We are now a full three weeks into spring training and hopes are high in camps from Florida to Arizona.

Well, not all camps. The Twins, Orioles and Padres have some of the spring&s best records. However, please rest assured that nobody in Baltimore is wondering where to put extra press boxes for the World Series.

The American League

In the American League, the Yankees are again the team to beat. They are coming off their third straight World Series victory and have added the AL&s second best pitcher.

The Yanks& strength lies in a starting rotation with free-agent signee Mike Mussina, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite. The team&s issue surrounds an aging offense that sports some of the league&s worst production from the corners.

The Bronx Bombers must rely on waning veterans like Paul O&Neill, Tino Martinez and Scott Brosius, while hoping that Chuck Knoblauch&s errant throws don&t keep him out of the lineup.

The bullpen is suspect, and if El Duque&s real birth certificate surfaces, the Yanks might admit why his ailing elbow is becoming such a problem.

In the AL East, the Red Sox have added Manny Ramirez, the game&s best run-producer, to a lineup that struggled to score runs last year. Nomar Garciaparra, Ramirez, and Carl Everett is possibly the best 1-2-3 punch in the game if Garciaparra&s wrist injury doesn&t stay a lingering problem.

The rotation includes Pedro Martinez, the best pitcher in baseball. However, the rest of the spots in the rotation are filled with arms that may not be up to par.

The Sox will need some quality starts out of guys like Hideo Nomo, Frank Castillo and youngster Tomo Okha if they hope to secure a playoff spot.

Despite this, the bullpen appears strong. And with a healthy Pedro in the playoffs, other teams can expect at least one loss.

The AL&s other monster team is the Oakland A&s who almost took out the Yanks in last year&s division series. The A&s have added leadoff man Johnny Damon to an already potent lineup that includes last year&s MVP Jason Giambi and a host of disciplined power hitters.

Along with one of baseball&s best lineups, the A&s have a 20-game winner in Tim Hudson and a list of quality young starters like Barry Zito and Mark Mulder. The bullpen is mediocre, but the A&s will be a trendy pick by many to win it all.

If you&re wondering where the $252 million-dollar-A-Rod and the Rangers are, they&ve been left out for a reason 8212; zero pitching.

Subtract an All-Star closer from a team with baseball&s worst ERA last year, and you get a team that isn&t going to the playoffs. As for the Mariners, they have the opposite problem, with plenty of pitching and not much pop.

But hey, if these two teams could merge, they might win the World Series.

The AL Central has two teams 8212; the Indians and White Sox 8212; that definitely have a chance this year.

The Indians 8212; have a powerful lineup top to bottom 8212; as they always do 8212; but pitching remains the question. Bartolo Colon, Chuck Finley, and Dave Burba are solid at the top, but questions surrounding the health of Charles Nagy and Jaret Wright still remain.

The White Sox have a similar situation 8212; a potent lineup with the likes of Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez. They added 20-game winner David Wells to their rotation, but the health of right-handers James Baldwin and Cal Eldred is questionable.

Next week we&ll take a look at the National League.



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