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Archive for Sunday, March 23, 2003

American League Capsules

March 23, 2003

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A capsule look at the American League, with teams listed in order of finish last year:

AL East


New York Yankees
2002: 103-58, 1st place.
Manager: Joe Torre (eighth season).
He's Here: LF Hideki Matsui, RHP Jose Contreras, LHP Chris Hammond, OF Bubba Trammell, RHP Juan Acevedo, RHP Antonio Osuna, INF Todd Zeile, C John Flaherty.
He's Outta Here: LHP Mike Stanton, RHP Ramiro Mendoza, RHP Orlando Hernandez, OF Rondell White, OF Shane Spencer, OF John Vander Wal, INF Ron Coomer.
Projected Lineup: 2B Alfonso Soriano (.300, 39 HRs, 102 RBIs, 41 SBs, 51 2Bs), SS Derek Jeter (.297, 18, 75, 124 runs, 32 SBs), 1B Jason Giambi (.314, 41, 122, 120 runs, 109 BBs, .435 OBP), CF Bernie Williams (.333, 19, 102, 102 runs, .415 OBP), LF Hideki Matsui (.334, 50, 107 in Japan), C Jorge Posada (.268, 20, 99), 3B Robin Ventura (.247, 27, 93), RF Raul Mondesi (.232, 26, 88), DH Nick Johnson (.243, 15, 58) or Bubba Trammell (.243, 17, 56).
Rotation: RH Roger Clemens (13-6, 4.35 ERA, 192 Ks), RH Mike Mussina (18-10, 4.05, 182 Ks, 27 HRs allowed), LH Andy Pettitte (13-5, 3.27), LH David Wells (19-7, 3.75), RH Jeff Weaver (11-11, 3.52).
Key Relievers: RH Mariano Rivera (1-4, 2.74, 28/32 saves), RH Steve Karsay (6-4, 3.26, 12/16), LH Chris Hammond (7-2, 0.95 with Atlanta).
Hot Spot: Wells angered management and some of his teammates with an autobiography filled with revelations of drinking, drug use and disparaging talk that the Yankees felt tarnished their image. Wells, usually a crowd favorite, figures to be razzed if he doesn't pitch well right from the start.
Stat Sheet: The Yankees struck out a league-high 1,171 times last year, frustrating Torre at times with their lack of situational hitting. The strikeouts weren't much of a problem, though, as New York led the majors with 897 runs.
Bottom Line: Two years without a World Series title has left owner George Steinbrenner on edge. The Boss, who has been relatively calm for most of Torre's time in New York, has already gone after Jeter and Torre's coaching staff and won't settle for anything short of a championship. The Yankees' payroll will exceed $150 million, making them the favorite for their sixth straight division title. If Matsui adjusts to the majors anywhere near as well as Ichiro Suzuki did two years ago for Seattle, the Yankees figure to have the best offense in the league once again. The starting rotation is old but deep, with Contreras and Sterling Hitchcock ready to fill in when needed. Rivera had problems with a shoulder injury last year and won't be able to go more than an inning at a time as often as he used to. Karsay, coming off back surgery, will start the season on the disabled list with bursitis in his right shoulder, making the setup role a real concern.



Boston Red Sox
2002: 93-69, 2nd place.
Manager: Grady Little (second season).
He's Here: 1B-OF Kevin Millar, 1B-DH David Ortiz, 1B-DH Jeremy Giambi, 2B Todd Walker, 3B Bill Mueller, RHP Ramiro Mendoza, RHP Mike Timlin, RHP Chad Fox, RHP Ryan Rupe, INF Damian Jackson, OF Adrian Brown.
He's Outta Here: 1B Brian Daubach, 1B Tony Clark, OF Rickey Henderson, RHP Ugueth Urbina, RHP Dustin Hermanson, 2B Rey Sanchez, INF Carlos Baerga.
Projected Lineup: CF Johnny Damon (.286, 14, 63, 11 3Bs, 31 SBs), 2B Todd Walker (.299, 11, 64, 42 2Bs), SS Nomar Garciaparra (.310, 24, 120, 56 2Bs, 101 runs), LF Manny Ramirez (.349, 33, 107, .450 OBP), 1B Kevin Millar (.306, 16, 57, 41 2Bs), 3B Shea Hillenbrand (.293, 18, 83, 95 Ks, 25 BBs), DH Jeremy Giambi (.259, 20, 45, .435 OBP), RF Trot Nixon (.256, 24, 94, 109 Ks), C Jason Varitek (.266, 10, 61).
Rotation: RH Pedro Martinez (20-4, 2.26, 239 Ks, 40 BBs), RH Tim Wakefield (11-5, 2.81, .204 BA against), RH Derek Lowe (21-8, 2.58, .210 BA against), LH Casey Fossum (5-4, 3.46), RH John Burkett (13-8, 4.53).
Key Relievers: RH Ramiro Mendoza (8-4, 3.44, 4/8 saves), LH Alan Embree (4-6, 2.03), RH Bobby Howry (3-5, 4.19).
Hot Spot: Red Sox abandoned the traditional closer in favor of using the best reliever for a particular situation even if that occurs before the ninth inning. With a rebuilt bullpen that also includes Mike Timlin and Chad Fox, Boston is much stronger in that area and has hard throwers, such as Embree, who could close if the team changes its plan.
Stat Sheet: Boston's OBP was .345, fourth best in the AL, but new GM Theo Epstein stressed improving that and plate discipline in his offseason pickups. Giambi had a .435 OBP and is one of baseball's most patient hitters, while Mueller struck out just 42 times and walked 52 times.
Bottom Line: After 84 seasons without a World Series title, the Red Sox assembled one of baseball's most potent lineups and have a proven pitching staff. The 29-year-old Epstein, baseball's youngest general manager, resisted trading the 25-year-old Fossum for 20-game winner Bartolo Colon, a decision that could be a key to the season. Fossum, a lefty with a relatively low salary, struggled in spring training. Wakefield is happy to be a full-time starter for the first time in five years and inserting his knuckleball in the No. 2 spot in the rotation -- between Martinez's fastball and Lowe's sinker -- should keep hitters off-balance. But, as always, the question remains: Can they beat the New York Yankees in the AL East?



