National League Preview Capsules

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East

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

2011: 102-60, 1st place (lost to St. Louis in division series)

Manager: Charlie Manuel (8th season)

He’s Here: RHP Jonathan Papelbon, 1B Jim Thome, INF Ty Wigginton, OF Laynce Nix, OF Juan Pierre, OF Scott Podsednik, RHP Joel Pineiro, RHP Chad Qualls

He’s Outta There: RHP Roy Oswalt, RHP Brad Lidge, OF Raul Ibanez, RHP Ryan Madson, OF Ross Gload, OF Ben Francisco, INF Wilson Valdez

Projected Lineup: SS Jimmy Rollins (.268, 16 HRs, 63 RBIs, 30 SB, 87 runs), 3B Placido Polanco (.277, 5, 50), 2B Chase Utley (.259, 11, 44), RF Hunter Pence (.314, 22, 97 with Astros and Phillies), CF Shane Victorino (.279, 17, 61, 16 3Bs, 19 SB), LF John Mayberry Jr. (.273, 15, 49), 1B Ty Wigginton (.242, 15, 47 with Rockies) or Jim Thome (.256, 15, 50 with Twins and Indians), C Carlos Ruiz (.283, 6, 40)

Rotation: RH Roy Halladay (19-6, 2.35 ERA, 8 CGs), LH Cliff Lee (17-9, 2.40, 6 shutouts), LH Cole Hamels (14-9, 2.79), RH Vance Worley (11-3, 3.01), RH Joe Blanton (1-2, 5.01 in 11 games)

Key Relievers: RH Jonathan Papelbon (4-1, 2.94, 31 saves in 34 chances with Boston), LH Antonio Bastardo (6-1, 2.64, 8 saves), RH Michael Stutes (6-2, 3.63), RH Chad Qualls (6-8, 3.51 with Padres), RH Jose Contreras (0-0, 3.86, 5 saves)

Hot Spots: First baseman Ryan Howard will start the season on the disabled list after rupturing his left Achilles on the final swing of last season. It’s unknown when the 2006 NL MVP will return to the lineup, leaving a big void in the cleanup spot. Howard had a setback early in spring training and could miss the first half. Utley’s knee condition could limit him and is an area of concern. Polanco’s health also is worrisome.

Outlook: Anything less than a World Series title is unacceptable in Philadelphia. The Phillies have set the bar very high by winning five consecutive NL East titles and the World Series in 2008. They finished with the most wins in the majors the last two seasons, including a franchise-best 102 victories last year. But they’ve regressed each of the last three seasons, losing the World Series in 2009, losing in the NLCS in 2010 and getting knocked out in the first round last year. With three aces in their rotation and a dominant closer, the Phillies have enough pitching to overcome age, injuries and other deficiencies on offense.

ATLANTA BRAVES

2011: 89-73, 2nd place

Manager: Fredi Gonzalez (2nd season)

He’s Here: SS Tyler Pastornicky

He’s Outta There: RHP Derek Lowe, SS Alex Gonzalez, OF Nate McLouth, INF Brooks Conrad, LHP George Sherrill, RHP Scott Linebrink

Projected Lineup: CF Michael Bourn (.294, 2, 50, NL-leading 61 SB), LF Martin Prado (.260, 13, 57), 3B Chipper Jones (.275, 18, 70 – plans to retire after the season), 2B Dan Uggla (.233, 36, 82), C Brian McCann (.270, 24, 71), 1B Freddie Freeman (.282, 21, 76, runner-up in NL Rookie of the Year balloting), RF Jason Heyward (.227, 14, 42), SS Tyler Pastornicky (.314, 7, 45, 27 SBs combined between Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett)

Rotation: RH Jair Jurrjens (13-6, 2.96 – 1-3, 5.88 in second half), RH Tommy Hanson (11-7, 3.60, 142 Ks in 130 IP), RH Brandon Beachy (7-3, 3.68, 169 Ks in 141 2-3 IP), LH Mike Minor (5-3, 4.14 in 15 starts), RH Tim Hudson (16-10, 3.22 – will miss first month of season recovering from back surgery), RH Randall Delgado (1-1, 2.83 in 7 starts)

Key Relievers: RH Craig Kimbrel (4-3, 2.10, 46/54 saves, 127 Ks in 77 IP, unanimous choice for NL Rookie of the Year), LH Jonny Venters (6-2, 1.84, 5 saves, 35 holds), LH Eric O’Flaherty (2-4, 0.98), RH Kris Medlen (0-0, 0.00 in 2 games – missed most of season recovering from elbow surgery)

Hot Spots: Jones, who turns 40 in April, announced late in spring training this will be his final season. He has been plagued for years by injuries and actually decided to retire in 2010, only to change his mind. This time, he means it, turning 2012 into a farewell tour for one of the game’s greatest switch-hitters. The tour will start late, though. Jones had surgery to repair a tear in his left knee and hopes to be ready for the Braves home opener, April 13. Pastornicky was handed the shortstop job after the Braves made no effort to re-sign Alex Gonzalez, but the 22-year-old rookie struggled at the plate and in the field during spring training. The Braves may have to go with their fallback plan, veteran Jack Wilson, if Pastornicky doesn’t turn things around during the regular season. Heyward appeared to be baseball’s next big thing in 2010, homering in his first career at-bat, making the All-Star team and finishing as runner-up for Rookie of the Year. But he slumped badly in his second season, a slide he blames on an ailing shoulder. The Braves need him to get back on track or they’ll have a big hole in a lineup that struggled to find consistency last season. Fredi Gonzalez, who took over for Hall of Famer-to-be Bobby Cox in 2011, could come under fire if the Braves fail to make the playoffs for the second year in a row.

