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SPECIAL SECTION / BASEBALL 2001

National League

April 01, 2001|JASON REID

EAST

ATLANTA BRAVES

WHO'S NEW: 1B Rico Brogna, IF Kurt Abbott, OF Dave Martinez.

WHO'S GONE: P Andy Ashby and Terry Mulholland, 1B Andres Galarraga and Wally Joyner, SS Walt Weiss, OF Bobby Bonilla and Reggie Sanders.

STRENGTHS: Everything. Quilvio Veras and John Smoltz return after surgery, and that should bolster an already formidable bunch. The rotation is still one of the majors' best with Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine in top form, and Andruw Jones is one of the game's brightest young stars.

WEAKNESSES: The bench lacks experience, and veteran catcher Eddie Perez might be sidelined for the season after having rotator-cuff surgery. Catcher Javy Lopez also will sit out the first week while recovering from a broken left ring finger.

OUTLOOK: The Braves might not start fast because Smoltz has been handled cautiously (he'll be sidelined for at least the first two weeks) and Kevin Millwood struggled in the spring, but they will hold off the New York Mets (again) to win their 10th consecutive division championship.

AT DODGER STADIUM: May 11-13.

PROJECTED LINEUP

SS Rafael Furcal

2B Quilvio Veras

CF Andruw Jones

3B Chipper Jones

LF B.J. Surhoff

RF Brian Jordan

C Javy Lopez

1B Rico Brogna

STARTING PITCHERS

Greg Maddux

Tom Glavine

Kevin Millwood

John Burkett

Odalis Perez

BULLPEN

John Rocker

Kerry Ligtenberg

Mike Remlinger

Jason Marquis

C. Seelbach or M. Valdes

*

NEW YORK METS

WHO'S NEW: P Kevin Appier, Steve Trachsel, Tom Martin and Donne Wall, OF Tsuyoshi Shinjo.

WHO'S GONE: P Mike Hampton, Bobby J. Jones and Pat Mahomes, IF Kurt Abbott, SS Mike Bordick, OF Derek Bell and Bubba Trammell.

STRENGTHS: Catcher Mike Piazza and second baseman Edgardo Alfonzo are outstanding. The bullpen and infield defense should be great.

WEAKNESSES: The outfielders--Timo Perez, Jay Payton, Benny Agbayani, Darryl Hamilton and Tsuyoshi Shinjo--do not have much power. Despite the additions of Kevin Appier and Steve Trachsel and the re-signing of Rick Reed, the rotation is not as good without Hampton.

OUTLOOK: The Mets are still one of the majors' best teams despite the loss of Hampton. Whether they repeat as league champions might depend on the ability of third baseman Robin Ventura--coming off a shoulder injury--and first baseman Todd Zeile to return to form offensively. Expect General Manager Steve Phillips to spend the summer trolling for a No. 1 starter and a power-hitting outfielder.

AT DODGER STADIUM: Aug. 17-19.

PROJECTED LINEUP

RF Timo Perez

2B Edgardo Alfonzo

C Mike Piazza

3B Robin Ventura

1B Todd Zeile

LF Benny Agbayani

CF Jay Payton

SS Rey Ordonez

STARTING PITCHERS

Al Leiter

Kevin Appier

Rick Reed

Glendon Rusch

Steve Trachsel

BULLPEN

Armando Benitez

John Franco

Turk Wendell

Dennis Cook

Donne Wall

Rick White

*

FLORIDA MARLINS

WHO'S NEW: P Matt Clement, OF Eric Owens, C Charles Johnson, OF Jeff Abbott.

WHO'S GONE: OF Mark Kotsay and Henry Rodriguez, C Sandy Martinez, P Manny Aybar.

STRENGTHS: Young players who work hard, have been through a lot together and get along. The athletic Marlins led the majors in stolen bases. Preston Wilson blossomed into a great run producer last season. The rotation is young, but Ryan Dempster, A.J. Burnett and Brad Penny have tremendous upside, and the Marlins are high on recently acquired Matt Clement.

WEAKNESSES: Their overall inexperience. Shortstop Alex Gonzalez was awful last season, and Manager John Boles won't have much patience with him this season if he starts slowly. Trading Mark Kotsay weakened the outfield defense. Expect growing pains when everyone in the projected opening-day lineup is under 30.

OUTLOOK: The Marlins made progress rebuilding last season, and the return of catcher Charles Johnson should help the improvement continue.

AT DODGER STADIUM: May 7-10.

PROJECTED LINEUP

2B Luis Castillo

RF Eric Owens

LF Cliff Floyd

CF Preston Wilson

3B Mike Lowell

C Charles Johnson

1B Derrek Lee

SS Alex Gonzalez

STARTING PITCHERS

Ryan Dempster

Chuck Smith

Brad Penny

Matt Clement

A.J. Burnett or J. Sanchez

BULLPEN

Antonio Alfonseca

Ricky Bones

Dan Miceli

Braden Looper

Vic Darensbourg

Armando Almanza

*

MONTREAL EXPOS

WHO'S NEW: 3B Fernando Tatis, P Chris Peters and Britt Reames, OF Tim Raines.

WHO'S GONE: P Miguel Batista, Dustin Hermanson, Steve Kline and Jeremy Powell, OF Wilton Guerrero.

STRENGTHS: The middle of the batting order should produce runs consistently, especially with the addition of third baseman Fernando Tatis and the emergence of second baseman Jose Vidro as a hitter. Vladimir Guerrero is one of the best players in baseball. The bullpen could be formidable if Ugueth Urbina can bounce back from surgery and left-hander Graeme Lloyd has a strong return after sitting out a season because of injury.

WEAKNESSES: Besides center fielder Peter Bergeron, there is little team speed. Depth is also lacking. The rotation is suspect, and is further thinned by Carl Pavano and Hideki Irabu starting the season on the disabled list. Michael Barrett moves back to catcher after playing much of the season at third base last season.

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