Category archive: Kenshin Kawakami


March, 19, 2009
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Jeremy Bonderman was more relieved to be back on the mound than pleased with his two scoreless innings. Bonderman made his first start since missing most of last season after having surgery to repair a circulatory condition in his shoulder and gave up two hits in the Tigers' 5-2 loss to the Braves.

Bonderman's return this spring was slowed by more soreness in the shoulder. At one point, he returned to Detroit to be examined by team physicians.

"It's been a long fight to get back," he said. "It was a relief to go out there and throw again with no pain. I'm over the hump."

The Tigers are hoping Bonderman can join a rotation that includes Justin Verlander, Armando Galarraga and Edwin Jackson after going just 3-4 with a 4.29 ERA before being shut down in June. Bonderman won at least 11 games -- and pitched at least 160 innings -- in each of the previous four seasons. On Thursday, he walked two and did not strike out a batter.

"My mechanics are not where I'd like them to be. There is a timing issue, but I'll get stronger," Bonderman said. "I'll be sore tomorrow, but normal sore. I'll be fine to throw again in five days. And the more I pitch, the stronger the arm will get."

Jed Lowrie had another big game at the plate, hitting a two-run homer off Bronson Arroyo to lead the Red Sox over the Reds 9-1.

Arroyo was hit hard by his former team in the third inning. Lowrie's second home run of the spring came with Rocco Baldelli on base. One out and one walk later, Chris Carter went deep.

Lowrie also doubled in the first, giving him a team-high 17 hits this spring.

Manager Lou Piniella made it official and named left-hander Sean Marshall as the Cubs' No. 5 starter to begin the season.

The 26-year-old Marshall had the inside track on the job from the beginning of spring training ahead of his chief competitors, right-handers Aaron Heilman and Jeff Samardzija.

Piniella made his announcement after Heilman started and beat the Mariners 9-2 on Thursday.

Marshall is 2-0 with an 0.63 ERA this spring while Heilman is 1-0 with a 1.32 ERA. Piniella said Heilman will go to the bullpen and pitch in the seventh and eighth innings.

Cleveland right-hander Fausto Carmona was hit on the right arm by a line drive while pitching in a minor league intrasquad game.

An Indians spokesman said Thursday X-rays were negative and that Carmona is "day to day with a right forearm contusion."

Carmona, a 19-game winner in 2007, missed two months last season with a strained left hip. He went only 8-7 with a 5.44 ERA, walking 70 and striking out 58 in 120 2-3 innings.

This spring, Carmona has a 2.45 ERA in four Cactus League games, including three starts. He has walked five and fanned four.

Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Vernon Wells is expected to return from a strained left hamstring and make his first spring training appearance this year on Friday as a designated hitter.

Wells last month re-injured the hamstring that kept him on the disabled list for a month late last season, when he hit .300 with 20 home runs and 78 RBIs in 108 games.

Toronto manager Cito Gaston said Wells may play three innings in the field Saturday before getting a day off Sunday.

Mike Pelfrey looks ready for the regular season. The Houston Astros don't.

Pelfrey pitched six sharp innings and the New York Mets routed the floundering Astros 12-1 on Thursday, dropping Houston to 1-16-3 this spring.

Pelfrey, meanwhile, is getting stronger as the spring goes on. Making his second start since skipping a turn with a strained muscle in his lower left leg, the right-hander was perfect through the first four innings Thursday. He allowed one run and three hits in all, with one walk and three strikeouts.

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- A shaky spring training outing didn't faze Scott Kazmir.

Although Tampa Bay's All-Star left-hander gave up a three-run homer to Ryan Ludwick and a solo shot to Rick Ankiel during Thursday's 9-7 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, he didn't view his latest start as a setback.

The 25-year-old said he was affected by a stomach virus and was satisfied to get in four innings, even though the Cardinals got to him for five runs and eight hits.

Joe Blanton had his best start of spring training, allowing just one hit over six scoreless innings for the Phillies in a 5-1 win over the Marlins.

"He threw strikes," manager Charlie Manuel said. "[Pitching coach Rich] Dubee said he threw 19 first-pitch strikes out of 20. That's unreal. That's super."

Blanton, the Phillies' No. 4 starter, struck out three and didn't walk a batter, lowering his ERA to 2.30. But he still wasn't completely satisfied.