Outlook: Fredi Gonzalez’s first season as Atlanta’s manager was sailing along smoothly – until September. The Braves went into a terrible slump, winning just nine of their last 27 games, and the St. Louis Cardinals rallied to capture the wild card by a single game. The memories of that historic collapse still sit with the Braves like a bad hangover, making it vital they get off to a good start this season. GM Frank Wren made no major moves over the winter, believing he’s got a solid team that just had one awful month. Indeed, the Braves have one of baseball’s best pitching staffs and should again be a playoff contender, especially if several players who had off years (McCann, Heyward, Prado) bounce back. Atlanta would surely like to send Jones into retirement with a second championship.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS

2011: 80-81, 3rd place

Manager: Davey Johnson (1st full season with Washington)

He’s Here: RHP Edwin Jackson, LHP Gio Gonzalez, RHP Brad Lidge, INF Mark DeRosa, OF Brett Carroll, LHP Zach Duke

He’s Outta There: RHP Livan Hernandez, OF Jonny Gomes, RHP Todd Coffey, OF Laynce Nix

Projected Lineup: SS Ian Desmond (.253, 8, 49, 25 SB), 2B Danny Espinosa (.236, 21, 66, 166 Ks), 3B Ryan Zimmerman (.289, 12, 49 in 101 games), LF Michael Morse (.303, 31, 95), 1B Adam LaRoche (.172, 3, 15 in 43 games), RF Jayson Werth (.232, 20, 58), C Wilson Ramos (.267, 15, 52), CF Rick Ankiel (.239, 9, 37)

Rotation: RH Stephen Strasburg (1-1, 1.50 in 5 starts), LH Gio Gonzalez (16-12, 3.12, 197 Ks, 202 IP with Oakland), RH Jordan Zimmermann (8-11, 3.18), RH Edwin Jackson (12-9, 3.79, 199 2-3 IP with White Sox and Cardinals), RH Chien-Ming Wang (4-3, 4.04 in 11 starts; out with hamstring strain) or LH John Lannan (10-13, 3.70)

Key Relievers: RH Drew Storen (6-3, 2.75, 43/48 saves), RH Tyler Clippard (3-0, 1.83, 104 Ks in 88 1-3 IP), RH Henry Rodriguez (3-3, 3.56), RH Brad Lidge (0-2, 1.40 in 25 games with Phillies), LH Sean Burnett (5-5, 3.81)

Hot Spots: Everyone wants to know: When will 19-year-old right fielder Bryce Harper make his major league debut? Washington decided to let the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 amateur draft get a taste of Triple-A seasoning – and he’ll shift from right field to center, too. The expectation is that he’ll be called up sometime in late spring or early summer. Until then, it’s not clear who the Nationals will use in center – or whether their lineup will score enough without any upgrades. Werth needs to bounce back from a terrible first year of his $126 million contract; LaRoche needs to bounce back from a shoulder injury.

Outlook: For a franchise that’s never finished above .500, there sure has been a lot of talk about the playoffs and contending. Coming off an 80-81 record – and a third-place finish, the team’s best since moving from Montreal – the Nationals think they finally can be a factor and play meaningful games in September – “and beyond,” as GM Mike Rizzo put it. A big reason for optimism is the pitching staff, with a rotation led by Strasburg and bolstered by Jackson, a free-agent signing, and Gonzalez, acquired in a trade. The bullpen is strong, too, thanks mainly to Storen and Clippard, who made the All-Star team as a setup man last year. But Storen will start the season on the DL because of trouble in his right elbow. Lidge and Henry Rodriguez could share the closer duties until Storen returns. Now it’s up to the lineup, which didn’t get any additions in the off-season, to improve if the Nationals and Johnson – at 69, the oldest manager in the majors – are going to be as good as they say they should be.

NEW YORK METS

2011: 77-85, 4th place

Manager: Terry Collins (2nd season)

He’s Here: CF Andres Torres, RHP Frank Francisco, RHP Ramon Ramirez, RHP Jon Rauch, INF Ronny Cedeno, C Rob Johnson

He’s Outta There: SS Jose Reyes, CF Angel Pagan, LHP Chris Capuano, C Ronny Paulino, RHP Jason Isringhausen, OF Willie Harris, 1B-OF Nick Evans

Projected Lineup: CF Andres Torres (.221, 4, 19, 19 SB, .312 OBP in 112 games with Giants), 2B Daniel Murphy (.320, 6, 49, 28 doubles in 109 games), 3B David Wright (.254, 14, 61, 19 errors in 102 games), 1B Ike Davis (.302, 7, 25 in 36 games), LF Jason Bay (.245, 12, 57 in 123 games), RF Lucas Duda (.292, 10, 50, 21 doubles, .370 OBP in 100 games), C Josh Thole (.268, 3, 40), SS Ruben Tejada (.284, 0, 36, .360 OBP in 96 games)

Rotation: LH Johan Santana (missed last season following September 2010 shoulder surgery; 11-9, 2.98, 199 IP, 4 CGs, 2 shutouts, 29 starts in 2010), RH R.A. Dickey (8-13, 3.28, 208 2-3 IP), LH Jonathon Niese (11-11, 4.40), RH Mike Pelfrey (7-13, 4.74, 193 2-3 IP, 220 hits, 105 Ks, 65 BBs), RH Dillon Gee (13-6, 4.43)

Key Relievers: RH Frank Francisco (1-4, 3.55, 17/21 saves with Toronto), RH Ramon Ramirez (3-3, 2.62, 4 saves, 66 Ks, 3 HRs, 68 2-3 IP in 66 appearances with Giants), RH Jon Rauch (5-4, 4.85, 11/16 saves with Toronto), RH Manny Acosta (4-1, 3.45, 4 saves), RH Bobby Parnell (4-6, 3.64, 6 saves), RH Pedro Beato (2-1, 4.30), LH Tim Byrdak (2-1, 3.82, 1 save, 72 appearances, 37 2-3 IP), RH D.J. Carrasco (1-3, 6.02).

Hot Spots: There’s a new double-play combination at Citi Field, and it’s a big question mark on both sides of the bag. The 22-year-old Tejada takes over at shortstop for Reyes, the NL batting champ and a homegrown fan favorite who bolted for a $106 million, six-year contract with the division-rival Marlins when New York, short on cash, didn’t even make a formal offer. Tejada has a good-looking glove and arm, but he has huge shoes to fill. He hasn’t shown much pop at the plate, though he is getting stronger and can be a pesky out. Collins thinks Tejada can develop into a Placido Polanco-type, but the youngster needs to be more steady and consistent on an everyday basis. Murphy, on the other hand, is a hitter without a defensive position. The Mets are trying to squeeze his bat – and surgically repaired knees – into the lineup at second base, where he went down with a season-ending injury on a steal play last August. Murphy gives a tough at-bat, especially with runners on, and he was certainly productive last year before getting hurt. He’s a very hard worker, too. But the Mets tried him in left field a few years ago with costly results, and this time his safety might be as much of a concern as his subpar defense. He looks much more comfortable on the infield corners.

