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9 Questions For Spring Training

February 11, 2007|BILL SHAIKIN

1 QUESTION: How will Bruce Bochy handle the circus?

ANSWER: In San Diego, three reporters showing up for spring training is a big deal. Now, in Bochy's first spring as the Giants' manager, dozens of media members will swarm to hear what Mark Sweeney has to say about Barry Bonds responding to his failed amphetamine test by dropping Sweeney's name, and to hear what Bonds has to say about anything.

2 QUESTION: What happened to the Cardinals' starting rotation?

ANSWER: Jeff Suppan and Jeff Weaver cashed in on the Cardinals' World Series victory, so St. Louis opens camp with a rotation that starts with Chris Carpenter and could end with two relievers -- last year's closer, Adam Wainwright, and Braden Looper. In February -- and in pencil -- the Cardinals start with Carpenter, Anthony Reyes, Kip Wells and we'll see.

3 QUESTION: Is a divorce looming for Ichiro and the Mariners?

ANSWER: The Mariners' chief executive publicly put General Manager Bill Bavasi and Manager Mike Hargrove on "my hot seat" this year, so Seattle stocked up on unremarkable veterans -- Weaver, Jose Guillen, Jose Vidro, Arthur Rhodes, Chris Reitsma -- in a win-now push. If the Mariners lose, Ichiro might file for free agency and sign with a California team.

4 QUESTION: Steroids? Surprise!

ANSWER: The Texas Rangers train in Surprise, Ariz. Sammy Sosa signed a minor league contract to try a comeback, so the Rangers signed up for a spring full of questions. If you can hit, Sammy, did you take steroids during your year off? If you can't hit, Sammy, is it because you didn't take steroids? Hey, Sammy, what's up with Mark McGwire?

5 QUESTION: You mean Alfonso Soriano doesn't pitch?

ANSWER: You'd think he would, for $136 million, but the Cubs lavished that jackpot on a guy who can't solve their primary weakness. He can play center field, or so they hope. They also spent $75 million on third baseman Aramis Ramirez, $40 million on pitcher Ted Lilly and $21 million on pitcher Jason Marquis. Lilly and Marquis, not Soriano and Ramirez, are the keys to October.

6 QUESTION: What catcher will show up on Japanese television every day, maybe every hour?

ANSWER: Not Kenji Johjima, the Seattle catcher. The new Japanese celebrity will be Jason Varitek, the Boston catcher. His ample patience will be tested by hundreds -- no kidding -- of Japanese reporters who will ask about Daisuke Matsuzaka, the $103-million import. How's his fastball? Should he start on opening day? Is Manny Ramirez aware of him?

7 QUESTION: What happened to the Twins' starting rotation?

ANSWER: Nothing happened to Johan Santana, so the Twins still have baseball's best pitcher. But with Francisco Liriano injured and Brad Radke retired, spring training amounts to a casting call for Minnesota. Ex-Angel Ramon Ortiz could break camp as the No. 2 starter, with Boof Bonser, Matt Garza, Carlos Silva and Sidney Ponson among the hopefuls.

8 QUESTION: Can we vote for Pedro?

ANSWER: Yes, as the late-season addition most likely to make a difference. Pedro Martinez hopes to return from rotator-cuff surgery in August. In the meantime, the Mets are blessed with a lineup that includes Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and David Wright, and they'd better outhit teams that could face a rotation of Tom Glavine, Orlando Hernandez, John Maine, Oliver Perez and Chan Ho Park.

9 QUESTION: What's the big news out of Detroit's camp?

ANSWER: We'll let you know when Gary Sheffield starts talking.

-- BILL SHAIKIN

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