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No cracks in rock-solid Angels
If it's not broken, don't fix it. Who could begrudge Anaheim Angels general manager Bill Stoneman a restful winter?
After all, the Angels' ultraimpressive run through the playoffs should not be viewed as the doing of the Rally Monkey or any other Disney-generated pixie dust. Anaheim is as sound as any team around, including the Yankees.
Witness the Angels' 207 run differential in scoring last season. They were fourth in the majors in runs scored while allowing the fewest in the American League. Better yet, they did this without having a single player in his walk year.
Anaheim returns 23 players from the World Series, with reserves Orlando Palmeiro and Alex Ochoa the only castoffs. This lack of activity is striking in the AL West, where every other team has a new manager. Oakland, which as usual has shuffled the deck some, and an aging Seattle team will take swings against Anaheim while Texas remains the most expensive last-place team in history.
While the Yankees have more new faces than usual, the finances and stubbornness of George Steinbrenner give Boston little room for optimism in the East. The Central shapes up as a two-team race between champion Minnesota and the improved White Sox.
Here's a look at each team, in order of finish from 2002.
Last year: 94-67, 1st; defeated Oakland in first round, lost to Anaheim in ALCS.
Manager: Ron Gardenhire.
Key additions: None.
Key losses: DH David Ortiz, RHP Mike Jackson.
Other moves: Added RHP Jose Cabrera, RHP Mike Fetters, SS Chris Gomez; lost RHP Bob Wells.
Big question: Can Brad Radke, Eric Milton and Joe Maysthe guts of the starting rotationassert themselves to take the pressure off a bullpen that was the key to the Twins' 29-16 record in one-run games last year?
Keep an eye on: RF Michael Cuddyer. The Twins need someone to add pop to a lineup that was ninth in the AL in runs last year. Other possibilities include strikeout-prone slugger Mike Restovich, Bobby Kielty and Matthew LeCroy.
Last year: 81-81, 2nd.
Manager: Jerry Manuel.
Key additions: RHP Bartolo Colon, RHP Billy Koch, RHP Tom Gordon.
Key losses: RHP Keith Foulke, RHP Antonio Osuna.
Other moves: Added 1B-OF Brian Daubach, RHP Rick White, C Sandy Alomar Jr., RHP Esteban Loaiza; lost RHP Rocky Biddle, 1B-OF Jeff Liefer, C Mark Johnson, RHP Todd Ritchie, LHP Jim Parque.
Big question: Can Manuel establish order up the middle? The Sox project changes at second base (D'Angelo Jimenez), shortstop (Jose Valentin), center field (Aaron Rowand) and catcher (Miguel Olivo) from Opening Day a year ago.
Keep an eye on: Frank Thomas. He's working again with Walt Hriniak, whose tutorial paved the way for a career year in 2000. A productive, pout-free spring would help address major chemistry questions.
Last year: 74-88, 3rd.
Manager: Eric Wedge.
Key addition: 1B Travis Hafner.
Key losses: 1B Jim Thome, 3B Travis Fryman, C Einar Diaz.
Other moves: Added RHP Jason Bere, LHP Brian Anderson, OF Shane Spencer, RHP Aaron Myette, 3B Casey Blake; lost RHP Charles Nagy, C Eddie Perez, 1B Lee Stevens.
Big question: How many rookies will be in the Opening Day rotation? C.C. Sabathia could be the only veteran if Bere and Anderson don't hold off a talented cast of kids that includes Ricardo Rodriguez, Cliff Lee, Brian Tallet, Billy Traber and Jason Davis.
Keep an eye on: Ricky Gutierrez. If the ex-Cub has recovered from career-threatening neck surgery, he'll move from second, where John McDonald takes over, to third base. He's signed for two more years.
Kansas City Royals
Last year: 62-100, 4th.
Manager: Tony Pena.
Key additions: None.
Key losses: RHP Paul Byrd, RHP Jeff Suppan, RHP Roberto Hernandez.
Other moves: Added SS Desi Relaford, RHP James Baldwin, 1B Morgan Burkhart; lost LF Chuck Knoblauch, 2B Luis Alicea, RHP Blake Stein, RHP Chad Durbin.
Big question: Can GM Allard Baird make a good trade for CF Carlos Beltran? He's two years from free agency, which should add to his value, and the Royals must address their lack of starting pitching.
Keep an eye on: RHP Mike McDougal. He was dominant as a closer in Puerto Rico. First baseman-DH Ken Harvey is another rookie who could play a big role.