Outlook: Not long ago, the Mets spent their winters landing big-name prizes like Santana, Francisco Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran. Now they hunt for bargains – if they even shop at all. General manager Sandy Alderson said recently the club lost $70 million. But the Mets got some good news during spring training when owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz reached an agreement in court with the trustee for Bernard Madoff’s fraud victims. The settlement makes it likely that Wilpon and Katz will pay much less than the agreed-upon $162 million, if any at all. It also guarantees they will owe nothing until the end of four years. The owners have paid back a $25 million loan from Major League Baseball and a $40 million loan to Bank of America. The team also closed on 12 limited partner shares of $20 million each, of which five were bought by newcomers and the rest by the current ownership group and its partners in the SNY cable network. So with the Madoff issue settled, the team can finally shift most of its focus back onto the field, where the Mets are trying to build for the future. Coming off three consecutive losing seasons accompanied by a severe decline in attendance, New York has slashed its bloated payroll from $142 million at the end of last season to around $90 million to $95 million this year – the biggest one-year drop in baseball history. In perhaps their biggest off-season move, the Mets lowered and brought in the fences at spacious Citi Field, about 15-20 feet closer to home plate in certain spots. They hope that will benefit Wright and Bay, a big-money bust. As always, injuries keep popping up. Wright tore a ribcage muscle early in camp and missed the first three weeks of exhibition games. He received a cortisone shot and insists he’ll be ready for opening day. Still, many wonder if the face of the franchise will soon follow Reyes out the door. The club holds a $16 million option on Wright’s contract for 2013, which gets voided if the All-Star third baseman is traded this year. Torres (calf), Byrdak (knee) and backup outfielder Scott Hairston (oblique) also were sidelined this spring. Davis was diagnosed with a likely case of valley fever, though he says he feels fine and the team plans to rest him regularly to prevent extreme fatigue. Davis returns to the middle of the lineup after missing most of 2011 with a slow-to-heal ankle injury. One positive has been Santana, who looks healthy after missing all of last season. The two-time Cy Young Award winner was on track to pitch the opener April 5 at home against Atlanta as the Mets celebrate their 50th birthday. The farm system features a few promising arms and athletes, but most are probably at least a year or two away. This looks like a last-place team in the powerful NL East, where everyone else has been loading up.

MIAMI MARLINS

2011: 72-90, 5th place

Manager: Ozzie Guillen (1st season)

He’s Here: SS Jose Reyes, LHP Mark Buehrle, RHP Carlos Zambrano, RHP Heath Bell, LHP Wade LeBlanc, RHP Chad Gaudin, OF Austin Kearns

He’s Outta There: RHP Chris Volstad, RHP Clay Hensley, RHP Brian Sanches, RHP Burke Badenhop, C John Baker

Projected Lineup: SS Jose Reyes (NL-best .337, 7, 44, 39 SB for Mets), CF Emilio Bonifacio (.296, 5, 36, 40 SB), 3B Hanley Ramirez (.243, 10, 45 in 92 games), RF Giancarlo Stanton (.262, 34, 87), 1B Gaby Sanchez (.266, 19, 78), LF Logan Morrison (.247, 23, 72), 2B Omar Infante (.276, 7, 49), C John Buck (.227, 16, 57)

Rotation: RH Josh Johnson (3-1, 1.64 in 9 starts), LH Mark Buehrle (13-9, 3.59 for White Sox), RH Ricky Nolasco (10-12, 4.67, NL-high 244 hits), RH Anibal Sanchez (8-9, 3.67), RH Carlos Zambrano (9-7, 4.82 for Cubs)

Key Relievers: RH Heath Bell (3-4, 2.44, 43/48 saves with Padres), RH Edward Mujica (9-6, 2.96), RH Ryan Webb (2-4, 3.20), LH Mike Dunn (5-6, 3.43), LH Randy Choate (1-1, 1.82), RH Steve Cishek (2-1, 2.63)

Hot Spots: The hot corner is a hot spot, with Ramirez reluctantly moving from SS to 3B to make room for Reyes. Ramirez must learn a new position while trying to regain the stroke that helped him win the 2009 NL batting title. Also critical for the Marlins is the health of Johnson, the ace whose 2011 season ended after nine starts because of shoulder inflammation. If the 2010 NL ERA champion can take his turn every fifth start, the Marlins’ rotation could be formidable.

Outlook: The Marlins have a new name, new uniforms, a new ballpark and four newcomers who have been All-Stars, which gives the franchise a new outlook. A team that finished last in the NL in attendance the past seven years expects big crowds to start the season, and they won’t be coming just to see the ballpark. An off-season spending binge made national headlines, and the addition of such personalities as Guillen, Zambrano and Bell almost guarantees the team will stay in the news. But to keep fans coming, the Marlins probably need to win. It has been nine years since they reached the playoffs, but with a balanced team and proven manager, they expect to challenge the Phillies and Braves for the NL East title.

Central

MILWAUKEE BREWERS

2011: 96-66, 1st place (lost to St. Louis in NLCS)

Manager: Ron Roenicke (2nd season)

He’s Here: 3B Aramis Ramirez, SS Alex Gonzalez, OF Norichika Aoki, RHP Jose Veras

He’s Outta There: 1B Prince Fielder, INF Craig Counsell, INF Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B Casey McGehee, SS Yuniesky Betancourt, RHP LaTroy Hawkins, RHP Takashi Saito

Projected Lineup: 2B Rickie Weeks (.269, 20 HRs, 49 RBIs), CF Nyjer Morgan (.304, 4, 37), LF Ryan Braun (.332, 33, 111), 3B Aramis Ramirez (.306, 26, 93 with Chicago Cubs), RF Corey Hart (.285, 26, 63), 1B Mat Gamel (.115, 0, 2 in 10 games), SS Alex Gonzalez (.241, 15, 56 with Atlanta), C Jonathan Lucroy (.265, 12, 59)

Rotation: RH Zack Greinke (16-6, 3.83), RH Yovani Gallardo (17-10, 3.52), RH Shaun Marcum (13-7, 3.54), LH Randy Wolf (13-10, 3.69), LH Chris Narveson (11-8, 4.45)

Key Relievers: RH John Axford (2-2, 1.95, 46 saves in 48 chances), RH Francisco Rodriguez (6-2, 2.64 ERA, 23/29 with New York Mets and Brewers; 4-0, 1.86, 0/3 with Brewers), RH Kameron Loe (4-7, 3.50)

Hot Spots: Gamel, who has not yet met expectations when given chances in the majors, gets first crack at taking over for Fielder at first base. The Brewers also planned to get Corey Hart some time training at first base in spring training, but he’s recovering from a knee injury and it’s not clear if he’ll be ready to play on opening day. Ramirez isn’t expected to fully make up for Fielder’s absence, but he is expected to drive in runs and get hits in critical situations.