Toronto Blue Jays
2002: 78-84, 3rd place.
Manager: Carlos Tosca (second season).
He's Here: RHP Cory Lidle, OF Frank Catalanotto, RHP Tanyon Sturtze, SS Mike Bordick, C Greg Myers, RHP Jeff Tam, LHP Doug Creek.
He's Outta Here: RHP Chris Carpenter, OF Jose Cruz Jr., SS Felipe Lopez, RHP Steve Parris, RHP Esteban Loaiza.
Projected Lineup: LF Shannon Stewart (.303, 10, 45, 103 runs), 3B Eric Hinske (.279, 24, 84), CF Vernon Wells (.275, 23, 100), 1B Carlos Delgado (.277, 33, 108), DH Josh Phelps (.309, 15, 58), RF Frank Catalanotto (.269, 3, 23), SS Chris Woodward (.276, 13, 45), 2B Orlando Hudson (.276, 4, 23), C Ken Huckaby (.245, 3, 22).
Rotation: RH Roy Halladay (19-7, 2.93), RH Cory Lidle (8-10, 3.89 with Oakland), LH Mark Hendrickson (3-0, 2.45), RH Tanyon Sturtze (4-18, 5.18), RH Justin Miller (9-5, 5.54) or RH Pete Walker (10-5, 4.33).
Key Relievers: RH Kelvim Escobar (5-7, 4.27, 38/46 saves ), RH Cliff Politte (3-3, 3.67), LH Doug Creek (3-2, 5.82).
Hot Spot: Delgado's homers and average have dropped the past two seasons, and at age 30, it might be hard to reverse that trend. Once one of the most feared hitters in the league, Delgado is now a player GM J.P. Ricciardi would be willing to deal in his efforts to rebuild the team.
Stat Sheet: 15-23. Toronto has a hard time competing with the division's big spenders in New York and Boston, finishing eight games below .500 against those two teams. The Blue Jays went 63-61 against the rest of the big leagues.
Bottom Line: Ricciardi has modeled the rebuilding process in Toronto after the successful one he left as an assistant GM in Oakland. But the Blue Jays lack the patience at the plate the Athletics have had. There is a framework for success in Toronto, with Halladay, Wells, Hinske, Woodward and Hudson providing a bright future. The team recently signed Wells and Hinske, last season's AL Rookie of the Year, to five-year contracts.