"My location for the most part I was a little better today than I have been with it earlier in the spring," the right-hander said. "I don't know if the slider is as good as it was the last game I felt like my changeup stepped up a little bit."

Atlanta Braves right-hander Kenshin Kawakami was scratched from his scheduled spring training start Thursday night because of shoulder fatigue.

Kawakami, the first Japanese player ever signed by the Braves, is projected as one of the starters in a revamped rotation that also includes newcomers Derek Lowe and Javier Vazquez.

Vazquez will start in Kawakami's place against the Detroit Tigers.

Kawakami has started three games for the Braves, going 2-1 with a 1.86 ERA in 9 2/3 innings. He has allowed eight hits, walked four and struck out four.

ONE WORD: OUCH (1:09 p.m. ET)
Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval left Wednesday's game against the Cubs after he was struck in the mouth by Joey Gathright's bad-hop grounder in the fifth inning.

Sandoval wears braces, and both his top and bottom lip were pushed into the braces. "It implanted his lips to his braces. [Trainer] Dave Groeschner had to pull his lips off," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said.

Sandoval, the Giants' top candidate to start at third base while getting a crash course there this season, also chipped a tooth and was sent to see a dentist. "That's a hard infield, like a lot of these are in the desert, and it just came up on him," Bochy said.

Sandoval, hitting .450, is likely to miss the next two games, Bochy said.

The Washington Nationals got some good news on the injury front Wednesday, when they learned that injuries to Lastings Milledge and Ronnie Belliard aren't believed to be serious.

Milledge is day-to-day with a left knee contusion; Belliard has a left ankle sprain and was expected to be re-evaluated on Thursday. Manager Manny Acta said the team expects Belliard to miss two or three days.

Milledge got hurt when he made knee-to-knee contact with Marlins first baseman Gaby Sanchez as he tried to leg out an infield single. Belliard was injured while trying to beat out a double play.

Jose Reyes is back in the New York Mets' leadoff spot, and for now the shortstop is there to stay.

Second baseman Luis Castillo, who had been batting leadoff, hit second again behind Reyes in the Mets' 7-4 loss Thursday to the Atlanta Braves. Manager Jerry Manuel had been batting Castillo first and Reyes third.

"[The experiment] is not over, but I think with Jose not being as active as I would have liked him to be [in the WBC], I've got to slowly get him back going," Manuel said. "To get him back going, I have to put him where he's comfortable. And I think that [leadoff spot] is where he's comfortable."

Hiroki Kuroda has been named the Opening Day starter for the Los Angeles Dodgers' first regular-season game, April 6 at San Diego, manager Joe Torre announced.

Torre also announced that Randy Wolf, Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw will follow Kuroda in the rotation. He did not name a fifth starter.

Kuroda went 9-10 with a 3.73 ERA in 31 starts last season. He had 116 strikeouts, walked 42 and allowed 181 hits in 183 1/3 innings.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


February, 24, 2009
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Mets starter John Maine cleared a hurdle Tuesday, pitching in a game for the first time since September surgery to shave a bone spur in his right shoulder.

Maine, whose 2008 season ended Aug. 23, started an intrasquad scrimmage and came out of it pain-free. He allowed one hit with two strikeouts and a walk in two scoreless innings, throwing 16 of 25 pitches for strikes.

"My arm feels great. My body feels great," Maine said. "I just feel like it's been such a long time. The mechanics are a little off and I was rusty a little bit, but other than that, and more importantly, my arm feels good."

Mets manager Jerry Manuel was glad to see Maine's progress. The right-hander is scheduled to make his Grapefruit League debut Sunday.

"John Maine was throwing strikes," Manuel said. "He hadn't been out there in a while, and he let the ball go. He pitched, so it's definitely for him, and for us obviously, a big step in the right direction."

Edgar Gonzalez threw himself into the competition for a spot in the Oakland Athletics' rotation with a solid performance in an intrasquad game Tuesday.

Spring Training Video: The Astros

Gonzalez, who spent the past six years with the Arizona Diamondbacks, tossed three innings against a group of hitters that included Jason Giambi, Matt Holliday, Travis Buck, Ryan Sweeney and Bobby Crosby.

