Spring Review: A Weekly Look at Each MLB Camp

There is never a time where more change occurs on a weekly basis in baseball than in Spring Training, and no better way to stay informed than right here at InsidethePark.com. Our MLB reporter Ian Levin takes a look at each team around Major League Baseball and keeps you up to date with the latest news.

Early in the spring it is tough to get a handle on how players are actually performing. The sample sizes are small and luck and competition plays a large role. We are able, however, to see many position battles begin to develop and we are able to take a look at some of the young talent that will soon be filling out the game at this early stage in the game.

Anaheim Angels:
The Angels signed Bartolo Colon to be the ace of their rotation, but in his first appearance of the spring he was far from an ace. Starting against the A's, Colon retired just 2 batters and allowed 2 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs. The A's went on to win the game 26-3. Colon will work during the spring on improving his command and consistency.

Baltimore Orioles:
The Orioles, like the Angels, signed multiple top flight free agents, Miguel Tejada being their biggest. However, unlike Colon, Tejada has gotten off to a strong start. Through 9 AB, he has 3 hits including a double and a home run. Tejada is penciled in for the third spot in the batting order, ahead of other fellow free agent acquisitions Rafael Palmeiro and Javy Lopez.

Boston Red Sox:
David Ortiz had a career year in 2003, posting personal bests in almost every category including home runs (31), RBI (101), and batting average (.288). So far this spring he has picked up right where he left off. In just 5 at bats, Ortiz has two doubles and a home run. Ortiz is expected to see more time at first base in 2004 so he will be working on the position during the spring.

Chicago White Sox:
The White Sox have an open rotation spot and there are three players competing for the job: Neil Cotts, Jon Rauch, and Dan Wright. All three have started well. In fact, all have started nearly perfectly. They have combined to throw 7 no-hit innings including 7 strike outs. Only Cotts has allowed a base runner, surrendering a walk. The three will push each other throughout spring, making this an interesting battle.

Cleveland Indians:
Travis Hafner was expected to produce in 2003 but he ended up struggling throughout the year. However, his manager, Eric Wedge, has not lost confidence. Hafner is expected to be an everyday player in 2004 and so far this spring he has proven he is ready. Hafner has 6 hits including 2 home runs in 9 at bats. If he can keep this up, he will be an offensive threat in 2004.

Detroit Tigers:
Carlos Pena came into Spring Training with confidence following a strong Dominican Winter League performance and it showed. In eight at bats Pena already has clubbed 2 home runs and a triple. Pena will begin the year at the bottom of the batting order but if he can continue playing up to his potential he could quickly move to the middle.

Kansas City Royals:
Kansas City's prized prospect took the mound Sunday and he showed why he is highly regarded. Zack Greinke held the Rockies scoreless over 1.2 innings, allowing 3 hits but walking none and striking out 3. Greinke will bring his outstanding stuff and command to either Double-A or Triple-A to begin the year, but could see big-league action some time in the second half.

Minnesota Twins:
The battle for the closer role in Minnesota isn't a battle yet but soon could be. Joe Nathan is penciled in as the closer but Jesse Crain is making a push to fill that role. Crain uses a mid-90s fastball and a hard slider and has averaged well over a strike out per inning in the minors. Crain has only thrown 1 inning so far this spring but he was perfect, striking out two. Nathan has allowed 2 runs and 3 hits in his 2 innings pitched. Keep an eye on this battle.

New York Yankees:
Five pitches into his first game he already made a tough play and fielded a throw by Hideki Matsui to tag the runner out. Who else could this be but Alex Rodriguez? Later in the game he bobbled a ball but was able to recover and throw the runner out. Everyone knows he will hit, but it his defense at a new position that is now questioned. As the saying goes, "The ball will find you." It has found Rodriguez and will continue to test him throughout spring.

Oakland Athletics:
Eric Chavez is in a similar position to his former teammate Miguel Tejada. Like Tejada in 2003, Chavez is entering the season in the final year of his contract. Chavez has said that he will not discuss his contract once the spring ends, so if a deal is not struck before the regular season begins Chavez will become a free agent after the year. In limited playing time, Chavez doesn't appear to be distracted, batting .333. However, if a contract is not signed it could hurt Chavez' concentration and his numbers.

Seattle Mariners:
- The battle for the final spot in the bullpen got off on the wrong foot. The main candidates, Kevin Jarvis, Bobby Madritsch, Terry Mullholland, and George Sherrill have combined to throw 5.2 innings and have allowed 12 ER (19.06 ERA). The Mariners were in a similar situation last year with multiple players battling for one spot in the bullpen. Julio Mateo emerged as the winner and was outstanding in 2003. The M's hope that they can repeat that success this year.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays:
Top prospect B.J. Upton has no real chance of making the team out of Spring Training, but that hasn't stopped him from turning some heads. Upton has often been compared to Derek Jeter with a little more pop. The 19-year old is in his first major league camp and is 2 for 4 and has already hit his first HR. Upton will begin the year in the minors but could have his name called later in the year.

Texas Rangers:
Alfonso Soriano has struggled early in camp in an attempt to replace Alex Rodriguez. Through 10 at bats, Soriano does have 3 hits but they are all singles. Soriano has shown vulnerability on the outside breaking ball. This has caused him to strike out 5 times in his 10 at bats. Soriano has always been near the top (or the bottom) of the leader board in strikeouts and has been able to get by, but if he can not adjust for this hole in his swing, he will struggle this year and beyond.

Toronto Blue Jays:
Blue Jays' top prospect Dustin McGowan was another prospect that was very impressive in his time so far in camp. McGowan struck out 2 and allowed just 1 hit in 1.2 innings. He will bring his impressive fastball-curveball combination to the minors to begin the year.

