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NL: At a glance

The Spokesman-Review

National League

A team-by-team look at the National League entering spring training, including key players each club acquired and lost, and reporting dates for pitchers and catchers, and full squads:


Atlanta Braves

Manager: Bobby Cox (16th season).

2004: 96-66, first place.

Training Town: Kissimmee, Fla.

Park: Cracker Jack Stadium.

Reporting Dates: Feb. 17/Feb. 22.

He’s Here: RHP Tim Hudson, RHP Danny Kolb, OF Brian Jordan, OF Raul Mondesi, LHP Gabe White, RHP Jay Powell.

He’s Outta Here: OF J.D. Drew, RHP Jaret Wright, RHP Russ Ortiz, RHP Paul Byrd, RHP Antonio Alfonseca, OF Charles Thomas, OF Eli Marrero, RHP Juan Cruz, INF Mark DeRosa, OF Dewayne Wise, RHP Jose Capellan, LHP Dan Meyer, INF-OF Mike Hessman, RHP Tim Drew, RHP Travis Smith.

Outlook: The resourceful Braves have won a record 13 straight division titles, and last year was one of the most improbable. But for the third year in a row, their season ended with a loss at home in Game 5 of the division series, and they haven’t reached the World Series since 1999. Atlanta traded two prime pitching prospects to get a proven ace in Hudson and an All-Star closer in Kolb. He allows RHP John Smoltz to move back into the rotation for the first time since ‘99. The team is taking a chance with the oft-injured Jordan and the troubled Mondesi at the corner outfield spots, but those are the kinds of things that always seem to work out for the Braves. There’s no reason to doubt this team until it finally falters.

Florida Marlins

Manager: Jack McKeon (third season).

2004: 83-79, third place.

Training Town: Jupiter, Fla.

Park: Roger Dean Stadium.

Reporting Dates: Feb. 17/Feb. 20.

He’s Here: 1B Carlos Delgado, LHP Al Leiter, RHP Todd Jones, RHP Antonio Alfonseca, RHP Jim Mecir, RHP John Riedling, LHP Chad Bentz, C Mike DiFelice, INF Wilson Delgado, RHP Travis Smith, OF Mark Little.

He’s Outta Here: RHP Carl Pavano, RHP Armando Benitez, RHP Chad Fox, C Mike Redmond, RHP Billy Koch, INF Mike Mordecai, RHP David Weathers, RHP Rudy Seanez, RHP Josias Manzanillo, OF Wil Cordero, C Ramon Castro.

Outlook: The 2003 World Series champions won the bidding for Delgado with a $52 million, four-year contract. He is a perfect fit, giving them both the left-handed power bat and everyday first baseman they were desperately missing. He makes this team a strong contender, maybe even a favorite to reach the playoffs. One of these years RHP Josh Beckett will stay healthy and have a big season. Leiter should help ease the loss of Pavano a bit. OF Juan Encarnacion and OF Jeff Conine are both coming off shoulder surgery. The bullpen is the biggest question mark. RHP Guillermo Mota takes over as the closer. The defense is a plus.

New York Mets

Manager: Willie Randolph (first season).

2004: 71-91, fourth place.

Training Town: Port St. Lucie, Fla.

Park: Tradition Field.

Reporting Dates: Feb. 16/Feb. 21.

He’s Here: RHP Pedro Martinez, CF Carlos Beltran, 1B Doug Mientkiewicz, 2B Miguel Cairo, LHP Felix Heredia, LHP Dae Sung Koo, RHP Roberto Hernandez, LHP Scott Stewart, LHP Mike Matthews, 1B Andres Galarraga, C Ramon Castro, 2B Marlon Anderson, SS Chris Woodward, OF Kerry Robinson, OF Ron Calloway, RHP Juan Padilla.

He’s Outta Here: LHP Al Leiter, RF Richard Hidalgo, RHP Ricky Bottalico, LHP Mike Stanton, LHP John Franco, 1B-3B Todd Zeile, C Vance Wilson, LHP Pedro Feliciano, INF Wilson Delgado, RHP Jose Parra.

