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Cubs Organization Report

Jeff Vorva -Premium Content

MESA, Ariz.—With Derrek Lee at the World Baseball Classic, two first-base prospects made powerful impressions in spring training. Brandon Sing hit a pair of home runs in his first Cactus League start, while Brian Dopirak added two homers in a three-game stretch. Neither was expected to make the big league club out of spring training, but their hot starts could be big down the line if the Cubs are looking for help during the 2006 season.

Majors | #2006#Chicago Cubs#Organization Reports

Red Sox Organization Report

John Tomase -Premium Content

FORT MYERS, Fla.—Jermaine Van Buren has experienced just about every emotion a baseball player can go through. He was a second-round pick with the Rockies in 1998, got released five years later, and then kept his career going by pitching in independent ball. The Cubs brought him back to Organized Baseball as a closer and his career took off again, and Chicago dealt their 2005 Triple-A pitcher of the year to the Red Sox in December.

Majors | #2006#Boston Red Sox#Organization Reports

Orioles Organization Report

Roch Kubatko -Premium Content

FORT LAUDERDALE—The reputation that Brandon Fahey carries as a solid defensive middle infielder has changed in spring training. And not because he's regressed on defense. The 25-year-old still makes all the plays at shortstop and second base, but now he's driving the ball to all fields and demonstrating offensive skills that aren't usually found in his scouting reports.

Majors | #2006#Baltimore Orioles#Organization Reports

Braves Organization Report

Bill Ballew -Premium Content

ORLANDO—Chances are the low Class A Rome outfield, not to mention the entire roster, will be formidable in 2006. Yet there's no question the loss of Jon Mark Owings to a broken jaw in spring training could limit the club's power potential early in the season. Owings' injury occurred when the right fielder collided with center fielder Ovandy Suero. Suero had a concussion but was not expected to miss more than a few days of spring training, while Owings was expected to miss four to eight weeks.

Majors | #2006#Atlanta Braves#Organization Reports

Diamondbacks Organization Report

Jack Magruder -Premium Content

TUCSON—Luis Gonzalez got a long look at Justin Upton early in the Diamondbacks' spring training camp, when both spent several days in the same hitting group. Gonzalez' report sounded just like those of the scouts that have watched him for years: "I didn't hit balls that far when I was 18, and I still can't right now at 38," Gonzalez said. "As a veteran, you kind of blow it off when you hear about (a hyped young hitter). It's pretty eye-opening watching him swing the bat. The first thing you think of is, 'No way he's 18 years old.' "

Majors | #2006#Arizona Diamondbacks#Organization Reports

Indians Organization Report

Jim Ingraham -Premium Content

Jeremy Guthrie is considered by many to be the most disappointing first-round pick by the Indians in recent years. However, general manager Mark Shapiro says he does not yet consider Guthrie a disappointment. Shapiro still holds out hope that the former Stanford All-American righthander will one day be a contributing member of the Indians pitching staff.

Majors | #2006#Cleveland Indians#Organization Reports

Trading Mulder, Hudson Shows Guts

Tracy Ringolsby -Premium Content

Billy Beane had to make his most challenging decisions as a general manager this offseason. He still had the rotation nucleus that has allowed the Athletics to be a factor in the American League West despite one of the lower payrolls in baseball. However, he also had to deal with reality. He dealt Tim Hudson to Atlanta and Mark Mulder to St. Louis, receiving a package of prospects in both deals.

Majors | #2005#Column

Sifting Through Round Table Reactions

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

Baseball America's debate between two scouts and two statistics analysts, the second installment of which begins in issue 0503, could be seen to concern high school pitchers, Double-A hitting prospects, the modern confusion between DIPS and dip. But that is only a smokescreen. It is about humility. Constructiveness. Debate. These are the fibers that, braided together, will lift these two groups from the muck of obstinacy and contempt into an air more healthy and breathable—and, ultimately, sharable.

Majors | #2005#Column

A Different Kind Of ‘next Year’ In Boston

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

No doubt, the Red Sox' 2004 championship came along just when New England—as well as the thousands of fans across the country who now wear their B hats in public—was about to blow. No professional sports franchise, for so long, so determined the mental state of its populace, whose release from psychological bondage required memoirs to confirm the separation, just before they started eating each other's limbs.

Majors | #2005#Column

Going Deep: Barry Zito

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

Barry Zito's career is at a crossroads. Two years after his 23-5 record for the Athletics won him the American League Cy Young Award at age 24, Zito spent last season devolving into an average starter with an 11-11, 4.48 record. And as he prepares for 2005, with Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder traded, Zito finds himself the sole remaining member of the A's vaunted Big Three, an old man on a rotation rebuilt with youngsters Rich Harden, Joe Blanton and Dan Meyer. In this first installment of Going Deep—Alan Schwarz' new column in which he will regularly sit down with a baseball newsmaker for a one-on-one interview—Zito discusses his fall from stardom, his approach to 2005, and being "a prisoner of my own mind."

Majors | #2005#Column

Going Deep: Mark Prior

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

Considered a possible (if not probable) Cy Young Award winner coming off his 18-6 breakthrough performance in 2003, Mark Prior spent the season's first two months on the disabled list with a mysterious Achilles strain and then balky elbow. Even when he returned, the once picture-perfect pitcher looked anything but, his suddenly sketchy control leaving him oddly hittable and with a final 6-4, 4.02 record. The most promising pitcher in years had lost a lot of his luster. Prior enters 2005 comparatively under the radar, trying to reassert himself on a Cubs team that enters the post-Sammy Sosa era relying on their rotation more than ever before.

Majors | #2005#Column

James Adds Insight As Insider

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

When the Red Sox hired Bill James as a consultant several years ago, some complained that allowing an outside stathead influence over player moves would run the club into the ground. They don't seem to be complaining anymore. James' moving from the outside to the inside has had other effects, though—including a recent essay that repudiates some of his theories.

Majors | #2005#Column

Alderson Returns To His Roots

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

It was a good day for San Diego, a bad day for baseball as a whole. Sandy Alderson's exit from Major League Baseball in early May, to return to his club roots as president of the Padres, comes after seven exemplary years of getting baseball's house in order: fixing the umpire mess and the strike zone, restoring some order to the amateur draft, speeding up game action and more. The longtime Athletics executive, Alderson brought intelligence and pragmatism to MLB's central office and substantially improved the modern game. On one of his final days with MLB, Alderson sat down to discuss the Padres, the work he did (and couldn't do), and what lies ahead at MLB.

Majors | #2005#Column

The World Baseball Classic Comes To Life

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

We've waited so long for the World Baseball Classic—the world-cup style tournament featuring major leaguers playing for their home countries, just announced for next March—that it seems sadistic to waste much time here. Let's instead jump right in with Tim Brosnan and Paul Archey, MLB International's two prime architects for the event, as they discuss the road to now, Cuba's prognosis and just how in the world they're going to get this thing done.

Majors | #2005#Column

Varitek Becomes New Face Of The BoSox

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

One decade ago, Jason Varitek was all but a baseball pariah, a player who turned down the Twins as a first-round pick, held out for another 10 months before signing with the Mariners, and began his professional career with most scouts and executives wondering whether he had the heart to be a pro. They're not wondering anymore. Varitek has evolved into one of the most respected players in the game, the linchpin of the defending World Series champion Red Sox, and a player whose only questions surrounding him resemble, "How can he get even better at age 33?" Varitek sat down at Yankee Stadium to discuss his storied preparation, his evolving relationship with the Red Sox and if he's ever wanted to tell baseball, "I told you so!"

Majors | #2005#Column