Outlook: The Brewers’ chances got a huge boost when Braun was able to get his 50-game suspension for a positive drug test overturned, although he has struggled mightily in spring training and is likely to get some grief from opposing fans when he hits the road in the regular season. The Brewers might not score as many runs without Fielder, but they can rely on a strong starting rotation and what should be a rock-solid back end of the bullpen. Assuming Braun is back to MVP form and the Brewers stay healthy, they should be contenders. Significant question: Will the defense be better?

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

2011: 90-72, 2nd place, NL wild card (World Series champions)

Manager: Mike Matheny (1st season)

He’s Here: OF Carlos Beltran, LHP J.C. Romero, OF Erik Komatsu

He’s Outta There: 1B Albert Pujols, RHP Edwin Jackson, INF Ryan Theriot, INF Nick Punto, C Gerald Laird, RHP Octavio Dotel, LHP Arthur Rhodes, OF Corey Patterson

Projected Lineup: SS Rafael Furcal (.255 in 50 games with St. Louis after acquired from Los Angeles Dodgers), RF Carlos Beltran (.300, 22, 84 with New York Mets and San Francisco), LF Matt Holliday (.296, 22, 75), 1B Lance Berkman (.301, 34, 91), 3B David Freese (.297, 10, 55 in 97 games), C Yadier Molina (.305, 14, 65), CF Jon Jay (.297, 10, 37), 2B Tyler Greene (.212, 1, 11 in 102 at-bats)

Rotation: RH Chris Carpenter (11-9, 3.45 in 237 1-3 IP), RH Adam Wainwright (injured in 2011; 20-11, 2.42 in ‘10), LH Jaime Garcia (13-7, 3.56), RH Kyle Lohse (14-8, 3.39), RH Jake Westbrook (12-9, 4.66), RH Lance Lynn (1-1, 3.12 in 18 games, replaces Carpenter at start of season)

Key Relievers: RH Jason Motte (5-2, 2.25, 9/13, team-leading 78 appearances), RH Fernando Salas (5-6, 2.26, 24/30 saves), LH Marc Rzepczynski (0-3, 3.97), RH Mitchell Boggs (2-3, 3.56, 4/8 saves), RH Kyle McClellan (12-7, 4.19 as starter and reliever), RH Eduardo Sanchez (3-1, 1.80), LH J.C. Romero (1-0, 4.01 in 36 games with Colorado and Philadelphia)

Hot Spots: Berkman moves from RF, his first regular outfield duty since 2004, to 1B and takes over the position Pujols patrolled for 11 seasons. Berkman said last year he believed more consecutive-line running in the outfield would help keep him healthy, but this spring admitted he’d rather play first. Perennial prospect Greene has been successful in minors and gets first crack at nailing down 2B job, with versatile Daniel Descalso and Skip Schumaker, when healthy, also in mix. World Series MVP Freese has yet to play 100 games in a season. Holliday under a bit of pressure following Pujols’ long-running, proficient act as No. 3 hitter.

Outlook: There’s a lot of change at the top, with manager Tony La Russa retired, pitching coach Dave Duncan on extended leave and not expected back and Pujols bolting for the Los Angeles Angels. Players privately weren’t happy with the national perception that the offense was Pujols or bust, providing motivation to make a repeat postseason run without him. The post-Pujols lineup appears to be deeper, with Allen Craig a dangerous wild-card bat whenever he recovers from off-season kneecap surgery, which should make things easier on new manager Mike Matheny. Wainwright’s return fortifies a rotation that’ll likely have to survive without postseason horse Carpenter for a lengthy period. But the back end of the bullpen has definition with Motte claiming the closer role in September, which should ease Derek Lilliquist’s transition to pitch coach. Health could be a season-long concern. The clock is ticking on Carpenter, who’ll be 37 in April, Berkman (36), Romero (35) and Furcal, Beltran and Westbrook, all 34.

CINCINNATI REDS

2011: 79-83, 3rd place

Manager: Dusty Baker (4th season)

He’s Here: RHP Mat Latos, RHP closer Ryan Madson, LHP Sean Marshall, OF Ryan Ludwick, INF Wilson Valdez, OF-INF Willie Harris

He’s Outta There: C Ramon Hernandez, RHP closer Francisco Cordero, LHP Travis Wood, RHP Edinson Volquez, LHP Dontrelle Willis, INF Yonder Alonso, OF Fred Lewis, SS Edgar Renteria, C Yasmani Grandal

Projected Lineup: CF Drew Stubbs (.243, 15, 44, 205 Ks, 40 of the team’s 97 steals), 2B Brandon Phillips (.300, 18, 82), 1B Joey Votto (.309, 29, 103), 3B Scott Rolen (.242, 5, 36 in 65 games before shoulder surgery), RF Jay Bruce (.256, 32, 97), SS Zack Cozart (.324, 2, 3 in 11 games), LF Chris Heisey (.254, 18, 50), C Ryan Hanigan (.267, 6, 31)

Rotation: RH Johnny Cueto (9-5, 2.31, 34 starts), RH Mat Latos (9-14, 3.47 with San Diego), RH Bronson Arroyo (9-12, 5.07, club-record 46 HRs allowed in 32 starts), RH Homer Bailey (9-7, 4.43), RH Mike Leake (12-9, 3.86)

Key Relievers: RH Ryan Madson (4-2, 2.37, 32/34 with Philadelphia; out for season), LH Sean Marshall (6-6, 2.26, 5 with Cubs), RH Nick Masset (3-6, 3.71), LH Bill Bray (5-3, 2.98), RH Jose Arredondo (4-4, 3.23)

Hot Spots: The left side of the infield is a question. Cozart got his first promotion to the majors last season and impressed during a brief showing, but tore a ligament in his non-throwing elbow and needed reconstructive surgery. He also had his right ankle cleaned out. Cozart gets a chance to be the starting shortstop despite his limited experience in the majors. Rolen, who turns 37 on April 4, won’t guess at the number of games he’ll be able to play. He’s coming off surgery to his non-throwing shoulder. If he’s healthy enough to play more games, it’ll be a huge boost.