Outlook: New GM Omar Minaya became the star of the off-season by landing Beltran and Martinez, who showed up at spring training eight days early. They give the Mets instant credibility in the Big Apple and a realistic hope of contending. They also take a lot of pressure off 3B David Wright, a budding young star who could one day become a New York icon. But some of Minaya’s best moves were the quiet ones: Mientkiewicz fills a huge hole at 1B, and Cairo provides much-needed depth in the infield. Jose Reyes moves back to SS, and Mike Cameron begrudgingly shifts from CF to RF. He’s recovering from wrist surgery. The rotation is five-deep, if healthy. Despite all the excitement, this team is still injury-prone and the bullpen is a big problem. Randolph will be scrutinized. C Mike Piazza enters the final year of his contract.

Philadelphia Phillies

Manager: Charlie Manuel (first season).

2004: 86-76, second place.

Training Town: Clearwater, Fla.

Park: Bright House Networks Field.

Reporting Dates: Feb. 17/Feb. 22.

He’s Here: RHP Jon Lieber, OF Kenny Lofton, RHP Terry Adams, LHP Aaron Fultz, INF Jose Offerman, RHP Pedro Liriano.

He’s Outta Here: LHP Eric Milton, RHP Kevin Millwood, OF Doug Glanville, RHP Felix Rodriguez, RHP Todd Jones, RHP Roberto Hernandez, INF-OF Lou Collier, INF-C Shawn Wooten.

Outlook: Still looking for their first playoff appearance since 1993, the Phillies were a big disappointment after entering last season as an N.L. East favorite. Fiery manager Larry Bowa was replaced with the folksy Manuel, who beat out seven other candidates, including Jim Leyland. Manuel won a division title during his stint as manager of the Indians from 2000-02. Injuries took a huge toll last year, so closer Billy Wagner, LHP Randy Wolf, and RHP Vicente Padilla must stay healthy. That’s no sure thing. Philadelphia didn’t do much to upgrade other than signing Lieber. Anchored by 1B Jim Thome, the middle of the lineup is still dangerous. Chase Utley is expected to take over every day at 2B.

Washington Nationals

Manager: Frank Robinson (fourth season).

2004: 67-95, fifth place.

Training Town: Viera, Fla.

Park: Space Coast Stadium.

Reporting Dates: Feb. 15/Feb. 20.

He’s Here: OF Jose Guillen, 3B Vinny Castilla, SS Cristian Guzman, RHP Esteban Loaiza, RHP Antonio Osuna, 1B-OF Wil Cordero, C Gary Bennett, INF George Arias, 3B Phil Hiatt, INF Jared Sandberg, C Keith Osik, RHP Hector Carrasco, RHP Chad Durbin, RHP Seth Greisinger, RHP Luis Pineda, LHP Micah Bowie, OF Jeffrey Hammonds, OF J.J. Davis, OF Carlton Godwin, INF Tony Blanco.

He’s Outta Here: 3B Tony Batista, OF Juan Rivera, C Einar Diaz, RHP Rocky Biddle, RHP Sun-Woo Kim, LHP Scott Downs, OF Ron Calloway, LHP Chad Bentz, OF Valentino Pascucci, SS-2B Maicer Izturis.

Outlook: The former Montreal Expos finally have a permanent home. As they begin their first season in Washington, many details are still unsettled. But interim GM Jim Bowden did the best he could in piecing together the roster, and this team can be competitive. 1B Nick Johnson, RHP Zach Day, RHP Tomo Ohka and RHP Tony Armas Jr. have had trouble staying healthy. All-Star 2B Jose Vidro is coming off knee surgery. RHP Livan Hernandez remains an effective workhorse. Guillen can hit – his attitude is the issue. But Bowden believes in him. 1B Brad Wilkerson had 32 HRs last year.


Chicago Cubs

Manager: Dusty Baker (third season).

2004: 89-73, third place.

Training Town: Mesa, Ariz.

Park: HoHoKam Park.

Reporting Dates: Feb. 16/Feb. 21.

He’s Here: OF Jeromy Burnitz, 2B-OF Jerry Hairston Jr., C Henry Blanco, RHP Chad Fox, RHP Scott Williamson, INF Dave Hansen, LHP Stephen Randolph, RHP Roberto Novoa, LHP Eddie Oropesa, INF Cody Ransom, OF Peter Bergeron, OF Angel Echevarria, OF Rene Reyes, LHP Raul Valdez.

He’s Outta Here: RF Sammy Sosa, LF Moises Alou, RHP Matt Clement, 2B Mark Grudzielanek, RHP Kyle Farnsworth, LHP Kent Mercker, C Paul Bako, OF Ben Grieve, INF Ramon Martinez, OF Tom Goodwin, C Mike DiFelice.

