NL West Spring Training Preview

NL West Spring Training Preview

As pitchers and catchers report to Arizona Diamondbacks spring training camp Friday, we examine the roster changes and positional battles across the NL West.

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS ROSTER REPORT

The Diamondbacks made all of their significant moves on Dec. 14, when they pulled off trades with the A's, Astros, and Royals to add top offseason target RHP Dan Haren, INF/OF Chris Burke to fill out their quota of 13 position players, and RHP Chad Qualls to compensate for the loss of closer Jose Valverde. They believe they are a better team than the one that won the NL West last season.

ARRIVALS: RHP Dan Haren (trade with A's), INF/OF Chris Burke (trade with Astros), RHP Chad Qualls (trade with Astros), RHP Juan Gutierrez (trade with Astros), RHP Billy Buckner (trade with Astros).

DEPARTURES: LHP Randy Choate (free agent, signed with Brewers), 1B Tony Clark (free agent, unsigned), RHP Jose Valverde (trade to Astros), RHP Livan Hernandez (free agent, unsigned), INF Alberto Callaspo (trade to Royals), RHP Bob Wickman (free agent, retired), OF Carlos Quentin (trade to White Sox), Carlos Gonzalez (trade to A's), LHP Greg Smith LHP (trade to A's), Dana Eveland (trade to A's), 3B Jeff Cirillo (free agent, unsigned).

SPRING FOCUS: The cautiously optimistic Diamondbacks hope to get a better handle on LHP Randy Johnson's health after his August back surgery, believing the six weeks in Tucson will give them a definitive read on his condition. Johnson suffered a minor setback last spring after coming back from October 2006 surgery on the same herniated disk, and he may have let his competitiveness get the best of him in a rush to return after his trade from the Yankees. The Diamondbacks would not have traded Valverde if they did not believe their bullpen would be as efficient with RHPs Brandon Lyon, Tony Pena and Qualls.

PROJECTED ROTATION:
1. RHP Brandon Webb
2. LHP Randy Johnson
3. RHP Dan Haren
4. LHP Doug Davis
5. RHP Micah Owings

Webb has finished 1-2 in the NL Cy Young Award balloting the past two seasons, winning the award in 2006. He led the league with 236 1/3 innings last season and has averaged 233 2/3 over the past three seasons. Haren, a similar workhorse, is the only pitcher in the majors with at least 34 starts in each of the past three seasons. He has averaged 220 2/3 innings per year in that time.

Johnson's placement between Webb and Haren should enable the bullpen to be at its freshest when, in theory, it would be needed most. Davis set a career high with 13 victories in his first season with the Diamondbacks, and Owings was third in among NL rookies with eight victories last year.

PROJECTED BULLPEN:
RHP Brandon Lyon (closer)
RHP Tony Pena
RHP Chad Qualls
RHP Juan Cruz
LHP Doug Slaten
RHP Edgar Gonzalez
RHP Dustin Nippert

Lyon will inherit the closer's role from mercurial RHP Jose Valverde and provide a 180-degree style change from Valverde, whose superstitions and flamboyance rubbed some foes the wrong way. Lyon converted 13 of 14 save opportunities before an elbow injury sidelined him six weeks into 2005.  By hitting 95 mph in the second half last season, he convinced the Diamondbacks he was back.

Pena has a closer's repertoire: a mid-90s fastball and a high-80s slider. He will handle the eighth inning, with newcomer Qualls slated for the seventh. Cruz began his career as a starter but has found his niche in middle relief, and Slaten is a serviceable situational specialist. Gonzalez is a long man and performed admirably as Johnson's stand-in last season.

PROJECTED LINEUP:
1. LF Eric Byrnes
2. 2B Orlando Hudson
3. 1B Conor Jackson
4. 3B Mark Reynolds
5. CF Chris Young
6. SS Stephen Drew
7. RF Justin Upton
8. C Chris Snyder

The Diamondbacks took off in the second half last season when manager Bob Melvin put Young into the leadoff position, dropped former leadoff man Byrnes into a production spot in the order, and turned both loose on the bases. Both are fast -- and smart. Byrnes had a major league-high streak of 30 consecutive stolen bases last season and finished 50 of 57 in steals. Young was 27 of 33.