Outlook: The Reds won the NL Central in 2010, when several players had career years. They kept the core of the team intact and made few changes the following off-season, and paid for it, falling back to third place. Manager Walt Jocketty did an about-face and changed some key spots in the off-season, replacing closer Cordero with Madson and adding Marshall as a set-up man. The bullpen is already in trouble, with Madson out for the year and Masset starting the season on the DL. Marshall might end up in the closer role, but his career high for saves is five. Jocketty gave up a pair of former No. 1 draft picks and starter Edinson Volquez as part of a package to get Latos, who gives the Reds a solid 1-2 combination at the top of the rotation. Arroyo was bothered by mononucleosis last season, contributing to a down year, but showed up healthy for training camp. With St. Louis and Milwaukee losing their top sluggers, the Reds are in position to contend for a second division title in three years. If they fail, Baker’s job will be in jeopardy.

PITTSBURGH PIRATES

2011: 72-90, 4th place

Manager: Clint Hurdle (2nd season)

He’s Here: RHP A.J. Burnett, LHP Erik Bedard, C Rod Barajas, SS Clint Barmes, 3B Casey McGehee, OF Nate McLouth

He’s Outta There: LHP Paul Maholm, C Ryan Doumit, C Chris Snyder, SS Ronny Cedeno, OF Derrek Lee, OF Ryan Ludwick

Projected Lineup: LF Alex Presley (.298, 4, 20 in 52 games) or Nate McLouth (.228, 4, 16 in 81 games with Atlanta), RF Jose Tabata (.266, 4, 21 in 91 games), CF Andrew McCutchen(.259, 23, 89), 2B Neil Walker (.273, 12, 83), 3B Pedro Alvarez (.191, 4, 19 in 71 games) or Casey McGehee (.223, 13, 67 with Milwaukee), 1B Garrett Jones (.243, 16, 58), C Rod Barajas (.230, 16, 47 with the Dodgers), SS Clint Barmes (.244, 12, 39 with Houston)

Rotation: RH A.J. Burnett (11-11, 5.15 with the New York Yankees), LH Erik Bedard (5-9, 3.62 with Seattle and Boston), RH Kevin Correia (12-11, 4.79), RH James McDonald (9-9, 4.21), Jeff Karstens (9-9, 3.38)

Key Relievers: RH Joel Hanrahan (1-4, 1.83, 40/44), RH Daniel McCutchen (5-3, 3.72 in 73 games), RH Chris Resop (RH 5-4, 4.39 in team-high 76 games), RH Evan Meek (1-1, 3.48), RH Jason Grilli (2-1, 2.48)

Hot Spots: The Pirates made a splash when they traded for Burnett to anchor the front of the rotation, then the veteran fractured his right orbital bone during a bunting drill early in spring training and will be out until May. That leaves the well-traveled Bedard to be the No. 1 starter on a team whose rotation over-performed for the first four months of 2011 before fading down the stretch. Bedard signed a one-year deal and is basically looking to extend his career. He’s been a question mark in the clubhouse but Hurdle has a way of connecting with veterans. If Bedard can be solid, it takes some of the pressure off Burnett and Correia, who got off to a nice start in 2011 but limped to the finish.

Outlook: The Pirates enter 2012 with heightened expectations following a 15-game improvement last season. They led the division in late July but ran out of steam when the pitching staff couldn’t overcome one of baseball’s weakest offenses. The Pirates hope a revitalized and healthy Alvarez can provide the power they sorely lack while hoping there are third acts for Barmes and Barajas. The team continued to invest in the future by signing All-Star McCutchen to a contract extension and he’s the set piece the rest of the clue will revolve around. The division is wide-open following the departure of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, though the Pirates have more realistic goals of ending their miserable streak of 19 consecutive losing seasons. The team must build on 2011 for this season to be considered a success. If they fall back yet again the goodwill instilled by four months of solid baseball last spring will fade quickly.

CHICAGO CUBS

2011: 71-91, 5th place

Manager: Dale Sveum (1st season)

He’s Here: LHP Paul Maholm, RHP Chris Volstad, LHP Travis Wood, 1B Anthony Rizzo, 3B Ian Stewart, OF David DeJesus, LHP Trever Miller, RHP Andy Sonnanstine

He’s Outta There: Manager Mike Quade, RHP Carlos Zambrano, 3B Aramis Ramirez, 1B Carlos Pena, LHP Sean Marshall, RHP Andrew Cashner, C Koyie Hill, OF Tyler Colvin

Projected lineup: RF David DeJesus (.240, 10, 46 with Oakland), 2B Darwin Barney (.276, 2, 43), SS Starlin Castro (.307, 10, 66, 207 hits), 1B Bryan LaHair (.288, 2, 6 in 20 games with Cubs; .331, 38 HRs, 109 RBIs at Triple-A), LF Alfonso Soriano (.244, 26, 88), CF Marlon Byrd (.276, 9, 35), 3B Ian Stewart (.156, 0, 6 in 48 games with Rockies), C Geovany Soto (.228, 17, 54)

Rotation: RH Ryan Dempster (10-14, 4.80), RH Matt Garza (10-10, 3.32), RH Jeff Samardzija (8-4, 2.97 in 75 relief appearances), RH Chris Volstad (5-13, 4.89 ERA with Marlins), LH Paul Maholm (6-14, 3.66 with Pittsburgh)

Key Relievers: RH Carlos Marmol (2-6, 4.01, 34/44, 48 walks), RH Kerry Wood (3-5, 3.35), LH Travis Wood (6-6, 4.89 with Cincinnati), RH Rodrigo Lopez (6-6, 4.42, 16 starts), RH Andy Sonnanstine (0-2, 5.55, 15 games with Tampa Bay), LH James Russell (1-6, 4.12, 64 games, 5 starts), LH Trever Miller (0-1, 3.80 in 48 games with St. Louis, Toronto and Boston)

Hot Spots: The Cubs lost their two main run producers in Ramirez and Pena and how Chicago finds ways to score should determine the success in Sveum’s first season as manager. The Cubs are counting on career minor leaguer Bryan LaHair to be their cleanup hitter with prospect Anthony Rizzo expected to start the season in the minors. New baseball operations head Theo Epstein has made it clear that he won’t jeopardize the future for a quick fix and the Cubs showed that by steering clear of high-priced free agents. At age 22, Castro is already a star after his NL-leading 207 hits last season but he was the subject of a sexual assault investigation in Chicago during the off-season, although no charges have been filed.

Outlook: Theo mania still bubbles on the North Side. Can he be on the one to end an unfathomable World Series title drought – one that could reach 104 years this season – much like he did for the Red Sox? Owner Tom Ricketts is counting on it. Epstein fired Quade and brought in Sveum and also jettisoned the problematic Zambrano. The Cubs, with Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer, want to build the team by bolstering the farm system and they’ve also shown they’ll be players in the Cuban free agent market, already having signed pitcher Gerardo Concepcion. Garza’s name has been in numerous trade rumors and his 10-10 record in his first season with the Cubs was deceiving because he left several games with leads, only to be the victim of bullpen meltdowns. Marmol must find his control after blowing 10 saves last season, and the Cubs will have to replace the durable and effective Sean Marshall as a setup man after he was traded. The 36-year-old Soriano showed in spring training he still has some pop left in his bat, but he’s also struggled in the field the last several seasons and has three years left on his eight-year, $136 million contract. A .500 season would seem to be a remarkable accomplishment in this first year of Theo. Maybe the most encouraging factor for the Cubs is that Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder no longer player in the NL Central.

HOUSTON ASTROS

2011: 56-106, 6th place

Manager: Brad Mills (3rd season)

He’s Here: OF Jack Cust, INF Jed Lowrie, RHP Kyle Weiland, C Chris Snyder, RHP Livan Hernandez

He’s Outta There: RHP Mark Melancon, SS Clint Barmes, LF Jason Michaels

Projected Lineup: CF Jordan Schafer (.242, 2, 13, 22 SB in 82 games with Atlanta and Houston), SS Jed Lowrie(.252, 6, 36 in 88 games with Boston), RF Brian Bogusevic (.287, 4, 15 in 87 games), C Jason Castro (missed entire 2011 season with injury; .205, 2, 8 in 67 games in 2010), 2B Jose Altuve (.276, 2, 12 in 57 games), 1B Carlos Lee (.275, 18, 94), 3B Jimmy Paredes (.286, 2, 18 in 46 games), LF J.D. Martinez (.274, 6, 35 in 53 games)

Rotation: LH Wandy Rodriguez (11-11, 3.49), RH Bud Norris (6-11, 3.77), LH J.A. Happ (6-15, 5.35), RH Kyle Weiland (0-3, 7.66 in five starts for Boston), RH Livan Hernandez (8-13, 4.47 for Washington) or RH Jordan Lyles (2-8, 5.36 ERA in 15 starts)

Key Relievers: RH Brett Myers (7-14, 4.46 as a starter), RH Wilton Lopez (2-6, 2.79 in 73 games), RH Enerio Del Rosario (0-3, 4.58), LH Sergio Escalona (2-1, 2.93)

Hot Spots: The Astros are taking a chance by moving Myers, last year’s staff ace, from the rotation into the closer’s role. The team needed someone to take the place of Melancon, who was traded to the Red Sox in the off-season. They believe Myers’ experience in closing for the Phillies in 2007 will allow him to move back into the role easily. Rodriguez leads the rotation now, but behind him are a group of mostly unproven young players. Hernandez is vying for one of the last spots in the rotation and the 37-year-old’s experience could be a help to this young group.

Outlook: The Astros have a new owner in Jim Crane and a new general manager in Jeff Luhnow, but it’s hard to see this team being much different from last year’s squad without any significant off-season moves. Luhnow and Crane insist that the team will be better this season than last, when Houston had the worst record in the majors. For that to happen, the young players who received significant playing time last season are going to have to step up and produce more. The Astros hope the return of Castro, a first-round pick in 2008, from a knee injury will give the offense and defense a boost. Lee is back for the last season of a $100 million contract he signed in 2007 and as virtually the only veteran non-pitcher on the roster, he’ll need to lead this young team as it plays its final season in the National League before next year’s move to the American League.

West

ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

2011: 94-68, 1st place (lost to Milwaukee in division series)

Manager: Kirk Gibson (2nd season)

He’s Here: LF Jason Kubel, RHP Trevor Cahill, LHP Craig Breslow, RHP Takashi Saito

He’s Outta There: RHP Micah Owings, OF Colin Cowgill, RHP Jarrod Parker

Projected Lineup: SS Willie Bloomquist (.266, 4 HRs, 26 RBIs, 20 SB), 2B Aaron Hill (.315, 2, 16 in 33 games with Arizona; .225, 45, 6 in 104 games with Toronto), RF Justin Upton (.289, 88, 31, 21 SB), C Miguel Montero (.282, 86, 18), 1B Paul Goldschmidt (.250, 26, 8 in 48 games), LF Jason Kubel (.273, 58, 12 in 99 games for Minnesota), CF Chris Young (.236, 71, 20, 21 SB), 3B Ryan Roberts (.249, 65, 19)

Rotation: RH Ian Kennedy (21-4, 2.88 ERA, 198 Ks), RH Daniel Hudson (16-12, 3.41), RH Trevor Cahill (12-14, 4.16 with Oakland), RH Josh Collmenter (10-10, 3.38), LH Joe Saunders (12-13, 3.69)

Key Relievers: RH J.J. Putz (2-2, 2.17, 45 saves in 49 chances), RH David Hernandez (5-3, 3.38, 11/14), RH Bryan Shaw (1-0, 2.54), RH Brad Zeigler (0-0, 1.74 in 23 games for Arizona; 3-2, 2.39 in 43 games for Oakland), LH Craig Breslow (0-2, 3.79 for Oakland), LH Joe Paterson (0-3, 2.91), RH Takashi Saito (4-2, 2.03 for Milwaukee)

Hot Spots: Shortstop Stephen Drew’s return to the lineup has no timetable as he recovers from a brutal injury. Drew broke his right ankle and ripped the tendons around it when his foot got caught beneath him as he slid into home plate in late July. Drew was able to take some groundballs and hit some in the spring but was a long way from being ready. Still, Arizona thrived after Drew was injured with Bloomquist filling in as the regular starter. The acquisition of John McDonald, a defensive specialist, along with Hill from Toronto gave the team some depth at the position.

Outlook: A whole lot different than it was a year ago, when they were expected to be headed for the cellar again but instead succeeded behind strong young pitching, a vastly improved bullpen and timely hitting. The team only tinkered with the roster. The addition of Cahill from Oakland could further strengthen the rotation, and Breslow, who also came from the A’s, puts another lefty in the bullpen. Arizona, in a somewhat curious move, signed Kubel, a free agent left fielder. The deal added a big left-handed bat to the lineup but sent Gold Glover Gerardo Parra to the bench. Gibson insists that Parra will get plenty of playing time backing up all three outfield positions. Kennedy will be hard-pressed to repeat his 21-4 season and Collmenter’s unorthodox overhand delivery might not fool so many in his second season, but Arizona has two top prospects just about ready for the big time in LHP Tyler Skaggs and RHP Trevor Bauer. Gibson, the NL manager of the year, successfully instilled a winning culture in the desert. The challenge is to keep it there.