Outlook: The Cubs actually had a better record last year than in 2003, when they came within five outs of their first pennant since 1945. But they blew a wild-card lead down the stretch, Sosa clashed with Baker and a difficult off-season followed. Burnitz and OF Todd Hollandsworth probably can’t come close to matching the production of Sosa and Alou, who combined for 74 HRs and 186 RBIs. The back of the bullpen is still a problem, but an outstanding rotation that includes RHP Kerry Wood, RHP Mark Prior, RHP Carlos Zambrano and 300-game winner Greg Maddux could keep this team in contention. The infield looks solid after SS Nomar Garciaparra re-signed, a one-year deal worth $8 million.

Cincinnati Reds

Manager: Dave Miley (third season).

2004: 76-86, fourth place.

Training Town: Sarasota, Fla.

Park: Ed Smith Stadium.

Reporting Dates: Feb. 15/Feb. 21.

He’s Here: LHP Eric Milton, 3B Joe Randa, RHP David Weathers, LHP Kent Mercker, RHP Ben Weber, RHP Ramon Ortiz, SS Rich Aurilia, RHP Ricky Stone, INF Luis Lopez, C Bobby Estalella, RHP Jared Fernandez.

He’s Outta Here: SS Barry Larkin, INF Juan Castro, LHP Gabe White, OF Darren Bragg, RHP Todd Van Poppel, RHP John Riedling, LHP Phil Norton, LHP Mike Matthews, OF John Vander Wal, RHP Juan Padilla, C Corky Miller.

Outlook: The Reds have gone four straight years without a winning season, their longest such stretch since 1945-55. After a very quiet off-season last year, they were much more active this time around. They upgraded the bullpen and re-signed RHP Paul Wilson. But they probably overpaid for Milton. He gave up 43 HRs with Philadelphia last season. Cincinnati allowed a club-record 907 runs – most in the majors – and 236 homers, three shy of the N.L. record. Ortiz is also susceptible to home runs. The lineup is formidable if everyone is healthy, but that’s a big if. CF Ken Griffey Jr. was on his way to a productive season in 2004 before he got hurt again. The bench could be a strength, but it’s hard to see this team contending. The Reds bid farewell to Larkin, their longtime captain.

Houston Astros

Manager: Phil Garner (first full season).

2004: 92-70, second place, wild card.

Training Town: Kissimmee, Fla.

Park: Osceola County Stadium.

Reporting Dates: Feb. 17/Feb. 23.

He’s Here: LHP John Franco, LHP Phil Norton, RHP Dave Burba, RHP Turk Wendell, OF Trenidad Hubbard, OF Charles Gipson, 1B Carlos Rivera, RHP Travis Driskill.

He’s Outta Here: CF Carlos Beltran, 2B Jeff Kent, RHP Wade Miller, RHP Dan Miceli, LHP Darren Oliver.

Outlook: The Astros went on a tear down the stretch last season under Garner, who replaced Jimy Williams at the All-Star break. They won a playoff series for the first time in franchise history and took St. Louis to seven games in the NLCS. But they failed to re-sign Beltran, and the depleted lineup will also miss Kent. Plus, OF Lance Berkman is coming off right knee surgery and probably won’t be ready for opening day. He tore his ACL while playing flag football soon after the season ended. New GM Tim Purpura might look to add a bat. RHP Roger Clemens is back, fresh off his record seventh Cy Young Award. At 42, he put off retirement again for an $18 million, one-year deal. Joined by a healthy Andy Pettitte, RHP Roy Oswalt and RHP Brandon Backe, the stellar rotation could carry this team right back into the postseason. Brad Lidge emerged as a premier closer last October.

Milwaukee Brewers

Manager: Ned Yost (third season).

2004: 67-94, sixth place.

Training Town: Phoenix.

Park: Maryvale Baseball Park.

Reporting Dates: Feb. 19/Feb. 25.

He’s Here: LF Carlos Lee, C Damian Miller, RHP Ricky Bottalico, 3B Jeff Cirillo, RHP Jose Capellan, RHP Justin Lehr.

He’s Outta Here: RHP Danny Kolb, CF Scott Podsednik, SS Craig Counsell, 2B-3B Keith Ginter, RHP Luis Vizcaino, C Gary Bennett.

