March 22, 1998 in Sports

American League Capsules

Tom Withers Associated Press
 

East

Baltimore Orioles

1997: 98-64, 1st place; beat Seattle in first round of playoffs, lost to Cleveland in ALCS.

Manager: Ray Miller (1st season).

He’s Here: DH Joe Carter, RHP Doug Drabek, LHP Norm Charlton, SS Ozzie Guillen.

He’s Outta Here: LHP Randy Myers, DH Geronimo Berroa, OF Jerome Walton.

Projected Lineup: CF Brady Anderson, RF Jeffrey Hammonds, 2B Roberto Alomar, 1B Rafael Palmeiro, 3B Cal Ripken, DH Harold Baines/Carter, LF B.J. Surhoff, C Chris Hoiles, SS Mike Bordick.

Rotation: RHP Mike Mussina, LHP Jimmy Key, RHP Scott Erickson, RHP Scott Kamieniecki, RHP Doug Drabek.

Relievers: RHP Armando Benitez, LHP Arthur Rhodes, LHP Jesse Orosco, RHP Terry Mathews.

Hot Shot: RHP Nerio Rodriguez. Led the International League with 160 strikeouts last season and held opponents to a .203 batting average. 25-year-old Dominican could be summoned from minors early if Drabek isn’t effective.

Hot Spot: Miller’s only previous managerial experience was a short stint with the Twins in 1985-86, and a slow start could test owner Peter Angelos’ patience.

Bottom Line: These Birds are no longer spring chickens with as many as eight players 35 or older expected to make the opening day roster. And with Alomar, Palmeiro, Surhoff and Erickson in the final year of their contracts, there is an even greater sense of urgency to win it all.

Boston Red Sox

1997: 78-84, 4th place, 20 games behind.

Manager: Jimy Williams (2nd season).

He’s Here: RHP Pedro Martinez, C Jim Leyritz, OF Damon Buford, RHP Dennis Eckersley, OF Darren Lewis, IF Mike Gallego.

He’s Outta Here: RHP Aaron Sele, C Bill Haselman, RHP Mark Brandenburg, OF Shane Mack, OF Wilfredo Cordero, RHP Jeff Suppan.

Projected Lineup: SS Nomar Garciaparra, 3B John Valentin, 1B Mo Vaughn, DH Reggie Jefferson, C Jim Leyritz, LF Troy O’Leary, 2B Lou Merloni, RF Darren Bragg, CF Darren Lewis.

Rotation: RHP Pedro Martinez, RHP Tim Wakefield, LHP Butch Henry, RHP Brian Rose, RHP Bret Saberhagen.

Relievers: RHP Tom Gordon, RHP Dennis Eckersley, LHP Steve Avery, LHP Ron Mahay, RHP Jim Corsi.

Hot Shot: RHP Brian Rose. The 22-year-old Massachusetts native posted a 17-5 mark with 3.02 ERA last year at Triple-A Pawtucket and was IL’s pitcher of the year.

Hot Spot: General manager Dan Duquette’s decision to make Martinez the game’s highest-paid player will place enormous pressure on a pitcher who despite his impressive numbers won only 17 games last year. He’d better get 20-plus W’s this year or the city, still smarting over Roger Clemens’ departure, will eat him - and Duquette - alive.

Bottom Line: One of the best-hitting teams in baseball, the Sox need some quality starts and better defense if they hope to contend in tough division.

New York Yankees

1997: 96-66, 2nd place; two games behind; lost to Cleveland in first round of playoffs.

Manager: Joe Torre (3rd season).

He’s Here: 3B Scott Brosius, 2B Chuck Knoblauch, RHP Darren Holmes, DH Chili Davis, IF Dale Sveum.

He’s Outta Here: 3B Wade Boggs, DH Cecil Fielder, RHP Dwight Gooden, LHP Kenny Rogers, 3B Charlie Hayes, IF Pat Kelly, IF Rey Sanchez.

Projected Lineup: 2B Chuck Knoblauch, SS Derek Jeter, RF Paul O’Neill, CF Bernie Williams, 1B Tino Martinez, DH Chili Davis, 3B Scott Brosius, LF Chad Curtis, C Joe Girardi.

Rotation: RHP David Cone, LHP Andy Pettitte, LHP David Wells, RHP Hideki Irabu, RHP Ramiro Mendoza.

Relievers: RHP Mariano Rivera, RHP Jeff Nelson, LHP Mike Stanton, LHP Graeme Lloyd, RHP Willie Banks.