Baltimore Orioles
2002: 67-95, 4th place.
Manager: Mike Hargrove (fourth season).
He's Here: OF B.J. Surhoff, RHP Kerry Ligtenberg, LHP Omar Daal, SS Deivi Cruz, INF Jeff Reboulet, INF John Valentin.
He's Outta Here: OF Chris Richard, RHP Calvin Maduro, RHP Chris Brock, INF Luis Lopez, LHP Yorkis Perez.
Projected Lineup: 2B Jerry Hairston (.268, 5, 32, 21 SBs), CF Gary Matthews Jr. (.276, 7, 38, 15 SBs), LF B.J. Surhoff (.293, 0, 9), 1B Jeff Conine (273, 15, 63, 10 SFs), 3B Tony Batista (.244, 31, 87, 90 runs), RF Jay Gibbons (.247, 28, 69, .482 slugging pct.), DH Marty Cordova (.253, 18, 64), C Geronimo Gil (.232, 12, 45), SS Deivi Cruz (.263, 7, 47).
Rotation: RH Rodrigo Lopez (15-9, 3.57, 136 Ks), LH Omar Daal (11-9, 3.90), RH Sidney Ponson (7-9, 4.09, 120 Ks, 26 HRs), RH Rick Helling (10-12, 4.51 ERA), Pat Hentgen (0-4, 7.77) or Jason Johnson (5-14, 4.59).
Key Relievers: RH Jorge Julio (5-6, 1.99, 25/31 saves), Buddy Groom (3-2, 1.60, 2 saves), Kerry Ligtenberg (3-4, 2.97).
Hot Spot: After failing to land free agent catcher Ivan Rodriguez, the Orioles hoped a healthy David Segui could revive an offense that finished 13th in the AL in runs. But Segui will start his third year in Baltimore on the disabled list with a broken thumb, the latest in a series of injuries that has severely curtailed his playing time. The switch-hitter owns a career .292 batting average, but played in only 82 games in 2001 and just 26 last year.
Stat Sheet: The Orioles were 63-63 before stumbling to their fifth straight losing season by losing 32 of their final 36 games. After overachieving for months, Baltimore was finally done in by inconsistency at the plate -- the Orioles were blanked 15 times in 2002 and finished last in the AL with a .246 batting average.
Bottom Line: Baltimore needs to stay healthy and get a decent performance from its pitching staff in order to reach the modest goal of finishing above .500. Hargrove is working on the final season of a four-year deal, and while owner Peter Angelos has never fired a manager in the middle of the season, he might look in another direction for 2004 if the Orioles don't at least make a run at a winning record.



Tampa Bay Devil Rays
2002: 55-106, 5th place.
Manager: Lou Piniella (first season).
He's Here: OF Rocco Baldelli, 1B Travis Lee, 2B Marlon Anderson, SS Rey Ordonez, LHP Jim Parque, RHP Steve Parris, RHP Bob Wells.
He's Outta Here: Manager Hal McRae, CF Randy Winn, 1B Steve Cox, SS Chris Gomez, LHP Wilson Alvarez, RHP Ryan Rupe, RHP Paul Wilson, RHP Tanyon Sturtze, RHP Esteban Yan.
Projected Lineup: 2B Marlon Anderson (.258, 8, 48, 30 2Bs for Phillies), LF Carl Crawford .257, 3, 21), 3B Aubrey Huff (.313, 23, 59), DH Greg Vaughn (.163, 8, 29, 82 Ks), 1B Travis Lee (.265, 13, 70 for Phillies), RF Ben Grieve (.251, 19, 64), C Toby Hall (.258, 6, 42), CF Rocco Baldelli (.333, 14, 51 for Class-A Bakersfield; .292, 3, 7 for Triple-A Durham), SS Rey Ordonez (.254, 1, 42 for Mets).
Rotation: LHP Joe Kennedy (8-11, 4.53, 5 CGs), RHP Victor Zambrano (8-8, 5.53, 77 Ks), LHP Nick Bierbrodt 0-0, 3.60, 5 IP for Class-A Charleston), LHP Jim Parque (1-4, 9.95, 25 1-3 IP), RHP Dewon Brazelton (0-1, 4.85, 13 IP).
Key Relievers: RH Travis Harper (5-9, 5.46), RH Jesus Colome (2-7, 8.27), LH Bobby Seay (2-0, 3.28 for Double-A Orlando), RH Lance Carter (2-0, 1.33, 2 saves) RH Bob Wells (2-1, 5.90 for Twins).
Hot Spot: At $9.25 million, Vaughn is the highest-paid player on the team with the lowest payroll in the majors. He's also coming off the worst season of his career and was limited to DH duty in spring training because the injured shoulder that caused him to miss part of last year was still not strong enough to allow him to play the outfield. If he doesn't hit, the Devil Rays might not be able to afford to let him remain with the team, much less in the lineup.
Stat Sheet: The Devil Rays were 11th in the AL in batting average, 12th in runs scored, 13th in home runs and 13th in slugging percentage last year. But hitting wasn't the only problem. Tampa Bay also was just the fourth team to lead the league in complete games, as well as post the highest ERA. Devil Rays pitchers also hit a major league-record 94 batters.
Bottom Line: Piniella averaged 100 wins the past three seasons with the Seattle Mariners. Tampa Bay has never won more than 69 or finished higher than last place. The fiery manager has no tolerance for losing, and insists he won't accept it now. At the same time, he knows he will have to be patient if the organization's plan to grow with young, promising players like Baldelli, Crawford, Kennedy and Brazelton is going to have any chance to work.

