rotation, where eight or nine are battling for five spots. Concern for pitcher Zack Greinke's psychological well-being escalated when he left camp for undisclosed reasons. His return is uncertain. Elite prospects Alex Gordon, Justin Huber and Billy Butler don't have much standing in their way but probably will start the season in the minors anyway.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
SPRING GOAL: With Garret Anderson on the decline, the Angels need a power source other than Vlad Guerrero (who had a recurrence of his back problems last season, an ominous sign). That could mean Dallas McPherson, coming off an injury-plagued rookie season, gets another shot at third or designated hitter. The trade of Steve Finley and subsequent move of Darin Erstad back to center opens first base for Seminole High's Casey Kotchman. The bigger question mark there might be Erstad, who was moved out of center in the first place because of injuries.

Milwaukee Brewers
SPRING GOAL: The Brewers are keeping a close eye on ace Ben Sheets, hoping to prevent a recurrence of the inner ear condition that knocked him out five weeks last season. He missed another six with a torn shoulder muscle and might not be at full strength for a while. With Prince Fielder handed the first base job, the one major position battle should be between Dave Bush and Rick Helling for the final rotation spot.

Oakland Athletics
SPRING GOAL: There's no such thing as too much starting pitching, yet rumors persist the A's will use their surplus to trade ace Barry Zito. The A's also have an extra outfielder, meaning Jay Payton could go, although keeping him could look smart if and when Milton Bradley gets hurt again. New designated hitter Frank Thomas is just starting to swing the bat, and shortstop Bobby Crosby, whose absence much of last season derailed Oakland's playoff run, is nursing a sore shoulder.

San Diego Padres
SPRING GOAL: You wouldn't think a defending division champion would risk entering a season with Chan Ho Park in its rotation. Yet that's a distinct possibility with San Diego, which also has given a job to Shawn Estes. Tim Stauffer should be in the mix. The trade of Mark Loretta seems to open second base for prospect Josh Barfield, but he'll have to outplay Mark Bellhorn, Eric Young and Bobby Hill.

San Francisco Giants
SPRING GOAL: Barry Bonds had better be healthy and ready to go 140 games-plus because without him this offense is the pits. The fifth starter job is up for grabs with Brad Hennessey and Kevin Correia the favorites. Two key pitchers, starter Jason Schmidt and closer Armando Benitez, are coming off injury-plagued seasons.

Seattle Mariners
SPRING GOAL: Oddly for a last-place team, Seattle doesn't have much in the way of position battles, though Jose Lopez would seem vulnerable at second. The Mariners are eager to see how their pitching staff communicates with new catcher Kenji Johjima, signed away from Japan. So far, the buzz is positive.

Texas Rangers
SPRING GOAL: They have pitching questions. Don't they always? Kameron Loe, who was impressive after a late conversion from relief, probably has earned a starting job, and Juan Dominguez is a favorite for another. But a handful of candidates, including Josh Rupe and top prospect Thomas Diamond, are in the hunt. The outfield starters are set, but the alignment is not, and either Phil Nevin or Erubiel Durazo (or both) could DH. Rookie Ian Kinsler will get every opportunity to take over at second base.

http://www.sptimes.com/2006/03/02/Rays/A_look_at_the_spring_.shtml

vaticanplum
03-03-2006, 01:32 PM
New York Yankees
SPRING GOAL: The Yankees seemed to have filled their biggest holes this offseason, signing Johnny Damon to man centerfield and adding bullpen depth. But before they're conceded anything, they need to know what they can expect from the back of their rotation. GM Brian Cashman says he believes in Carl Pavano, but as camp opened, the right-hander's back was still bothering him amid rumors he didn't want to be a Yankee at all. It's fair to assume this team would rather not have to rely on repeat performances from Aaron Small, Shawn Chacon and Chien-Ming Wang.

You see, this is why these things can't be condensed into four sentences. It is absurd to me to lump in Wang with Small and Chacon (just using this as an example since it's the first team). The Yankees SHOULD be hoping for a repeat performance from Wang. Small and Chacon may have been flukes last year, but Wang is a kid from the farm system that the Yankees are focusing on developing. He is SUPPOSED to get better and have repeats of his early performances; they are going to build him up precisely because they're going to need to "rely" on him for the next several years.

Just a little quibble.

And then of course we have this:

Cincinnati Reds
SPRING GOAL: ...Somewhere in a bullpen that currently runs about 13 deep, there might be someone who can close.

Gee, you'd think, wouldn't you?

BRM
03-03-2006, 01:50 PM
One option might be to move Aurilia to third and ship top prospect Edwin Encarnacion back to the minors for seasoning.

Every time I read this kind of stuff I start to pull my hair out.

TeamBoone
03-03-2006, 01:55 PM
Every time I read this kind of stuff I start to pull my hair out.

Me too. Why on earth do they think he needs "seasoning"?

He's not a piece of steak and doesn't need anymore seasoning in AAA... he's excelled there and has nothing left to prove.

He has to be in the majors now in order to develop at the next level.

flyer85
03-03-2006, 02:04 PM
with the likely possibility of Woemack and Aurilia starting together on opening day I would say that they seem to be aiming for last place.

KronoRed
03-03-2006, 02:14 PM
He has nothing left to do at AAA, apparently the Reds want him to hit 1.000 before they let him play.

vaticanplum
03-03-2006, 02:15 PM
He has nothing left to do at AAA, apparently the Reds want him to hit 1.000 before they let him play.

They want him to get scrappy lessons from Tony Womack.

Chip R
03-03-2006, 02:51 PM
They want him to get crappy lessons from Tony Womack.

I fixed that for you.