Spring training is so good for so many reasons, including positional competition on several teams.
Here are several of the position battles that are to take place this upcoming spring:
Williams was hobbled so badly last year, he could barely play center field. Lofton is not a good defensive center fielder; if Williams gets healthy, he could win back the job. It's unusual to find everyday center fielders in their mid-30's. Williams is 35. Lofton is 36.
Giants manager Felipe Alou and closer Robb Nen have said they believe that Nathan's stuff -- he throws hard -- and demeanor make him a good candidate to close. If he can't, J.C. Romero and Juan Rincon are options. The Twins look at it this way: two years ago, they had an inexperienced bullpen and a first-time closer in Guardado, yet their bullpen went on to become the strength of the team. Maybe it will happen again. Or maybe the strength becomes a weakness.
Dodgers first baseman
L.A. missed out on acquiring Richie Sexson because the Brewers wanted young pitching in return, and the Dodgers didn't think Sexson would hit nearly as many homers playing 81 games at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers also missed out on acquiring Derrek Lee and Paul Konerko.
That leaves them with Paul Lo Duca, who is their No. 1 catcher. And Robin Ventura, who mostly is a third baseman. Or they might move Shawn Green from right field, where he likely wouldn't be missed on defense. Or maybe they'll make a trade for a first baseman. Now that the sale of the club to Frank McCourt finally has been approved, the Dodgers no longer will be handcuffed in their negotiations with free agents and with trades.
Piazza is five home runs away from being the all-time leader as a catcher (not that he needs that record; he's already the best hitting catcher ever, and a Hall of Famer). Phillips is better defensively, as is Vance Wilson, but moving to first base will be difficult for Piazza, who isn't a very good athlete. After watching him play first base on an extended basis in spring training, they might decide they're better off with him behind the plate. It's possible that Piazza and Phillips could share time between catcher and first base.
Orioles second baseman
Jerry Hairston is probably the leader given how well he was playing before he got hurt last year. But the switch-hitting Brian Roberts proved last season that he is a major leaguer with his speed and defense.
One of these guys probably will be traded. Roberts seems to have more value given his lower salary, and the fact that his upside might be a little higher.
Plus, Hart is better defensively. Anderson possibly could play some left field given the uncertainty at that position. There doesn't seem to be an everyday left fielder among Kerry Robinson, So Taguchi, Ray Lankford, Greg Vaughn, Mark Quinn and Colin Porter.
Red Sox second baseman
It's pretty much Pokey Reese's job. All the Red Sox need is a guy to bat ninth, hit .250 and make the plays in the field -- Reese can do all that.
Tony Womack and Terry Shumpert will be in camp on minor league contracts, but Womack is coming off Tommy John surgery, and might not be 100 percent for the start of the season. Mark Bellhorn is an outside possibility, but he's not the defensive player the Red Sox need. There is no doubt about Boston's fifth starting pitcher. That job is Byung-Hyun Kim's.
White Sox closer
The Sox signed Shingo Takatsu, 38, the all-time saves leader in Japan. But he throws 88 mph tops, he throws from down under, he's a trickster who lives on the outside corner and doesn't appear to have much to get left-handed hitters out.