The reigning division champion’s lineup is largely set. The one competition
is in right field, vacated by leadoff hitter Tony Womack‘s move to
shortstop. Former halo-wearer Travis Lee has to be considered the
front-runner for the position, but David Dellucci and Bernard
Gilkey are being given looks as well. If either Lee or Dellucci wins
the spot, Gilkey could be the other half of a platoon. If Lee fails in his
bid for the right-field job, a trade to a team with a place to play him is
The rotation is set, as is the front half of the bullpen. Dodger refugee
Jeff Kubenka could give lefty specialist Dan Plesac a run for
his spot in the pen based on talent, but the team didn’t trade Tony
Batista for Kubenka, so he’s probably out of luck. Due to the fragility
of fifth starter Armando Reynoso, the last spot in the pen probably
belongs to Mike Morgan, who has pitched well this spring and can
step into the rotation if need be. Jeremy Ward, Byung-Hyun
Kim, Brad Clontz and Jim Corsi will all get chances to
With the signings of Brent Mayne, Scott Servais and Raul
Casanova, Ben Petrick‘s ticket to Colorado Springs is as good as
bought, and nothing that happens this spring is likely to change that.
The Rockies are making good on their threat to start Mike Lansing at
second base, although Terry Shumpert has outhit him for a year now.
To be fair, Lansing hasn’t been healthy during that time, but that’s the
point: his back may never allow him to be the player we all thought could
hit 50 doubles in Coors Field. For now, Shumpert backs Lansing up.
Darren Bragg should have a shot at some tasty playing time in Coors.
He’s penciled in as the fourth outfielder, can handle all three outfield
positions and is backing up fragile players on both corners. It remains to
be seen if Bragg’s knee is sound, though. He’s been limping in camp and may
not be able to start the season with the team, in which case Edgard
Clemente would have a chance at winning the high-stakes Mike
There’s a lot of competition on the mound, where only ace Pedro
Astacio (who avoided Commissioner Selig’s wrath when the record of his
misbehavior–spousal abuse–appeared in the police blotter rather than
Sports Illustrated) is assured a spot in the rotation. Even Astacio
isn’t out of the woods: his assault case goes to trial July 5, and a
conviction could lead to his deportation. Looking down the roster, the team
will probably end up going with Masato Yoshii, Rolando
Arrojo, Scott Karl and Brian Bohanon behind Astacio.
Jose Jimenez, who has pitched well this spring, and John
Thomson have outside shots.
Who is the closer? Jerry Dipoto is the front runner at this point,
but he’s battling a creaky back and hasn’t been notably effective. Mike
DeJean is returning from elbow surgery and was lit up for a cheap grand
slam on Sunday. Former Oakland closer Billy Taylor is a factor.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers are giving youngster Alex Cora every opportunity to win
the shortstop job, pushing Jose Vizcaino to the utility role that
the team thinks he’s best suited for. But Cora hasn’t converted the
Todd Hundley‘s efforts are going a long way towards putting any
grumbling about the catcher position to rest. He’s hit two home runs so
far, and is throwing better than he did at any point last year. He’s
happier with his elbow than he has been in a while.
On the mound, Carlos "Sleepy" Perez has racked up two
toxic starts and one DUI arrest in his quest to become the richest pitcher
in Albuquerque Dukes history. The Dodgers would prefer to start Perez and
one of prospect Eric Gagne or Methuselah Orel Hershiser at
the bottom of the rotation, but Perez isn’t making it easy for them. Gagne
hasn’t been much better–just more sober–but he’s probably five good
innings away from locking up a spot, and Hershiser may well win the other
one if Perez keeps this up.
In the pen, reliever/fragile person Gregg Olson has been bothered by
his elbow so far. An MRI was reportedly negative, but you’ve got to worry
about a guy with his injury history. The team is said to be considering
shopping Alan Mills for some help at shortstop, though it’s tough to
move a reliever with Mills’s salary unless he has a 30 save-season on his
San Diego Padres
Some favorites are emerging from all the competition the Padres have in
their lineup. The team appears to be serious about wanting Carlos
Hernandez as their starting catcher. if that comes to pass, Wiki
Gonzalez would back him up and Ben Davis (who didn’t help
himself out with the defensive lapses and reputed attitude problems last
season) would return to Las Vegas. All three catchers have played well so
far this spring.
Despite his troubles last year, the team would prefer that
Damian Jackson win the starting shortstop job, and he’s off to a hot
start. So is Chris Gomez. At third base, Phil Nevin‘s ankle
sprain gets All-Star/NRI Ed Sprague another shot at some playing
time. Nevin is supposed to be back before the team breaks camp.
The acquisition of Al Martin clears up the outfield picture
considerably. Although management has made it known that they won’t
tolerate another sub-.200 BA season, Ruben Rivera is the
front-runner for the starting center-field job. He outhit Eric Owens
in winter ball and is doing it again in spring training. Owens is the
fourth outfielder and frequently-used defensive substitute for Tony
Gwynn in right and Martin in left. Rule 5 pickup Kory DeHaan is
off to a good start and could land the fifth outfield spot.
The rotation and bullpen are largely set, but newcomer Dan Serafini
could snag the final bullpen slot. He’s out of options, which helps his
cause, but he hasn’t pitched effectively so far, which hurts it.
Don’t believe the hype: Randy Myers will not start the season with
the team, and is still not healthy.
San Francisco Giants
Batless wonder Doug Mirabelli will have to outhit Bobby
Estalella by a wide margin in spring training to have a shot at the
starting job, and he’s not going to do that. Estalella will start the
season as the primary backstop, with Mirabelli as his caddy.
What is this team going to do with Russ Davis? Peter Gammons thinks
Davis will hit 30 home runs as the Giants third baseman, but he’s been as
shaky as the Austrian tourist industry with the glove this spring. All
indications are that the team is sticking to its plan to use Davis to
platoon with J.T. Snow at first base and give Bill Mueller a
day off once in a while.
He may not be worth a protection slot in your league, but Armando
Rios doesn’t have a lot of competition for the fourth-outfielder spot.
With Ellis Burks‘s knees once again acting up, Rios could get a
couple hundred at-bats this season. His main competition is Calvin
Murray, who will probably end up as the fifth outfielder.
The Giants are talking about a six-man rotation, which may not be possible
with Shawn Estes‘s shoulder woes. He’s been pulled indefinitely
while the team tries to diagnose the problem. Depending on the result,
Mark Gardner is in as the fifth starter. Closer Robb Nen, who
is recovering from season-ending surgery last year, just saw his first
Cactus League action. He should be ready to start the regular season. The
last pitcher in the pen could be Aaron Fultz; he fulfills the
Giants’ wishes for a second left-hander behind incumbent Alan Embree.