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Friday, January 13
Fleetwood Walkers

2001 record:
92-70 (.568); 2nd place in NL Central
Won NL Wild Card series over Columbus in 5 games; Lost NL Divisional Series to Stanley in 6 games

Major additions:
C Jorge Posada, DH Jose Canseco, RHP Steve Sparks, RHP Esteban Yan

Major loses:
SP Jeff D'Amico (arm injury), SP Hideo Nomo, C Ben Molina

2001 Review:
In just its second year since moving from River Bend, the Fleetwood Walkers reached the BRASSball playoffs. Led by top players 3B Chipper Jones (.321, 30 HR, 117 RBI) and RHP Derek Lowe (95 IP, 2.64 ERA, 31 SV), the team posted a solid 92-70 record in 2001.

While that finish left them eleven games behind the NL Central division champion Stanley Sioux, it was strong enough to earn them a NL wild card berth. Fleetwood went on to defeat the Columbus Buckeyes in the NL Wild Card round before falling to Stanley once again, this time in the National League Divisional Series.

2002 Outlook:
After a strong 2001 season, the Fleetwood Walkers entered the off-season looking to build upon that success in 2002. Unfortunately, though, a mysterious arm injury to its best starting pitcher, Jeff D'Amico, has subsequently left him unavailable for next season, threatening the team's chances for success.

The Fleetwood rotation still features workhorses LHP Al Leiter (15-9, 4.75 ERA) and RHP Livan Hernandez (16-11, 5.60 ERA), but will now need to rely even more heavily on two young pitchers in RHPs Brad Penny and A.J. Burnett. Penny proved himself in 12 starts last year, finishing 7-1 with a 4.21 ERA. But Burnett struggled in his six starts, ending the season 1-3 with a 9.00 ERA.

Fleetwood was able to add insurance to its staff through free agency by signing RHP Esteban Yan (114 IP, 3.95 ERA) and RHP Steve Sparks (10-6, 3.98 ERA). But Yan is unproven himself, and the knuckleballer Sparks has been inconsistent at best thus far in his career. (In fact, he was so homer-prone for Metropolis in 1999 that he pitched in that year's All-Star Home Run Derby.)

The good news for Fleetwood is that its offense, second to only Ocala in the NL with 981 runs last season, should be even more potent in 2002. After all, CF Jim Edmonds (.298, 46 HR, 137 RBI) is now on-board for a full season and free agent C Jorge Posada (.277, 32 HR, 114 RBI) will provide even more punch.

If the team's pitching staff proves able enough, then, Fleetwood should find itself walking into the postseason once again.

Projected lineup
RF Bobby Abreu
LF Shannon Stewart
CF Jim Edmonds
3B Chipper Jones
1B Paul Konerko
C Jorge Posada
DH Jose Canseco
SS Jose Valentin
2B Damion Easley

Al Leiter
Livan Hernandez
Brad Penny
Steve Sparks
A.J. Burnett

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