NL Central teams at the start of spring training
FILE - In this April 8, 2012, file photo, Milwaukee Brewers' Mat Gamel (24) congratulates Corey Hart (1) after Hart's solo home run against the St. Louis Cardinals during the fifth inning of a baseball game in Milwaukee. With Hart out at least until the end of April after having knee surgery, Gamel is going to get another shot to show the Brewers he fits into their long-term plans.(AP Photo/Jim Prisching, File)
Manager: Dusty Baker (sixth season).
2012: 97-65, first place, lost in division series.
Training Town: Goodyear, Ariz.
Park: Goodyear Ballpark.
First Workout: Feb. 12/15.
He’s Here: OF Shin-Soo Choo, INF Jack Hannahan, LHP Manny Parra, C Miguel Olivo.
He’s Outta Here: OF Drew Stubbs, INF Wilson Valdez, LHP Bill Bray, RHP Ryan Madson, C Dioner Navarro, INF Miguel Cairo.
Going campin’: The Reds have brought their division title team back mostly intact, thinking they have enough talent to contend for several years. The biggest change is in CF, where Choo replaces the strikeout-prone Stubbs, part of a three-team trade in the offseason. Choo hasn’t played much center field lately, so it’ll be interesting to see how well he does defensively. He’s likely a one-year fix at the position while Billy Hamilton learns to play center at Triple-A this season. The other big change: Cuban left-hander Aroldis Chapman moves from the closer role into the rotation. Chapman was sensational as the fill-in closer last season. The Reds signed Jonathan Broxton — a midseason trade acquisition — to a three-year, $21 million deal, giving themselves a closer and opening the way for Chapman to contend for a spot in the rotation during spring training. The Reds will be looking to see how 1B Joey Votto has recovered from midseason knee surgery that sapped his power the rest of the year. Todd Frazier is set to take over at third base for Scott Rolen, who was deciding whether to play one more season in a limited role or retire. Baker got a two-year contract extension after a late-season scare — an irregular heartbeat that left him hospitalized but is under control. The Reds have won the NL Central twice in the last three years, failing to advance past the first round of the playoffs each time. They think that if they can stay healthy — none of their starting pitchers missed time due to injury last season until Johnny Cueto got hurt in the playoffs — they’re in good shape for another run at the postseason.
St. Louis Cardinals
Manager: Mike Matheny (second season).
2012: 88-74, second place, wild card, lost in NLCS.
Training Town: Jupiter, Fla.
Park: Roger Dean Stadium.
First Workout: Feb. 12/15.
He’s Here: LHP Randy Choate, INF Ronny Cedeno, INF Ty Wigginton, C Rob Johnson, C J.R. Towles.
He’s Outta Here: RHP Kyle Lohse, 1B Lance Berkman, 2B-OF Skip Schumaker, RHP Kyle McClellan, LHP Brian Fuentes.
Going campin’: The health of shortstop Rafael Furcal as he comes back from a torn ligament in his throwing elbow is the biggest question for a team that made minor alterations after finishing one win shy of a second straight trip to the World Series. There’s optimism that Furcal can return without surgery but it’s far from a sure thing, so Cedeno was picked up as a low-cost alternative. Rookie SS Pete Kozma was an offensive find while replacing Furcal last fall, although he struggled defensively. There’s certainly one opening in the rotation after Lohse, who was among the NL’s best with a 16-3 record, 2.86 ERA and staff-high 33 starts last season, was let go as a free agent. Hard-throwing kids Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal are among the options from a farm system loaded with prospects. But 37-year-old right-hander Chris Carpenter is unlikely to pitch this season and his career might be over because of a nerve injury that kept him out most of last year. All-Star catcher Yadier Molina is perhaps the majors’ best defensively and is coming off his best offensive year after hitting .315 with 22 homers and 76 RBIs in his first season after signing a lucrative, multiyear contract.
Manager: Ron Roenicke (third season).
2012: 83-79, third place.
Training Town: Phoenix.
Park: Maryvale Baseball Park.
First Workout: Feb. 13/16.
He’s Here: LHP Mike Gonzalez, LHP Tom Gorzelanny, RHP Burke Badenhop.
He’s Outta Here: RHP Shaun Marcum, OF Nyjer Morgan, RHP Francisco Rodriguez, LHP Manny Parra, 1B Travis Ishikawa, RHP Kameron Loe, RHP Jose Veras, RHP Fautino De Los Santos.
