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Monday, February 28, 2011
Phillies' pitching prowess


A lot has happened in the baseball world since the San Francisco Giants closed out the Texas Rangers to win the 2010 World Series and cap off the "Year of the Pitcher." Sure, the past few months have been called the "offseason," but trades, free-agent signings (although ironically, not that many for the Yankees, who failed to land prize free agent Cliff Lee), injuries and even some retirements (I'm looking at you, Andy Pettitte) have revamped and reshaped many team lineups. It's a lot to keep track of, which is why we've done it for you in our spring training guide.

Whether it's the Grapefruit (Florida) or Cactus (Arizona) League, everything you need to know is right here in one place: new faces in new places, key departures and what to watch for during spring training, team by team, division by division. All divisions are presented in order of the 2010 standings. Up next: National League East.

National League East

Philadelphia Phillies (2010 record: 97-65, first place in NL East)

• New faces: SP Cliff Lee (if you're going to make one major offseason move, make it one of the top pitchers in the major leagues).

• Key departures: OF Jayson Werth.

• Can the vaunted "Four Aces" of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and Lee live up to the preseason hype as one of the greatest rotations ever assembled? (Poor Joe Blanton, so left out as the fifth starter.)

• It's an open competition to replace Werth in right field between Domonic Brown, Ben Francisco and John Mayberry, Jr.

• Where is Werth's lost offense coming from? 2B Chase Utley, OF Raul Ibanez, 1B Ryan Howard and SS Jimmy Rollins need to rebound from sub-par seasons.

Atlanta Braves (2010 record: 91-71, second in NL East)

• New faces: Manager Fredi Gonzalez, 2B Dan Uggla, RP Scott Linebrink, RP George Sherrill, Utility Joe Mather.

• Key departures: CF Melky Cabrera, CF Rick Ankiel, 1B Derrek Lee, RP Billy Wagner (retirement), RP Takashi Saito, RP Kyle Farnsworth, 2B Omar Infante.

• As the post-Bobby Cox era begins, new second baseman Uggla wants to make a good impression after coming over in a trade with NL East rival Florida.

• 3B Chipper Jones planned to retire but is back after an ACL injury derailed his 2010 season. Will he be ready for Opening Day -- and can he play third every day?

• Nate McLouth needs to rebound after a terrible 2010 season.

• Young guns: Jason Heyward looks to build on a breakout rookie season and 1B Freddie Freeman hopes to follow in his footsteps.

• The Braves rotation is set, but the team faces bullpen uncertainty with Wagner's and Saito's departures, though Craig Kimbrel might secure the closer role.

Florida Marlins (2010 record: 80-82, third place in NL East)

• New faces: Manager Edwin Rodriguez, C John Buck, SP Javy Vazquez, 2B Omar Infante, RP Randy Choate, RP Mike Dunn.

• Key departures: 2B Dan Uggla, CF Cameron Maybin, C Ronny Paulino, RP Jose Veras, RP Will Ohman.

• Third base: Will prospect Matt Dominguez win the everyday job?

• Bullpen improvement is key. The Marlins blew 25 saves last year, second in the majors to the O's.

• Chris Coghlan (2009 NL Rookie of the Year) returns after missing the last part of the 2010 season with a torn meniscus suffered while giving a teammate a pie in the face during a postgame celebration (yes, really). How will he handle his move to center field?

New York Mets (2010 record: 79-83, fourth place in NL East)

• New faces: Manager Terry Collins, SP Chris Young, SP Chris Capuano, RP D.J. Carrasco, OF Scott Hairston.

• Key departures: RP Pedro Feliciano, RP Hisanori Takahashi.

• The Mets will be without Johan Santana until late June at the earliest as he recovers from a shoulder injury.

• Will the Wilpons' Madoff woes and attempts to sell a share of the franchise overshadow the team?

• It's open competition at second base. Four players all have a shot at replacing Luis Castillo -- including Castillo.

• Shortstop Jose Reyes is in his contract year and must return to All-Star form for the Mets to have even a chance at succeeding.

• Can Jason Bay rebound from a terrible season that ended with a concussion in July?

Washington Nationals (2010 record: 69-93, fifth place in NL East)

• New faces: OF Jayson Werth, 1B Adam LaRoche, OF Jerry Hairston, Jr., OF Rick Ankiel, RP Chad Gaudin, RP Cla Meredith, SP Tom Gorzelanny.

• Key departures: OF Adam Dunn, OF Josh Willingham, SP Miguel Batista, OF Willie Harris, 2B Adam Kennedy, OF Justin Maxwell, SP Scott Olsen, RP Joel Peralta.

• The Nationals made some big moves in the offseason. Will new additions Werth and LaRoche provide the offensive spark needed?

• All eyes will be on 18-year-old catching phenom Bryce Harper. He'll start the season at Single-A, and it is highly unlikely he'll see big league action this year.

• Drew Storen, Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard all will compete for the coveted closer position.