Arizona DiamondBacks:
The battle for the fifth starter involves many unique candidates. The knuckle-baller Steve Sparks is up against youngsters John Patterson, Stephen Randolph, Andrew Good, as well as the veteran Jim Parque. In attempt to make this more confusing, there has been talk of the D-Backs acquiring Pedro Astacio. The decision will likely come down to the very last week of spring.

Atlanta Braves:
J.D. Drew was acquired by the Braves this off-season in an attempt to replace the bat of Gary Sheffield. Drew has always shown his outstanding offensive ability but has also shown the inability to stay healthy. So far in spring he has reminded the Braves that he can hit (3 HR, 1 in an unofficial game against the University of Georgia) and he worked harder than ever during the off-season and would like to avoid reminded them that he can't stay healthy.

Chicago Cubs:
Corey Patterson was in the process of posting the best numbers of his career when he tore his ACL early in June. He wasn't expected to be back until Opening Day but he is well ahead of schedule and played in the Spring Training opener. He appears healthy as he has already hit 2 home runs. The biggest question he will have to answer is if he can run as he did prior to his injury.

Cincinnati Reds:
Jose Acevedo, Brandon Claussen, and Aaron Harang will battle for the two open spots in the Cincinnati rotation. Acevedo and Claussen are the early favorites but Harang can't be ruled out. Each has pitched 2 innings and Acevedo was the only one to allow a run. The loser will likely begin the season in the bullpen but it would be surprising if he didn't get some starts by the end of the year.

Colorado Rockies:
It is amazing what Coors' Field can do for a player. Preston Wilson had been a solid player in his time in Florida but when he got to Colorado he turned into an All-Star. He posted career highs in HR (36), RBI (141), and AVG (.282). Wilson has been battling some injuries including a sore knee and a torn tendon in his pinkie. He will take it easy for most of the spring in an attempt to heal sufficiently so that he can repeat his outstanding 2003.

Florida Marlins:
The World Champion Marlins enter 2004 with a slightly different look. There wasn't a firesale like there was after their last championship but a few major contributors are gone. Ivan Rodriguez has been replaced with Ramon Castro, Derrek Lee with Hee Seop Choi, and Ugueth Urbina with Armando Benitez. The team is still dangerous and will compete with the Phillies and Braves for the NL East crown.

Houston Astros:
By signing Andy Pettite, the Astros knew they were killing two birds with one stone, although it should be noted that I have never killed one bird with one stone. They knew that with Pettite would come Roger Clemens. Adding those two to Roy Oswalt and Wade Miller gives them one of the best rotations in the game. An interesting thing to keep an eye on is if Octavio Dotel can handle the pressure that comes with the closer role. He has proven himself to be one of the best relievers in the game, but that can all change when pitching the 9th inning.

Los Angeles Dodgers:
James Loney is just 19-years old but he is hitting as if he were 29-years old. The first round pick of the Dodgers in 2002 is 6 for 7 with a HR and 3 doubles. No matter what he does this spring, he will begin the year in the minors and he will spend the entire year there. He is definitely one to watch throughout spring and the regular season.

Milwaukee Brewers:
The Brewers are another team with multiple players battling it out for the 5th spot in the rotation. Wes Obermueller, Chris Capuano, and Matt Ford are the primary candidates with Ben Hendrickson also getting a look. None have been overly impressive thus far and only Matt Ford has thrown a scoreless inning.

Montreal Expos:
One of the more interesting battles of the spring is the left field job in Montreal. Terrmel Sledge and Juan Rivera entered the spring knowing that the winner would get the majority of the playing time and the loser would be the primary bat off the bench. Both have a few hits but the feeling around Expos camp is that Sledge has the inside track. This is one battle that could continue beyond spring.

New York Mets:
Mike Piazza has officially begun the transition from behind the plate to first base. He has been working diligently trying to learn the nuances of first base and the results thus far have been positive. He even made an outstanding play during the weekend. The shortstop threw the ball wide of the base to the left but Piazza was able to catch the ball fully stretched and kept his foot on the base. Piazza's numbers could improve as he plays more games at first as his body will remain stronger as the year goes on.

Philadelphia Phillies:
Another case of a top prospect impressing his teammates… Phillies ace prospect Cole Hamels got the call against the powerful Yankees and shut them down for two innings. He allowed just 1 hit and struck out 3, including Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. Hamels will begin the year at Single-A Clearwater and will be moved along very carefully.

Pittsburgh Pirates:
Many of the Pirates have been battling injury problems early in the spring. Tike Redman, Jason Bay, Jack Wilson, Bobby Hill, and Daryle Ward all have struggled through nagging injuries. The Pirates' best pitcher, Kip Wells struggled in his first appearance of the spring allowing 6 runs in 2.2 innings. This is nothing to worry about unless this pattern keeps up later in the spring.

San Diego Padres:
The Padres have two open spots on the team, SS and the 5th starter. Khalil Greene, Ramon Vazquez, and Rey Ordonez are the candidates for SS and Sterling Hitchcock and Ismael Valdez for the rotation. Greene is one of the Padres' top prospects and he is the favorite to land the starting job.

San Francisco Giants:
Jason Schmidt allowed 4 runs in 2 innings in his first appearance of the spring. As an ace you don't like to see those numbers at any time but after having off-season surgery, it is very encouraging. Schmidt needs to regain his health this spring and not worry about the numbers. He, along with Barry Bonds, holds the cards for a playoff run for the Giants.

St. Louis Cardinals:
Matt Morris was told to work exclusively on his changeup in his first start this spring and it showed. He allowed 9 runs in just 1.2 innings pitched. As with the other proven starters, this is nothing to worry about unless it continues late in spring. In all likelihood, if he gets pounded like this again, you know he's working on that changeup.

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