The best news of the spring for the Rockies: Jeff Francis earned a job in the rotation after shoulder surgery that cost him the entire 2009 season. The worst news: Closer Huston Street has a sore shoulder and will miss at least the first month of the season.
The Rockies can probably overcome a month without Street, and there are still those in the game who believe they would eventually need to overcome having Street as their closer. With or without him, this is a good team that people are starting to notice, a team that has set the standard at winning a World Series and came to spring believing it's entirely possible.
Franklin Morales will be the closer while Street is missing, but manager Jim Tracy has said he won't officially give him the job and could go to someone else if he doesn't like the matchups.
One thing to watch for with the Rockies: Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, almost always a slow starter during the regular season, has had a very good spring, with four home runs in his first 39 at-bats. -- Danny Knobler
Ubaldo Jimenez: The right-hander, handed the opening day start for the first time in his career, has a chance to be one of the most dominating starters in the league.
Carlos Gonzalez: The baseball world learned about Gonzalez during last fall's playoff series with the Phillies. Gonzalez, who was actually good the entire second half of the season, now needs to prove himself over a full year.
Let's just say that if the Giants' Cactus League play translates into the regular season, October, here they come. Bruce Bochy's club spent most of the spring with the best record in the Cactus League, and pleasant surprises were everywhere.
Aaron Rowand's re-emergence. John Bowker's bat. Prospect Buster Posey making a strong case for the opening day roster. Todd Wellemeyer winning the fifth spot in the rotation. Ace Tim Lincecum putting it together toward the end of camp after a slow start. One of the most important developments was behind the scenes, where new hitting coach Hensley "Bam-Bam" Meulens was working on boosting the Giants' last-in-the-NL on-base percentage from 2009.
Newcomers Mark DeRosa and Aubrey Huff should help with that, and everyone was raving about DeRosa's professional and positive influence in the clubhouse. One of the few downers was that the perpetually injured second baseman Freddy Sanchez was slow to heal from shoulder surgery. But overall, several Giants talked about a new, winning attitude following the 88 wins in '09. -- Scott Miller
Freddy Sanchez: If the second baseman can hit like the Freddy Sanchez who won the 2006 NL batting title upon his return from shoulder soreness, it will make life a whole lot easier for the run-starved Giants.
Jonathan Sanchez: These Giants can pitch with anyone, but the most underrated key on the club might be Sanchez who, if he can consistently tap into his dominant stuff (he no-hit San Diego last year), could make the Giants unbeatable in the NL West.
The Dodgers have had better springs. Catcher Russell Martin reported overweight and promptly strained his groin. Bullpen issues seemingly sprouted overnight ... and kept sprouting. Cory Wade (shoulder) is out for three months. Hong-Chih Kuo (elbow) likely will open the season on the disabled list. Ronald Belisario (visa problems) didn't arrive until March 27 and, understandably, landed in the club's doghouse.
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Sunday: Opening night -- Yanks at BoSox, 8:05 ET
Vicente Padilla was named opening day starter after Chad Billingsley didn't tear it up in camp. On the other hand, Manny Ramirez was in camp on time with no contract negotiations. This is a club that will score, particularly since shortstop Rafael Furcal is healthy atop the order.
Matt Kemp is an emerging superstar. Andre Ethier is coming off of a Silver Slugger award (like Kemp) and Clayton Kershaw might just be growing into an ace. Still, with Padilla as an opening day starter and veteran Russ Ortiz closing in on winning the fifth starter's job, it telegraphs lots of pitching moves in the coming summer. -- Miller
Chad Billingsley: Chad, when oh when are you going to grow into your ace stuff?
Andre Ethier: The right fielder slammed 31 homers and collected 106 RBI last year, but to move to the elite level for good, he's got to hit lefties (.194, six homers, 25 RBI in 187 plate appearances in '09).
Spring could have gone a whole lot better in Arizona if Brandon Webb were recovering more quickly from last April's shoulder surgery. The Diamondbacks are still putting a positive spin on it, and if they're correct and he's back in early May and pitches for the rest of the summer, they can make a pretty quick recovery.
As it is, Dan Haren is a true ace, Edwin Jackson was an All-Star in Detroit, Ian Kennedy will find the NL easier than the AL East and Rodrigo Lopez, the former Oriole, authored one of those veteran spring success stories. Manager A.J. Hinch's crew has a chance to pitch well enough to win, which will put the onus directly on the youngsters -- particularly center fielder Chris Young -- to produce.
Right fielder Justin Upton is a superstar in the making, Mark Reynolds has awesome power and the Diamondbacks think they will catch the ball a lot better in 2010 -- a huge key -- in no small part because of the presence of first baseman Adam LaRoche. Hinch and Co. drilled the Snakes relentlessly on defense this spring. It had better pay off. -- Miller
Conor Jackson: The left fielder, who essentially lost most of 2009 because of Valley Fever, had such a good spring that manager A.J. Hinch joked three weeks ago that he wanted to put Jackson "on ice" to preserve him for the regular season.
Chris Young: No small part of Arizona's hopes in 2010 is center fielder Young, who has 25-homer potential but was so off last season that he was demoted to Triple-A Reno.
Padres camp this spring essentially was a laboratory in which manager Bud Black and his staff delighted in flashing steal signs the way a speed freak hits the accelerator. Finally, the Padres have some speed in shortstop Everth Cabrera, big left fielder Kyle Blanks, outfielders Will Venable and Tony Gwynn Jr. and even the venerable David Eckstein.
Lacking punch in the lineup outside of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, the Padres intend to run at every opportunity this year. The speed also will help defensively where, finally, they have the tools to cover the vast ground in Petco Park. Opening day starter Jon Garland, Chris Young, Kevin Correia, Clayton Richard and Mat Latos in particular will appreciate this.
Trade rumors will continue to find Gonzalez and closer Heath Bell, particularly if the Padres get off to a slow start. This is a club that finished the season 33-25 in '09, compiling the fifth-best record in the majors after July 28. The plan is to force the issue not only by stealing bases, but by aggressively running the bases. -- Miller
Kyle Blanks: On the verge of becoming a cult hero, 6-6 left fielder Blanks drilled 10 homers over a span of 98 at-bats last season upon breaking into the majors, and the Padres are anxious to see him develop more in 2010.
Mat Latos: The hard-throwing right-hander is the best Padres pitching prospect since Jake Peavy and will settle into the No. 5 rotation spot by the end of April.