AL Central


Minnesota Twins
2002: 94-67, 1st place.
Manager: Ron Gardenhire (second season).
He's Here: LHP Kenny Rogers, RHP Mike Fetters, INF Chris Gomez.
He's Outta Here: DH David Ortiz, RHP Mike Jackson, RHP Bob Wells.
Projected Lineup: LF Jacque Jones (.300, 27, 85, 96 runs, 129 Ks), SS Cristian Guzman (.273, 9, 59), CF Torii Hunter (.289, 29, 94, 23 SBs), 3B Corey Koskie (.267, 15, 69, 37 2Bs), DH Matthew LeCroy (.260, 7, 27 in 181 ABs), 1B Doug Mientkiewicz (.261, 10, 64, 74 BBs), RF Michael Cuddyer (.259, 4, 13 in 112 ABs) OR Dustan Mohr (.269, 12, 45), C A.J. Pierzynski (.300, 6, 49), 2B Luis Rivas (.256, 4, 35).
Rotation: RH Brad Radke (9-5, 4.72 in 21 starts), RH Joe Mays (4-8, 5.38 in 17 starts), RH Rick Reed (15-7, 3.78), LH Kenny Rogers (13-8, 3.85), RH Kyle Lohse (13-8, 4.23).
Key Relievers: LH Eddie Guardado (1-3, 2.93, AL-high 45 saves in 51 chances), LH J.C. Romero (9-2, 1.89), RH LaTroy Hawkins (6-0, 2.13), LH Johan Santana (8-6, 2.99).
Hot Spot: Right field looked like a weakness last spring but turned out to be a strength with Mohr and versatile switch-hitter Bobby Kielty splitting time. Cuddyer, a top prospect since he was drafted in the first round in '97, came up late in the season and started in the playoffs. The Twins aren't yet sold on his defense, though, and Mohr has hit well this spring. One of Gardenhire's biggest challenges will be to find enough at-bats for all three once he picks a starter in right.
Stat Sheet: This free-swinging bunch hit only .252 against lefties last year, 30 points lower than their average against right-handers. Adding righties LeCroy, Cuddyer and Mohr to the lineup, the Twins hope, will improve on that.
Bottom Line: After narrowly avoiding contraction, the Twins returned to the ALCS last season after a 10-year playoff absence and sparked owner Carl Pohlad's willingness to push their payroll past $55 million despite the lack of a new stadium. They signed Hunter to a long-term deal and, shortly after learning LHP Eric Milton will miss four-to-six months following knee surgery, picked up the veteran Rogers for $2 million to fill the spot in the rotation even though young Santana could start for almost any team. The youthful core of this close-knit team is nearing baseball maturity, but the window for another World Series appears narrow since several more players will soon be in line for significant raises. The Twins won't be able to keep everyone.



Chicago White Sox
2002: 81-81, 2nd place.
Manager: Jerry Manuel (sixth season).
He's Here: RHP Bartolo Colon, RHP Billy Koch, C Sandy Alomar, RHP Esteban Loaiza, RHP Tom Gordon, RHP Rick White, 1B Brian Daubach.
He's Outta Here: RHP Keith Foulke, C Mark Johnson, 1B Jeff Liefer, RHP Antonio Osuna, RHP Todd Ritchie, LHP Jim Parque, SS Royce Clayton.
Projected Lineup: 2B D'Angelo Jimenez (.252, 4, 44), SS Jose Valentin (.249, 25, 75), DH Frank Thomas (.252, 28, 92, 115 Ks), RF Magglio Ordonez (.320, 38, 135), 1B Paul Konerko (.304, 27, 104), LF Carlos Lee (.264, 26, 80, 75 BBs), 3B Joe Crede (.285, 12, 35), CF Aaron Rowand (.258, 7, 29), C Sandy Alomar Jr. (.279 7, 37).
Rotation: LH Mark Buehrle (19-12, 3.58), RH Bartolo Colon (20-8, 2.93), RH Jon Garland (12-12, 4.58), RH Esteban Loaiza (9-10, 5.71), RH Dan Wright (14-12, 5.18) or RH Josh Stewart (11-7, 3.53 at Double-A Birmingham).
Key Relievers: RH Billy Koch (11-4, 3.27, 44/50 saves), RH Tom Gordon (1-3, 3.38), RHP Rick White (5-7, 4.31), LH Kelly Wunsch (2-1, 3.41, 3 HRs allowed).
Hot Spot: Frank Thomas. The two-time MVP is looking to redeem himself after a subpar year that led the White Sox to invoke the diminished skills clause in his contract. Hitting .239 before the All-Star break -- the lowest average of his career -- Thomas needed a big September to finish with a .252 average, 25 home runs and 92 RBIs. But he worked with hitting guru Walt Hriniak in the offseason, and is determined to prove he's still among the AL's most-feared hitters.
Stat Sheet: After dumping or shelving high-priced and underperforming veterans -- Kenny Lofton, Todd Ritchie, Royce Clayton -- the retooled White Sox finished strong, going 22-12 over their last 34 games. But it wasn't enough to overcome yet another midseason slump. After finishing April with a half-game lead over Minnesota, the White Sox were 14 games back and all but out of it by the end of July.
Bottom Line: With Buehrle, Colon, Koch, Gordon, White and Wunsch, the White Sox have one of the most fearsome pitching staffs in the AL. But it's not going to mean much without some offensive support. Thomas needs another year like 2000, when he finished second in the MVP voting, and Konerko needs to show he can put up big numbers for an entire season, not just the first half.



