Nl East Division

February 28, 1993|By Jim Henneman

CHICAGO CUBS

Spring priorities: Manager Jim Lefebvre has a host of starting pitchers, but he has to find an ace to replace the departed Greg Maddux. He's hoping former Texas right-hander Jose Guzman can step up. The Cubs also have to find out if right-hander Mike Harkey is ever going to have a healthy year.

New faces: Left-handers Randy Myers, Dan Plesac and Greg Hibbard, Guzman, catcher Steve Lake, infielder Tommy Shields, outfielders Candy Maldonado and Willie Wilson.

Hot prospect: Outfielder Kevin Roberson is the best of a lean rookie crop.

Big question: Can Shawon Dunston recover from a back injury and reclaim his place among the game's top shortstops?

FLORIDA MARLINS

Spring priorities: The Marlins have to worry about developing their young prospects without rushing them to the big leagues too fast. The signing of catcher Benito Santiago and first baseman Orestes Destrade should help. Manager Rene Lachemann will have a tough time putting together a starting rotation, which could be anchored by 45-year-old Charlie Hough.

New faces: There are no old faces here. Even the uniforms have been around longer than the players.

Hot prospect: Outfielder Nigel Wilson, but he may be a year away.

Big question: Will Bryan Harvey be healthy enough to become trade bait for more young prospects?

MONTREAL EXPOS

Spring priorities: The Expos have had one of baseball's most productive minor-league systems for the past two years. Manager Felipe Alou will have to continue to draw on that talent. Keeping his son Moises happy following a contract hassle could require as much fatherly as managerial advice. Dennis Martinez, at 37, has to continue as the ace of a staff that includes Towson State's Chris Nabholz as one of its key members.

New faces: Left-handers Ivan Arteaga and Brian Barnes, right-hander Gil Heredia, first baseman Lee Stevens, catcher Tim Spehr.

Hot prospect: Shortstop Wil Cordero hit .302 in 45 games last year.

Big question: Will the Expos' ample farm system adequately replace the likes of Tim Wallach, Ivan Calderon and Spike Owen?

NEW YORK METS

Spring priorities: Where does manager Jeff Torborg start? The Mets desperately need Dwight Gooden to get close to his old form and for first baseman Eddie Murray to give them another productive year. A healthy Bret Saberhagen would be the ace Torborg needs. The Mets have not been a good defensive team and will go through another realignment, with Howard Johnson finally settled at his best position, third base.

New faces: Shortstop Tony Fernandez, left-hander Frank Tanana, right-handers Mike Maddux and Mike Draper, outfielders Joe Orsulak and Darren Reed.

Hot prospect: Eric Hillman, a 6-foot-10 left-hander, was 9-2 at Triple-A Tidewater last year.

Big question: Are the Mets growing old gracefully, or are they over the hill?

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Spring priorities: Manager Jim Fregosi desperately needs to establish a regular infield, and he's faced with a lot of questions and not many options. Ex-Orioles right-hander Curt Schilling needs to back up his 14-11 season last year, and Lenny Dykstra needs to be healthy all year.

It's hard to figure how Fregosi can work a contender out of what he has, but he will be expected to do so.

New faces: Left-handers Danny Jackson and David West, outfielders Jim Eisenreich, Pete Incaviglia and Milt Thompson.

Hot prospect: Right-hander Tyler Green is not on the roster, but he could end up in the rotation.

Big question: Is this the year Juan Bell proves himself to be a big-league shortstop?

Spring priorities: Manager Jim Leyland has a workmanlike approach for the task of replacing Barry Bonds, Doug Drabek and Jose Lind. He might be the best manager in the game and certainly excels when it comes to handling young players. He'll need that expertise to help left fielder Al Martin be himself instead of the guy he's replacing. Pitching coach Ray Miller will have a tough time replacing Drabek, but the ex-Orioles coach has been one of the best in the game in taking other team's rejects and fitting them into the Pirates' scheme.

New faces: Left-handers John Candelaria and Dennis Moeller, right-handers Alejandro Pena and Joel Johnston, infielder Tom Foley, outfielder Lonnie Smith.

Hot prospect: Second baseman Carlos Garcia hit .303 at Triple-A Buffalo last year.

Big question: How do you replace Barry Bonds and Doug Drabek one year after losing Bobby Bonilla?

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Spring priorities: The Cardinals always seem to be tinkering with their pitching staff and usually succeeding. They need left-hander Joe Magrane to bounce back, right-hander Bob Tewksbury to stay consistent and closer Lee Smith to remain effective. Center fielder Ray Lankford is a stickout, but the Cardinals have, at least on paper, an erratic offense. They also have to hope that shortstop Ozzie Smith has some defensive magic left.

New faces: Infielder Gregg Jefferies, the best of a weak lot, catcher Hector Villanueva, left-hander Rob Murphy, right-hander Les Lancaster.

Hot prospect: Infielder Juan Andujar hit .288 at Triple-A Louisville last year.

Big question: Is this the year Todd Zeile lives up to his potential?

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