The lineup does not have a so-called legitimate power bat in the middle, although Reynolds has light-tower potential. The Diamondbacks do not consider this deficiency a detriment, instead feeling they have production up and down the order. They may bunch some speed lower in the order as well as at the top, but the lineup card is sure to be a daily adventure again in 2008.  Snyder had a career year at the plate in 2007 and always has been a consummate handler of the staff.

PROJECTED RESERVES:
C Miguel Montero
1B/3B Chad Tracy
INF Augie Ojeda
INF/OF Chris Burke
OF Jeff Salazar

Tracy is expected to be a more versatile version of free agent Tony Clark, who did not return. He could play both first and third base against selected right-handers to give right-handed hitters Jackson and Reynolds a day off if he's healthy. Montero had three pinch homers last season, so he will continue to see significant action off the bench.  

Ojeda and Salazar were valuable contributors in the stretch run a year ago, and both understand and embrace their roles. Newcomer Burke can handle a number of roles and may benefit from a change in scenery after seemingly falling out of favor with the Astros.

TOP ROOKIES: RHP Max Scherzer, the 11th player chosen in the 2006 draft, is a candidate for the bullpen after rocketing through the Diamondbacks' system. He didn't sign until May 2007, and he opened at Class A Visalia (2-0, 0.53). Scherzer was promoted to Class AA Mobile (4-4, 3.91) before concluding in the Arizona Fall League (1-1, 2.13), a finishing school for top prospects.

2B Emilio Bonifacio is the heir apparent to Orlando Hudson, a free agent after this season.  The Dominican infielder is considered the fastest player in the system after leading the Southern League with 41 stolen bases while hitting .285 for Mobile, earning himself a September call to the majors.

RHPs Juan Gutierrez and Billy Buckner, winter acquisitions, are expected to open at Class AAA Tucson for more seasoning.  They could each step in for injuries later in the season.

MEDICAL WATCH:

LHP Randy Johnson (back surgery in August, 2007) had the same herniated disk repaired for the second time in a year. Although he is expected to be ready when the team reports to spring training, the 44-year-old's health will always be a question.

2B Orlando Hudson (left thumb surgery in September, 2007) will be completely recovered by the time the team reports to camp in February.

1B/3B Chad Tracy (microfracture surgery on right knee in September, 2007) had his rehab slowed in November by a blood clot. He is likely to open the 2008 season on the disabled list.

LHP Doug Slaten (microfracture surgery on right knee in October, 2007) may be limited in early spring drills, but is expected to be ready for Opening Day.


COLORADO ROCKIES ROSTER REPORT

The Rockies have made few changes from their postseason team. They lost RHP Josh Fogg, 2B Kaz Matsui and RHP LaTroy Hawkins to free agency. RHP Luis Vizcaino was signed to replace Hawkins, RHP Kip Wells will compete for Fogg's spot in the rotation, and 2B Jayson Nix gets the first shot at Matsui's job.

ARRIVALS: RHP Luis Vizcaino (free agent from Yankees), RHP Jose Capellan (trade with Tigers), RHP Kip Wells (free agent from Cardinals), 2B Marcus Giles (minor league free agent from Padres), OF Scott Podsednik (minor league free agent from White Sox), LHP Chris George (minor league free agent from Rangers), LHP Micah Bowie (minor league free agent from Nationals), RHP Josh Towers (free agent from Blue Jays).

DEPARTURES: RHP LaTroy Hawkins (free agent, signed with Yankees), 2B Kaz Matsui (free agent, signed with Astros), LHP Jeremy Affeldt (free agent, signed with Reds), RHP Josh Fogg (free agent, unsigned), 2B Jamey Carroll (traded to Indians), RHP Denny Bautista (traded to Tigers), RHP Elmer Dessens (free agent, signed minor league deal with Pirates), RHP Jorge Julio (free agent, signed minor league deal with Indians), RHP Rodrigo Lopez (free agent, unsigned).

SPRING FOCUS: The Rockies have to find a second baseman. Jayson Nix gets the first shot. He will be challenged by Clint Barmes and Omar Quintanilla as well as Ian Stewart and Jeff Baker, third basemen who have worked out at second this offseason, and Marcus Giles, released by San Diego. Two rotation spots are open. RHP Jason Hirsh is leading candidate for one of the jobs. Other candidates include LHPs Franklin Morales and Mark Redman, plus RHPs Kip Wells and Josh Towers.

PROJECTED ROTATION:
1. LHP Jeff Francis
2. RHP Aaron Cook
3. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
4. RHP Jason Hirsh
5. RHP Kip Wells

Francis, Cook and Jimenez are set. Francis equaled a franchise record with 17 wins last season. Cook signed a multiyear deal through 2011 in the offseason. Jimenez was the midseason addition who filled a major void in the Rockies' pennant drive.

Hirsh is the leading candidate for one of the two open spots, having shown potential last year before suffering a fractured right fibula. Wells will compete with lefties LHPs Mark Redman and Franklin Morales, all of whom would wind up in the bullpen if they don't make the rotation.

PROJECTED BULLPEN:
RHP Manny Corpas (closer)
LHP Brian Fuentes
RHP Luis Vizcaino
RHP Matt Herges
RHP Ryan Speier
RHP Ramon Ramirez
LHP Franklin Morales

Fuentes will be watched closely this spring. He has been an All-Star selection as a closer the past three seasons, but he lost his job to Corpas last season. Fuentes had struggled and then wound up on the disabled list, so Corpas moved into the ninth-inning job and dominated hitters.

The Rockies would like a third lefty, and they will look at Redman, John Koronka, Micah Bowie and Chris George to fill that role. Ramirez was effective against lefties two years ago, but last year was bothered with shoulder soreness.

PROJECTED LINEUP:
1. CF Willy Taveras
2. SS Troy Tulowitzki
3. LF Matt Holliday
4. 1B Todd Helton
5. 3B Garrett Atkins
6. RF Brad Hawpe
7. C Yorvit Torrealba
8. 2B Jayson Nix

Tulowitzki moves into the No. 2 slot in lineup, replacing Kaz Matsui, who signed with Houston. Tulowitzki hit second last year when Matsui was hurt or when Matsui batted leadoff in place of Taveras. Nix takes over at the bottom of the lineup.

Taveras is team's only stolen base threat. The Rockies can, however, score quickly. Their numbers 2 through 6 hitters are all 25-plus homer candidates.

PROJECTED RESERVES:
C Edwin Bellorin
INF Clint Barmes
INF Jeff Baker
OF Cory Sullivan
OF Ryan Spilborghs

Sullivan is a left-handed-hitting alternative to Taveras in center field. He is defensively superior but doesn't have the stolen base threat. Spilborghs provides bench power and an ability to play all three outfield positions. Non-roster invitee Scott Podsednik also will battle for an outfield job.

Baker is the versatility key. He can play first, third, left and right, and he is a home run threat. Barmes can play any infield position and also center field. He was the Opening Day shortstop in 2005 and 2006. Bellorin gets his first big-league opportunity, as the Rockies want C Chris Iannetta to catch every day at Class AAA so he can develop.

TOP ROOKIES: LHP Franklin Morales was on the big league roster the last two months last season and throughout the postseason. He is a power arm who eventually could become a No. 1 or 2 starter, but he also has dominant enough stuff that he could be a late-inning reliever.

2B Jayson Nix will get every chance to win the starting job. He is coming off an MVP run for Team USA at the World Cup last November.

MEDICAL WATCH:

RHP Jason Hirsh (fractured right fibula) missed the final two months of the regular season and the postseason, but he is on schedule to be ready by Opening Day.


SAN DIEGO PADRES ROSTER REPORT

Arizona and Colorado both eclipsed the Padres in 2007 -- the Rockies in the 13th inning of a one-game playoff for the wild-card berth -- with younger and homegrown teams that figure to keep improving. The Padres want to follow the same plan, but the improving crop in their farm system is not quite ready to be fully harvested. Three rookies, INFs Matt Antonelli and Chase Headley plus LHP Wade Leblanc, shall each receive shots at making the big league club this spring.

ARRIVALS: RHP Mauro Zarate (waiver claim from Marlins), INF Luis Rodriguez (waiver claim from Twins), 1B Tony Clark (free agent from Diamondbacks), 2B Tadahito Iguchi (free agent from Phillies), CF Jim Edmonds (trade with Cardinals), UT Robert Fick (minor league free agent from Nationals), OF Jeff DaVanon (minor league free agent from Athletics), RHP Mark Prior (free agent from Cubs), LHP Randy Wolf (free agent from Dodgers), LHP Glendon Rusch (free agent from Mets), RHP Enrique Gonzalez (waiver claim from Washington), INF/OF Callix Crabbe (Rule 5 draft selection from Brewers), INF Edgar Gonzalez (minor league free agent from Cardinals).

DEPARTURES: CF Mike Cameron (free agent, signed with Brewers), 2B Marcus Giles (released, signed with Rockies), INF Geoff Blum (free agent, signed with Astros), LF Milton Bradley (free agent, signed with Rangers), RHP Doug Brocail (free agent, signed with Astros), RHP Jack Cassel (non-tendered free agent, signed with Astros), OF Brady Clark (released, unsigned), INF Morgan Ensberg (non-tendered free agent, signed minor league deal with Yankees), OF Jason Lane (non-tendered free agent, signed minor league deal with Yankees), RHP Brett Tomko (free agent, signed with Royals), OF Rob Mackowiak (released, signed with Nationals), OF Terrmel Sledge (contract sold to Japan's Nippon Ham Fighters).

SPRING FOCUS: Pick a left-fielder between Scott Hairston and rookies Chase Headley and Chad Huffman; work with the pitchers and catchers on holding runners on (opponents stole 189 bases last season with a 91 percent success rate); decide on the back end of the rotation.

PROJECTED ROTATION:
1. RHP Jake Peavy
2. RHP Chris Young
3. RHP Greg Maddux
4. LHP Randy Wolf
5. RHP Mark Prior

Led by unanimous Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy, this rotation looks great if everyone is healthy.  Peavy led the major leagues with a 2.54 ERA and 240 strikeouts last season and paced the National League with 19 wins. 

Young (9-8, 3.12 ERA) has been spectacular at times and was 8-3 with a 2.00 ERA at the All-Star break last season. But the 6-foot-10 pitcher also concluded each of his first two seasons with the Padres with lower back problems. Maddux turns 42 in April, but he was still a 14-game winner in his Padres debut in 2007.

But both Wolf and Prior are coming off surgery. Prior isn't scheduled to be ready before late May, although the Padres are optimistic given the early throwing rehab program on Prior's post-surgery shoulder.

Until Prior is healthy, the Padres could use LHP Shawn Estes (out all of 2007 following 2006 elbow reconstruction surgery), RHP Justin Germano (7-10 with a 4.46 ERA with the Padres last year), LHP Glendon Rusch, or the recently acquired RHP Enrique Gonzalez as their No. 5 starter. Given the medical history of Prior, Wolf and Young, the Padres will need at least two other starters waiting in the wings.

PROJECTED BULLPEN:
RHP Trevor Hoffman (closer)
RHP Heath Bell
RHP Cla Meredith
RHP Clay Hensley
RHP Kevin Cameron
LHP Joe Thatcher
LHP Justin Hampson
LHP Glendon Rusch

The bullpen has been the Padres' forte since they moved into Petco Park. The big question could be Hoffman (4-5, 2.98 ERA, 42 saves) and how he will rebound from his two blown saves in the Padres' final three games of 2007. Converting either save would have given the Padres a playoff berth. Hoffman's strength in the past has been his ability to bounce back from that rare blown save. But the game's all-time saves leader and Linear Saves leader is also 41 years old. Will Hoffman still feature that necessary 10 mph difference between his fading fastball and changeup?

Bell (6-4, 2.02 ERA, 102 strikeouts in 93 2/3 innings over 81 appearances) had a breakthrough season as the setup man last year, and many believe he's the Padres' closer of the future. Behind him are a corps that gives hitters a lot of different looks: Meredith (5-6, 3.50 ERA in 80 games) with his near-submarine delivery to Thatcher (2-2, 1.29 ERA in 22 games) and his sidearm action. Cameron (2-0, 2.79 ERA in 48 games) was a Rule 5 find last year. Hensley and Rusch could also serve as spot starters, which, given the health history of the projected starters, could become a major factor. The Padres will again go with a seven-man bullpen.

PROJECTED LINEUP:
1. RF Brian Giles
2. 2B Tadahito Iguchi
3. 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff
4. 1B Adrian Gonzalez
5. SS Khalil Greene
6. CF Jim Edmonds
7. LF Scott Hairston
8. C Josh Bard

This is not a fast team. Last year, the Padres stole 55 bases. Giles is the best prospect to lead off, although he is coming off microfracture knee surgery. Iguchi does give the Padres a proven No. 2 hitter. Edmonds could slip in the order if his production again slips, as it has each of the past three seasons.

At numbers. 3-5, the Padres are a lot better than generally believed. Gonzalez and Greene combined to hit 90 doubles and 57 homers and drive in 197 runs last season. Kouzmanoff hit .309 with 17 homers and 70 RBIs in the final 118 games after getting off to a 9-for-83 start. Hairston could be pressed by rookie prospect Chase Headley in left. The switch-hitting Bard hit .406 with runners in scoring position last season.

PROJECTED RESERVES:
C Michael Barrett
1B Tony Clark
INF Oscar Robles
INF/OF Chase Headley
OF Jeff DaVanon

Recent addition Tony Clark serves as the backup for Adrian Gonzalez at first to give him a rest against some tough left-handed pitchers, although Clark has been stronger against right-hander himself recently and Gonzalez showed no signs of fatigue even though he played in 161 contests. Should Chase Headley win the left field job, Hairston would become the fourth outfielder.

TOP ROOKIES: The Padres have three rookies who could make the opening day lineup -- Chase Headley, Matt Antonelli, and LHP Wade Leblanc -- although the latter two, at least, will likely open the season with Class AAA Portland. Headley, the Texas League Player of the Year in 2007 (.330, 20 homers, 78 RBIs) as a third baseman, will get a shot at being the Padres' regular left fielder. Antonelli, the Padres' first-round draft pick in 2006, is the team's second baseman of the future, but needs regular playing time at Triple-A to develop. Like Antonelli, Leblanc advanced from Class A Lake Elsinore to Class AA San Antonio last year.

MEDICAL WATCH:

RF Brian Giles (microfracture knee surgery in October 2007) is listed as doubtful for Opening Day, although he says he'll be ready. He is ahead of his rehab schedule and plans to play at least the final 10 days of the exhibition season.

RHP Trevor Hoffman (arthroscopic right elbow surgery in October 2007) says he will be ready for the start of spring training. RHP Clay Hensley (right labrum surgery in September 2007) is questionable for the start of the 2008 season.

LHP Shawn Estes (elbow reconstruction surgery in June 2006) missed all of the 2007 season. He was re-signed by the Padres to a minor league contract and is expected to be 100 percent by the start of spring training.

RHP Mark Prior (right shoulder surgery in April 2007) was on a limited throwing program going into spring training, although he was ahead of schedule. He hopes to join the Padres rotation by late May.

LHP Randy Wolf (left shoulder surgery in September 2007) is expected to be ready to throw on a regular spring training schedule.


LOS ANGELES DODGERS ROSTER REPORT

With the exception of third base, where Nomar Garciaparra and Andy LaRoche are expected to compete in spring training, the lineup is set at every position. The addition of free agent CF Andruw Jones means that Juan Pierre moves to left and that Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp will have to share time in right field. This makes the club better both offensively and defensively. The rotation is set except for the fifth spot, which will go to RHP Jason Schmidt if he is healthy, and there are several major league veterans in camp on non-roster invitations who will compete for no more than one open spot in the bullpen.

ARRIVALS: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (free agent from Hiroshima Carp), C Gary Bennett (free agent from Cardinals), CF Andruw Jones (free agent from Braves), RHP Mike Koplove (minor league free agent from Indians), LHP Tom Martin (minor league free agent from Rockies), LHP Mike Myers (minor league free agent from White Sox), RHP Chan Ho Park (minor league free agent from Astros).

DEPARTURES: LF Luis Gonzalez (free agent, signed with Marlins), LHP Mark Hendrickson (non-tendered, signed with Marlins, RHP Roberto Hernandez (free agent, unsigned), INF Shea Hillenbrand (free agent, unsigned), RHP D.J. Houlton (contract sold to Fukuoka Softbank Hawks), C Mike Lieberthal (retired), INF Olmedo Saenz (free agent, unsigned), INF Mark Sweeney (free agent, signed minor league deal with A's), LHP David Wells (free agent, unsigned), LHP Randy Wolf (free agent, signed with Padres), C Chad Moeller (free agent, signed minor league deal with Nationals), RHP Chin-hui Tsao (free agent, signed minor league deal with Royals), INF Wilson Valdez (contract sold to Kia Tigers).

SPRING FOCUS: The third base battle between Garciaparra and LaRoche will be intense.  If LaRoche wins the job, it will officially kick off the beginning of a new era in Dodgers baseball in which all four of the club's long-awaited position player prospects -- LaRoche, Russell Martin, Matt Kemp, James Loney -- will be regulars in the lineup together for the first time.

PROJECTED ROTATION:
1. RHP Brad Penny
2. RHP Derek Lowe
3. RHP Hiroki Kuroda
4. RHP Chad Billingsley
5. RHP Jason Schmidt

If the absence of a left-hander in the rotation is a concern, club officials aren't owning up to it. Even if Schmidt isn't ready, he likely will be replaced in the rotation by another righty, Esteban Loaiza.

This rotation is solid all the way through, with Billingsley having long been considered the organization's top pitching prospect and Kuroda having been pursued by as many as 20 teams after he announced over the winter he was coming to the United States. Penny and Lowe are both entering their walk years and thus will have added incentive to pitch well.

PROJECTED BULLPEN:
RHP Takashi Saito (closer)
RHP Jonathan Broxton
RHP Scott Proctor
LHP Joe Beimel
LHP Hong-Chih Kuo
RHP Yhency Brazoban
RHP Rudy Seanez

There are going to be a lot of unhappy big-league veterans at the end of spring training, because the Dodgers are bringing five of them to camp on minor league contracts, and simple math suggests there won't be a spot for any of them, especially now that Seanez is back in the fold. Saito has become one of the game's most reliable closers over the past two seasons, but Broxton has the overpowering stuff to step into the role if Saito falters or suffers an injury.

Brazoban and Kuo are coming off injuries, but they are expected to be healthy by the start of spring training. Beimel and Proctor were a solid lefty-righty combination down the stretch.

PROJECTED LINEUP:
1. SS Rafael Furcal
2. LF Juan Pierre
3. CF Andruw Jones
4. 2B Jeff Kent
5. RF Andre Ethier/Matt Kemp
6. 1B James Loney
7. C Russell Martin
8. 3B Nomar Garciaparra/Andy LaRoche

The Dodgers finished next to last in the National League with 129 home runs last year, and Jones should have a big impact on improving that number even though he is coming off a down year in which he hit only 26 homers and drove in 94 runs while batting .222 for Atlanta. The lineup could improve still if manager Joe Torre has the stones to move the high-priced Pierre into a reserve role and allow young studs Kemp and Ethier a chance to shine.

Any lineup that has Martin hitting seventh is a dangerous one. But even with the addition of Jones, the aging Kent will have to produce in the cleanup spot if the Dodgers are to succeed.

PROJECTED RESERVES:
C Gary Bennett
INF Ramon Martinez
INF Tony Abreu
INF Chin-lung Hu
OF Delwyn Young

If LaRoche beats out Garciaparra, then Abreu, Hu, and Martinez will be competing for one spot on the Opening Day roster because Garciaparra will be the other reserve infielder. If Garciaparra wins the third base job, LaRoche will go back to the minors. That probably would guarantee Martinez a spot, with either Abreu or Hu taking the other one.

Young has never been counted among the organization's top prospects, but he has exceeded expectations at almost every level. He went 13-for-34 (including 4-for-12 as a pinch hitter) in two big-league stints last year, and he somehow found time in between to tie the modern Pacific Coast League record with 54 doubles for Class AAA Las Vegas.

TOP ROOKIES: RHP James McDonald burst onto the organizational scene last year, going a combined 13-9 with a 3.07 ERA at Class A Inland Empire and Class AA Jacksonville. He is going to big-league camp for the first time after being added to the roster this winter.

RHP Jonathan Meloan, a potential closer, was a victim of too many butterflies in his big-league debut, posting an 11.05 ERA in five appearances, but he went a combined 7-2 with a 2.03 ERA at Jacksonville and Class Las Vegas. He has overpowering stuff and probably will be back in the majors sometime this year.

MEDICAL WATCH:

RHP Yhency Brazoban (right shoulder surgery in June 2007) had a torn labrum repaired and is expected to be at full strength by spring training.

SS Rafael Furcal (sprained left ankle) was hampered throughout the 2007 season by his injury, which he suffered in a near-collision with OF Jason Repko in a spring training game. He didn't play after Sept. 18. He is expected to be at full strength by spring training, and his Caribbean World Series performance would suggest he is healthy.

LHP Hong-Chih Kuo (left elbow surgery in July 2007) had bone chips removed and is expected to be at full strength by spring training.

OF Jason Repko (left hamstring surgery in March 2007) had tendons reattached and is expected to be at full strength by spring training.

RHP Jason Schmidt (right shoulder surgery in June 2007) will continue a throwing program at the start of spring training. Club officials are hopeful he will be at full strength by the start of the season.


SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS ROSTER REPORT

GM Brian Sabean acquired just one hitter in the offseason, CF Aaron Rowand, and says he's not currently considering any free agents. He's not ruling out trades before the season; he wants to improve the bullpen and find a third baseman to replace Pedro Feliz. He has his eye on White Sox 3B Joe Crede. The Giants have a promising rotation, but many holes in the lineup and many questions in the relief corps.

ARRIVALS: CF Aaron Rowand (free agent from Phillies), RHP Scott Williamson (minor league free agent from Orioles).

DEPARTURES: LF Barry Bonds (free agent, unsigned), 3B Pedro Feliz (free agent, signed with Phillies), 1B Ryan Klesko (free agent, unsigned), RHP Russ Ortiz (free agent, unsigned), C Mike Matheny (retired), RHP Scott Munter (non-tendered free agent, signed minor league deal with Rays).

SPRING FOCUS: Battles will be ongoing at first base (Daniel Ortmeier vs. Rich Aurilia), second base (Ray Durham vs. Kevin Frandsen) and third base (Aurilia vs. Frandsen). RHP Brian Wilson is the favorite to be the closer, and RHPs Brad Hennessey and Tyler Walker will try to secure setup roles. Who's replacing Bonds in left field? For now, Dave Roberts, who could be traded by the end of spring training.