Cleveland Indians
2002: 74-88, 3rd place.
Manager: Eric Wedge (first year).
He's Here: LHP Brian Anderson, 3B Casey Blake, RHP Jason Bere, 1B Travis Hafner, OF Shane Spencer, RHP Aaron Myette.
He's Outta Here: 1B Jim Thome, 3B Travis Fryman, C Einar Diaz, RHP Ryan Drese, RHP Charles Nagy, C Eddie Perez, 1B Lee Stevens, RHP Jaret Wright.
Projected Lineup: CF Milton Bradley (.249, 9, 38, 98 games), SS Omar Vizquel (.275, 14, 72, 18 SBs), LF Matt Lawton (.236, 15, 57), DH Ellis Burks (.301, 32, 91), RF Karim Garcia (.299, 16, 52, 51 games), 1B Travis Hafner (.242, 1, 6) or Ben Broussard (.241, 4, 9), Ricky Gutierrez (.275, 4, 38) or Casey Blake (.200, 9 games in majors), C Josh Bard (.222, 3, 12) 2B Brandon Phillips (.258, 11 games).
Rotation: LH C.C. Sabathia (13-11, 4.37, 7-2 in last 11), RH Jason Bere (1-10, 5.67, 2 stints on disabled list), Ricardo Rodriguez (2-2, 5.66 8 HBP in 41 innings), LH Brian Anderson (6-11, 4.79), Jason Davis (1-0, 1.84).
Key Relievers: RHP Danys Baez (10-11, 4.41, 6/8 saves), RHP Jake Westbrook (1-3, 5.83), LH Terry Mulholland (3-2, 4.60.
Hot Spot: At 22, Sabathia is now the staff ace and has to be more accountable for his record and lifestyle. He struggled with his weight last season, and then went through a "life-altering" experience when he was robbed at gunpoint following a late-night party. He focused on conditioning during the offseason for the first time in his career.
Stat Sheet: Not long ago, the Indians had one of baseball's most fearsome lineups, leading the AL in hitting as recently as 2000. But the club batted just .249 last season -- their lowest mark since 1989 -- and Thome's departure means 52 homers and 118 RBIs are gone, too.
Bottom Line: The rebuilding is over. That's what the front office is saying anyway as the Indians start fresh following a third-place finish in the AL Central. Wedge's infectious energy and enthusiasm will help keep the players driven, but at some point, the kids -- Cleveland will start three rookies -- will have to grow up. Phillips is a budding superstar, and if he stays patient at the plate, could be the AL's top rookie. Rodriguez and Davis both have live arms, but the Indians will have to be careful not to burn them out with too many innings in their first year.



Kansas City Royals
2002: 62-100, 4th place.
Manager: Tony Pena (second season).
He's Here: INF Desi Relaford, RHP Albie Lopez, RHP James Baldwin, C Mike DiFelice.
He's Outta Here: RHP Paul Byrd, RHP Roberto Hernandez, RHP Jeff Suppan, LF Chuck Knoblauch, OF Mark Quinn, INF Luis Alicea, SS Neifi Perez, C A.J. Hinch.
Projected Lineup: RF Michael Tucker (.248, 12, 56), 3B Joe Randa (.282, 11, 80), CF Carlos Beltran (.273, 29, 105, 114 runs, 35 SBs), 1B Mike Sweeney (.340, 24, 86), LF Raul Ibanez (.294, 24, 103, 37 doubles), DH Ken Harvey (.277, 20, 75 at Triple-A), 2B Carlos Febles (.245, 4, 28), C Brent Mayne (.236, 4, 30), SS Angel Berroa (.215, 8, 35 at Triple-A).
Rotation: RH Runelvys Hernandez (4-4, 4.36), LH Jeremy Affeldt (3-4, 4.64), LH Darrell May (4-10, 5.35), RHP Miguel Asencio (4-7, 5.11), LH Chris George (0-4, 5.60).
Key Relievers: RH Mike MacDougal (1-2, 4.81, 0 saves in nine games), RH Jason Grimsley (4-7, 3.91), RH Albie Lopez (1-4, 4.37).
Hot Spot: Beltran, who will make $6 million this year after losing his arbitration hearing, could be traded at any time. He is eligible for free agency after 2004 season and his agent has rejected a three-year contract extension. The Royals think by dealing him before July 31 trading deadline that Beltran's value will be higher instead of waiting until after season.
Stat Sheet: Paul Byrd (17) and Jeff Suppan (9) combined for 26 of the 40 victories by the Royals' starters last season and both are gone. Byrd led the club with 228 1-3 innings, while Suppan threw 208 innings. No other KC pitcher threw more than 131 1-3 innings or won more than four games last season.
Bottom Line: The Royals have not had a winning season since 1994 and last year had first 100-loss season in franchise history. They've lost at least 97 games in three of the past four years. The pitching staff will be young and inexperienced, so a ninth consecutive losing season seems a good bet. Offensively, the Royals lack a leadoff hitter, trying 12 different bodies with little production in that slot last year. The Royals hope Harvey, who set an Arizona Fall League record with a .479 batting average, will pep up an off offense that hit .256 last year, down 10 points from 2001.



