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AL West Organization Reports

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LOS ANGELES—If Nick Gorneault's career path were to continue on its current trajectory, the 26-year-old outfielder would hit about .300 with 30 home runs and 120 RBIs for the Angels this season. Of course, the chances of that are as remote as Bengie Molina leading the league in stolen bases. Vladimir Guerrero and Garret Anderson are entrenched at the corner outfield spots in Anaheim, and the Angels made a two-year, $3.275 million commitment to Juan Rivera, a reserve outfielder and the team's primary DH, virtually assuring Gorneault a ticket back to Triple-A Salt Lake this spring.

Majors | #2006#Los Angeles Angels#Organization Reports

AL West Organization Reports

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ANAHEIM—After the Angels won the World Series in 2002, they went shopping for a reserve outfielder. Eric Owens signed up happily, hoping for the chance to participate in the playoffs for the first time. Owens started the year slowly. By the time he started hitting the Angels had long vanished from contention, and they finished 19 games out of first place. The team released Owens after the season, and he never played another game in the major leagues.

Majors | #2006#Los Angeles Angels#Organization Reports

AL West Organization Reports

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ANAHEIM—In the years before Arte Moreno, Vladimir Guerrero and Bartolo Colon, Angels general manager Bill Stoneman made a name for himself by assembling quality bullpens on the cheap. The Angels paid longtime closer Troy Percival handsomely, but Stoneman shuddered at seven-figure salaries for set-up men and plugged in an assortment of minor league free agents, waiver claims or promotions from within. Within the past two years, however, the Angels have lost five promising relievers on waivers. Righthanders Bobby Jenks and Derrick Turnbow emerged as closers, Jenks for the White Sox and Turnbow for the Brewers.

Majors | #2006#Los Angeles Angels#Organization Reports

Detour To Stardom

Derrick Goold -

On the day Rick Ankiel solved the riddle that was his star-crossed talent for pitching by borrowing an outfielder's glove, the lefthander was scheduled to start a back-lot game at Cardinals spring training. A persistent storm threatened to rain out the entire day of workouts for the club. Pitchers had to throw, puddles or not, and contingency plans were quickly being penciled in the coaches' office. Having been thinking about it since his last turn on the mound went horribly haywire, Ankiel already decided how he would make up the washed-out innings. He wasn't going to. Not that day. Not any day. Ankiel was done pitching.

Majors | #2006#Season Preview

No Need To Feel Blue

Tony Jackson -

At the end of the 2005 season—the Dodgers' second-worst since they arrived on the West Coast almost four decades ago—anyone who followed the club closely could survey the organizational landscape and see something akin to the surface of the moon. It was barren, with holes everywhere, and offered few reasons for optimism. When Ned Colletti surveyed it, he saw a Picasso—grotesque and disfigured on the surface, but with a hidden beauty waiting to be brought to the surface.

Majors | #2006#Season Preview

Second Best In Second City?

Jeff Vorva -

Last July 26, the first-place White Sox were playing in Kansas City in a night game, while the Cubs' evening home game against the Giants did not get started for close to three hours because of a rain delay. For a two-hour period, the television coverage of the Cubs' rain delay—which consisted mostly of interviews and canned features—doubled the local ratings of the White Sox game. For a long time, Chicago has been a Cubs town and the White Sox were considered second-class citizens.

Majors | #2006#Season Preview

AL West Organization Reports

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Life's pace ambles by a tick slower in Tifton, Ga., as compared to the fast pace of Atlanta, three hours north. And patience has long been a virtue of Tifton native Nick Green. The 21-year-old righthander spent two years in junior college, another half-season in Rookie ball and the first six weeks of his 2005 season in extended spring training. In mid May he was summoned to pitch out the bullpen at low Class A Cedar Rapids, and by August had pitched his way into the starting rotation, where he next helped pitch the Kernals into the playoffs.

Majors | #2006#Los Angeles Angels#Organization Reports

AL Central Organization Reports

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TUCSON—In terms of his long suffering, Lance Broadway heads the line of the nouveau riche White Sox. As far as he knows, it's all good. Broadway, an All-America righthander from Texas Christian, was the White Sox' first-round pick last June. The big league team was in first place when he accepted Chicago's $1.57 million bonus to sign, then rolled on to win the World Series.

Majors | #2006#Chicago White Sox#Organization Reports

AL Central Organization Reports

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CHICAGO—While the White Sox brought in five more experienced candidates to compete for Damaso Marte's spot as lefthanded reliever, they would love for one of their three homegrown candidates—Arnie Munoz, Paulino Reynoso and Corwin Malone—to make it a tough decision. All eight of those job seekers will be watching Ray Liotta over their shoulders. While Neal Cotts was one of the American League's best relievers last season, Marte gave the Sox four solid seasons before being traded to Pittsburgh for utilityman Rob Mackowiak. That trade created a vacancy for a second lefty in the bullpen, which will be the most open competition in White Sox camp.

Majors | #2006#Chicago White Sox#Organization Reports

AL Central Organization Reports

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CHICAGO—Anderson Gomes is the White Sox' international man of mystery. With the chance to nab Javier Vazquez, the defending World Series champions reluctantly shipped Chris Young, a 22-year-old center fielder with 30/30 potential, to the Diamondbacks. The Sox hope they have replaced Young's potential with a little-noticed signing, plucking Gomes, a native of Brazil, from the Japanese minor leagues for about the cost of a third-round draft pick.