"I just wanted to go pitch by pitch today," said Gonzalez, who pitched for Hermosillo in the Caribbean playoffs two weeks ago. "My curveball was a little flat and I made a couple of mistakes."

Buck had two of the three hits against Gonzalez.

"He looked sharp," Buck said. "He's around the zone and he knows how to pitch. Those are the kind of pitchers you like to face as a hitter."

Meanwhile, first baseman Daric Barton will be held out of the first weekend of Cactus League games as he continues a conditioning program. Barton underwent hip surgery during the offseason.

R.A. Dickey is one of only a handful of knuckleballers in the game. Minnesota signed the bearded right-hander to a minor league contract, bringing him to spring training for an opportunity to earn a spot as a long reliever. Dickey still hasn't mastered this skill, but that isn't exactly a problem for the Twins because they haven't had a knuckleballer in decades.

Spring Training Video: The Tigers

"I'm trying to pick his brain, when it's right and when it's wrong," pitching coach Rick Anderson said. "You're kind of looking where his arm is when he's right, and I'm kind of learning the whole thing as we're going. When to use it, when not to use it."

Tim Wakefield has been a fixture in Boston's rotation for years, but he's the only knuckleballer currently on a major league roster. Dickey, like Charlie Zink with the Red Sox and Charlie Haeger with the Los Angeles Dodgers, is in camp without a guarantee of making the team.

But Dickey has a decent chance with Minnesota, which learned Tuesday that right-hander Boof Bonser will have exploratory surgery on his pitching shoulder. Thus, the Twins need someone to fill a long relief role.

"He knows how to pitch," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's had some really good years, most of them in the minor leagues, but some really good years."

Andruw Jones homered and doubled in his only at-bats of the Texas Rangers' intrasquad game Tuesday afternoon, the team's final tuneup before Wednesday's Cactus League opener.

"We've been working on things to get the bad habits out of my swing and getting on a good pace," said Jones, who is trying to find a spot in an already crowded Texas outfield.

Jones, who hit .158 with three homers in an injury-riddled 2008 season, is with the Rangers on a $500,000 minor league contract that includes a chance to earn an additional $1 million in performance bonuses.

Meanwhile, the Rangers said Kris Benson, signed to a minor league contract on Saturday, will start against the Royals instead of left-hander Matt Harrison.

The 34-year-old Benson has not pitched in the major leagues since 2006 and was 1-4 in 11 starts for the Phillies' Triple-A team in Lehigh Valley last season before he was released in August.

After two seasons of splitting time in center field, Jacoby Ellsbury came to camp knowing the starting job is his after Coco Crisp was traded to Kansas City in November for reliever Ramon Ramirez.

Ellsbury has already responded to his new role as an everyday starter by reporting to spring training in the best shape of his young career.

"He looks stronger and thicker through the chest," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "He's always been very fast and we've seen that on the bases but just by looking at him, he's added strength. It's pretty exciting to see."

The 25-year-old played in 145 games in 2008, appearing 66 times in center field, 58 times in left and 36 in right. Now, with Crisp in Kansas City, Ellsbury knows he'll be in center every time he takes the field.

"The biggest thing for me was just preparing to play every day," he said. "Playing my first full season last year, I just wanted to be ready this year to be out there every day, doing all this work to be out there."

John Lannan will start the Nationals' first spring training game when the team travels to Kissimmee to play the Astros on Wednesday.

Lannan, who was 9-15 with a 3.91 ERA last year in his first full season in the big leagues, is expected to go two innings.

"I'm not going to try to do too much," Lannan said Tuesday. "I'm still working on my breaking ball. I'm locating my pitches pretty well right now, which is good. I'm just trying to keep the ball down and throw as many strikes as I can."

Also slated to pitch for the Nationals are Shairon Martis, Garrett Mock, Gary Glover and Steven Shell.

Right-hander Boof Bonser will have exploratory arthroscopic surgery on his ailing pitching shoulder, which has kept him off the mound since the start of spring training.

Bonser was experiencing persistent soreness in the joint and sought a second opinion. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Tuesday the doctor's recommendation after the latest MRI exam was to "go in there and clean up."

There won't be a timetable for Bonser's recovery until the results of the surgery are assessed.

After getting bumped from the rotation last year, Bonser struggled in the bullpen for most of the summer before getting back on track in August. He finished 3-7 with a 5.93 ERA in 118 1/3 innings, but the hard-throwing Bonser was in line for a long relief role this season.