Outlook: The small-budget Brewers were actually four games better than .500 at the All-Star break, but they collapsed in the second half. They went 22-53 the rest of the way, a .293 winning percentage that was the worst since 1900 for any team that had a winning record at the break. They traded Kolb, an All-Star closer, for Capellan, an elite prospect with a big arm. Lee was acquired to boost a dismal offense that ranked last in the majors in slugging percentage (.387) and 29th in runs (634). He provides much-needed power from the right side and will bat between left-handed hitters Lyle Overbay (53 doubles) and Geoff Jenkins (93 RBIs), who moves from LF to RF. RHP Ben Sheets was one of the best pitchers in the league last year despite recurring back pain. He had surgery in the off-season. LHP Doug Davis (3.39 ERA) has been a nice find. The rest of the young rotation is a work in progress. 2B Junior Spivey returns from a shoulder injury. J.J. Hardy gets a chance at SS, and more prospects are coming. The bullpen is a mess. Milwaukee hasn’t had a winning season since 1992, and that streak will probably continue.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Manager: Lloyd McClendon (fifth season).

2004: 72-89, fifth place.

Training Town: Bradenton, Fla.

Park: McKechnie Field.

Reporting Dates: Feb. 17/Feb. 22.

He’s Here: RF Matt Lawton, LHP Mark Redman, C Benito Santiago, RHP Todd Ritchie, OF Ben Grieve, RHP Rick White, RHP Kirk Bullinger, RHP Joe Roa, RHP Albie Lopez, INF-OF Howie Clark, INF-OF Cesar Crespo, OF Jon Nunnally, RHP Brian Reith, 2B-SS Jorge Velandia.

He’s Outta Here: C Jason Kendall, RHP Brian Boehringer, 2B-SS Abraham Nunez, OF Tony Alvarez, 1B Carlos Rivera, OF J.J. Davis, LHP Frank Brooks, RHP Nelson Figueroa.

Outlook: Coming off their 12th straight losing season, the Pirates finally unloaded Kendall’s big contract by trading the three-time All-Star to Oakland, saving themselves about $15 million. This team is trying to build for the future with a limited budget, and there are some reasons for optimism. LF Jason Bay was the N.L. Rookie of the Year. Talented LHP Oliver Perez (12-10, 2.98 ERA) appears to be on his way to fulfilling his promise. SS Jack Wilson (201 hits) had a breakout season and made the All-Star team. 1B Craig Wilson (29 HRs) has power. RHP Kip Wells is coming back from elbow tendinitis. Lawton had a solid season in Cleveland last year and should help the offense. He could bat leadoff. Several young pitching prospects are on the way. Still, this club has too many holes to have any real hope of contending.

St. Louis Cardinals

Manager: Tony La Russa (10th season).

2004: 105-57, first place, won pennant.

Training Town: Jupiter, Fla.

Park: Roger Dean Stadium.

Reporting Dates: Feb. 18/Feb. 22.

He’s Here: LHP Mark Mulder, 2B Mark Grudzielanek, SS David Eckstein, C Einar Diaz, LHP Mike Myers, 2B-SS Abraham Nunez, RHP Toby Borland, RHP Chris Gissell, RHP Bob File, INF Wilton Guerrero, OF Raul Gonzalez, OF Brandon Berger.

He’s Outta Here: SS Edgar Renteria, C Mike Matheny, 2B Tony Womack, RHP Woody Williams, LHP Steve Kline, RHP Dan Haren, RHP Kiko Calero, OF Ray Lankford, 2B-OF Marlon Anderson, RHP Jason Simontacchi.

Outlook: With a powerful lineup, terrific defense and surprising pitching, the Cardinals rolled to the best record in baseball last year. Then they played four wretched games in a row and were swept by Boston in the World Series, leaving them without a title since 1982. Mulder gives the Cardinals a legitimate No. 1 starter, something they’ve been missing. As long as he rebounds from last season’s second-half slide, he makes them a threat to repeat as N.L. champions despite several key losses. RHP Matt Morris re-signed for one year at a bargain price. He’s coming off shoulder surgery and might not be 100 percent until May. But the rotation should be steady, especially if RHP Chris Carpenter comes back healthy. Yadier Molina tries to replace Matheny’s Gold Glove. Even without Renteria, this team should score plenty of runs thanks to 1B Albert Pujols, 3B Scott Rolen, CF Jim Edmonds and RF Larry Walker. St. Louis fans will fall in love with Eckstein.


