Spring Training

February 19, 2005|By Orlando Sentinel, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

NL East

Atlanta Braves

Training site: Cracker Jack Stadium, Kissimmee, Fla.

Last year: 96-66, 1st place, lost in 1st round of playoffs

Manager: Bobby Cox (20th season)

Key additions: RHP Tim Hudson, OF Brian Jordan (Milford Mill), RHP Dan Kolb, OF Raul Mondesi, LHP Gabe White

Key losses: RHP Paul Byrd, RHP Juan Cruz, OF J.D. Drew, OF Eli Marrero, RHP Russ Ortiz, OF Charles Thomas, RHP Jaret Wright

Spring questions: Can Mondesi re-establish himself after a couple of lost years? ... How will John Smoltz's arm respond to a move back to the rotation after four years as a closer? ... Who can keep the Braves from winning a 14th consecutive division title? ... Will a return to Atlanta energize Jordan and keep him healthy?

Phenom watch: OF Jeff Francoeur isn't due until next season, but he could challenge this year with a huge spring.

Florida Marlins

Training site: Roger Dean Stadium, Jupiter, Fla.

Last year: 83-79, 3rd place

Manager: Jack McKeon (3rd season)

Key additions: RHP Antonio Alfonseca, LHP Chad Bentz, 1B Carlos Delgado, RHP Todd Jones, LHP Al Leiter, RHP Jim Mecir, RHP John Riedling

Key losses: RHP Armando Benitez, 1B Wil Cordero, RHP Chad Fox, RHP Billy Koch, IF Mike Mordecai, RHP Carl Pavano, C Mike Redmond, RHP Rudy Seanez, RHP David Weathers

Spring questions: Does Guillermo Mota have what it takes to close games or is he just keeping the job warm for a midyear replacement? ... Can Leiter reverse a durability decline in which he averaged just 5.8 innings per start last year? ... Who will emerge as the healthier, more productive outfield option between Jeff Conine and Juan Encarnacion? ... How much pressure will Delgado take off the others in the middle of the lineup?

Phenom watch: C-IF Josh Willingham no longer is the catcher of the future, but his potent bat could carve out a bench niche.

New York Mets

Training site: Tradition Field, Port St. Lucie, Fla.

Last year: 71-91, 4th place

Manager: Willie Randolph (1st season)

Key additions: CF Carlos Beltran, 2B Miguel Cairo, 1B Andres Galarraga, RHP Roberto Hernandez, RHP Pedro Martinez, 1B Doug Mientkiewicz

Key losses: RHP Ricky Bottalico, LHP John Franco, OF Richard Hidalgo, LHP Al Leiter

Spring questions: Is Beltran a New York kind of guy? For that matter, is Martinez? ... Can C Mike Piazza handle a top-quality staff at this stage of his career? ... Did the Mets buy a contender with $194.5 million in long-term agreements or just some temporary attention? ... What sort of impact will Randolph have in his first year as manager? ... How much better could they have been with Carlos Delgado, too?

Phenom watch: OF Victor Diaz could step in if injuries sidetrack Cliff Floyd yet again.

Philadelphia Phillies

Training site: Bright House Networks Field, Clearwater, Fla.

Last year: 86-76, 2nd place

Manager: Charlie Manuel (1st season)

Key additions: RHP Terry Adams, LHP Aaron Fultz, RHP Jon Lieber, OF Kenny Lofton, IF Jose Offerman

Key losses: RHP Roberto Hernandez, RHP Todd Jones, RHP Kevin Millwood, LHP Eric Milton (Maryland), RHP Felix Rodriguez

Spring questions: Can they find a home for overpriced IF-OF Placido Polanco, who will make $4.5 million this year? ... Will Manuel be the cool breeze everyone assumes after taking over for hard-driving Larry Bowa? ... Can new pitching coach Rich Dubee coax excellence from a seemingly limited rotation? ... Can Lofton, 37, add havoc at the top of the lineup?

Phenom watch: RHP Gavin Floyd (Mount St. Joseph) got a 28-inning taste of the majors last season and could be here to stay.

Washington Nationals

Training site: Space Coast Stadium, Viera, Fla.

Last year: 67-95 as Montreal Expos, 5th place

Manager: Frank Robinson (4th season)

Key additions: C Gary Bennett, 3B Vinny Castilla, 1B Wil Cordero, OF Jose Guillen, SS Cristian Guzman, RHP Esteban Loaiza, RHP Antonio Osuna

Key losses: 3B Tony Batista, RHP Rocky Biddle, C Einar Diaz, SS Maicer Izturis, OF Juan Rivera

Spring questions: Who bats leadoff: Brad Wilkerson, Endy Chavez or Guzman? ... How do they divvy up the at-bats at first base, left field and center field? ... Is 1B Nick Johnson ever going to justify the hype? ... Will Major League Baseball find a buyer or will the other owners run this team for the fourth consecutive year? ... How will RFK Stadium play as a baseball venue?

Phenom watch: LHP Bill Bray, last year's first-round pick, could emulate the rapid rise of fellow college reliever Chad Cordero.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs

Training site: HoHoKam Park, Mesa, Ariz.

Last year: 89-73, 3rd place

Manager: Dusty Baker (3rd season)

Key additions: C Henry Blanco, OF Jeromy Burnitz, RHP Chad Fox

Key losses: OF Moises Alou, C Paul Bako, RHP Matt Clement, RHP Kyle Farnsworth, OF Tom Goodwin, 2B Mark Grudzielanek, IF Ramon Martinez, LHP Kent Mercker, RF Sammy Sosa

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