Can the Padres replace the offense that Adrian Gonzalez provided as a lefty in an extreme pitcher's park that buries most lefties? Spring training won't answer that question, but the finding out adds spice to the Cactus League.
What, you might ask, is the big question looming over other clubs as spring training enters its final two weeks? You came to the right place. Beat writers with 16 other clubs sent me a camp update. Here are their reports:
Braves: Chipper Jones is showing signs that he can return from his second ACL surgery to be the player he was, at least of the last few years. Also, Fredi Gonzalez is completing one of the most seamless transitions while following a legend manager.
Blue Jays: Should third baseman Brett Lawrie (20, great spring, former No. 1 draft pick of Brewers, Canadian) make team? Answer is, probably no. What's the rush? He was at Double-A Huntsville last year and has only played two seasons.
Brewers: The major development in Brewers camp was Zack "Air" Greinke cracking a rib playing basketball. He will miss most of his April starts.
Cubs: Everyman manager Mike Quade takes over a team that failed to reach its goal under high-profile managers Lou Piniella and Dusty Baker. Quade sets a more relaxed tone for a team in transition.
Mariners: Can Erik Bedard, after missing all of last season and undergoing his third shoulder operation, continue his strong spring, stay healthy and return to the Mariners rotation?
Marlins: I'd go with Chris Coghlan and whether he can play an adequate center field (replacing Cameron Maybin) after offseason knee surgery. He'll have two young players on either side of him -- Logan Morrison in left and Mike Stanton in right, and the three haven't really played together at all this spring because of Stanton's strained quad.
Nationals: Having taken some significant steps over the winter to improve their lineup and defense, can a starting rotation minus Stephen Strasburg hold up enough to keep the Nationals competitive?
Orioles: Health to key players. Brian Roberts hasn't played in a week because of back spasms and had a MRI on Monday. Derrek Lee (right wrist soreness) hasn't played a game yet. Justin Duchscherer (left hip) has pitched two innings and had a MRI on Monday. Koji Uehara (right elbow) hasn't pitched since the first exhibition game. Not sure any of them will be ready for Opening Day.
Pirates: Clint Hurdle breathing some life into a dead-ass organization.
Rangers: Will the final three spots in the rotation keep together? The Rangers are confident only in their first two starters: LHP C.J. Wilson and RHP Colby Lewis.
Rays: It's replacing all the players who left (Crawford, Pena, Bartlett) specifically the bullpen, which lost seven of the eight pitchers who worked their most relief innings.
Rockies: The big story is the hiring of Carney Lansford to replace Don Baylor as hitting coach and whatever inroads he can make in trying to wake up the potential of Ian Stewart, Seth Smith and Chris Iannetta as hitters. They need each of those three to take a step forward to provide the offensive support needed for the big guys, Tulowitzki and Gonzalez.
Royals: How many, if any, of the organization's many much-touted prospects will break with the team? And what's the timeline for those who don't?
Tigers: Will Miguel Cabrera's performance show any effects of his DUI arrest, pending trial and ugliness of details in police report.
Twins: Joe Nathan (Tommy John surgery) and Justin Morneau (concussion) have returned, and the Twins are confident Joe Mauer (knee surgery) and Michael Cuddyer (wart removed from his foot) will be ready for the April 1 season opener in Toronto.
White Sox: Jake Peavy returns quicker than expected from season-ending surgery to repair a detached latissimus dorsi muscle under his right shoulder. He's been on pace since the start of camp, setting a positive tone for a team that spent heavily to win. The other, ongoing storyline is the search to replace closer Bobby Jenks, with Matt Thornton seeming to take the upper hand over rookie Chris Sale, who has not pitched as well as the Sox hoped.