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5. TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS

Wednesday, March 30, 2005; Page H10

The loss of center fielder Rocco Baldelli certainly hurts the Devil Rays' chances of making any movement in the division. Tampa has talent in the organization, but most of it is still in the minors and not ready to contribute this season.

One player ready to help is left-hander Scott Kazmir, who was acquired last season for Victor Zambrano. Kazmir was the New York Mets' best pitching prospect and made a quick impression when he joined the Devil Rays. Former first-round pick Dewon Brazelton leads an otherwise ordinary starting rotation.


Carl Crawford, a first-time all-star for the Devil Rays last season, takes over in center field as Rocco Baldelli recovers from an offseason knee injury.

_____ Breakdown _____
 baseball
Lineup
CF Carl Crawford
2B Jorge Cantu
RF Aubrey Huff
DH Josh Phelps
1B Travis Lee
LF Julio Lugo
3B Alex Gonzalez
C Toby Hall
CF Alex Sanchez
Rotation
RHP Dewon Brazelton
LHP Mark Hendrickson
LHP Scott Kazmir
RHP Doug Waechter
RHP Rob Bell
Closer
Danys Baez

Best move: Trading for young pitcher Scott Kazmir at last year's deadline helps set up this year's rotation.
Biggest loss: Rocco Baldelli's offseason knee injury will hurt.
Top rival: Florida Marlins.

___ Team Capsules ___
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
NL East
NL Central
NL West
1. Cubs
4. Mets
4. Reds
   
 
AL East
AL Central
AL West
 


Carl Crawford replaces Baldelli in center. Crawford was a first-time all-star last season and could be on the verge of a breakout year. Aubrey Huff is an underrated player who is the team's best offensive star. He attracted interest from several teams this past offseason.

The bullpen is unspectacular, though closer Danys Baez is talented.

It's unlikely the Devil Rays can avoid last place.

-- Jorge Arangure Jr.


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