Majors | #2006#Chicago White Sox#Organization Reports

AL Central Organization Reports

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CHICAGO—With two members of the big league rotation planning to pitch in the World Baseball Classic, the White Sox expect to get a better than usual read on some of their young pitchers in spring training. Knuckleballer Charles Haeger, a nowhere man in the organization a year ago, is expected to join Sean Tracey, a 14-game winner in Double-A in 2005, in getting some of the innings that might normally go to Freddy Garcia and Javier Vazquez.

Majors | #2006#Chicago White Sox#Organization Reports

AL Central Organization Reports

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CHICAGO—Seldom have the White Sox had such stability in their starting rotation. That could force righthander Sean Tracey to find a different path to Chicago. A 14-game winner with Double-A Birmingham, Tracey tied for the Southern League lead in victories. But the Sox experimented with him out of the bullpen in the Arizona Fall League, and that could be his quickest path to the big leagues.

Majors | #2006#Chicago White Sox#Organization Reports

AL Central Organization Reports

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CHICAGO—Give Brian Anderson credit for both his abilities and his perspective. He knows that nothing is owed him even though he's first in line to succeed departed center fielder Aaron Rowand. "Absolutely nothing in life is handed to you," said Anderson, who knows that Jerry Owens could also contend for the spot. "It's good to have people pushing you. A guy who is comfortable is a guy who is in trouble."

Majors | #2006#Chicago White Sox#Organization Reports

Going Deep: Cast Of Benchwarmers

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

Baseball America is all about prospects, but that doesn't mean we don't have a soft spot for the scrubs. And now we have a movie for the guys at the end of a roster: "The Benchwarmers," in theaters April 7, features an eccentric billionaire (Jon Lovitz) who backs a three-man team of adult misfits (Rob Schneider, Jon Heder and David Spade) to take on young bullies in a Little League tournament. It's typical Adam Sandler slapstick—"If you build it, nerds will come," Lovitz's character declares—about the 99 percent of us who sit and watch as the stars get to play. I sat down with Schneider and Lovitz to talk about the movie, their own Little League days, and Reggie Jackson destroying federal property.

Majors | #2006#Column

Going Deep: Buck Martinez

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

As the pieces of the upcoming World Baseball Classic gradually fall into place, one of the biggest appeared at the Winter Meetings: the Team USA manager will be Buck Martinez, the current ESPN analyst and former manager of the Blue Jays. The prospect of managing the greatest collection of talent in the history of baseball, with names like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Derek Jeter and more, has left the garrulous Martinez anything but speechless. I sat down with Martinez to discuss his evolving juggernaut and any plans to bribe the Rocket out of retirement.

Majors | #2006#Column

Going Deep: George Brett

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

The day when the Hall of Fame balloting gets announced is about phone calls: mainly, to the lucky former players who learn they'll be in Cooperstown forevermore. But this year the most notable phone call for me was the one to Hall of Famer George Brett, who after stepping off a plane in Boston wanted to know the voting results. I had the pleasure of getting his immediate and candid thoughts on Bruce Sutter's selection, his continuing vigil for Goose Gossage and Bert Blyleven, and whether his old pal John Schuerholz ever has a shot.

Majors | #2006#Column

Going Deep: Darrell Miller

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

I've seen it. Really. While in Los Angeles on business, I stopped by Major League Baseball's new Urban Youth Academy in Compton, an immense (and long-overdue) step in revitalizing inner-city baseball. When it officially opens on Feb. 28, after more than five years of planning, the $10 million facility will allow thousands of youngsters a chance to learn baseball from former pros and play games on big league quality fields, complete with stands and lights. All for free. Its director is Darrell Miller, the former Angels catcher and farm director, who gave me a walking tour of the still under construction complex in late January. Among the dirt and cinderblocks lies the future of urban baseball.

Majors | #2006#Column

Going Deep: Mike Marshall

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

ike Marshall fashions himself a baseball pariah. The 63-year-old former ironman pitcher—who in 1974 pitched in 208 innings over 106 games to set records for a major league reliever—now coaches amateur pitchers at his facility in Zephyrhills, Fla., using such unconventional methods and criticizing other pitching experts so vehemently that he claims his students are blackballed by major league organizations. Few dispute that Marshall, who owns a doctorate in exercise physiology from Michigan State and has done tremendous other research on pitching arms and injuries, has some interesting ideas. I spoke with Marshall about those ideas, the contentiousness with which he shares them, and his vow to change pitching forever.

Majors | #2006#Column

Going Deep: Dontrelle Willis

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

If the World Baseball Classic has a face, it is not the anticipatory gaze of the baseball beancounters, or the worried mug of general managers everywhere. It is that of Dontrelle Willis. No player from any country has expressed more unbridled joy for participating in the upcoming extravaganza. (His "I just hope I make the team!" at last year's all-star press conference pierced the hearts of even the most cynical scribes.) With the event finally at hand, I talked with Willis about pitching for his country, his role on Team USA and the revamped Marlins, and scoring freebies from HBO.

Majors | #2006#Column

AL East Organization Reports

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FORT LAUDERDALE—After missing all of 2005, outfielder Val Majewski is back in action. And he is even taking some ground balls at first base. Majewski, a third-round selection in the 2002 draft, is no stranger to the position. It just took a while to get reacquainted. He played there in high school and for two seasons at Rutgers before moving to the outfield.

Majors | #2006#Baltimore Orioles#Organization Reports