Team Previews

Nl West

April 01, 2001|By Previews compiled by Andy Knobel

SPOTLIGHT

Mike Hampton

Colorado Rockies

Acquired: Signed Dec. 9 as a free agent.

At what cost?: $121 million over eight years.

2000 stats: 15-10, 3.14 ERA, 217 2/3 innings

Age: 28

Height/weight: 5-10, 180

Impact on team: Colorado's long search for an ace who is not cowed by pitching in Denver's light air appears to be over. "It's a test I look forward to," said Hampton, who allowed the fewest home runs per nine innings in the National League while calling pitcher-friendly Shea Stadium his home. The left-hander relies on a cut fastball and changeup, two pitches that customarily are not affected by altitude. Lifetime, the left-hander is 4-1 at Coors Field but with a 6.48 ERA. How does 20-5 with a 6.48 ERA sound?

Impact on division: An intense competitor, the NL Championship Series Most Valuable Player gives Colorado a front-line starting pitcher to match Randy Johnson, Kevin Brown and Livan Hernandez in pennant-stretch showdowns. If fellow free-agent addition Denny Neagle also comes through, the Rockies could capture their first division title.

Ariz. Diamondbacks

Record: 85-77, 3rd place, 12 back Runs scored: 792 (10th in NL) Runs allowed: 754 (5th in NL) Manager: Bob Brenly Home: Bank One Ballpark That was then: Arizona had the majors' best record, 26-10, on May 13, then started a steady fade that cost manager Buck Showalter his job. This is now: Mark Grace is the latest senior to move to Phoenix. The last team to start nine guys in their 30s on Opening Day was the 1998 Orioles, and we know what happened to them. The average age of the projected lineup is 34; four of the five starting pitchers are 34 or older. Is the BOB's swimming pool a fountain of youth? Upside: Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling may be baseball's best 1-2 pitching combination. ... Brenly pleased veterans when he started his first team meeting by dropping Showalter's thick manual of team rules on the clubhouse floor. Downside: The team doesn't know when Todd Stottlemyre (strained nerve) can resume pitching. Don't miss ... : ... the fire sale. Burdened with debt and a declining gate, owner Jerry Colangelo persuaded 10 players to defer $17 million of salary during the off-season. If the team doesn't win early, he may dump D'backs to save on greenbacks. Don't be surprised ... : ... if Schilling has a big year. A year removed from shoulder surgery, he should benefit from the taller strike zone because a new overhand curve will make it hard for hitters to lay off his high, riding fastball. Don't expect ... : ... a big comeback from third baseman Matt Williams, whose RBIs fell by 95 last season. The longtime All-Star has spondylitis, a form of spinal arthritis. He's hoping intense rehabilitation controls the condition. Book it: "A Day Late and a Dollar Short"

Arizona at a glance 2001 LINEUP CARD AND SKINNY (*-new; i-injured) SS Tony Womack ... His 45 steals a career low 1B Mark Grace* ... 75 runs his fewest since '94 LF Luis Gonzalez ... 31 HRs, 114 RBIs; steady glove 3B Matt Williams ... Spring little reason for optimism RF Steve Finley ... Gold Glove, 35 HRs, 100 runs RF Reggie Sanders* ... .232, 11 HRs after .285, 26 in '99 2B Jay Bell ... 18 HRs, 68 RBIs in '00; 38, 112 in '99 C Damian Miller ... Fine glove; 8 of 10 HRs before break 2001 ROTATION, CLOSER AND SKINNY (*-new; i-injured) LHP Randy Johnson ... 2 straight Cy Youngs; 8 CGs RHP Curt Schilling ... 3.81 ERA; 8 complete games RHP Todd Stottlemyre-i ... Miguel Batista, Bobby Witt now RHP Armando Reynoso ... 5.27 ERA worst since '91 LHP Brian Anderson ... 4.05 ERA but 38 HRs allowed RHP Matt Mantei ... 15 of 16 in saves after regaining job

Colorado Rockies

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