Thursday, February 21, 2008

NL Central: At A Glance.

Chicago Cubs:
Manager: Lou Piniella - 2nd season
Last Season: 85-77, 1st place
Training Site: Mesa, AZ.
Park: Fitch Park, HoHoKam Park
He's Here: OF Kosuke Fukudome, RHP Jon Lieber, RHP Jose Ascanio
He's Outta Here: OF Jacque Jones, OF Cliff Floyd, LHP Will Ohman, C Jason Kendall, OF Craig Monroe, OF Angel Pagan, RHP Mark Prior

Outlook: Fukudome gives the Chicago team a left-handed, high on-base hitter who should complement such slugging run producers as Derek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. The Cubs have hopes that a healthy Alfonso Soriano to be even better than in his first season with the team. The biggest question mark is centerfield, where speedy Felix Pie must hit.

Milwaukee Brewers:
Manager: Ned Yost - 6th season
Last Season: 83-79, 2nd place
Training Site: Phoenix, AZ.
Park: Maryvale Baseball Park
He's Here: RHP Eric Gagne, CF Mike Cameron, C Jason Kendall, RHP David Riske, RHP Salomon Torres, RHP Guillermo Mota, LHP Randy Choate, C Eric Munson, OF Gabe Kapier, INF Abraham Nunez
He's Outta Here: RHP Francisco Cordero, LF Geoff Jenkins, C Johnny Estrada, 3B Corey Koskie, LHP Ray King, RHP Scott Linebrink, RHP Matt Wise, INF Tony Graffanino, OF Kevin Mench, C Damian Miller

Outlook: The Brewers, who were in first place for 133 days last season, look to finally snap a postseason drought that dates to 1982. The biggest change will be NL Rookie of the Year Ryan Braun's switch from 3B to LF.

St. Louis Cardinals:
Manager: Tony La Russa - 13th season
Last Season: 79-84, 3rd place
Training Site: Jupiter, FL.
Park: Roger Dean Stadium
He's Here: 3B Troy Glaus, RHP Matt Clement, SS Cesar Izturis, C Jason LaRue, OF Brian Barton
He's Outta Here: 3B Scott Rolen, CF Jim Edmonds, SS David Eckstein, RHP Kip Wells, OF So Taguchi, C Gary Bennett, LHP Mike Maroth, RHP Troy Percival

Outlook: The 2006 World Series champions appear to be in rebuilding mode after jettisoning three core players; Rolen. Edmonds and Eckstein. The Cardinals did get the power hitting Glaus for Rolen.

Houston Astros:
Manager: Cecil Copper - 1st full season
Last Season: 73-89, 4th place
Training Site: Kissimmee, FL.
Park: Osceola County Stadium
He's Here: SS Miguel Tejada, 2B Kaz Matsui, CF Michael Bourn, INF Geoff Blum, OF Darin Erstad, RHP Doug Brocail, RHP Geoff Geary, RHP Jose Valverde, RHP Oscar Villareal
He's Outta Here: SS Adam Evertt, RHP Brad Lidge, OF Luke Scott, INF Eric Bruntlett, RHP Matt Albers, LHP Troy Patton, INF Chris Burke, RHP Chad Qualis, RHP Juan Gutierrez

Outlook: Tejada was the cornerstone of an active off-season. The Astros seem undaunted that the FBI is investigating whether Tejada lied to House committee investigators about steroids. Bourn, a Houston native, will likely lead off and give the Astros a base stealing threat they lacked last season. The switch hitting Matsui replaces stalwart 2B Craig Biggio and could be an offensive upgrade - he hit .288 in 2007 and Biggio hit .251. Slugger Lance Berkman shook off a slow start to hit .278 with 34 home runs in 2007 and LF Carlos Lee batted .303 with 32 homers.

Cincinnati Reds:
Manager: Dusty Baker - 1st season
Last Season: 72-90, 5th place
Training Site: Sarasota, FL.
Park: Ed Smith Stadium
He's Here: RHP Francisco Cordero, RHP Edinson Volquez, LHP Jeremy Affeldt
He's Outta Here: Interim manager Pete Mackanin, OF Josh Hamilton, LHP Eddie Guardado, LHP Eric Milton

Outlook: Baker was hired to pull the franchise out of its doldrums; seven straight losing seasons. Owner Bob Castellini also hired Walt Jocketty, a friend and former Cardinals GM, as adviser, putting GM Wayne Krivsky in an awkward spot. Pitching, the team's downfall for years, is the key.

Pittsburgh Pirates:
Manager: John Russell - 1st season
Last Season: 68-94, 6th place
Training Site: Bradenton, FL.
Park: McKechnie Field
He's Here: INF Chris Gomez, RHP Jimmy Barhmaier, LHP Phil Dumarait, RHP Evan Meek, RHP Ty Taubenheim, OF Kevin Thompson, RHP Jaret Wright
He's Outta Here: INF Jose Castillo, INF Cesar Izturis, INF Matt Kata, 1B Josh Phelps, RHP Shawn Chacon, RHP Tony Armas, RHP Salomon Torres, LHP Shane Youman

Outlook: A Pirates team coming off three straight seasons of 94 losses or more is almost unchanged. Russell, fired as a coach in 2005 but brought back by a new front office as the manager, is the only significant new face. Hope is the word.

Spring Training: At A Glance.
AL East: At A Glance
AL Central: At a Glance
AL West: At A Glance.
NL East: At A Glance.
NL West: At A Glance.