Going campin’: Yovani Gallardo is back, but the rest of the starting rotation is uncertain heading into spring training. Young pitchers Mike Fiers, Wily Peralta and Mark Rogers each will get a long look, and Chris Narveson likely will get a spot if he’s fully recovered from shoulder surgery that ended his 2012 season after two starts. There also is some work to be done in the bullpen in front of closer John Axford and setup man Jim Henderson. Gonzalez, Gorzelanny and Badenhop each are expected to fill a role. 1B Corey Hart had right knee surgery over the winter, shelving one of Milwaukee’s power bats for the start of the season. Hart hit. 270 with 30 homers and 83 RBIs in 149 games last year. Mat Gamel, once regarded as the Brewers’ top prospect, will fill in after missing most of last season following right knee surgery. A year ago, LF Ryan Braun headed to spring training with a 50-game suspension for violating baseball’s drug policy hanging over his head. But arbitrator Shyam Das threw out the penalty due to chain of custody issues involving the sample, and Braun went on to have another monster year. Following a quiet offseason, Braun now will face more questions about performing-enhancing drugs after Yahoo Sports recently reported his name showed up three times in records from a Florida clinic being investigated by Major League Baseball. The slugger says the person who ran the clinic was used only as a consultant on his suspension appeal, and he has nothing to hide.
Manager: Clint Hurdle (third season).
2012: 79-83, fourth place.
Training Town: Bradenton, Fla.
Park: McKechnie Field.
First Workout: Feb. 12/15.
He’s Here: C Russell Martin, RHP Jeanmar Gomez, RHP Mark Melancon, OF Jerry Sands, LHP Jonathan Sanchez, RHP Vin Mazzaro, 1B Clint Robinson, LHP Andy Oliver.
He’s Outta Here: RHP Joel Hanrahan, RHP Kevin Correia, C Rod Barajas, RHP Chad Qualls, RHP Chris Resop, 2B Brock Holt.
Going campin’: The Pirates were 16 games above .500 last August but still managed to finish with a losing record for the 20th straight season. Rather than try to make a big splash in free agency, they opted to sign a steady All-Star in Martin, hoping his career-worst .211 batting average for the Yankees in 2012 was an anomaly. The two-year, $17 million deal gives Martin a little time to get adjusted while developing a rapport with a pitching staff led by former New York teammate A.J. Burnett, who flourished outside the Big Apple and won 16 games for Pittsburgh last season. Burnett will be joined in the rotation by veteran lefty Wandy Rodriguez and right-hander James McDonald, but after that it’s a guessing game. The Pirates agreed in principal with free agent Francisco Liriano in December, but then the left-hander broke his right (non-throwing) arm over the holidays and his status is unknown. The Pirates brought back steady but injury-prone right-hander Jeff Karstens and brought in Gomez to compete with youngsters Jeff Locke and Kyle McPherson for the final two rotation spots if the Liriano deal never materializes. The bullpen will have a new closer in 36-year-old Jason Grilli, handed the job after Hanrahan, a two-time All-Star, was traded to Boston for prospects.
Manager: Dale Sveum (second season).
2012: 61-101, fifth place.
Training Town: Mesa, Ariz.
Park: Fitch Park; HoHoKam Park.
First Workout: Feb. 11/17.
He’s Here: RHP Edwin Jackson, RHP Scott Baker, RHP Scott Feldman, RHP Carlos Villanueva, RHP Kyuji Fujikawa, C Dioner Navarro, OF Nate Schierholtz.
He’s Outta Here: 1B-RF Bryan LaHair, RHP Chris Volstad, C Anthony Recker.
Going campin’: As they enter the second year of the Theo Epstein era, the Cubs remain in the early stages of a building process. They did, however, try to speed things along. They made a big play for Anibal Sanchez before he re-signed with Detroit and then signed Jackson to a $52 million, four-year deal, all after a proposed trade that would have sent closer Carlos Marmol to the Los Angeles Angels for pitcher Dan Haren fell through. Those were breaks from the smaller deals the Cubs had made to that point under Epstein. They still have a long way to go, though. This isn’t about quick fixes. The Cubs are trying to build up their minor league system, hoping the payoff will be the club’s first championship since 1908. Marmol could be in an awkward spot, given the trade that fell through and the arrival of Fujikawa from Japan. OF Alfonso Soriano and top starter Matt Garza have also come up in trade talks, yet the Cubs insist they’re closer to contending than many realize. Never mind the record last season; they believe they’re on the right path. They have six potential starters with Jackson, Garza and Jeff Samardzija leading the rotation, and they can boast a young All-Star in shortstop Starlin Castro and a Gold Glove second baseman in Darwin Barney. Free-agent outfielder Scott Hairston also appeared close to completing a deal with Chicago.
— The Associated Press