Detroit Tigers
2002: 55-106, 5th place.
Manager: Alan Trammell (first season).
He's Here: OF Gene Kingsale, LHP Steve Avery, LHP Wilfredo Ledezma, RHP Matt Roney.
He's Outta Here: OF Robert Fick, DH Randall Simon, LHP Mark Redman, RHP Juan Acevedo.
Projected Lineup: CF Gene Kingsale (.278, 2, 28), RF Bobby Higginson (.282, 10, 63), LF Dmitri Young (.284, 7, 27), 3B Dean Palmer (0-for-12, missed most of season with shoulder and neck problems), 1B Carlos Pena (.242, 19, 52), DH Eric Munson (.186, 2, 5), 2B Damion Easley (.224, 8, 30), C Brandon Inge (.202, 7, 24), SS Ramon Santiago (.243, 4, 20).
Rotation: RH Steve Sparks (8-16, 5.52), LH Mike Maroth (6-10, 4.48), RH Jeremy Bonderman (9-9, 3.79 at Class-A), LH Andy Van Hekken (1-3, 3.00), RH Nate Cornejo (1-5, 5.04).
Key Relievers: RH Matt Anderson (2-1, 9.00, 0/2 saves), RH Franklyn German (1-0, 0.00, 1), LH Jamie Walker (1-1, 3.71).
Hot Spot: Sparks needs to pitch at least 200 innings and have a winning record because the rotation lacks talent and experience. The 37-year-old, the only starter on the roster with at least 21 major league starts, has a career 56-63 record. After going 14-9 in 2001, he was just 8-16 last season.
Stat Sheet: The Tigers tied Tampa Bay for the worst record in baseball and it's easy to see why. They ranked last in the major leagues in runs -- with 52 fewer than any other team -- home runs, walks, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and strikeouts from their pitchers and second-to-last in hits and errors.
Bottom Line: Detroit, which hasn't had a winning season since 1993, is baseball's losingest team in the past decade and there's not much hope for this season. The Tigers lost 105 games last year, and this team could be worse. They got rid of their four most-productive players -- Fick, Simon, Redman and Acevedo -- from 2002 because they figured paying the millions they had coming to them would not make much of a difference. The Tigers' payroll of about $56 million is relatively respectable, but well-paid veterans such as Higginson, Young, Palmer and Easley have not been lately. Trammell and coaches Kirk Gibson and Lance Parrish -- who helped this once-proud franchise win the 1984 World Series and the AL East in 1987 -- will invigorate a fan base that has gone from angry to apathetic, but they can't create miracles on the field.

AL West



Oakland Athletics
2002: 103-58, 1st place.
Manager: Ken Macha (first season).
He's Here: OF Chris Singleton, DH Erubiel Durazo, C Mark Johnson, RHP Keith Foulke, LHP John Halama.
He's Outta Here: 2B Ray Durham, OF David Justice, RHP Cory Lidle, 1B John Mabry, C Greg Myers, 2B Randy Velarde, RHP Billy Koch.
Projected Lineup: 2B Mark Ellis (.272, 6 HRs, 35 RBIs, 4 SBs), 1B Scott Hatteberg (.280, 15, 61), SS Miguel Tejada (.308, 34, 131, 204 H, 108 R, 30 2Bs, 7 SBs), 3B Eric Chavez (.275, 34, 109, 31 2Bs, 119 Ks, 8 SBs), RF Jermaine Dye (.252, 24, 86, 27 2Bs), DH Erubiel Durazo (.261, 16, 48 with Arizona), LF Terrence Long (.240, 16, 67, 162 GP), C Ramon Hernandez (.233, 7, 42), CF Chris Singleton (.262, 9, 50 with Baltimore).
Rotation: LH Barry Zito (23-5, 2.75 ERA, 182 Ks), LH Mark Mulder (19-7, 3.47, 159), RH Tim Hudson (15-9, 2.98, 152), LH Ted Lilly (2-1, 4.63), RH Aaron Harang (5-4, 4.83, 64) or LH John Halama (6-5, 3.56, 70 with Seattle).
Key Relievers: RH Keith Foulke (2-4, 2.90, 11 saves with Chicago White Sox), RH Jim Mecir (6-4, 4.26, 53 Ks), RH Chad Bradford (4-2, 3.11, 2 saves), LH Ricardo Rincon (0-0, 3.10, 1 save).
Hot Spot: During spring training, owner Steve Schott announced the A's intention to let AL MVP Tejada leave when his contract runs out after this season -- possibly crippling any attempt to trade him. The issue could hang over the A's all season, but it's unlikely to distract a talented young team from competing for a fourth straight trip to the playoffs.
Stat Sheet: If the A's get off to another slow start, don't worry about it. Oakland is 154-70 after the last three All-Star breaks combined -- easily the best record in the majors. In each of the past three years, the A's roared into the playoffs as one of baseball's hottest teams, including last season, when their 83-33 mark after May 24 included an AL-record 20-game winning streak.
Bottom Line: After losing to Minnesota in the first round of last season's playoffs, manager Art Howe left for the New York Mets -- and general manager Billy Beane nearly took the same job with the Boston Red Sox. Beane had a change of heart, returning to try to continue defying the odds in a small market and low-revenue stadium. The A's have a slightly different look again this season, but their Big Three starting pitchers and middle of the lineup remains intact. Expect Oakland to be in the October mix again.