Hot Shot: OF Ricky Ledee. Already well known to Yankees fans because of the club’s reluctance to package him in any trade. Hits for power and average, but may have to wait another year because of team’s logjam in left field.

Hot Spot: Williams and his agent feel he’s worth $11 million, and he’ll have to produce big time to convince owner George Steinbrenner to keep him in pinstripes beyond ‘98.

Bottom Line: As talented as any lineup in baseball, however, the starting rotation is more fragile than ever with Cone continuing to battle health problems and Irabu still unproven and unpredictable.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

1st season.

Manager: Larry Rothschild.

He’s Here: 1B Fred McGriff, OF Mike Kelly, SS Kevin Stocker, C John Flaherty, RHP Roberto Hernandez, LHP Wilson Alvarez, OF Dave Martinez, 1B Paul Sorrento, 3B Wade Boggs, RHP Dennis Springer.

Projected Lineup: CF Quinton McCracken, 3B Wade Boggs, LF Mike Kelly, 1B Fred McGriff, DH Paul Sorrento, C John Flaherty, RF Dave Martinez, SS Kevin Stocker, 2B Miguel Cairo.

Rotation: LHP Wilson Alvarez, RHP Rolando Arrojo, LHP Tony Saunders, RHP Dennis Springer, RHP Esteban Yan.

Relievers: RHP Roberto Hernandez, RHP John LeRoy, LHP Ramon Tatis, RHP Albie Lopez, RHP Jim Mecir.

Hot Shot: Arrojo got a $7 million signing bonus, and the Cuban defector dazzled in the Arizona Fall League with a 5-0 record and 1.38 ERA.

Hot Spot: This will be the first team Rothschild, a well-respected pitching coach with Florida last year, has managed.

Bottom Line: Florida’s second expansion team of the ‘90s will unfairly be measured against the Marlins, who won a World Series title in just five years. Veterans like Boggs, McGriff, Sorrento, Alvarez and Hernandez give Rays a solid nucleus to build around.

Toronto Blue Jays

1997: 76-86, 5th place, 22 games behind. Manager: Tim Johnson (1st season).

He’s Here: Jose Canseco, LHP Randy Myers, C Darrin Fletcher, C-DH-1B Mike Stanley, 2B Tony Fernandez, 2B Pat Kelly, IF Craig Grebeck.

He’s Outta Here: DH Joe Carter, C Charlie O’Brien, OF Ruben Sierra, 2B Carlos Garcia.

Projected Lineup: LF Shannon Stewart, 2B Tony Fernandez, CF Jose Cruz Jr., DH Jose Canseco, 1B Carlos Delgado/Mike Stanley, 3B Ed Sprague, RF Shawn Green, C Darrin Fletcher, SS Alex Gonzalez.

Rotation: RHP Roger Clemens, RHP Pat Hentgen, RHP Juan Guzman, RHP Woody Williams, RHP Kelvim Escobar.

Relievers: LHP Randy Myers, RHP Paul Quantrill, LHP Dan Plesac, RHP Tim Crabtree.

Hot Shot: RHP Roy Hallady. Toronto’s first-round pick in 1995, the 6-foot-6, 20-year-old pitched two shutouts at Triple-A after promotion there last season.

Hot Spot: Toronto’s bullpen blew 21 games last year, and now the responsibility for closing falls on Myers, who converted 45 of 46 save opportunities in ‘97.

Bottom Line: Pitching is solid, but Jays were the worst hitting team in baseball with woeful .244 batting average - lowest in the A.L. since ‘92. With RBI man Carter gone, Cruz, Delgado must pick up the slack, or they’ll have trouble staying out of the East cellar.

Central

Chicago White Sox

1997: 80-81, 2nd place, six games behind.

Manager: Jerry Manuel (1st year).

He’s Here: SS Benji Gil, C Charlie O’Brien, C Chad Kreuter, RHP Jim Bullinger, OF Ruben Sierra.

He’s Outta Here: RHP Doug Drabek, OF Dave Martinez, IF Norberto Martin, SS Ozzie Guillen, C Ron Karkovice.

Projected Lineup: 2B Ray Durham, CF Mike Cameron, 1B Frank Thomas, LF Albert Belle, 3B Robin Ventura, RF Magglio Ordonez, DH Ruben Sierra, C Charlie O’Brien, SS Benji Gil/Mike Caruso.

Rotation: RHP Jaime Navarro, RHP Jason Bere, RHP James Baldwin, LHP Scott Eyre, LHP Mike Sirotka.

