NL Central

Spring Training '99: The Major Issues

February 21, 1999|By ROCH KUBATKO

Chicago Cubs

Manager: Jim Riggleman

1998 record: 90-73, second place

No. 1: Can Kerry Wood avoid elbow trouble and repeat his phenomenal rookie season?

No. 2: The Sammy Sosa Watch will be on from his first at-bat. Can he hit 71?

No. 3: Terry Mulholland doesn't know if he'll be in the rotation or pitching in relief. It appears he's needed most in the bullpen.

No. 4: The lure of free-agent dollars may help Steve Trachsel break his disturbing pattern of pitching well only in even-numbered years.

No. 5: Is Benito Santiago the answer to the Cubs' catching woes?

Cincinnati Reds

Manager: Jack McKeon

1998 record: 77-85, fourth place

No. 1: As he was years ago with the Pirates, Denny Neagle is again the No. 1 starter on a losing team. How long before he's paroled?

No. 2: Do they deal shortstop Barry Larkin to move Pokey Reese to his natural position?

No. 3: Without lineup protection, how good will 50-homer-hitter Greg Vaughn be?

No. 4: Can Steve Avery bolster the bottom of the rotation? Or even stay healthy?

No. 5: Will Danny Graves or Gabe White prove to be a legitimate closer?

Houston Astros

Manager: Larry Dierker

1998 record: 102-60, first place

No. 1: The rotation lost Randy Johnson. Who will take his place now that Roger Clemens is off the market?

No. 2: Future ace Scott Elarton gets a shot to move into rotation.

No. 3: Ken Caminiti's return could boost a potent offense, but how much does he have left?

No. 4: If rookie catcher Mitch Meluskey isn't ready, the club will regret trading Brad Ausmus back to Detroit.

No. 5: Starter Chris Holt, who missed last season, tries comeback from rotator cuff surgery.

Milwaukee Brewers

Manager: Phil Garner

1998 record: 74-88, fifth place

No. 1: Starters set a major-league mark last season with only two complete games. Will that number grow?

No. 2: How much can the team expect from Jim Abbott? The one-handed pitcher will have to bat for the first time since high school.

No. 3: Can Bob Wickman keep the closer's job?

No. 4: After months of trade rumors, will second baseman Fernando Vina stay or go?

No. 5: Garner has survived six straight losing seasons. How long will his job be safe?

Pittsburgh Pirates

Manager: Gene Lamont

1998 record: 69-93, sixth place

No. 1: Will newly acquired starter Pete Schourek be healthy and effective?

No. 2: Same as last year at this time: Will Jason Schmidt meet his potential as a No. 1 starter?

No. 3: Pitcher Kris Benson, the No. 1 pick in the 1996 draft, is waiting in the wings.

No. 4: It's clear the Pirates have little interest in retaining NL steals champion Tony Womack. Why is he still here?

No. 5: Will outfield additions Brian Giles and Brant Brown make a difference?

St. Louis Cardinals

Manager: Tony La Russa

1998 record: 83-79, third place

No. 1: Can Mark McGwire knock Mark McGwire from the record books?

No. 2: Ricky Bottalico and Scott Radinsky try to salvage the bullpen.

No. 3: With no DH option, can Eric Davis stay healthy enough?

No. 4: Three-time All-Star second baseman Carlos Baerga tries to prove he can still play.

No. 5: Eli Marrero, who had a thyroid cancer operation last spring, is asked to shoulder most of the catching load.

Pub Date: 2/21/99

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.