Even the best teams have holes to fill this spring
Posted: Wednesday March 5, 2008 10:40PM; Updated: Thursday March 6, 2008 5:02PM
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LAKELAND, Fla. -- Hope springs eternal, especially in spring. But don't let the usual unabashed -- and often unrealistic -- optimism fool you. There's plenty of reason to worry, even among the contenders and supposed-super teams.
Just about every team in Florida and Arizona has a need, a hole or a blip. That includes even the best teams. Here is a rundown of some contenders and their needs ...
Veteran Todd Jones won't overwhelm anyone, but he will do as the closer. Where's the setup man, though? Matt Mantei's comeback attempt has been derailed by shoulder trouble and Fernando Rodney has his usual arm issues already. This leaves the Tigers hoping for a quicker-than-expected return from Joel Zumaya. That would be great if it happened. First, though, Zumaya should be required to explain how he really hurt himself. Does anyone believe that moving-boxes-before-the-fire story?
It's going to be difficult to acquire setup help elsewhere since no one wants to give it up. The Mets, who called about outfielder Marcus Thames, probably wouldn't do any better than Jorge Sosa in return. In the meantime, the Tigers might have to hope someone emerges from among Bobby Seay, Yorman Bazardo, Jason Grilli, Zach Minor and Denny Bautista. Good luck there.
Need: Third base.
The only reason the Tigers could conceivably want Inge around is to replace Ivan Rodriguez when his contract expires after this season. But Inge blew a hole in that idea by suggesting he didn't really want to catch and saying he has trouble hitting when he has to concentrate on catching (not that his .236 average as a third baseman last season was anything great).
The mere suggestion of interest in the high-priced/low-return Inge creates a strong impression that the Dodgers aren't sold on prospect Andy LaRoche or veteran Nomar Garciaparra, or a combination thereof. LaRoche's press clippings have apparently outstripped reality, and judging by Garciaparra's anemic performance last year (.371 slugging), his time could be almost up.
Need: Second base.
Roberts, for one, doesn't sound like he'd mind a change of scenery, or maybe even a chance to be part of the Cubs' 100th anniversary season. Speaking of the Cubs to SI.com, Roberts said, "It's a tremendous organization. They have a great history, and they're obviously doing everything they can to win a World Series. That's all you can ask from an organization.'' To be fair (to him and the Orioles), I didn't ask him to evaluate Baltimore's organization.
Need: Second base.