- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 28, 2007

LOS ANGELES ANGELS

2006: 89-73

Manager: Mike Scioscia

Probable starters

CF Gary Matthews Jr.

SS Orlando Cabrera

RF Vladimir Guerrero

LF Garret Anderson

DH Shea Hillenbrand

1B Casey Kotchman

2B Howie Kendrick

C Mike Napoli

3B Chone Figgins

Rotation: John Lackey, Kelvin Escobar, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders, Jered Weaver

Closer: Francisco Rodriguez

Bottom line: This talented team could seemingly go one of two ways. Either they come together and get big performances from youngsters Kotchman, Kendrick and Santana. Or the Matthews HGH saga become a huge distraction and brings everyone down with it. That makes for a very fragile situation.

OAKLAND ATHLETICS

2006: 93-69

Manager: Bob Geren

Probable starters

C Jason Kendall

LF Shannon Stewart

CF Milton Bradley

DH Mike Piazza

3B Eric Chavez

RF Nick Swisher

SS Bobby Crosby

1B Dan Johnson

2B Mark Ellis

Rotation: Rich Harden, Dan Haren, Esteban Loaiza, Joe Blanton, Joe Kennedy

Closer: Huston Street

Bottom line: Ken Macha is out as manager, Barry Zito is out as ace of the staff and Frank Thomas is out as cleanup hitter and DH. Never fear, uber-GM Billy Beane is still running the show, and that means this team will compete once again. Look for Harden to step up as the new ace and Piazza to enjoy life as a DH.

SEATTLE MARINERS

2006: 78-84

Manager: Mike Hargrove

Probable starters

CF Ichiro Suzuki

3B Adrian Beltre

DH Jose Vidro

LF Raul Ibanez

1B Richie Sexson

RF Jose Guillen

C Kenji Johjima

2B Jose Lopez

SS Yuniesky Betancourt

Rotation: Felix Hernandez, Jarrod Washburn, Miguel Batista, Jeff Weaver, Horacio Ramirez

Closer: J.J. Putz

Bottom line: What exactly are these guys trying to do? GM Bill Bavasi made plenty of people shake their heads in disbelief when he traded for Jose Vidro and signed Jose Guillen, a couple of ex-Nats who didn’t exactly help make Washington’s clubhouse a friendly place. Unless they do a dramatic 180, Bavasi and Hargrove could be out by June.

TEXAS RANGERS

2006: 80-82

Manager: Ron Washington

Probable starters

CF Kenny Lofton

LF Frank Catalanotto

SS Michael Young

1B Mark Teixeira

DH Sammy Sosa

3B Hank Blalock

RF Brad Wilkerson

C Gerald Laird

2B Ian Kinsler

Rotation: Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Brandon McCarthy, Robinson Tejeda, Bruce Chen

Closer: Eric Gagne

Bottom line: They’re finally putting an emphasis on pitching in Texas, where Millwood, Padilla and McCarthy could make for a solid top of the rotation. Still, this team is built on offense, and if Sosa can even remotely revert to his old Cub self, it could be really interesting. Either way, Sammy bears close watching.


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