PROJECTED ROTATION:
1. RHP Matt Cain
2. RHP Tim Lincecum
3. LHP Barry Zito
4. LHP Noah Lowry
5. RHP Kevin Correia

Zito tossed the 2007 opener after signing a seven-year, $126 million contract, but he didn't earn the right to do it again. He went 11-13 and was outpitched by his younger peers, Cain and Lincecum.

GM Brian Sabean didn't do much in the offseason, and perhaps his most important move (at least according to many Giants fans) was not trading Lincecum to Toronto for OF Alex Rios.

PROJECTED BULLPEN:
RHP Brian Wilson (closer)
RHP Brad Hennessey
RHP Tyler Walker
RHP Vinnie Chulk
RHP Randy Messenger
LHP Steve Kline
LHP Jack Taschner
LHP Jonathan Sanchez

RHP Armando Benitez opened last season as the closer, but that predictably failed. Then it was Hennessey's turn, and Hennessey converted 14 consecutive save opportunities before struggling and losing the job to Wilson, the guy the Giants want to win the job because of his mental makeup and hard-throwing repertoire. Hennessey and Walker are present in case Wilson has another bad training camp. Still, Sabean is looking for another proven late-game reliever.

Sanchez was trade bait in the offseason, but neither he nor Lowry fetched the Giants another hitter. So Sanchez is still a Giant, a swing man who could challenge Correia for the final rotation job if Correia struggles in camp.

PROJECTED LINEUP:
1. CF Dave Roberts
2. SS Omar Vizquel
3. RF Randy Winn
4. C Bengie Molina
5. CF Aaron Rowand
6. 2B Ray Durham
7. 1B Daniel Ortmeier
8. 3B Kevin Frandsen

This could change daily. Manager Bruce Bochy wants to play Rowand regularly and Molina and Vizquel (if healthy) most days. Otherwise, it's anyone's guess what the lineup will be day to day after the Giants hit .254 last year (ranked 14th in the NL) and scored 683 runs (15th). A wild card is Frandsen, a natural second baseman who could be moved to third if Durham is the second baseman. But the Giants could try to dump Durham's contract and give the position to Frandsen, then acquire a third baseman elsewhere.

PROJECTED RESERVES:
INF Rich Aurilia
INF Eugenio Velez
OF Rajai Davis
OF Nate Schierholtz
OF Fred Lewis
C Guillermo Rodriguez or C Eliezer Alfonzo

Aurilia, whose days as an everyday player are over, played all four infield positions last year. Velez is lightning quick, but is expected to open in the minors. Davis, Schierholtz and Lewis will need to battle for playing time; a spot would open if Dave Roberts is traded.

Rodriguez and Alfonzo both were solid in winter ball, but there might be just one backup for Bengie Molina.

TOP ROOKIES: RF Nate Schierholtz (.305 lifetime minor league hitter) will be the top rookie in camp. Others include INF/OF Eugenio Velez (122 steals the past two seasons) and LHPs Pat Misch (2.30 ERA in 34 outings at Class AAA Fresno) and Jose Capellan (Rule 5 pick from Boston)

MEDICAL WATCH:

LHP Noah Lowry (forearm tightness in September 2007) is expected to be in season-opening rotation.

RHP Vinnie Chulk (numbness in right middle finger) missed the last five weeks of the 2007 season. He should be ready for the start of spring training.

RHP Merkin Valdez (Tommy John surgery in October 2006) missed all of the 2007 season. The once-promising prospect will come back slowly.


Want to write for FutureBacks.com?  FutureBacks is now opening internships for the upcoming 2008 season.  If you live near one of the six Diamondbacks minor league affiliates, know baseball, and have a writing background, send your resume and two sample pieces of writing (at least one of which must be a journalistic piece about baseball) to future_backs@yahoo.com.   Applicants must be able to attend a minimum of three games per homestand, and students looking for course credit must get approval from their instructors. 

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