Arizona Diamondbacks

Manager: Bob Melvin (first season).

2004: 51-111, fifth place.

Training Town: Tucson, Ariz.

Park: Tucson Electric Park.

Reporting Dates: Feb. 16/Feb. 21.

He’s Here: RF Shawn Green, 3B Troy Glaus, RHP Russ Ortiz, RHP Javier Vazquez, LHP Shawn Estes, 2B Craig Counsell, OF Jose Cruz Jr., SS Royce Clayton, 1B Tony Clark, C Kelly Stinnett, LHP Brad Halsey, RHP Jose Jimenez.

He’s Outta Here: LHP Randy Johnson, 1B Richie Sexson, 1B Shea Hillenbrand, RHP Matt Mantei, RHP Steve Sparks, OF Danny Bautista, LHP Casey Fossum, LHP Stephen Randolph, 1B Greg Colbrunn, LHP Jeff Fassero, INF Carlos Baerga, RHP Mike Fetters, RHP Shane Reynolds, RHP Scott Service, RHP Andrew Good, RHP Chad Durbin.

Outlook: Coming off one of the worst seasons in N.L. history, the Diamondbacks’ new ownership group vowed to build a contender quickly, so they overhauled the roster during a wild off-season. First, the team botched the hiring and firing of manager Wally Backman. He was soon replaced with Melvin, fired by Seattle after last season. Melvin was Bob Brenly’s bench coach when Arizona won the World Series in 2001. Next, the front office spent $78 million on Glaus and Ortiz. Johnson was finally traded for Vazquez and Halsey, and Green arrived in a deal with the Dodgers. All of a sudden, the Diamondbacks had a respectable roster. They hope to contend in a wide-open division, but this team probably looks better on paper than on the field. LF Luis Gonzalez is coming off reconstructive elbow surgery.

Colorado Rockies

Manager: Clint Hurdle (fourth season).

2004: 68-94, fourth place.

Training Town: Tucson, Ariz.

Park: Hi Corbett Field.

Reporting Dates: Feb. 17/Feb. 22.

He’s Here: OF Dustan Mohr, INF Desi Relaford, LHP Darren Oliver, INF-OF Greg Norton, INF Alfredo Amezaga, RHP Tim Drew, C Tom Wilson, RHP Aaron Taylor.

He’s Outta Here: 3B Vinny Castilla, OF Jeromy Burnitz, SS Royce Clayton, LHP Shawn Estes, RHP Steve Reed, RHP Tim Harikkala, OF Mark Sweeney, LHP Denny Neagle, RHP Denny Stark.

Outlook: The Rockies might take a step backward while they put their young players on the field and wait for them to develop. Now that Larry Walker, Castilla and Burnitz are gone, All-Star 1B Todd Helton will be asked to carry the offense. Plagued by knee injuries last year, CF Preston Wilson hopes to return to his 2003 form. Ex-closer Shawn Chacon moves back into the rotation, joining a promising group that includes LHP Joe Kennedy (3.66 ERA) and RHP Jason Jennings. LHP Jeff Francis is a premier prospect. Colorado had by far the worst ERA in the majors last season (5.54), though Coors Field always has something to do with that. This team appears headed for a last-place finish.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Manager: Jim Tracy (fifth season).

2004: 93-69, first place.

Training Town: Vero Beach, Fla.

Park: Holman Stadium.

Reporting Dates: Feb. 18/Feb. 23.

He’s Here: OF J.D. Drew, 2B Jeff Kent, RHP Derek Lowe, 3B Jose Valentin, 3B Norihiro Nakamura, OF Ricky Ledee, C Paul Bako, LHP Frank Brooks, RHP Scott Erickson.

He’s Outta Here: 3B Adrian Beltre, 1B-RF Shawn Green, CF Steve Finley, RHP Jose Lima, 2B Alex Cora, INF Jose Hernandez, RHP Paul Shuey, RHP Hideo Nomo, 3B-1B Robin Ventura, C Brent Mayne, LHP Scott Stewart, C Tom Wilson.

