Managers making final maneuvers

New York Mets pitcher Al Leiter spent time in the batting cage last week working with hitting coach Denny Walling on his stroke. So what can we expect to see next -- Vice President Dick Cheney taking a stab at standup comedy?

"I'm confident that I can double my offensive production this season," Leiter said. Considering that Leiter hit .019 last year, with a single in 53 at-bats, we have absolute faith that he can.

While big leaguers will spend the next two weeks honing their swings and snapping off tighter curveballs, managers are intent on seeing the forest and the trees. They're dealing with injury rehabs and clubhouse chemistry, tinkering with lineups and making moves to round out rosters. Here are 10 situations (non-Red Sox and Yankees division) worth monitoring from the Grapefruit League in Florida:

Jose Reyes
New York Mets
69 5 32 47 13 .307
1. Mets manager Art Howe will run out Kaz Matsui and Joe McEwing as his Opening Day double play combination. He would have preferred to see Matsui and Jose Reyes play a few games together in Florida. But that plan went awry when Matsui hurt his finger and Reyes suffered yet another hamstring injury. Reyes is changing positions, and Matsui is adjusting to a new home and the shift from artificial turf to grass, and they'll have to get acquainted for real when the games actually count. In the meantime, the Mets are shopping for some low-priced infield help. Cleveland's Lou Merloni, Oakland's Frank Menechino and Colorado's Damian Jackson, Denny Hocking and Benji Gil have all been mentioned in speculation.

2. You'd think manager Alan Trammell would be fretting about his offense after Detroit scored 591 runs last year (or 370 fewer than the Red Sox). But the pitching staff looks like a major liability. Jason Johnson isn't a true No. 1; Mike Maroth is coming off a 21-loss season; Jeremy Bonderman is still 21 years old; and Nate Cornejo struck out 46 batters and walked 58 last year. The No. 5 spot? Nate Robertson and converted reliever Esteban Yan are the main contenders. The Tigers actually considered Ariel Prieto until he eliminated himself with an 8.10 ERA. Now Prieto can go back to being known as the guy Oakland selected three spots ahead of Todd Helton in the 1995 draft.

Jose Lima
Starting Pitcher
Los Angeles Dodgers
14 8 3 0 32 4.91
3. Dodgers manager Jim Tracy christened Hideo Nomo, Odalis Perez, Kaz Ishii, Jeff Weaver and rookie Edwin Jackson as his starting five, but he might have to re-think that mix. Jose Lima posted a 2.25 ERA in his first five spring starts and brought a dose of energy to a clubhouse badly in need of it. A scout in Vero Beach last week moaned about Weaver's "bad body language" and said Wilson Alvarez should be in the rotation ahead of him. Darren Dreifort has to do something to earn his $11 million salary, but you wonder how a guy with his injury history will fare in the bullpen. It's also possible new GM Paul DePodesta will be able to trade a starter for a bat. The Reds desperately need pitching and would listen to offers for Adam Dunn.

4. Lou Piniella's latest brainstorm: Robert Fick, super-utilityman. The Braves couldn't get rid of Fick fast enough after he hit .184 in August and September and collided with Eric Karros during a postseason brain lapse. Fick took a cut from $1 million to $800,000 to sign with Tampa Bay and could be an all-purpose backup for Toby Hall at catcher, Aubrey Huff at first, Carl Crawford in left field, Jose Cruz Jr. in right and Tino Martinez at first. It remains to be seen if Fick can handle the demands defensively. But given his history of wearing down as the season progresses, he might be better off with 350 at-bats rather than 400-500.

5. Montreal manager Frank Robinson's biggest decision is picking a third outfielder to complement Carl Everett and Brad Wilkerson. Peter Bergeron has had a terrific spring, but the competition will probably come down to Terrmel Sledge and Juan Rivera. Sledge, 27, hit .324 with 22 homers and 92 RBI for Edmonton in the Pacific Coast League last season. He had a .400 on-base percentage and stole 100 bases in five minor-league seasons, so he's capable of batting leadoff and bumping Wilkerson down in the order. Rivera came to Montreal from the Yankees with Nick Johnson in the Javier Vazquez trade. He's more of a run producer, so if he wins the job, Wilkerson probably will lead off. At the moment, Sledge looks like the frontrunner.