Last year: 55-106, 5th.
Manager: Alan Trammell.
Key additions: None.
Key losses: LHP Mark Redman, RHP Juan Acevedo, RF-DH Robert Fick, 1B Randall Simon.
Other moves: Added RHP Rob Henkel, RHP Nate Robinson, RHP Gary Knotts, C Bill Haselman, 3B Travis Chapman, LHP Adrian Burnside, OF Ernie Young, LHP Steve Avery; lost RHP Jose Paniagua, RHP Julio Santana.
Big question: How much difference can Trammell and a coaching staff that includes Kirk Gibson make?
Keep an eye on: Disappointing Dean Palmer, Bobby Higginson and Damion Easley, whose injuries and lack of production have doomed recent seasons. Scouts will be watching Palmer, who averaged 34 homers in 1998-2000.
Last year: 103-59, 1st; lost to Minnesota in first round.
Manager: Ken Macha.
Key additions: RHP Keith Foulke, 1B Erubiel Durazo.
Key losses: RHP Billy Koch, RHP Cory Lidle, LF David Justice, DH Ray Durham.
Other moves: Added CF Chris Singleton, C Mark Johnson, CF Rontrez Johnson, LHP John Halama, RHP Buddy Hernandez, RHP Mike Neu, RHP Roy Smith, LHP Ed Yarnall, RHP Joe Valentine; lost C Greg Myers, 1B-OF John Mabry, 2B Randy Velarde, 3B-DH Olmedo Saenz, RHP Mike Fhyrie, LHP Mike Venafro.
Big question: If contract negotiations with AL most valuable player Miguel Tejada lead nowhere, A's might listen to trade offers rather than letting Tejada leave as a free agent.
Keep an eye on: Foulke. GM Billy Beane took a huge gamble by trading Koch for the changeup specialist.
Last year: 99-63, 2nd; won wild card, beat New York in the first round, Minnesota in the ALCS and San Francisco in the World Series.
Manager: Mike Scioscia.
Key additions: None.
Key losses: None.
Other moves: Added OF Eric Owens, LHP Rich Rodriguez; lost RHP Al Levine, OF Orlando Palmeiro, OF Alex Ochoa.
Big question: There aren't many for a solid team returning intact, but the length of Aaron Sele's recovery from rotator-cuff surgery could open the last spot in the rotation. Candidates include Mickey Callway, Matt Wise and Scott Schoeneweis.
Keep an eye on: Francisco Rodriguez. K-Rod carries huge expectations but could show the wear and tear of making 66 appearances in his first year as a reliever, including 28 strikeouts in 182/3 innings in the playoffs.
Last year: 93-69, 3rd.
Manager: Bob Melvin.
Key additions: OF Randy Winn.
Key losses: INF Desi Relaford.
Other moves: Added RHP Jamey Wright, C Pat Borders, RHP Steve Kent, 2B Chad Meyers; lost LHP John Halama, RHP Ismael Valdes, RHP James Baldwin, RHP Paul Abbott, INF Jose Offerman, LHP Norm Charlton, CF Charles Gipson.
Big question: Is there enough ice in the training room? This is one old team, with nine key players in their mid-30s and beyond, including 40-year-olds Jamie Moyer and Edgar Martinez. Health is a big issue.
Keep an eye on: RHP Kazuhiro Sasaki. After elbow surgery in October, the guy with 119 saves in three seasons will be watched closely.
Last year: 72-90, 4th.
Manager: Buck Showalter.
Key additions: RHP Ugueth Urbina, RHP John Thomson, RHP Ismael Valdes, RHP Esteban Yan, C Einar Diaz.
Key losses: C Ivan Rodriguez, LHP Kenny Rogers.
Other moves: Added CF Doug Glanville, RHP Ryan Drese, LHP Aaron Fultz, LHP Ron Mahay, LHP C.J. Nitkowski, RHP Robert Ellis, INF Donnie Sadler, INF Marshall McDougall, C Chad Kreuter, OF-DH Ruben Sierra, C Fernando Lunar.
Big question: Can Chan Ho Park make the adjustments to succeed in the AL? If not, his signing will haunt Texas for four more years.
Keep an eye on: 3B Mark Teixeira. Generally rated as the top minor-league prospect, the switch-hitting slugger could put up totals in Arizona that allow him to skip a stay at Triple-A Oklahoma City. His fielding is questionable.