Relievers: RHP Matt Karchner, Keith Foulke, LHP Tony Castillo, RHP Carlos Castillo, RHP Bill Simas, LHP Todd Rizzo.

Hot Shot: Ordonez was the American Association MVP last season with league-leading .329 average and 172 hits. Batted .319 in 21 games with Sox last year, and should be one of A.L.’s top rookies this season.

Hot Spot: Gil or Caruso will try to replace popular team leader Guillen, who was let go after 13 seasons.

Bottom Line: Sox can’t afford a slow start like last year when they went 8-17 in April. Belle and Thomas didn’t come close to putting up the numbers many thought they would. There won’t be as much pressure this year, so look out.

Cleveland Indians

1997: 86-75, 1st place; beat New York in first round of playoffs, beat Baltimore in ALCS, lost to Florida in World Series.

Manager: Mike Hargrove (8th season).

He’s Here: OF Kenny Lofton, 3B Travis Fryman, RHP Dwight Gooden, LHP Ron Villone, RHP Steve Karsay, 2B Carlos Garcia, DH Geronimo Berroa, C Ron Karkovice.

He’s Outta Here: 3B Matt Williams, RHP Orel Hershiser, IF/OF Bip Roberts, 2B Tony Fernandez, OF Marquis Grissom, RHP Jeff Juden, LHP Brian Anderson, RHP Albie Lopez, RHP Jack McDowell, DH Kevin Seitzer, RHP David Weathers.

Projected Lineup: CF Kenny Lofton, SS Omar Vizquel, RF Manny Ramirez, 1B Jim Thome, DH David Justice, 3B Travis Fryman, C Sandy Alomar, LF Brian Giles, 2B Shawon Dunston/ Enrique Wilson.

Rotation: RHP Charles Nagy, RHP Jaret Wright, RHP Chad Ogea, RHP Dwight Gooden.

Relievers: RHP Jose Mesa, RHP Eric Plunk, LHP Paul Assenmacher, RHP Mike Jackson.

Hot Shot: 3B Russell Branyan. No room for him yet, but another big bat in Tribe’s future. The 22-year-old led the minors last year with 39 homers and drove in 105 runs. Batted .313 this spring, but will start the year in Double-A.

Hot Spot: Lofton learned last season that the Indians can make it to the World Series without him. A groin injury cost him 40 games with Atlanta and may have contributed to him being caught stealing 20 times in 47 attempts.

Bottom Line: Tribe came within two outs of its first World Series title since ‘48 last year, and although GM John Hart continues to make moves, the starting pitching is once again suspect.

Detroit Tigers

1997: 79-83, 3rd place, 19 games behind.

Manager: Buddy Bell (3rd season).

He’s Here: RHP Tim Worrell, RHP Bryce Florie, OF Luis Gonzalez, RHP Frank Castillo, IF/OF Bip Roberts, 3B Joe Randa, RHP Francisco Cordero, IF Billy Ripken, C Joe Oliver.

He’s Outta Here: 3B Travis Fryman, OF Melvin Nieves, LHP Mike Myers, IF/ OF Phil Nevin, C Matt Walbeck, SS Orlando Miller, RHP Willie Blair, 1B Bob Hamelin.

Projected Lineup: CF Brian Hunter, 2B Damion Easley, RF Bobby Higginson, 1B Tony Clark, LF Luis Gonzalez, 3B Joe Randa, C Raul Casanova, DH Bip Roberts, SS Billy Ripken/Deivi Cruz.

Rotation: LHP Justin Thompson, RHP Brian Moehler, RHP Frank Castillo, RHP Scott Sanders, RHP Tim Worrell.

Relievers: RHP Todd Jones, RHP Doug Brocail, RHP A.J. Sager, LHP Roberto Duran, RHP Tim Worrell.

Hot Shot: RF Juan Encarnacion. A five-tool player, the 23-yearold hit .326 with 26 homers, 90 RBIs and 17 steals in DoubleA. Will miss up to 12 weeks with a broken foot, and once he’s ready, Tigers may shift Higginson to left.

Hot Spot: GM Randy Smith has done a superb job putting together a solid core of young talent. Now, as the team inches closer to becoming a winner, and with a new stadium under construction, he must remain patient and not trade away any of his promising stars.

Bottom Line: No longer the A.L.’s laughingstocks, the Tigers move to the weaker A.L. Central, where they have enough talent to cause some trouble.

