Questions for the Marlins

Bob Elliott -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:04 AM ET

How will the Florida Marlins rotation shape up in the National League East? Manager Jack McKeon figures he has four established, quality starters, which gives him an edge.

The Marlins have four starters to count on: former World Series hero Josh Beckett, A.J. Burnett, lefty Dontrelle Willis and free-agent signee Al Leiter.

Because of injuries, Beckett made 26 starts and Burnett made 19 last season.

"It all depends on how our first two guys do," McKeon said. "I'm looking for breakout years from them. They need to give us that push. Potentially, if everyone stays healthy, we have the best rotation."

The Atlanta Braves have three solid starters in John Smoltz, Tim Hudson (acquired from the Oakland A's) and lefty Mike Hampton, while the New York Mets have Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine and Kris Benson. The Philadelphia Phillies have Vincente Padilla, Jon Leiber and Brett Myers.

"Aside from the pitching, though, the Phillies are a team that scares me," McKeon said. "But I have to say the Atlanta Braves are the favorites going in, they have a knack for getting the right player.

"It's not luck the Braves have won 13 straight."

And the Marlins will count on Leiter being the right guy. The former Blue Jay rejoins the Marlins with whom he won the 1997 World Series, after seven seasons with the Mets. He was 10-8 with a 3.21 ERA last season.

With 18-game winner Carl Pavano gone to the New York Yankees, McKeon has Willis, who was 10-11 with a 4.02 earned run average, Beckett (9-9, 3.79), Burnett (7-6, 3.68) Ismael Valdez (5-3, 4.50 in 11 starts) and Leiter.


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