Anaheim Angels
2002: 99-63, 2nd place (wild card), World Series champions.
Manager: Mike Scioscia (fourth season).
He's Here: OF Eric Owens, LHP Rich Rodriguez, C Wilbert Nieves.
He's Outta Here: OF Alex Ochoa, OF Orlando Palmeiro, RHP Lou Pote, LHP Dennis Cook, RHP Al Levine.
Projected Lineup: SS David Eckstein (.293, 8 HRs, 63 RBIs, 21 SBs, 27 HBP), CF Darin Erstad (.283, 10, 73), RF Tim Salmon (.286, 22, 88), LF Garret Anderson (.306, 29, 123, 56 2Bs), 3B Troy Glaus (.250, 30, 111, 144 Ks), DH Brad Fullmer (.289, 19, 59) or Shawn Wooten (.292, 3, 19), 1B Scott Spiezio (.285, 12, 82), C Bengie Molina (.245, 5, 47), 2B Adam Kennedy (.312, 7, 52) or Benji Gil (.285, 3, 20).
Rotation: LH Jarrod Washburn (18-6, 3.15 ERA), RH Kevin Appier (14-12, 3.92), RH Ramon Ortiz (15-9, 3.77, ML-high 40 HRs allowed), RH John Lackey (9-4, 3.66), RH Aaron Sele (8-9, 4.80, coming off shoulder surgery) or RH Mickey Callaway (2-1, 4.19 in six appearances).
Key Relievers: RH Troy Percival (4-1, 1.92 ERA, 40/44 saves, 68 Ks in 56 1-3 innings), RH Francisco Rodriguez (5 2-3 scoreless innings, 5 postseason wins), RH Brendan Donnelly (1-1, 2.17, 1), LH Scott Schoeneweis (9-8, 4.88, 1).
Hot Spot: That new bulls-eye on their jerseys. Being No. 1 seems to bring out the best in opponents.
Stat Sheet: Team batting average of .282 was best in AL, as was relievers' 2.98 ERA. Starting pitchers' 4.00 ERA second-lowest in league.
Bottom Line: Another late October with the rally monkey and ThunderStix, or will it take another 42 years for the Angels to get back to the World Series? The Angels remain virtually unchanged from last year, when they finished four games back of Oakland in the division, then beat the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins on their way to a seven-game World Series triumph over San Francisco. With the same hitters they've had in the middle of the lineup for several years -- Erstad, Salmon, Anderson and World Series MVP Glaus -- the Angels' offense should be consistent and powerful. Their pitching could be even better than last season, because Lackey, Rodriguez and Donnelly all were rookies, and a healthy Sele would give the rotation a big boost. Scioscia's composure during a franchise-worst 6-14 start last season set the tone for the players' confidence, which seemed to snowball late in the summer and in October. He was AL Manager of the Year. Then there's the real bottom line: Anaheim's payroll, increased by owner Disney from around $63 million last year to $83 million for this season, still is $67 million below that of the Yankees and $30 million less than that of division rival Texas. So the Angels again hope to prove that money doesn't buy everything.



