* RECORD LAST YEAR: 77-85, tied for fourth, 18 GB

* PITCHING: Four of 5 starters are coming off arm injuries; Rick Sutcliffe is on the DL. But the Cubs can get by if Greg Maddux, Mike Harkey, new addition Danny Jackson, Shawn Boskie and Baltimore's Mike Bielecki are OK. The team signed veteran closer Dave Smith.

* OFFENSE: Solid, led by OF George Bell, 2B Ryne Sandberg and OF Andre Dawson, who batted a career-high .310 with 100 RBI. 1B Mark Grace is a solid contact hitter. C Joe Girardi and Damon Berryhill are threats.

* DEFENSE: Solid infield, but Dawson and Bell may keep CF Jerome Walton busy. Big things are expected of rookie 3B Gary Scott.

* OUTLOOK: First. But the Cubs are no cinch with pitching questions.


* RECORD LAST YEAR: 95-67, first

* PITCHING: The Pirates were 0.03 short of leading the league in ERA. Cy Young winner Doug Drabek (22-6) and No. 2 starter Zane Smith lead the staff. John Smiley, Neal Heaton, Bob Walk, Bob Patterson and Randy Tomlin also can start. Bill Landrum and Stan Belinda share most of the bullpen load.

* OFFENSE: OF Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla are the NL's best 1-2 punch. The outfield also includes CF Andy Van Slyke (17 HR, 77 RBI). Mike LaValliere and Don Slaught are complementary behind the plate. 2B Jose Lind is solid and SS Jay Bell produced more runs than any other counterpart except Barry Larkin.

* DEFENSE: Bonilla, a converted third baseman, is shaky. Van Slyke and Bonds are Gold Glove winners. Lind is acrobatic and smooth, Bell steady and solid and LaValliere hard-working.

* OUTLOOK: Second. Contract disputes may be the biggest enemy.


* RECORD LAST YEAR: 85-77, third, 10 GB

* PITCHING: Without Mark Langston, Pascual Perez and Bryn Smith, the Expos stunned baseball by leading the league in ERA. Oriole Dennis Martinez (10-11) has become the ace, and Oil Can Boyd is the No. 2 man. Youngsters Mark Gardner and Chris Nabholz (Towson State) figure to return to the rotation. The bullpen matched Cincinnati's 50 saves, led by Tim Burke.

* OFFENSE: 2B Delino DeShields quickly became the table-setter for team captain Tim Wallach, Andres Galarraga and OF Larry Walker (19 HR). Still, the Expos have to scratch for runs.

* DEFENSE: With the third-best fielding percentage in the league, this team rarely self-destructs.

* OUTLOOK: Third. Manager Buck Rodgers has coaxed wonders out of average talent. The Expos are getting a better skill base and could climb.


* RECORD LAST YEAR: 91-71, second, 4 GB

* PITCHING: Sid Fernandez is sidelined with a fractured wrist. Dwight Gooden has the highest winning percentage (.721) of any active pitcher, and Frank Viola finished in the top five in every major category but has a tender elbow. David Cone can be overpowering but is a traditional slow starter. John Franco (33 saves) heads the bullpen.

* OFFENSE: Darryl Strawberry is gone, but CF Vince Coleman (77 steals with Cardinals) arrives. LF Kevin McReynolds (24 HR) and SS Howard Johnson (23 HR) will be counted on for power. Hubie Brooks (20 HR, 91 RBI with the Dodgers) also adds pop.

* DEFENSE: Johnson may not be the answer at short, and IF

Gregg Jefferies hasn't found a position to call his own. Coleman must adjust to a new spot after playing left in St. Louis.

* OUTLOOK: Fourth. Uncertainty on the pitching staff, usually a strength, and the loss of Strawberry don't bode well for New York.


* RECORD LAST YEAR: 77-85, tied for fourth, 18 GB

* PITCHING: Ken Howell is sidelined until June by shoulder surgery. The rotation of Terry Mulholland, Pat Combs, Jose DeJesus and Jason Grimsley has a combined career record of 41-49 and a 3.90 ERA. The bullpen, a disaster last season, doesn't appear any better.

* OFFENSE: Second-year 3B Charlie Hayes (.258) is expected to improve. John Kruk (.291) has won the first-base job from Ricky Jordan. C Darren Daulton led all NL catchers in games, walks, runs, double and on-base percentage. The outfield of Von Hayes in left, Lenny Dykstra (.325) in center and Dale Murphy (24 HR, 83 RBI) in right combines speed, average and power.

* DEFENSE: The outfield is sound, and Hayes earned a good reputation last year. Free-agent 2B Wally Backman will team with shortstop Dickie Thon.

* OUTLOOK: Fifth. The Phillies figure to have too many holes in the pitching staff to make any big improvement.


* RECORD LAST YEAR: 70-92, sixth, 25 GB

* PITCHING: Left-hander Joe Magrane is lost for the season with an elbow injury. The rotation of Bryn Smith, Jose DeLeon, Ken Hill, Bob Tewksbury and either Omar Olivares or Jamie Moyer combined for only 36 wins last year. Juan Agosto joins the bullpen.

* OFFENSE: The Cardinals hit a major-league-low 73 homers last season. The outfield will have speedy rookies Ray Lankford and Bernard Gilkey in center and left, and Felix Jose in right. Todd Zeile moves from catcher to third, opening a spot for Tom Pagnozzi.

* DEFENSE: Only SS Ozzie Smith, 2B Jose Oquendo and 1B Pedro Guerrero return to their original positions. The alignment is solid up the middle but uncertain elsewhere.

* OUTLOOK: Sixth. Manager Joe Torre will try to win with speed, but the rebuilding job has a long way to go.

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