Baseball preview: National League Central 2015 team-by-team capsules

first_imgBullpen: Jordan Walden, Matt Belisle, Kyle Siegrist, Seth Maness, Randy Choate, Sam Freeman, Carlos Villanueva .Closer: Trevor Rosenthal.Lineup:1B Matt Adams2B Kolten WongSS Jhonny Peralta3B Matt CarpenterLF Matt HollidayCF Jon JayRF Jason HeywardC Yadier MolinaBench: OF Randal Grichuk, 1B Mark Reynolds, INF Peter Kozma, OF Peter Bourjos, C Tony Cruz.DL: LHP Jaime Garcia. Fun Fact: Cardinals have not had a losing month since June of 2012.Fun Fact II: Of the 10 N.L. closers who had 30-plus saves, Rosenthal’s WHP of 1.408 was by far the worst.Best Case: Wacha pitches like it’s 2013.Worst Case: Fans expect too much of Heyward.Forecast: First. The gold standard for N.L. consistency.• MORE BASEBALL PREVIEW: 2015 MLB pre-season predictionsPITTSBURGH PIRATES2014 Record: 88-74Rank in Runs Scored: FourthRuns Allowed: SeventhManager: Clint HurdleRotation: Francisco Liriano A.J. Burnett, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, Jeff Locke.Bullpen: Tony Watson, Jered Hughes, Vance Worley, Antonio Bastardo, Stolmy Pimentel, Radhames Liz.Closer: Mark Melancon.Lineup:1B Pedro Alvarez2B Neil WalkerSS Jordy Mercer3B Josh HarrisonLF Sterling MarteCF Andrew McCutchenRF Gregory PolancoC Francisco CervelliBench: OF Corey Hart, INF Jung Ho Kang, INF Sean Rodriguez, C Chris Stewart, OF Andrew Lambo.DL: RHP Brandon Cumpton.Fun Fact: Alvarez played in 30 fewer games than in 2013 and hit half as many homers (376 to 18).Fun Fact II: Harrison played at least 17 games at five different positions.Best Case: Burnett can fill a rotation hole.Worst Case: Departed catcher Russell Martin isn’t replaced.Forecast: Third. The rotation is a little thin to envision playoffs.CHICAGO CUBS2014 Record: 73-89Rank In Runs Scored: 12thRuns Allowed: 13thManager: Joe MaddonRotation: Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Travis Wood, Kyle Hendricks.Bullpen: Jason Motte, Pedro Strop, Neil Ramirez, Justin Grimm, Phil Coke, Edwin Jackson.Closer: Hector Rondon.Lineup:1B Anthony Rizzo2B Javier BaezSS Starlin Castro3B Mike OltLF Chris CoghlanCF Dexter FowlerRF Jorge SolerC Miguel MonteroBench: OF Chris Denorfia, 3B Tommy La Stella, INF Arismendy Alcantara, OF Ryan Sweeney, OF Matt Czczur, C David Ross, C Wellington Castillo,DL: None.Fun Fact: Rizzo was second in N.L. homers, third in OPS, third in slugging.Fun Fact II: Baez and Alcantara struck out 188 times in 529 plate appearances.Best Case: Kris Bryant comes up April 20 or so, wins Rookie of the Year.Worst Case: Physical problems in spring hold back Lester.Forecast. Second. Their pitching gets them to the playoffs. Then let the hype begin.CINCINNATI REDS2014 Record: 76-86 Rank in Runs Scored: 13thRuns Allowed: 11thManager: Bryan PriceRotation: Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Anthony DeSclafani, Jason Marquis, Rasiel Iglesias.Bullpen: Jumbo Diaz, Manny Parra, Blake Badenhiop, Tony Cingrani, J.J. Hoover, Kevin Gregg.Closer: Aroldis Chapman.Lineup:1B Joey Votto2B Brandon PhillipsSs Zack Cozart3B Todd FrazierLF Marlon ByrdCF Billy HamiltonRF Jay BruceC Devin MesoracoBench: INF Kris Negron, C Brayan Pena, OF Skip Schumaker, OF Brennan Bosch, INF Chris Dominguez.DL: RHP Homer Bailey, OF Jason Bourgeois.Fun Fact: Mesaroco had 16 homers in 175 games before last year, when he hit 25 in 114.Fun Fact II: In 54 appearances Chapman gave up more walks (24) than hits (21)Best Case: Votto, Phillips and Bruce somehow remember how to produce.Worst Case: Something happens to 20-game winner CuetoForecast: Fifth. Dusty Baker probably wasn’t the problem here.MILWAUKEE BREWERS2014 Record: 82-80Rank In Runs Scored: SixthRuns Allowed: SixthManager: Ron RoenickeRotation: Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza, Wily Peralta, Michael Fiers, Jimmy Nelson.Bullpen: Jonathan Broxton, Will Smith, Neal Cotts, Jim Henderson, Jeremy Jeffress, Brandon Kintzler, Tyler Thornburg.Closer: Francisco Rodriguez.Lineup:1B Adam Lind2B Scooter GennettSS Jean Segura3B Aramis RamirezLF Khris DavisCF Carlos GomezRF Ryan BraunC Jonathan LucroyDL: None.Bench: INF Luis Jimenez, INF Luis Sardinas, OF Gerardo Parra, INF Hector Gomez, OF Logan Schafer, C Martin Maldonado.Fun Fact: Peralta, who went 17-11, got 36 runs in five May starts, all wins.Fun Fact II: Half of Davis’ 122 hits were extra-base hits, best ratio in the league.Best Case: Rodriguez has another strong year.Worst Case: The calendar catches up with Ramirez.Prediction: Fourth. Like the Reds, they had a window but left it open. 2014 Record: 90-72Rank In Runs Scored: 10thRuns Allowed: FourthManager: Mike MathenyRotation: Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn, John Lackey, Michael Wacha, JCarlos Martinez. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorcenter_img How much of an impact will Joe Maddon have on the Chicago Cubs? L.A. Daily News columnist Mark Whicker breaks down the National League Central.• MORE BASEBALL PREVIEW: National League West team-by-team capsules• MORE BASEBALL PREVIEW: National League East team-by-team capsulesST. LOUIS CARDINALSlast_img read more