Greg Vaughn
Pinch Hitter
St. Louis Cardinals
22 3 5 8 0 .189
6. The Cardinals spent about $1 million total on second base and left field, and things are finally starting to shake out. Bo Hart is about to officially win the second base job from Marlon Anderson, who's been a disappointment with his tentative approach at the plate and shaky defense. (The acquisition Sunday of Tony Womack could add a twist, but not until Womack is fully recovered from elbow surgery and ready to play.) And Ray Lankford has looked spry enough at 36 to at least be the lefty half of a platoon in left field. With So Taguchi and Emil Brown as the righty options, there's no point getting too excited. Greg Vaughn, who couldn't catch up to a fastball two years ago, is still in camp even with a .107 average and 10 strikeouts in his first 28 at-bats. Manager Tony La Russa is hoping, all evidence to the contrary, that Vaughn can be a power threat off the bench.

7. Atlanta closer John Smoltz is taking a different approach to nurture his elbow through this season. He'll pitch more often in non-save situations rather than sit several days at a stretch. Manager Bobby Cox's principal chore in spring training is assembling the rest of his bullpen. Antonio Alfonseca is a sure thing, even though he's been bad in the Grapefruit League. Righties Trey Hodges and Kevin Gryboski, Atlanta's designated groundball specialist, are in the mix, and Cox and Leo Mazzone might pick three lefties from a group that includes Jung Keun Bong, Armando Almanza, C.J. Nitkowksi and Andy Pratt. Jaret Wright is moving to the rotation to replace Paul Byrd, who's out with Tommy John surgery. The Braves say Byrd could be back by May, but that seems optimistic. His surgery was July 1.

8. Baltimore's rotation consists of Sidney Ponson, Rodrigo Lopez, Kurt Ainsworth, Eric DuBose and either Omar Daal, Matt Riley or Erik Bedard. That's not going to cut it in a division with New York, Boston and Toronto. The Orioles planned to troll for another starter with one of their two second basemen, Jerry Hairston or Brian Roberts. But Hairston is out with a broken finger, and manager Lee Mazzilli's bench took a hit with the news that Mark McLemore will miss 6-8 weeks with a knee injury. That could allow Clay Bellinger or Luis Lopez to break camp with the O's.

Jake Westbrook
Relief Pitcher
Cleveland Indians
34 7 10 0 58 4.33
9. Cleveland manager Eric Wedge is set on C.C. Sabathia, Jason Davis and Cliff Lee as his top three starters. He'll spend the next week to 10 days choosing from Jake Westbrook, Jason Stanford, Chad Durbin and Jeff D'Amico for the 4-5 spots. Westbrook, a former No. 1 draft pick by the Colorado Rockies, is 26 years old and has already been traded three times. But he's the leading candidate for the fourth spot. Stanford, a lefty with a good changeup and control, has the edge for the final starting job.

10. It's become apparent to Marlins-watchers that the departure of Derrek Lee, Pudge Rodriguez and Juan Encarnacion will adversely affect the team in two ways: 1) Florida won't be as strong defensively with Hee Seop Choi at first base, Ramon Castro catching and Miguel Cabrera in right field; and 2) the Marlins' lineup suddenly got slower. Lee, Rodriguez and Encarnacion combined to steal 50 bases and were better equipped to go from first-to-third on a single than the players who'll replace them. Manager Jack McKeon doesn't believe in the stolen base as much as his predecessor, Jeff Torborg. But with the exception of Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo in the 1-2 spots, the Marlins won't be nearly as big a threat to run this season.

Jerry Crasnick is a regular contributor to ESPN Insider. He can be reached via e-mail.