New York Yankees
Last year: 103-58, 1st; lost to Anaheim in first round.
Manager: Joe Torre.
Key additions: LF Hideki Matsui, DH Todd Zeile, RHP Jose Contreras, RHP Antonio Osuna.
Key losses: LHP Mike Stanton, RHP Ramiro Mendoza.
Other moves: Added LHP Chris Hammond, C Chris Widger, C John Flaherty; lost RHP Orlando Hernandez, OF Shane Spencer, IF Ron Coomer, OF John Vander Wal.
Big question: Who will be the odd man out in the starting rotation, Jeff Weaver or Contreras?
Keep an eye on: Matsui and Contreras. With two major international additions, Legends Field will be nuttier than usual.
Boston Red Sox
Last year: 93-69, 2nd.
Manager: Grady Little.
Key additions: RHP Ramiro Mendoza, 2B Todd Walker, 1B David Ortiz, DH Jeremy Giambi, LHP Alan Embree.
Key losses: RHP Ugueth Urbina, OF Cliff Floyd, 1B Brian Daubach.
Other moves: Added 3B Bill Mueller, RHP Chad Fox, RHP Mike Timlin, 1B Julio Zuleta, OF Adrian Brown, RHP Ryan Rupe, DH-C Dave Nilsson; lost OF Rickey Henderson, 1B Tony Clark, RHP Dustin Hermanson, 2B Rey Sanchez.
Big question: Will Pedro Martinez's impending free agency turn into a major distraction? Martinez says he'll definitely test the free-agent market if his 2004 option isn't picked up by Opening Day.
Keep an eye on: Unearned runs. New GM Theo Epstein seems willing to sacrifice defense for offense, acquiring one-dimensional players in Giambi, Walker and Ortiz.
Toronto Blue Jays
Last year: 78-84, 3rd.
Manager: Carlos Tosca.
Key additions: RHP Cory Lidle, RHP Tanyon Sturtze, RF Frank Catalanotto.
Key losses: RF Jose Cruz Jr.
Other moves: Added SS Mike Bordick, C Greg Myers, LHP Doug Creek, RHP Gary Majewski, RHP Josh Towers, RHP Jason Arnold; lost SS Felipe Lopez, RHP Chris Carpenter, RHP Esteban Loaiza, RHP Steve Parris, LHP Felix Heredia, LHP Mike Sirotka.
Big question: Is J.P. Ricciardi done dealing? Scouts say he continues to shop closer Kelvim Escobar, with Cliff Politte the possible replacement, and second baseman Orlando Hudson, which could move Catalanotto to the infield and open a spot for rookie Jayson Werth.
Keep an eye on: C Kevin Cash. He looks like the best of a good bunch of catchers to come through the system.
Last year: 67-95, 4th.
Manager: Mike Hargrove.
Key additions: LHP Omar Daal, SS Deivi Cruz, RHP Kerry Ligtenberg.
Key loss: SS Mike Bordick, CF Chris Singleton.
Other moves: Added 3B John Valentin, INF Jeff Reboulet, LHP Bill Pulsipher; lost RHP Josh Towers.
Big question: Do Tommy John surgery survivors Scott Erickson and Pat Hentgen have anything left? The front end of the rotation looks OK with Rodrigo Lopez, Sidney Ponson and Daal.
Keep an eye on: A possible move to add a run-producer. This remains a lineup badly in need of some thunder.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Last year: 55-106, 5th.
Manager: Lou Piniella.
Key additions: SS Rey Ordonez, 1B Travis Lee.
Key losses: RHP Tanyon Sturtze, RHP Paul Wilson, RHP Esteban Yan, 1B Steve Cox, SS Chris Gomez.
Other moves: Added LHP Jim Parque, RHP Steve Parris, RHP Blake Stein, RHP Mike James, RHP Kevin McGlinchy, RHP John Frascatore, RHP Erik Sabel, RHP Jeremi Gonzalez, LHP Matt Perisho, RHP Mel Rojas, 3B Chris Truby, C Angel Pena, C Jorge Fabregas; lost RHP Ryan Rupe, LHP Wilson Alvarez, C John Flaherty, SS Andy Sheets.
Big question: Does Piniella have enough patience to manage a team that has never won 70 games in its existence?
Keep an eye on: RHP Dewon Brazelton. After only one full season as a pro, he's a good bet for the Opening Day rotation and a reasonable rookie-of-the-year candidate.