- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 28, 2007

CHICAGO CUBS

2006: 66-96

Manager: Lou Piniella

Probable starters

CF Alfonso Soriano

LF Matt Murton

1B Derrek Lee

3B Aramis Ramirez

RF Jacque Jones

C Michael Barrett

2B Mark DeRosa

SS Cesar Izturis

Rotation: Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Rich Hill, Jason Marquis, Wade Miller

Closer: Ryan Dempster

Bottom line: The Cubs spent a stunning $300 million over the winter, and that doesn’t even include the hiring of Piniella as manager. Whether the shopping spree pays off will depend largely on a starting rotation that doesn’t figure to include Kerry Wood (in the bullpen) or Mark Prior (in the minors).

CINCINNATI REDS

2006: 80-82

Manager: Jerry Narron

Probable starters

CF Ryan Freel

2B Brandon Phillips

RF Ken Griffey Jr.

LF Adam Dunn

3B Edwin Encarnacion

SS Alex Gonzalez

1B Scott Hatteberg

C David Ross

Rotation: Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, Eric Milton, Kyle Lohse, Matt Belisle

Closer: Dustin Hermanson

Bottom line: An early season contender last year, they tanked in the second half following the infamous Kearns-Lopez trade to the Nationals. That deal was supposed to bolster the Reds bullpen, yet they still enter this season with two old-timers (Stanton and Weathers) trying to save games. Not good.

HOUSTON ASTROS

2006: 82-80

Manager: Phil Garner

Probable starters

2B Craig Biggio

CF Chris Burke

1B Lance Berkman

LF Carlos Lee

3B Morgan Ensberg

RF Luke Scott/Jason Lane

SS Adam Everett

C Brad Ausmus

Rotation: Roy Oswalt, Jason Jennings, Woody Williams, Wandy Rodriguez, Brian Moehler

Closer: Brad Lidge

Bottom line: Can they withstand the losses of both Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte? You wouldn’t think so, but then again, Clemens could decide he wants to make a midsummer return once again. Until then, they’ll need newcomers Jennings and Williams to step up big and take pressure off the talented lineup.

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

2006: 75-87

Manager: Ned Yost

Probable starters

2B Rickie Weeks

3B Craig Counsell

1B Prince Fielder

CF Bill Hall

LF Geoff Jenkins

C Johnny Estrada

RF Corey Hart

SS J.J. Hardy

Rotation: Ben Sheets, Chris Capuano, Jeff Suppan, Dave Bush, Claudio Vargas

Closer: Francisco Cordero

Bottom line: In a division with no clear-cut favorite, could this be the year the Brewers finally climb to the top? They’ve got a talented group of youngsters in Fielder, Weeks, Hall and Hardy, but it all comes down to Sheets. When healthy, the right-hander can dominate. But he hasn’t been healthy in three years.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

2006: 67-95

Manager: Jim Tracy

Probable starters

CF Chris Duffy

SS Jack Wilson

2B Freddy Sanchez

1B Adam LaRoche

LF Jason Bay

RF Xavier Nady

C Ronnie Paulino

3B Jose Bautista

Rotation: Zach Duke, Ian Snell, Paul Maholm, Tom Gorzelanny, Tony Armas

Closer: Salomon Torres

Bottom line: After 14 straight losing seasons, they may finally have the team to crack the .500 mark. Bay is a stud, Sanchez won the NL batting title and LaRoche was a nice pickup. But to get to 81 wins, they’ll need at least two of their young starting pitchers to make some serious strides. Duke and Snell are the top candidates.

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

2006: 83-78

Manager: Tony La Russa

Probable starters

SS David Eckstein

LF Chris Duncan

1B Albert Pujols

CF Jim Edmonds

3B Scott Rolen

RF Preston Wilson

C Yadier Molina

2B Adam Kennedy

Rotation: Chris Carpenter, Kip Wells, Anthony Reyes, Adam Wainwright, Braden Looper

Closer: Jason Isringhausen

Bottom line: The defending champs will go after another World Series title with a completely revamped rotation. Carpenter remains the ace, but Wainwright and Looper were converted from relievers, and Wells was added in free agency. They’ll only go as far as those pitchers carry them.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide