Even though Arizona added Robby Alomar, that doesn't mean Matt Kata is out of a job. Kata was impressive last season, with a .214 average after the All-Star break and a total average of .236 against right handed pitching. He was also a great defender, committing just one error in 23 games at third. Kata will be a back-up utility infielder for the Dbacks. Shea Hillenbrand will be moved permanently to third base this season because of the acquisition of Richie Sexson. Hillenbrand and the Dbacks are working on a one-year contract worth more than $2 million before the arbitration hearings. Jesse Orosco announced his retirement. Arizona's biggest need at this point is a productive right fielder to replace Raul Mondesi, and a back-up catcher.
The Rockies signed a few players to minor league contracts. Jeff Fassero, a left handed pitcher, hopes to extend his career as a starting pitcher if he makes the team. Right-handed pitcher, Turk Wendell, signed with the Rockies because he wanted to be close to home, and turned down a guaranteed deal in Japan. Infielder Denny Hocking was signed to bring versatility off the bench. Being a switch hitter, Hocking has played every position except for pitcher and catcher for the Minnesota organization. Vladimir Nunez is expected to start the season in Triple-A Ball, but does have 20 saves on his record for the Marlins, so Colorado will have some choices to make with him. The Colorado chapter of Baseball Writers Association of America made their selections for the year 2003. Todd Helton was the player of the year (his fourth consecutive year), Shawn Chacon was the pitcher of the year, Javier Lopez was the rookie of the year, and Preston Wilson was voted as the Good Guy. It has been decided that Royce Clayton will be the Rockies' shortstop, and Aaron Miles and Damian Jackson will compete for the starting second baseman job.
Los Angeles Dodgers:
Cy Young winner, Eric Gagne has filed for salary arbitration. Gagne wants a 1,000 percent salary increase from his $550,000 last season because of his perfect production in saving games last season. He wants to sign a contract close to John Smoltz, who's the highest paid closer in baseball. Along with Gagne, Adrian Beltre, Odalis Perez, Guillermo Mota, and Jolbert Cabrera also filed for salary arbitration, but their situations will be much simpler to solve. Rick White signed a minor league contract and was invited to the major league training camp.
San Diego Padres:
The Padres made many changes this offseason, and most of those changes have improved the team. They added Ramon Hernandez and Jay Payton to help with their offense. As it stands, the Padres will be projecting this as their starting lineup: third baseman Sean Burroughs will lead off followed by second baseman Mark Loretta, left fielder Brian Giles, first baseman Phil Nevin, right fielder Ryan Klesko, center fielder Jay Payton, catcher Ramon Hernandez, and either Khalil Greene or Ramon Vasquez at shortstop. There was an attempt to trade Hernandez and Jeff Cirillo to the Pirates for Jason Kendall, but that deal seemed to have died down. Right handed pitcher, Adam Eaton, signed a two-year contract just before salary arbitration. Edgar Huerta agreed to a minor league deal with the Padres and was invited to spring training. Huerta pitched in the Mexico tigers in the Mexican Summer League.
San Francisco Giants:
The Giants are scheduled to open the season against the Houston Astros, where fans will get a chance to see the Bonds-Clemens duo for a second time. Now that Clemens has to hit in the NL, it'll be interesting to see his approach in pitching his famous inside heaters. The Giants have invited two more players to spring training, infielder Dave Doster and minor league pitcher Lee Gardner. The Giants welcomed Brett Tomko to round up the end of their pitching rotation. Reliever, Jim Brower, and back-up infielder, Pedro Feliz, have agreed on contracts with the Giants to avoid salary arbitration. San Francisco is working with newly acquired catcher, A.J. Pierzynski, on a contract agreement, in hopes of avoiding salary arbitration.
Sara Kwan was born in San Francisco and raised in the Bay Area. She currently writes game recaps, other articles, and is the Giant Prophet for SFDugout.com. Any comments or questions about the article, baseball, or the meaning of life can be sent to Sara at kwanchino[at]alpha-q.net
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