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National League capsules
Key Relievers: RH Jonathan Broxton (5-6, 4.04, 22 saves in 29 chances), LH Hong-Chih Kuo (3-2, 1.20, 12 saves) RH Matt Guerrier (5-7, 3.17, 1 save with Twins), RH Kenley Jansen (1-0, 0.67, 4 saves, 25 games), RH Vicente Padilla (6-5, 4.07 in 16 starts).
Hot spots: Third base. Blake might not be ready for opening day because of a slow recovery from a rib injury. Uribe, projected as the starting second baseman, would move to third and Carroll would start at second base. Bullpen. Padilla had surgery on his pitching elbow Feb. 24 and likely will begin the season on the disabled list.
Outlook: The dispute about the team’s ownership that overshadowed last season continues on. A judge in the dispute between Frank McCourt and his former wife, Jamie, finalized his decision that their marital property agreement is invalid in January, allowing her to seek half of the team. While there were fears the McCourts’ contentious divorce might slow spending, the team committed more than $80 million in offseason signings. Will Broxton reclaim his role as closer after losing it last season? Will Barajas be the everyday starter after former All-Star Martin wasn’t offered a contract?
2010: 65-97, last place.
Manager: Kirk Gibson (2nd season).
He’s Here: 3B Melvin Mora, LF Xavier Nady, 3B Geoff Blum, 2B-OF Willie Bloomquist, C Henry Blanco, 1B Russell Branyan, 1B Juan Miranda, LHP Armando Galarraga, LHP Zach Duke, LHP Joe Paterson, RHP David Hernandez, RHP J.J. Putz.
He’s Outta There: 3B Mark Reynolds, 1B Adam LaRoche, 2B Augie Ojeda, OF Randy Ryal, RHP Brandon Webb, RHP Rodrigo Lopez, RHP Blaine Boyer, RHP David Carasco.
Projected Lineup: CF Chris Young (.257, 27 HR, 91, 28SB), SS Stephen Drew (.278, 15, 12 3B, 61), 2B Kelly Johnson (.284, 26, 71), RF Justin Upton (.273, 17, 69), C Miguel Montero (.266, 9, 43), 1B Juan Miranda (.219, 3, 10 in 15 games with Yankees; .285, 15, 43 with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre) or Russell Branyan (.237, 25, 57 with Cleveland and Seattle), 3B Melvin Mora (.285, 7 45 with Colorado), LF Xavier Nady (.256, 6, 33 with Chicago Cubs).
Rotation: RH Ian Kennedy (9-10, 3.80), RH Daniel Hudson (8-2, 2.45 with Arizona and White Sox), RH Barry Enright (6-7, 3.91), LH Joe Saunders (9-17, 4.47 with Angels and Arizona) RH Aaron Heilman (5-8, 4.50 as reliever), or LH Armando Gallaraga (4-9, 4.49 with Detroit).
Key Relievers: RH J.J. Putz (7-5, 2.83, 3 saves with White Sox), RH David Hernandez (8-8, 4.30), LH Joe Paterson (5-3, 3.03 San Jose and Fresno), RH Juan Gutierrez (0-6, 5.08), RH Esmerling Vasquez (1-6, 5.20), RH Sam Demel (2-1, 5.35).
Hot Spots: The batter’s box, where it was “1, 2, 3 strikes you’re out” in record numbers for Arizona. No team in baseball history struck out more, a significant factor as well as a depressing symbol for the ineptitude of a franchise that has finished last in the NL West two years in a row. The team’s most significant acquisition could be general manager Kevin Towers, who traded away perennial record strikeout breaker Reynolds and did not attempt to re-sign the No. 2 offender LaRoche. Task number two was to remodel the worst bullpen in baseball, bringing in young left-hander Paterson and righty Hernandez, who has been lights out this spring, and the addition of an experienced closer in Putz. Problem 3 addressed by Towers was a bland, even uncaring clubhouse. Enter topflight character veterans Blum, Mora, Bloomquist, Galarraga and Branyan.
Outlook: Towers is used to making the most of small budgets and the one he has in Arizona, he notes, is actually a bit more than what he’s had in past jobs. Crucial will be a young rotation headed by Kennedy (26) Hudson (24) and Enright (23). The coaching staff has been disappointed in the slow spring of lefty Saunders, who came from the Angels in the Dan Haren trade. He’s needed to add some effective experience to the mix. In the field, three players battled to the wire at first base. Mora is the new 3B. Arizona has experience and strength up the middle with Johnson at second, an obviously contented Drew at shortstop and Young in center. The man in right, Upton, has everything he needs to be a star _ except the numbers. But remember, he’s only 23, too. The jury is still out the unconventional style of Gibbon, entering his first full season, but he’s surrounded himself with a veteran cast of coaches. Arizona could have the stuff of a San Diego-like resurrection. We’ll see.
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