March 31, 2003
Manager: Bob Brenly.
2002: 98-64, 1st; lost to St. Louis in first round.
Payroll: $94 million.
Rotation: Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Elmer Dessens, John Patterson, Byung-Hyun Kim.
Meat of the order: Junior Spivey, Luis Gonzalez, Danny Bautista.
Turning point: No two players provide a better barometer for their teams than Johnson and Schilling. Arizona goes as far as its aces carry it.
Fresh face: Despite a disappointing spring training, Lyle Overbay takes over as the regular first baseman. He's a career .345 hitter in the minors.
Best guess: Johnson's strong spring created confidence for a team that should be favored to win a third straight division title.
San Francisco Giants
Manager: Felipe Alou.
2002: 95-66, 2nd; beat Atlanta in first round, beat St. Louis in NLCS and lost to Anaheim in World Series.
Payroll: $80 million.
Rotation: Kirk Rueter, Jason Schmidt, Damian Moss, Ryan Jensen, Kurt Ainsworth.
Meat of the order: Rich Aurilia, Barry Bonds, Edgardo Alfonzo.
Turning point: Owner Peter Magowan and GM Brian Sabean are banking on a fast start to keep players and fans from missing Dusty Baker, who was more popular than Bonds.
Fresh faces: In right-handers Ainsworth, Jesse Foppert and Jerome Williams, the Giants may have the league's best pitching depth. Foppert starts in Triple A but is a good bet for 20-plus starts.
Best guess: It will be a frustrating year for Bonds, who might get walked even more often with Jeff Kent gone. Can't wait to see how he handles intentional walks from Baker.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Manager: Jim Tracy.
2002: 92-70, 3rd.
Payroll: $100.3 million.
Rotation: Hideo Nomo, Odalis Perez, Kevin Brown, Darren Dreifort, Kazuhisa Ishii.
Meat of the order: Shawn Green, Brian Jordan, Fred McGriff.
Turning point: McGriff, who has been cast off by Tampa Bay and the Cubs in the last two years, finds himself being counted on as a key player for a contender. He seems out of place at Dodger Stadium, where he never has hit well, but could provide a boost with another 30-homer, 103-RBI season.
Fresh face: Chad Hermanson, acquired from the Cubs along with Todd Hundley, could play an important role off the bench.
Best guess: With Brown and Dreifort back in the rotation, the Dodgers have a legitimate shot to make the playoffs for the first time since 1996.
Manager: Clint Hurdle.
2002: 73-89, 4th.
Payroll: $59.8 million.
Rotation: Jason Jennings, Aaron Cook, Shawn Chacon, Darren Oliver, Denny Neagle. On the DL: Denny Stark, Scott Elarton.
Meat of the order: Todd Helton, Larry Walker, Preston Wilson.
Turning point: With newcomers Charles Johnson, Jose Hernandez and Wilson joining Helton, Walker and Jay Payton, Colorado will try to outslug the competition. GM Dan O'Dowd will look smart if thin air helps Wilson and Hernandez reduce their strikeout totals.
Fresh face: The 23-year-old Cook pitched well in spring training and could join Jennings to give the Rockies back-to-back rookies of the year.
Best guess: A comeback by Neagle could help the Rockies get over .500, but Hurdle will deserve manager-of-the-year honors if they keep things interesting all season.
San Diego Padres
Manager: Bruce Bochy.
2002: 66-96, 5th.
Payroll: $43 million.
Rotation: Brian Lawrence, Adam Eaton, Oliver Perez, Jake Peavy, Clay Condrey. On the DL: Kevin Jarvis.
Meat of the order: Mark Kotsay, Ryan Klesko, Rondell White.
Turning point: The loss of closer Trevor Hoffman and Phil Nevin to possible season-ending injuries in spring training makes it easier for Bochy to turn loose an interesting wave of prospects.
Fresh face: Xavier Nady, once touted as a power-hitting third baseman, fills the roster spot opened by Nevin. He's a good bet for 20-plus homers if he gets 400 at-bats between the outfield corners.
Best guess: With good arms in the rotation and an intriguing replacement for Hoffman in Brandon Villafuerte, the Padres will win more games than in 2002 and could move up in the standings.
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