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Updated: September 2, 2010, 1:44 AM ET

Even the best in baseball have some flaws

Olney By Buster Olney
ESPN
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Even the best teams have problems, holes that may or may not get filled before the start of the postseason -- or perhaps through the end of October, even. Some team will play through the troubles, of course. The red flags for teams that would currently qualify for the postseason:

New York Yankees

Manager Joe Girardi can't possibly know exactly how his rotation will look by the end of the regular season, behind ace CC Sabathia. Andy Pettitte is still trying to work his way back from a groin injury, A.J. Burnett posted a 7.80 ERA in August, Javier Vazquez was dropped out of the rotation at the same time his velocity fell into the mid-80s and Phil Hughes is bumping up against pitch-count limits. Can Burnett rebound? Can rookie Ivan Nova be part of the solution? Can Vazquez figure it out now that he's headed back into the rotation? Will Pettitte have enough time to regain command of his stuff before October? Girardi needs answers.

Tampa Bay Rays

Their offense has been erratic, which is why the Rays placed a claim on Manny Ramirez last week. On one hand they rank fourth overall in runs scored, but they also rank 25th in batting average and first among all contenders in strikeouts, suggesting that they might have some trouble against good pitchers in October.

Minnesota Twins

It appears more and more unlikely, by the day, that Justin Morneau will rejoin the Twins' lineup by season's end. His latest orders from the team doctors were to simply stay away from the ballpark, to help his recovery from concussion symptoms. In Morneau's absence, Jason Kubel could play a more integral role, and even before he was hit on the hand by a pitch in Tuesday's game, he had been sliding, with his OPS after the All-Star break down to .764. Delmon Young hit .218 in August. At the end of last year, Young and Michael Cuddyer carried the Twins into October, and Minnesota needs heroes like that to step up.

Texas Rangers

The Texas acquisition of Jeff Francoeur shows that the Rangers have concern about Nelson Cruz's ability to stay healthy, but of much greater import is the almost inexplicable slide of Cliff Lee. He has shown in the past that he's good enough to hoist a team on his shoulders in October, but these days, he's struggling to get through six innings. Over his past three starts, Lee has managed just 15 1/3 innings, allowing 17 runs and 27 hits. The good thing is that Lee had a stretch like this late last season for the Phillies, so the Rangers have reason to hope he'll bounce back before it really starts to count.

Atlanta Braves

Tim Hudson is a Cy Young Award candidate and not giving hitters anything but the top of the ball to swing at lately, but the rest of the Atlanta rotation is in a funk. Sure, Tommy Hanson allowed one hit over seven innings Wednesday against the Mets, but that was his first victory since July 3. How long ago was that? Lee was still with the Mariners back then. Jair Jurrjens was part of the reason why the Braves blew a nine-run lead in Colorado last week and he had some hiccups in his last start against the Mets. Derek Lowe, bothered by elbow trouble, won't make his next start. The Braves have an outstanding bullpen -- but they'll need more from their rotation to ferry leads to the relievers.

Philadelphia Phillies

Ryan Howard's home run on Tuesday must've been heartening for manager Charlie Manuel, because it has not been a seamless return for the stars who have come off the Phillies' disabled list. Placido Polanco is playing hurt and is hitting .167 over the past week, Chase Utley's three-hit game was a departure from his first 14 games off the disabled list, in which he had just three multihit games, and before Tuesday's game, Howard had been 4-for-36 since coming off the disabled list. There is still plenty of time for these guys to get it together, but no matter how they fare, there will be additional questions about the Philadelphia bullpen.

Cincinnati Reds

Some scouts who watched the Cardinals sweep the Reds in early August came away wondering if Cincinnati wasn't quite ready for the big time, and whether the Reds' collection of talented young players -- most of whom have never sniffed postseason baseball -- will be overmatched in October. The play of Brandon Phillips and the continued emergence of Jay Bruce will be crucial, because in the postseason, rival managers will probably try to make sure that somebody besides Joey Votto has to beat them.

San Diego Padres

San Diego has been one of baseball's best stories this season, led by manager of the year front-runner Bud Black and a dominant bullpen. But the Padres will never be confused with a dynamic offensive team, and like Votto, Adrian Gonzalez probably would be pitched around in October. Others, whether it be Ryan Ludwick or Chase Headley or Scott Hairston, will have to step up. The Padres have a sturdy four-game lead in the NL West despite the fact that they rank 21st in runs. And they are bound to face elite pitching in the postseason.

Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and an analyst for "Baseball Tonight." Read his daily ESPN.com blog here.

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