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

2011: 86-76, 2nd place

Manager: Bruce Bochy (6th season)

He’s Here: OF Melky Cabrera, OF Angel Pagan, INF Ryan Theriot, RHP Clay Hensley

He’s Outta There: RF Carlos Beltran, CF Andres Torres, RHP Ramon Ramirez, OF Cody Ross, OF Pat Burrell, SS Orlando Cabrera, INF Mark DeRosa, LHP Jonathan Sanchez

Projected Lineup: CF Angel Pagan (.262, 7, 56, 32 SB with New York Mets), 2B Freddy Sanchez (.289, 3, 24 in 60 games), 3B Pablo Sandoval (.315, 23, 70), C Buster Posey (.284, 4, 21 in 45 games), LF Melky Cabrera (.305, 18, 87, 44 2Bs, 20 SB with Kansas City), 1B Aubrey Huff (.246, 12, 59), RF Nate Schierholtz (.278, 9, 41), SS Brandon Crawford (.204, 3, 21)

Rotation: RH Tim Lincecum (13-14, 2.74, 220 Ks), LH Madison Bumgarner (13-13, 3.21), RH Matt Cain (12-11, 2.88), LH Barry Zito (3-4, 5.87), RH Ryan Vogelsong (13-7, 2.71)

Key Relievers: RH Brian Wilson (6-4, 3.11, 36/41), LH Javier Lopez (5-2, 2.72), RH Sergio Romo (3-1, 1.50, 14 K/BB), LH Jeremy Affeldt (3-2, 2.63)

Hot Spots: First base. Huff played a major part in the Giants’ run to the World Series title in 2010, when he hit 26 homers and drove in 86 runs. His problems at the plate last year were emblematic of the team, which scored 572 runs – the second fewest ever for the franchise in a 162-game season. If Huff slumps again, youngster Brandon Belt could start taking some of his at-bats.

Outlook: The Giants’ quest for a repeat came crashing to a halt when star catcher Posey tore three ligaments in his left ankle and fractured a bone in his lower leg in a frightening home plate collision with Florida’s Scott Cousins on May 25. The Giants are counting on a healthy Posey and Sanchez, whose season was cut short by shoulder surgery, to spark the offense and give enough support to one of the game’s best pitching staffs. The window for that stellar staff could be closing as Cain is in the final year of his contract and eligible for free agency after the season.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS

2011: 82-79, 3rd place

Manager: Don Mattingly (2nd season)

He’s Here: 2B Mark Ellis, LF Juan Rivera, 2B Adam Kennedy, LHP Chris Capuano, INF-OF Jerry Hairston Jr., RHP Aaron Harang, RHP Mike MacDougal, C Matt Treanor, RHP Todd Coffey

He’s Outta There: RHP Hiroki Kuroda, RHP Jonathan Broxton, RHP Vicente Padilla, 3B Casey Blake, SS Jamey Carroll, C Rod Barajas, LHP Hong-Chih Kuo, LHP Dana Eveland

Projected Lineup: CF Matt Kemp (.324, 39, 126), SS Dee Gordon (.325, 0, 11 in 56 games), RF Andre Ethier (.292, 11, 62 in 135 games), C A.J. Ellis (.271, 2, 11 in 31 games), 2B Mark Ellis (.248, 7, 41 with Colorado and Oakland), 1B James Loney (.288, 12, 65), 3B Juan Uribe (.204, 4, 28 in 77 games), LF Juan Rivera (.258, 11, 74 in 132 games with Dodgers and Toronto)

Rotation: LH Clayton Kershaw (21-5, 2.28), RH Chad Billingsley (11-11, 4.21), LH Ted Lilly (12-14, 3.97), RH Aaron Harang (14-7, 3.64 with San Diego), LH Chris Capuano (11-12, 4.55 in 31 starts with New York Mets)

Key Relievers: Javy Guerra (2-2, 2.31, 21/23), RH Kenley Jansen (2-1, 2.85, 5/6), RH Matt Guerrier (4-3, 4.07), LH Scott Elbert (0-1, 2.43), RH Josh Lindblom (1-0, 2.73), RH Ramon Troncoso (0-0, 6.75), RH Todd Coffey (5-1, 3.62), RH Mike MacDougal (3-1, 2.05)

Hot Spots: GM Ned Colletti and manager Don Mattingly were hired by previous regimes, so they will have to prove themselves to new ownership. The team lacks a proven closer, although Guerra and Jansen showed potential last season. Jansen, however, missed a month last season with an irregular heartbeat and he had heart palpitations in spring training. Ethier tailed off with knee problems in the second half and needs a solid season to set himself up for a lucrative free-agent deal. The rotation drops off after Kershaw. The club will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Dodger Stadium this season. Attendance declined sharply last year when headlines off the field dominated anything the Dodgers did on it.

Outlook: Maybe the magic will be back for the Dodgers now that an investment group including Lakers great Magic Johnson was picked by current owner Frank McCourt to buy the team for $2 billion, just five hours after Major League Baseball approved three finalists in a bankruptcy auction. The sale is due to be closed on April 30. Colletti had a limited budget in the off-season, and signed Capuano and Harang with the money he saved by letting Kuroda go. NL Cy Young Award winner Kershaw and NL MVP runner-up Kemp are arguably the best pitcher and position player in the league. They led the team to a third-place finish last year and will try to keep the club in contention until new money arrives.