Kansas City Royals

1997: 67-94, 5th place, 19 games behind.

Manager: Tony Muser (2nd season).

He’s Here: 1B Jeff Conine, 1B Hal Morris, SS Orlando Miller, 3B Terry Pendleton, RHP Lee Smith.

He’s Outta Here: DH Chili Davis, SS Jay Bell.

Projected Lineup: 2B Jose Offerman, CF Johnny Damon, LF Jeff Conine, 1B Jeff King, DH Hal Morris, 3B Dean Palmer, RF Jermaine Dye, C Mike Sweeney, SS Felix Martinez.

Rotation: RHP Kevin Appier, RHP Tim Belcher, LHP Jose Rosado, LHP Glendon Rusch, RHP Hipolito Pichardo.

Relievers: RHP Jeff Montgomery, RHP Jim Pittsley, LHP Matt Whisenant, LHP Jamie Walker, LHP Chris Hammond, RHP Scott Service, RHP Brian Bevil.

Hot Shot: 2B Jed Hansen. Solid hitter with good pop, batted .268 with 11 homers at Triple-A Omaha last season. Figures to be Martinez’s double-play partner into the millenium.

Hot Spot: Coming off a 9-13 season, workhorse Appier fell off his porch and broke his collarbone in November. Royals are sure he’ll give them 200-plus innings, but what they need are more wins.

Bottom Line: It’s time for youngsters like Damon, Dye and Sweeney to fulfill their promise. If not, a third straight last-place finish is likely.

Minnesota Twins

1997: 68-94, 4th place, 18-1/2 games behind.

Manager: Tom Kelly (13th season).

He’s Here: OF Alex Ochoa, OF Otis Nixon, IF Brent Gates, RHP Mike Morgan, 1B/RF Orlando Merced.

He’s Outta Here: 2B Chuck Knoblauch, OF Rich Becker, LHP Rich Robertson.

Projected Lineup: CF Otis Nixon, RF Matt Lawton, DH Paul Molitor, LF Marty Cordova, 3B Ron Coomer, C Terry Steinbach, 2B Todd Walker, 1B Orlando Merced, SS Pat Meares.

Rotation: RHP Brad Radke, RHP Bob Tewksbury, RHP LaTroy Hawkins, LHP Eric Milton, RHP Mike Morgan.

Relievers: LHP Greg Swindell, LHP Eddie Guardado, RHP Rick Aguilera, RHP Mike Trombley, RHP Todd Ritchie, RHP Dan Naulty.

Hot Shot: 1B David Ortiz. Beefy 22-year-old could finally fill the void left by Kent Hrbek’s retirement. Hit 32 homers and led Twins’ organization in five offensive categories in ‘97.

Hot Spot: Walker, who’ll shift from third to second, has unenviable job of trying to make Twins fans forget about Knoblauch. Batted just .237 with 16 RBIs in 52 games last season.

Bottom Line: This may be the proud franchise’s last season in Minnesota with a sale and move to North Carolina still an option for owner Carl Pohlad.

West

Anaheim Angels

1997: 84-78, 2nd place, six games behind.

Manager: Terry Collins (2nd season).

He’s Here: IF/OF/C Phil Nevin, C Matt Walbeck, DH Cecil Fielder, RHP Omar Olivares, RHP William VanLandingham, IF Norberto Martin.

He’s Outta Here: IF Craig Grebeck, C Chad Kreuter, 2B Luis Alicea, OF Rickey Henderson, RHP Dennis Springer, IF/OF Tony Phillips.

Projected Lineup: 1B Darin Erstad, 2B Randy Velarde, LF Garret Anderson, RF Tim Salmon, CF Jim Edmonds, DH Cecil Fielder, 3B Dave Hollins, C Todd Greene, SS Gary DiSarcina.

Rotation: LHP Chuck Finley, RHP Ken Hill, LHP Allen Watson, RHP Jason Dickson, RHP Omar Olivares.

Relievers: RHP Troy Percival, RHP Mike James, LHP Mike Holtz, RHP Pep Harris, RHP Shigetoshi Hasegawa.

Hot Shot: RHP Jarrod Washburn. Hard-throwing lefty won 15 games at Double-A Midland last season and could be ready to make jump to big club soon.

Hot Spot: Fielder grumbled about his contract early last year in New York then played in just 98 games after injuring his thumb. With quality hitters ahead of him, Angels are expecting big man to drive in runs.

Bottom Line: If pitching holds up, Anaheim will challenge for its first division title since 1986.

