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BASEBALL 2003

National League West

March 30, 2003|MIKE DiGIOVANNA

In predicted order of finish.

1. San Francisco Giants

Who's new: 3B Edgardo Alfonzo, 2B Ray Durham, OF Jose Cruz Jr. and Marquis Grissom, P Damian Moss, INF Neifi Perez.

Who's gone: 2B Jeff Kent, 3B David Bell and Bill Mueller, P Russ Ortiz and Livan Hernandez, OF Kenny Lofton, Reggie Sanders, Tsuyoshi Shinjo and Tom Goodwin.

Strengths: At 38, Bonds, who hit .370 with 46 homers and a major league-record 198 walks in 2002, is still baseball's most prolific hitter. Durham should provide better on-base capability, and Alfonzo is a proven clutch hitter (.318 career with runners in scoring position) behind Bonds.

Weaknesses: The Giants say Robb Nen is fine, but the closer, who had shoulder surgery over the winter, could be restricted to one-inning appearances for the first month or so. The rotation took a hit with the loss of Ortiz, and Kent's departure removed a bona-fide 110-RBI guy from the lineup.

Outlook: Few World Series teams get overhauled like the Giants, who have four new position players and a new manager in Felipe Alou. Their on-base percentage should improve, additional speed will enable them to be more aggressive on the basepaths, and they're a little better defensively. But the losses of Ortiz and Kent will be difficult to absorb.

At Dodger Stadium: April 18-20, June 17-19, Sept. 19-21.

PROJECTED LINEUP

2B Ray Durham

RF Jose Cruz Jr.

SS Rich Aurilia

LF Barry Bonds

3B Edgardo Alfonzo

C Benito Santiago

1B J.T. Snow

CF Marquis Grissom

STARTING PITCHERS

Kirk Rueter

Jason Schmidt

Damian Moss

Ryan Jensen

Kurt Ainsworth

BULLPEN

Robb Nen

Felix Rodriguez

Tim Worrell

Scott Eyre

Joe Nathan

*

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

Who's new: 1B Fred McGriff, OF/1B Daryle Ward, C Todd Hundley.

Who's gone: P Omar Daal and Jesse Orosco, 1B Eric Karros, 2B Mark Grudzielanek, OF Marquis Grissom, INF Dave Hansen, Tyler Houston and Jeff Reboulet, C Chad Kreuter.

Strengths: A healthy Kevin Brown and Darren Dreifort could make a huge difference in a rotation that lacked the depth to withstand several injuries down the stretch in 2002. The bullpen, with Eric Gagne closing and veteran right-handers Paul Quantrill and Paul Shuey setting up, is deep and talented. Shawn Green is a 40-homer threat, Dave Roberts provides a spark in the leadoff spot, and McGriff is a power upgrade at first base.

Weaknesses: Gagne was baseball's most dominant closer in 2002 but has been slowed by several minor injuries this spring and may not be in peak form to start the season. McGriff won't save many runs with his glove.

Outlook: With a healthy Brown and Dreifort, many think the Dodgers can improve on a 92-win season, but that's assuming Odalis Perez, Gagne and Roberts prove they weren't one-year wonders, Lo Duca rebounds from a subpar year, Brian Jordan and Adrian Beltre are more consistent and Joe Thurston, a rookie, isn't overmatched. The West will be tight, but the Dodgers should contend.

At Edison Field: June 27-29.

PROJECTED LINEUP

CF Dave Roberts

C Paul Lo Duca

RF Shawn Green

LF Brian Jordan

1B Fred McGriff

3B Adrian Beltre

2B Joe Thurston/

Alex Cora

SS Cesar Izturis

STARTING PITCHERS

Hideo Nomo

Odalis Perez

Kevin Brown

Kazuhisa Ishii

Darren Dreifort

BULLPEN

Eric Gagne

Paul Quantrill

Paul Shuey

Guillermo Mota

Andy Ashby

*

3. Arizona Diamondbacks

Who's new: P Elmer Dessens and Mike Jackson, INF Carlos Baerga.

Who's gone: C Damian Miller, P Brian Anderson, Rick Helling, Todd Stottlemyre, Mike Morgan and Mike Fetters, INF Jay Bell, 1B Greg Colbrunn and Erubiel Durazo.

Strengths: Randy Johnson is 39 and Curt Schilling is 36, but the pair of aces, who combined for 47 wins and 650 strikeouts last season, has shown no signs of aging. The Diamondbacks addressed the canyon-like drop-off in the rotation after Johnson-Schilling, adding a solid No. 3 in Dessens, a sinker-ball specialist acquired from Cincinnati.

Weaknesses: Luis Gonzalez appears sound after shoulder surgery last fall, but at 35, can he continue to put up 35-homer, 110-RBI seasons? And can Steve Finley, at 38, match his 25-homer season of 2002? The bench isn't as strong as last year.

Outlook: If Johnson and Schilling remain sound and the offense produces as it did last season, when Arizona led the NL with 819 runs, the Diamondbacks are a pennant contender. An injury to Johnson or Schilling and a power reduction -- Arizona could be extremely vulnerable at the infield corners with Craig Counsell and rookie Lyle Overbay -- and the Diamondbacks could fall to third place.

At Dodger Stadium: April 7-9, July 4-6, Sept. 16-18.

PROJECTED LINEUP

SS Tony Womack

3B Craig Counsell

2B Junior Spivey

LF Luis Gonzalez

RF Danny Bautista

CF Steve Finley

1B Lyle Overbay

C Rod Barajas/

Chad Moeller

STARTING PITCHERS

Randy Johnson

Curt Schilling

Elmer Dessens

Byung-Hyun Kim

Oscar Villarreal

BULLPEN

Matt Mantei

Miguel Batista

Mike Myers

Mike Jackson

Mike Koplove

*

4. Colorado Rockies

Who's new: SS Jose Hernandez, 2B Ronnie Belliard, P Steve Reed and Vic Darensbourg, C Charles Johnson, OF Preston Wilson and Chris Richard, INF Chris Stynes.

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