COLORADO ROCKIES

2011: 73-89, 4th place

Manager: Jim Tracy (fourth season)

He’s Here: RHP Jeremy Guthrie, OF Michael Cuddyer, 2B Marco Scutaro, C Ramon Hernandez, RHP Tyler Chatwood, RHP Guillermo Moscoso, LHP Josh Outman, OF Tyler Colvin, LHP Jamie Moyer

He’s Outta There: RHP Huston Street, RHP Jason Hammel, RHP Matt Lindstrom, OF Seth Smith, C Chris Iannetta, 3B Ian Stewart, RHP Casey Weathers, RHP Clayton Mortensen

Projected Lineup: CF Dexter Fowler (.266, 5, 45, 15 triples), 2B Marco Scutaro (.299, 7, 54 in 113 games), LF Carlos Gonzalez (.295, 26, 92 in 127 games), SS Troy Tulowitzki (.302, 30, 105), 1B Todd Helton (.302, 14, 69 in 124 games), RF Michael Cuddyer (.284, 20, 70), 3B Chris Nelson (.250, 4, 16 in 63 games), C Ramon Hernandez (.282, 12, 36 in 91 games with Cincinnati)

Rotation: RH Jeremy Guthrie (9-17, 4.33 ERA with Baltimore), RH Jhoulys Chacin (11-14, 3.62), LH Drew Pomeranz (2-1, 5.40), RH Juan Nicasio (4-4, 4.14), RH Guillermo Moscoso (8-10, 3.38), LH Jamie Moyer (9-9, 4.48 in 2010) or RH Tyler Chatwood (6-11, 4.75)

Key Relievers: RH Rafael Betancourt (2-0, 2.89, 8/12), RH Matt Belisle (10-4, 3.25), LH Rex Brothers (1-2, 2.88)

Hot spots: Nolan Arenado is waiting in the wings for his chance to play third base. But it probably won’t be to start the season. Arenado, a Tulowitzki-type player, will more than likely start the season at Double-A Tulsa. For now, the starting spot belongs to Nelson, especially with Casey Blake bothered by a balky neck. But if Nelson struggles, the Rockies could promote the promising Arenado.

Outlook: As one of the favorites to win the NL West last season, the Rockies faltered under the pressure. They started out well, only to tumble back to the pack. This season, the spotlight isn’t shining as brightly on them – and that just may be for the better. Still, the Rockies could be a sleeper team, especially after GM Dan O’Dowd brought in more veterans to help with leadership inside the clubhouse. Cuddyer, Guthrie, Hernandez and Scutaro will all be voices the team listens to, along with Tulowitzki and Helton. The lineup will be – surprise, surprise – centered on Gonzalez and Tulowitzki. Gonzalez spent more of the off-season focusing on baseball and not getting caught up in his celebrity status as he did a year earlier, which he now realizes led to his sluggish start in 2011. Tulowitzki rededicated himself as well, working out in Las Vegas over the winter with 1B Jason Giambi and Fowler, whom Tulowitzki thinks will have a breakout season. The rotation is definitely deep, led by innings eater Guthrie. If Chacin, Pomeranz and Nicasio can take the next step in their development, it could be a solid assembly of arms. The bullpen will be led by Betancourt, who will step in again as the closer. Betancourt takes his sweet time on the mound and can drive hitters bonkers in the box, but he had a sensational second half of 2011, turning in a 0.33 ERA with eight saves after the All-Star break.

SAN DIEGO PADRES

2011: 71-91, 5th place

Manager: Bud Black (6th season)

He’s Here: LF Carlos Quentin, 1B Yonder Alonso, RHP Huston Street, RHP Edinson Volquez, RHP Micah Owings, RHP Andrew Cashner, C John Baker, OF Mark Kotsay

He’s Outta There: RHP Heath Bell, RHP Mat Latos, 1B Anthony Rizzo

Projected Lineup: CF Cameron Maybin (.264, 9, 40, 40 SB), 2B Orlando Hudson (.246, 7, 43), 1B Yonder Alonso (.330, 5, 15 in 88 ABs with Cincinnati), LF Carlos Quentin (.254, 24, 77 with Chicago White Sox), C Nick Hundley (.288, 9, 29), 3B Chase Headley (.289, 4, 44, 92 Ks in 381 A-Bs), RF Will Venable (.246, 9, 44, 92 Ks in 370 A-Bs), SS Jason Bartlett (.245, 2, 40, 98 Ks)

Rotation: RH Tim Stauffer (9-12, 3.73), LH Cory Luebke (6-10, 3.29, 154 Ks), RH Edinson Volquez (5-7, 5.71, 104 Ks in 20 starts with Cincinnati), LH Clayton Richard (5-9, 3.88), RH Dustin Moseley (3-10, 3.30)

Key Relievers: RH Huston Street, (1-4, 3.86, 29 saves with Colorado), RH Andrew Cashner (0-0, 1.69 in 7 appearances with Chicago Cubs), Luke Gregerson (3-3, 2.75), Ernesto Frieri (1-2, 2.71), LH Joe Thatcher (0-0, 4.50 in 18 appearances), RH Micah Owings (8-0, 3.57 in 33 games with Arizona), Anthony Bass (2-0, 1.68)

Hot Spots: The Padres need to hit better, particularly at Petco Park. Randy Ready was fired as hitting coach after the Padres had the lowest batting average in the NL (.237); the second-highest strikeout total in the majors (1,320); and scored only 593 runs, second-lowest in the NL. He was replaced by Phil Plantier, the sixth person to hold the job since cavernous Petco Park opened. The Padres hired Alonzo Powell to serve as Plantier’s assistant, although he won’t be allowed to sit in the dugout during games. The Padres are expected to be without cleanup hitter Quentin for the first two weeks of the regular season after he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on March 19.

Outlook: While the Padres aren’t expected to be serious contenders for the division crown, they should at least be better than last year thanks to three big trades by new general manager Josh Byrnes in late December and early January. Byrnes traded Latos to Cincinnati for four players, including starter Volquez and two top prospects, Alonso and catcher Yasmani Grandal. Byrnes acquired Quentin from the Chicago White Sox two weeks later, and then dealt slugger Anthony Rizzo to the Chicago Cubs for Cashner. He also traded for Street after allowing All-Star closer Heath Bell to leave as a free agent. Maybin was given a $25 million, five-year contract during spring training. Still, the Padres have a lot to prove offensively and their rotation, while solid, isn’t dazzling. It was telling that one of Byrnes’ first moves was to sign veteran outfielder Mark Kotsay to provide clubhouse leadership. The Padres had little chemistry in 2011 after declining to re-sign David Eckstein and Jerry Hairston Jr. There are also questions with the ownership group. Jeff Moorad, the CEO and minority owner, recently withdrew his application to MLB to finalize his purchase of the club in order to focus on getting approval for the team’s new TV deal with Fox. Moorad, who owns 49 percent of the Padres, stepped down on Wednesday. He and a group of investors were set to buy the remainder from majority owner John Moores in January, but fellow owners deferred a vote on the proposed transfer, saying they needed clarification on financial information.

– Associated Press

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