Oakland Athletics

1997: 65-97, 4th place, 25 games behind.

Manager: Art Howe (3rd season).

He’s Here: LHP Kenny Rogers, RHP Mike Fetters, RHP Doug Bochtler, IF Kurt Abbott, RHP Tom Candiotti, 3B Mike Blowers, OF Shane Mack, C Damon Berryhill, OF Rickey Henderson.

He’s Outta Here: OF Jose Canseco, 3B Scott Brosius, RHP Steve Karsay, RHP Don Wengert.

Projected Lineup: LF Rickey Henderson, CF Jason McDonald, RF Ben Grieve, 1B Jason Giambi, DH Matt Stairs, 3B Mike Blowers, 2B Scott Spiezio, C A.J. Hinch, SS Kurt Abbott.

Rotation: LHP Kenny Rogers, RHP Tom Candiotti, RHP Ariel Prieto, RHP Jimmy Haynes, RHP Brad Rigby.

Relievers: RHP Mike Fetters, RHP T.J. Mathews, RHP Bill Taylor, LHP Mike Mohler, RHP Aaron Small.

Hot Shot: Grieve. Hit .350 with 31 homers and 136 RBIs at two minor-league levels before being promoted in September.

Hot Spot: Rogers has a clean slate after two disastrous years with the Yankees, but there’ll be no excuses this time if he fails to produce.

Bottom Line: A’s have undergone a major turnover in talent but haven’t brought in much help. They should surpass 65 wins of last season but not by much.

Seattle Mariners

1997: 90-72, 1st place, lost to Baltimore in first round of playoffs.

Manager: Lou Piniella (6th season).

He’s Here: 1B David Segui, LHP Tony Fossas, OF Glenallen Hill, IF Pat Listach.

He’s Outta Here: 1B Paul Sorrento, RHP Omar Olivares, 3B Mike Blowers, OF Roberto Kelly, LHP Norm Charlton, RHP Bob Wolcott.

Projected Lineup: 2B Joey Cora, SS Alex Rodriguez, CF Ken Griffey Jr., DH Edgar Martinez, RF Jay Buhner, 1B David Segui, LF Glenallen Hill, 3B Russ Davis, C Dan Wilson.

Rotation: LHP Randy Johnson, LHP Jeff Fassero, LHP Jamie Moyer, RHP Ken Cloude, RHP Felipe Lira.

Relievers: RHP Heathcliff Slocumb, RHP Bob Wells, LHP Tim Davis, RHP Mike Timlin, RHP Bobby Ayala.

Hot Shot: LF Raul Ibanez. Hit .304 with 15 homers and 84 RBIs at Triple-A Tacoma - hit third straight .300-plus season. Could be around all year if Ducey/Amaral platoon sputters.

Hot Spot: Bullpen led the majors with 26 blown saves last year, and club’s inability to sign quality closer again makes Heathcliff Slocumb the man. He can’t afford another 0-9, 5.16 ERA season.

Bottom Line: If the bullpen improves a little, there’s a chance they could win 100 games and play into late October.

Texas Rangers

1997: 77-85, 3rd place, 13 games behind.

Manager: Johnny Oates (4th season).

He’s Here: RHP Aaron Sele, RHP Mark Brandenburg, C Bill Haselman, SS Kevin Elster, 2B Luis Alicea, OF Roberto Kelly, 3B Scott Cooper.

He’s Outta Here: C Jim Leyritz, OF Damon Buford, SS Benji Gil, IF Billy Ripken.

Projected Lineup: CF Tom Goodwin, C Ivan Rodriguez, LF Rusty Greer, RF Juan Gonzalez, 1B Will Clark, DH Lee Stevens, 3B Fernando Tatis, 2B Luis Alicea/Mark McLemore, SS Kevin Elster.

Rotation: RHP John Burkett, LHP Darren Oliver, RHP Aaron Sele, RHP Rick Helling, RHP Roger Pavlik.

Relievers: RHP John Wetteland, RHP Danny Patterson, LHP Eric Gunderson, RHP Julio Santana, RHP Matt Whiteside.

Hot Shot: LHP Matt Perisho. Former Angels lefty pitched well this fall after posting 9-6 mark in minors last season.

Hot Spot: Goodwin has speed to burn, but doesn’t get to show it off much. His .314 on-base percentage was the lowest of any A.L. leadoff hitter. Rangers tried five players at No. 1 a year ago.

Bottom Line: Unless starting pitching improves, this club will return to the cellar.


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