Five things on Romelu Lukaku

first_imgLondon, United Kingdom | AFP |  Five things on Romelu Lukaku after Manchester United agreed a fee with Everton for the transfer of the Belgian striker on Saturday.Lukaku not lost in translationLukaku is fluent in six languages including Portuguese and Spanish. “I think education is very important. It was important for me to have my diplomas at school so I could also go to England,” he said in 2012. “Education is very important in Belgium and, if you didn’t do well at school in the week, you couldn’t play football at the weekend. You can have an injury and then you won’t play at the highest level any more. If you don’t have a diploma, what then?”Drogba his idol but with qualificationsHis idols are Ivory Coast legend Didier Drogba — who did make it big at Chelsea unlike Lukaku — and the Belgian international’s father Roger who was capped by the then Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo). However, Lukaku junior made it crystal clear in 2012 when Chelsea had sent him on loan to Premier League rivals West Brom that idols did not mean he wished to be compared to them. “Am I fed up being compared with Drogba? Yes,” he said. “In the beginning it was nice to hear that, but every player wants to make his own name. I want to make my own name. Drogba was my big idol and so was my father, who also played in Belgium. I want to be myself. I want the people to say “this is Roman Lukaku, not the new Drogba”.Dad the guiding lightAny in-depth interview with Lukaku reveals that his father Roger has had the most profound influence on his life whether it be in education or his football career. It was tough love but it has paid off big time. “Very strict,” Lukaku told in 2011 regarding his upbringing. “My father told me, ‘You must always have a goal and do everything to reach it’. Ever since I was six or seven, I wanted to be a professional footballer.” The Crying GameAs a teenager Lukaku and his schoolmates at Saint-Guidon Institute in Brussels were subject of a documentary ‘De School Van Lukaku’ (Lukaku’s School). Part of it filmed them on a trip to London and a visit to Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge Ground which left Lukaku overwhelmed. “Give me a ball and I will play here for five hours, What a stadium. If one day in my life I will cry, it will be the day I play here. I love Chelsea,” he says. The teacher accompanying the group urged a certain restraint from his pupil. “You can dream on later,” he says. Nevertheless undeterred Lukaku insists he is not fantasising. “This is not dreaming. I will do it. One day I will play here.”Spoils Fergie’s United farewellAlex Ferguson will be content for United they have secured such a talent and the legendary Scottish manager has good reason to recall the last time they crossed paths. It was Fergie’s last match in charge of United away at West Brom and at 3-1 up at half-time United looked set to give him a perfect send-off. However Lukaku being sent on as a second-half substitute changed it all. He scored almost immediately but United then went 5-2 up. However, three goals inside the last 10 minutes forced a remarkable 5-5 draw with Lukaku emerging with a hat-trick.Share on: WhatsApplast_img read more