Nl Central

Spring Training 2000

February 16, 2000|By ROCH KUBATKO

Chicago Cubs

Manager: Don Baylor

1999 record: 67-95, sixth place

No. 1: Is Kerry Wood, recovering from elbow surgery, close to returning to the form that enabled him to strike out 20 in a game?

No. 2: Will the trade for starter Ismael Valdes look as good on the field as it did on paper?

No. 3: Can closer Rick Aguilera, 38, pick up where he left off -- one run in his last 17 appearances?

No. 4: Were the middle-relief problems last season compounded by the trade of Terry Adams?

No. 5: Can Baylor bring this club out of hibernation after a somnambulant showing last season?

Cincinnati Reds

Manager: Jack McKeon

1999 record: 96-67, second place

No. 1: Now that he's where he wants to be, can Ken Griffey keep pace with Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa in Home Run Central?

No. 2: Will Pokey Reese live up to his status as an untouchable in the Griffey trade talks?

No. 3: How quickly will starters Pete Harnisch and Denny Neagle recover from shoulder problems?

No. 4: Can Dante Bichette be a major run producer outside Coors Field?

No. 5: Deion Sanders? Do the Reds plan more man-to-man coverage?

Houston Astros

Manager: Larry Dierker

1999 record: 97-65, first place

No. 1: How much will the rotation miss left-hander Mike Hampton?

No. 2: Does Jose Lima win big again and justify a three-year contract that can reach $21 million?

No. 3: Can the Astros find another left-handed reliever besides Trever Miller and closer Billy Wagner?

No. 4: Is Dwight Gooden finished after going 3-4 with a 6.26 ERA for Cleveland last season?

No. 5: Will Russ Johnson take over at shortstop for departed Ricky Gutierrez? He hit .314 in the second half.

Milwaukee Brewers

Manager: Davey Lopes

1999 record: 74-87, fifth place

No. 1: Will the Brewers regret trading vastly underrated third baseman Jeff Cirillo?

No. 2: Did the acquisition of Henry Blanco in that four-team trade solve their catching problem or give it a new face?

No. 3: Should they have done more to retain David Nilsson, who batted .309 with 21 homers?

No. 4: Can Lopes, in his first chance to manage in the big leagues, take the Brewers to the next level -- somewhere above mediocrity?

No. 5: What did they see in Jaime Navarro besides the usual inflated ERA?

Pittsburgh Pirates

Manager: Gene Lamont

1999 record: 78-83, third place

No. 1: Considering Mike Williams' second-half collapse and Rich Loiselle's arm woes, who will close?

No. 2: Will catcher Jason Kendall make a full recovery after severely dislocating an ankle on July 4?

No. 3: What will they do with Wil Cordero, besides cross their fingers that he stays a model citizen?

No. 4: Were the Pirates really desperate enough for a third baseman that they considered signing flabby malcontent Bobby Bonilla?

No. 5: Who's the fifth starter, Pete Schourek, Chris Peters or Jimmy Anderson?

St. Louis Cardinals

Manager: Tony La Russa

1999 record: 75-86, fourth place

No. 1: Will Mark McGwire's home run total exceed the team's number of victories?

No. 2: Is Andy Benes something other than a .500 pitcher with a fat contract?

No. 3: How productive is pitcher Rick Ankiel, tabbed as baseball's top prospect?

No. 4: Will Dave Veres fill the closer's role? If not, there's always Heathcliff Slocumb. Run for cover.

No. 5: How long can La Russa be called a genius when his clubs continue to underachieve?

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