In the off-season, southpaw closer Norm Charlton was working on his 4,000-acre ranch south of San Antonio when he cut the middle finger of his pitching hand on a piece of equipment. "A veterinarian stitched it up," he said.
The starting left side of the Seattle infield will feature 20-year-old shortstop Alex Rodriguez, who played well defensively this spring, and 26-year-old third baseman Russ Davis, who did everything well. Acquired in an off-season trade with the Yankees, Davis has replaced Mike Blowers, who was dealt to the Dodgers despite knocking in 96 runs in 1995.
The Mariners, who were two wins away from making the 1995 World Series, turned over 40% of the team in the off-season. No playoff spot this year.
3. TEXAS RANGERS
This franchise, which began in Washington, D.C., in 1961 and moved to Texas 11 years later, has never made it to the postseason. The major leagues' only franchise that went longer without playing its first postseason game was the St. Louis Browns, from 1902 to '43.
BETTER THAN EVER?
Rightfielder Juan Gonzalez, who was accused of having poor work habits the last couple of years after suffering a back injury, came to camp trim and with a much better attitude. "He doesn't even want to sleep, he just wants to get to the park," Rangers batting coach Rudy Jaramillo says. "He wants to have a monster year." After spending most of last year as a DH, he looked comfortable in rightfield during spring training. "He wants to get back in the limelight, so people talk about him like they talk about [Ken] Griffey and [Albert] Belle," says Texas general manager Doug Melvin.
Third baseman Dean Palmer is healthy again after tearing a left biceps tendon while swinging at a pitch last June. "It was like a rubber band snapping, my whole body quivered," he says. Palmer was hitting .330 with nine homers and 24 RBIs in 34 games before the injury. With Palmer, Gonzalez (.295, 27 home runs and 82 RBIs in 90 games) and first baseman Will Clark (.302, 16 HR, 92 RBIs) in the middle of the order, manager Johnny Oates says, "We have three guys who'll drive in 100 runs."
The key to the Texas rotation may be veteran righthander Bobby Witt, who was 3-4 with a 4.55 ERA after being acquired from the Marlins last August. If Witt can get hitters out without overthrowing, he can be a big winner. If not, Texas has righthander Ken Hill and four question marks in the rotation.
The same as every year: solid hitting and questionable pitching. The streak continues.
4. OAKLAND A'S