Outlook: The Dodgers rallied past rival San Francisco on the final Saturday of the regular season to win the N.L. West and reach the playoffs for the first time in eight years. Pretty satisfying. But they still haven’t won a postseason series since 1988, and they probably declined during the off-season. They gave a $55 million, five-year deal to Drew, who couldn’t stay healthy until his contract year. The departures of Beltre, Green and Finley leave too many holes in a lineup that was completely inept just two years ago. Lowe got $36 million after an impressive postseason with Boston, but he is often inconsistent. Still, the rotation should be solid, and Dodger Stadium is a great place to pitch. The team wisely re-signed LHP Odalis Perez. 1B Hee Seop Choi gets a chance to play every day. Valentin shifts from SS to 3B. Catcher is a question mark, and the defense at 2B and 3B could be a problem. RHP Darren Dreifort is scheduled for his fourth operation of the off-season on Tuesday. At least closer Eric Gagne is a sure thing.

San Diego Padres

Manager: Bruce Bochy (11th season).

2004: 87-75, third place.

Training Town: Peoria, Ariz.

Park: Peoria Sports Complex.

Reporting Dates: Feb. 18/Feb. 23.

He’s Here: RHP Woody Williams, CF Dave Roberts, LHP Chris Hammond, OF-INF Eric Young, RHP Rudy Seanez, LHP Dennys Reyes, OF Mark Sweeney, RHP Steve Sparks, RHP Miguel Asencio, INF Geoff Blum, RHP Ryan Bukvich, 2B-SS Damian Jackson, 2B-SS Jesse Garcia, LHP Darrell May, RHP Danny Patterson.

He’s Outta Here: LHP David Wells, OF Jay Payton, OF Terrence Long, SS Alex S. Gonzalez, RHP Antonio Osuna, INF Dave Hansen, SS Rich Aurilia, RHP Jay Witasick, RHP Ricky Stone, OF Kerry Robinson, RHP Dennis Tankersley, RHP Andy Ashby, 1B-OF Robert Fick, RHP Steve Watkins.

Outlook: The Padres improved by 23 wins last season and stayed in the playoff race until the final week. They finished with their best record since 1998, when they won the N.L. pennant. The team made mostly minor tweaks in the off-season, and there’s no reason it can’t contend again. The loss of Wells might hurt, but Williams is a capable replacement. RHP Jake Peavy (15-6) led the majors with a 2.27 ERA, and RHP Brian Lawrence was reliable. Roberts gives the team an experienced leadoff hitter and some much-needed speed. All-Star 2B Mark Loretta (.335) and SS Khalil Greene, runner-up for Rookie of the Year, form a productive duo up the middle. Phil Nevin and Brian Giles anchor the lineup. The underrated bullpen is strong at the back end, with Scott Linebrink (7-3, 2.14), Akinori Otsuka (7-2, 1.75) and Trevor Hoffman (41 saves, 2.30).

San Francisco Giants

Manager: Felipe Alou (third season).

2004: 91-71, second place.

Training Town: Scottsdale, Ariz.

Park: Scottsdale Stadium.

Reporting Dates: Feb. 17/Feb. 22.

He’s Here: RF Moises Alou, RHP Armando Benitez, SS Omar Vizquel, C Mike Matheny, LHP Jeff Fassero, LHP Armando Almanza, RHP Matt Kinney, RHP Jeremy Fikac, RHP Brandon Puffer, RHP Brandon Villafuerte.

He’s Outta Here: C A.J. Pierzynski, OF Dustan Mohr, RHP Dave Burba, RHP Dustin Hermanson, RHP Robb Nen, INF Cody Ransom.

Outlook: The Giants just missed the playoffs last season and they know time is running out for Barry Bonds to win a World Series ring. That’s why they’re happy to have so many veterans. But age is a serious concern for this team. Five regulars will be at least 37 on opening day, including the entire outfield, and all eight are older than 30. It remains to be seen if everyone can hold up throughout the long season. Alou, the manager’s son, is the perfect guy to bat behind Bonds. GM Brian Sabean focused on defense in the off-season, adding Vizquel and Matheny, who own 12 Gold Gloves between them. Benitez is coming off a great year with Florida and fills a huge void because this team desperately needed a proven closer. But he’s faltered repeatedly under pressure in the past, and if the Giants end up in a tight playoff race he’s far from a sure bet. RHP Jason Schmidt is one of the best pitchers in baseball, but he is asked to carry a heavy load on this staff. Bonds, who won his seventh MVP award last year and boosted his home run total to 703, will be sidelined for much of spring training following knee surgery last month. But he’s expected to be ready by opening day to resume his pursuit of Babe Ruth (714) and Hank Aaron (755).

Mike Fitzpatrick, Associated Press

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