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Spring training invariably brings out everyone's chipper
side--unless you happen to be the manager of the Expos. "I'm in
for a long year," Felipe Alou told the Associated Press two
weeks before Montreal's camp opened. He lamented the huge gap
between the Braves, whose payroll is $47 million, and the Expos,
who subsist on a measly $15 million. "I have to make do with
what I have," he said. Alou would later say that some of his
comments were misconstrued, but one point is hard to dispute: He
is in for one long year.

Where an optimist sees the doughnut, a pessimist sees only the
hole. Because of Montreal's lack of dough, here are some of the
holes Alou will be contending with.

Hole number 1: offense. In 1995 the Expos finished 12th in the
league in slugging (.394) and 13th in on-base percentage (.320).
Despite missing 51 games because of injuries and undergoing
surgery on both of his rotator cuffs, leftfielder Moises Alou
was still the team coleader in homers and finished second in
RBIs. While Alou was in the lineup, Montreal was in the
wild-card race; after he went on the disabled list in August,
the team went 14-26 and tumbled into last place. This year the
Expos hope Alou's shoulders are healthy enough to carry them.
"We need for Moises to have a big year," says catcher Darrin
Fletcher. "He is our spiritual leader, the guy we look up to."

But Alou is already looking around for help. In the off-season
the Expos traded shortstop Wil Cordero to Boston for lefthander
Rheal Cormier and dealt third baseman Sean Berry to Houston for
middle reliever Dave Veres. Last year Cordero and Berry combined
for 24 home runs and 104 RBIs. "I wonder where the offense is
going to come from now," Moises says.

Second-year men Mark Grudzielanek at short and Shane Andrews at
third will enhance the Expos defensively, but both have suspect
bats. Grudzielanek needs to improve on the .211 he hit against
righthanders last year, while Andrews showed little discipline
during his 220 at bats in '95. "I have never seen a player
spend so much time with a hitting coach and still repeat the
same mistakes when he goes to the plate," says Felipe Alou of

With Cliff Floyd expected to start the year in Triple A,
Montreal's only lefthanded long-ball threat for now is
outfielder Tony Tarasco. Floyd played just 29 games in 1995
after shattering every bone imaginable in his left wrist last
May in a collision at first base. At the time it appeared that
his career might be over, but after three operations, Floyd made
a brief return to the outfield in September.

Hole number 2: the bench. Alou likes to substitute frequently,
but the best backup infielders he has to choose from are Dave
Silvestri, a utilityman, and Kevin Castleberry, a former
replacement player. Among the outfielders, 23-year-old Yamil
Benitez showed some promise in '95 by batting .385 in 14 games.

Hole number 3: starting pitching. There are three reasons the
Expos should be worried about their rotation. One, Carlos Perez,
an All-Star as a rookie in '95, was arrested for rape and sodomy
in Atlanta in September and is awaiting word from the Fulton
County District Attorney's office on whether the case will be
forwarded to a grand jury. (Perez's lawyer maintains that his
client is not guilty of the charges.) Two, there is only one
righthanded pitcher in the starting rotation, even if he does
happen to be ace Pedro Martinez, who threw nine perfect innings
against San Diego last June before yielding a hit in the 10th.
And three, lefty Jeff Fassero has asked to be traded.

Fassero pitched miserably in the second half of last season,
when he also feuded with Joe Kerrigan, Montreal's pitching
coach. Kerrigan chided Fassero for his negative body language on
the mound--after giving up a hit, he would kick dirt like a
petulant child. Fassero will make $2.8 million, so look for him
to be shipped to a contender sometime this summer. That, after
all, is the Expo way: Once you're good, you're expensive; once
you're expensive, you're gone.

When G.M. Kevin Malone resigned at the end of last season, he
complained that a $15-$16 million payroll was "about $5 million
less than you need just to stay competitive." Even with all his
managing skill, Felipe Alou will be hard-pressed to prove Malone


COLOR PHOTO INSET [Varies by region] The Expos Pin Their Hopes on Moises Alou

COLOR PHOTO: STEPHEN GREEN A fully recovered Alou is vital to Montreal's offense--and to his dad's sanity. [Moises Alou]


Batting Average .259 (11)
Home Runs 118 (10)
ERA 4.11 (7)
Fielding Pct. .980 (7)

Fast Fade

The Expos posted the majors' best record in 1994 but dropped 191
percentage points in 1995 (from .649 to .458), the ninth-largest
one-season decrease in major league history and the
second-largest in the post-World War II era. Among the eight
other teams with the largest such declines, seven improved their
record the following season, and all but one reached the .500
mark within three years.

Largest Decline in Winning Percentage from One Season to the Next

First year Second year

W-L Pct. W-L Pct. Diff.
Athletics 99-53 .651 43-109 .283 -.368

Braves 78-73 .517 38-115 .248 -.269

Reds 66-42 .611 61-101 .377 -.234

Naps 86-66 .566 51-102 .333 -.233

White Sox 96-58 .623 62-92 .403 -.220

Senators 99-53 .651 66-86 .434 -.217

Giants 85-67 .559 55-98 .359 -.200

Pilgrims 78-74 .513 49-105 .318 -.195

Expos 74-40 .649 66-78 .458 -.191

*Season shortened by players' strike


Last season Montreal's bullpen finished seventh in the league in
ERA, with a 4.21 mark. So in the off-season the Expos acquired
one of the best middle relievers in the game, 29-year-old
righthander Dave Veres. In 72 games for the Astros last summer,
Veres (rhymes with years) pitched 103 1/3 innings, the most among
NL relievers, and went 5-1 with a 2.26 ERA. The Expos hope that
Veres can do for stopper Mel Rojas what Rojas did as the setup
man for John Wetteland in 1994, when the Expos bullpen finished
third in the NL in ERA, with a 3.47.



RF Tony Tarasco .249, 14, 40, 24
2B Mike Lansing .255, 10, 62, 27
CF Rondell White .295, 13, 57, 25
LF Moises Alou .273, 14, 58, 4
1B David Segui .309, 12, 68, 2
C Darrin Fletcher .286, 11, 45, 0
3B Shane Andrews .214, 8, 31, 1
SS Mark Grudzielanek .245, 1, 20, 8


OF Cliff Floyd .130, 1, 8, 3
IF Dave Silvestri .264, 2, 7, 2
IF Kevin Castleberry (R).294 in AAA


RH Pedro Martinez 14-10, 3.51
LH Jeff Fassero 13-14, 4.33
LH Carlos Perez 10-8, 3.69
LH Kirk Rueter 5-3, 3.23
LH Rheal Cormier[*] 7-5, 4.07


RH Mel Rojas 30, 4.12
RH Dave Veres[*] 1, 2.26
RH Tim Scott 2, 3.98
LH Omar Daal[*] 0, 7.20

[*] New acquisition (R) Rookie