Seattle Mariners
2002: 93-69, 3rd place.
Manager: Bob Melvin (first season).
He's Here: OF Randy Winn, OF John Mabry, INF Greg Colbrunn.
He's Outta Here: Manager Lou Piniella, RHP Paul Abbott, RHP James Baldwin, LHP John Halama, LHP Doug Creek, RHP Ismael Valdes, INF Jose Offerman, INF Desi Relaford, OF Charles Gipson, OF Ruben Sierra.
Projected Lineup: RF Ichiro Suzuki (.321, 8, 51, 111 runs, 8 3Bs, 31 SBs, .388 OBP), LF Randy Winn (.298, 14, 75, 87 runs, 9 3Bs, 39 2Bs, 27 SBs, .360 OBP), 2B Bret Boone (.278, 24, 107, 88 runs, 34 2Bs), DH Edgar Martinez (.277, 15, 59, .403 OBP), 1B John Olerud (.300, 22, 102, 39 2Bs, 98 BBs), CF Mike Cameron (.239, 25, 80, 176 Ks), C Dan Wilson (.295, 6, 44), 3B Jeff Cirillo (.249, 6, 54), SS Carlos Guillen (.261, 9, 56).
Rotation: RH Freddy Garcia (16-10, 4.39, 181 Ks), LH Jamie Moyer (13-8, 3.32, 230.2 IP), RH Joel Pineiro (14-7, 3.24), RH Ryan Franklin (7-5, 4.02), Gil Meche (missed two years with injuries).
Key Relievers: RH Kazuhiro Sasaki (4-5, 2.52, 37/45 saves), RH Jeff Nelson (3-2, 3.94), LH Arthur Rhodes (10-4, 2.33), RH Shigetoshi Hasegawa (8-3, 3.20).
Hot Spot: A career .304 hitter, Cirillo batted .249 in his first season in Seattle. He expects to improve after a reunion with hitting coach Lamar Johnson, who helped him to a career-high .326 average in Milwaukee in 1999.
Stat Sheet: The Mariners were 55-33 at the All-Star break and led the AL West as late as Aug. 22. Then they slumped, going 8-12 while Oakland won 20 straight, and even Seattle's 93 wins couldn't guarantee a playoff trip.
Bottom Line: With a veteran club, Melvin won't make big changes or many rules. The Mariners think they can contend for a World Series title. "The expectation for this team is that the time is now," Melvin said. Yet with most players in their 30s, health will be key. The front office bolstered the bench by acquiring Mabry and Colbrunn, with a plan to rest the regulars before they wear down. Fatigue showed last season. Suzuki, for example, hit .282 in August and .248 in September after hitting .404 in May and .353 in June. The Mariners need strong efforts from Garcia, Pineiro and the 40-year-old Moyer.



Texas Rangers
2002: 72-90, 4th place.
Manager: Buck Showalter (first season).
He's Here: RHP Ugueth Urbina, RHP Esteban Yan, C Einar Diaz, OF Doug Glanville, RHP John Thomson, RHP Ryan Drese, LHP Aaron Fultz.
He's Outta Here: C Ivan Rodriguez, INF/OF Frank Catalanotto, C Bill Haselman, OF Todd Hollandsworth, LHP Kenny Rogers, LHP John Rocker, Manager Jerry Narron.
Projected Lineup: CF Doug Glanville (.249, 6, 29, 19 stolen bases), DH Carl Everett (.267, 16, 62), SS Alex Rodriguez (.300, 57, 142, 125 runs, 389 total bases), RF Juan Gonzalez (.282, 8, 35), 1B Rafael Palmeiro (.273, 43, 105, 99 runs, 104 walks), LF Kevin Mench (.260, 15, 60), 3B Herbert Perry (.276, 22, 77) or Hank Blalock (.211 , 3, 17), C Einar Diaz (.206, 2, 16), 2B Michael Young (.262, 9, 62).
Rotation: RH Ismael Valdes (8-12, 4.18, 26 HRs), RH Chan Ho Park (9-8, 5.75), RH John Thomson (9-14, 4.71, 28 HRs), RH Colby Lewis (1-3, 6.29), LH Doug Davis (3-5, 4.98) or RH Joaquin Benoit (4-5, 5.31).
Key Relievers: RH Ugueth Urbina (1-6, 3.00, 40/46 saves), RH Esteban Yan (7-8, 4.30, 19/27 saves), RH Francisco Cordero (2-0, 1.79, 10/12 saves).
Hot Spot: Rodriguez, baseball's highest-paid player, left spring training and returned to Texas for several days because of soreness in his left shoulder. The problem was diagnosed as a herniated disc in his neck. The Rangers and Rodriguez played down the significance of the injury. But it's the kind of thing that could become a lingering problem for the All-Star shortstop who doesn't like to sit down -- he has played all 324 games since getting to Texas.
Stat Sheet: The Rangers led the majors with 230 home runs, 561 extra-base hits and 2,558 total bases. Rodriguez was again the AL home run leader and only the fifth player ever with consecutive 50-homer seasons (57 in 2002, 52 in 2001). Texas scored 843 runs, their seventh straight season with at least 800. But the Rangers also kept giving up plenty of runs. Even

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