After toying with the idea of dropping Alfonso Soriano down in the batting order, Cubs manager Lou Piniella plans to keep his left fielder in the leadoff spot. And now he's looking for Soriano to be more aggressive on the base paths.

Piniella told reporters Tuesday that he thinks "30-something" stolen bases is a "reasonable" goal for Soriano this season. After recording 41 steals with Washington in 2006, Soriano has been bothered by nagging leg injuries in his first two seasons as a Cub. He stole only 19 bases in both 2007 and 2008.

"He's really running well," Piniella said. "He's in great shape. I think this is the first time he's actually worked hard before coming to camp, and it shows. I told him that today."
-- Jerry Crasnick,

Right-hander Kenshin Kawakami showed the Atlanta Braves a little more of his arsenal on Monday, throwing cutters and curveballs as he faced hitters for the second time this spring. He is scheduled to start Friday against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton.

"He signaled curveball, and I still had to re-trigger my swing," Matt Diaz said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "His cutter was moving nice and easy, and his four-seam [fastball] had surprising late life."

Kawakami, signed to a three-year contract in January, was considered one of the top free-agent pitchers from Japan available this offseason. "I can see why he was a star over there [in Japan]," manager Bobby Cox told the newspaper.

As for pitcher Charlie Morton, there's good news, and not-so-good news. The good: Morton had a sharp bullpen session on Monday. The flip side: Morton strained a side muscle throwing in batting practice.

The injury, diagnosed as a left oblique strain, will prevent Morton from throwing for a week. "If it's gonna happen, better to have it happen now, I guess," Morton said in the Journal-Constitution.

With the exception of first baseman Prince Fielder, Milwaukee's starting lineup is overwhelmingly right-handed. Fielder will be surrounded in the order this year by Rickie Weeks, J.J. Hardy, Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, Mike Cameron, Bill Hall and Jason Kendall -- righty hitters all.

It's a different story on the bench, where manager Ken Macha doesn't have a right-handed threat after Gabe Kapler departed for Tampa Bay through free agency.

At the moment, it appears that lefty hitters Craig Counsell and Mike Lamb will be the infield backups, while Trot Nixon, Tony Gwynn Jr. and Chris Duffy are competing for two outfield bench spots.

Gwynn is out of options; Duffy is coming off shoulder surgery and is in camp as a minor league invite. They're similar players -- speedy, defense-oriented singles hitters -- so chances are Macha will carry Nixon and have to choose between Gwynn and Duffy for the final outfield spot.
-- Jerry Crasnick,

Relief pitcher Carlos Marmol announced he will not be playing for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.

Marmol, in competition with Kevin Gregg for the closer's role with the Cubs, said he spent a restless night Sunday, trying to decide what to do. In the end, Marmol believed he should stay and work with pitching coach Larry Rothschild.

"I know what I have to do to keep my body ready for the season, and my arm and my mind, what I need to do," Marmol said. "It was a hard decision."

Manager Lou Piniella told the Chicago Tribune: "I told him it was his decision and we would support him either way. He's thought about it a long time. It really is a difficult decision. I told him it's an honor representing your country. ... My posture, basically, is to stay out of that situation as much as possible."

In his locker stall at Scottsdale Stadium, Giants catcher Bengie Molina hangs a black, long-sleeved shirt with a picture of his father's face on the front. He has the same picture in a large frame, with four smaller photos at each corner.

The message, "We always remember you," in Spanish, is on the shirt and photo. But in reality, Molina doesn't need these tokens; his father is never far from his thoughts.

Molina's father, Benjamin, died suddenly last October, suffering a stroke between games of a youth league doubleheader on the field he built from scratch near his home in Puerto Rico. It is the same field where baseball and life lessons were imparted to Bengie and his brothers, Jose of the New York Yankees and Yadier of the St. Louis Cardinals.

"I talk to him sometimes when I am a little stressed about the game or when I am worried about my girls," said Bengie Molina, who has two daughters. "Little things like that. I want to make sure he knows he is always missed. The worst thing is remembering when you were a kid and when he took your hand and said, 'Watch out for the cars' when he crossed the street with you, or when he hit you ground balls. Those are the little things that get in your head."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.