By Larry Fine
(Reuters) - Following are brief profiles of the 15 National League teams ahead of the 2014 Major League Baseball season starting on March 22 with the Los Angeles Dodgers playing the Arizona Diamondbacks in Sydney, Australia:
Manager: Fredi Gonzalez
2013 record: 96-66 (Won division, eliminated in Division Series by the Dodgers)
Suffered heavy blow to NL-leading pitching staff (3.18 ERA) when Kris Medlen (15-12, 3.11) blew out his elbow this spring requiring surgery, and signed free agent Ervin Santana as replacement. Also lost slugging catcher Brian McCann to free agency, although Justin Upton and Freddie Freeman remain.
Manager: Matt Williams
2013 record: 86-76 (Fell short of expectations, failed to reach playoffs)
New manager Matt Williams takes over team that is again tipped to win the division after adding Doug Fister to rotation featuring Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez. Power hitting Bryce Harper needs to steer clear of outfield walls after hurting his knee last season banging into the fence. Aiming for first World Series in franchise's 44-year history.
New York Mets
Manager: Terry Collins
2013 record: 74-88 (Derailed by season-ending injury to promising pitcher Matt Harvey)
Added home run-hitting outfielder Curtis Granderson and veteran starter Bartolo Colon to team built on promising young pitching. Unfortunately, top starter Harvey (9-5, 2.27 ERA) is expected to miss the season after undergoing elbow surgery.
Manager: Ryne Sandberg
2013 record: 73-89 (Injuries and advancing age continued to plague Phillies)
Need veterans Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins to turn back the clock and stay on the field to complement young slugger Domonic Brown, and hope A.J. Burnett can ably replace retired Roy Halladay in rotation alongside Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.
Manager: Mike Redmond
2013 record: 62-100 (Pitcher Jose Fernandez a bright spot)
Hopes of a revival for the beleaguered Marlins were buoyed by emergence of rookie Jose Fernandez, who earned Cy Young consideration by going 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA for a team that was last in the NL in runs, hits, home runs and batting average.
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St. Louis Cardinals
Manager: Mike Matheny
2013 record: 97-65 (Had NL's best record, beat Pittsburgh and Los Angeles in the playoffs before losing in the World Series to the Boston Red Sox)
Could stumble through a power shortage after losing Carlos Beltran and David Freese, though added speedy outfielder Peter Bourjos. Key is the continued development of outstanding group of young pitchers, including Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha and Joe Kelly behind ace Adam Wainright.
Manager: Clint Hurdle
2013 record: 94-68 (Reached postseason for first time in 21 years. Won one-game wild card playoff against Cincinnati before losing Division Series 3-2 to the Cardinals)
May find it difficult to reproduce rousing 2013 success that was keyed by the NL MVP performance of center fielder Andrew McCutchen and slugger Pedro Alvarez. Lost top of the rotation pitcher A.J. Burnett and need Gerrit Cole to build on his rookie season (10-7, 3.22).
Manager: Bryan Price
2013 record: 90-72 (Lost one-game wild card playoff against the Pirates)
Should Cardinals and Pirates slip, Reds could move up under new manager Bryan Price, who takes over team with solid pitching and impressive power. Lost all-rounder Choo Shin-soo, but hope Billy Hamilton can spark the top of a lineup boasting Joey Votto and Jay Bruce after swiping 75 bases last year in Triple-A.
Manager: Ron Roenicke
2013 record: 74-88 (Slipped to fourth as Ryan Braun suspended)
Disappointing season capped by former NL MVP Ryan Braun ending his season early due to a doping suspension. Need a return to form by Braun and a boost from free agent pitcher Matt Garza to a rotation featuring Kyle Lohse and Yovani Gallardo.
Manager: Rick Renteria
2013 record: 66-96 (Improved five games from 101-loss season)
New manager in Rick Renteria, but same old expectations for the Cubs, who have not been to the World Series since 1945 and last won one in 1908. The rebuilding continues with a bullpen shored up by additions of Jose Veras and Wesley Wright.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Manager: Don Mattingly
2013 record: 92-70 (Won division, beat Atlanta before losing to Cardinals 4-2 in League Championship Series)
Big-spending Dodgers reached the postseason on the strength of a sterling rotation led by Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and staff mates Zack Greinke and Korean import Ryu Hyun-jin. Should Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez stay healthy a World Series berth may be in store.
Manager: Kirk Gibson
2013 record: 81-81 (Finish .500 for second year in a row)
Added slugger Mark Trumbo (34 home runs) for a fearsome one-two power punch with Paul Goldschmidt (36 home runs), and also acquired young closer in Addison Reed. The signing of starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo, however, might not raise the quality of the rotation enough to contend.
San Francisco Giants
Manager: Bruce Bochy
2013 record: 76-86 (Pitching slide cuts down Giants)
A poor first half for ace Matt Cain set the tone as their usual strong staff slipped from an NL-best ERA of 3.36 to 4.00, third-worst in the league. Pitching remains the strength of this team that has won two World Series in the last four years with veteran Tim Hudson added to a rotation that also has Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum throwing to catcher Buster Posey.
San Diego Padres
Manager: Bud Black
2013 record: 76-86 (Miss playoffs for seventh year in a row)
Light-hitting Padres hoping newly acquired Josh Johnson will return to his old form after injury-riddled seasons as he joins Ian Kennedy and hard-throwing Andrew Cashner in the rotation. Bolstered the bullpen with Joaquin Benoit and Huston Street.
Manager: Walt Weiss
2013 record: 74-88 (Pitching holds them back again)
Slugging shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer power an offense that ranked second in scoring. The pitching, however, was last in ERA, hits and strikeouts.
(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue)
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