Category archive: Brandon Backe

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Since returning from elbow tightness, Johan Santana has been saying he's on track to make his Opening Day start for the New York Mets.

He backed that up on Sunday.

In his second Grapefruit League start this spring, Santana tossed five strong innings and the Mets scored nine runs in the seventh for a 12-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves.

The 30-year-old lefty was sharp against the Braves, striking out seven. He worked out of one small jam and yielded two hits.

Santana made one costly mistake, opening the fifth inning by throwing a 2-0 letter-high strike to Matt Diaz, who drove it to left for a solo homer.

LEE, COOK LOOK GOOD (7:14 p.m. ET)
Cliff Lee and Aaron Cook were masterful in a matchup of staff aces.

Lee finally resembled his AL Cy Young-winning self while Cook showed crafty command Sunday in the Colorado Rockies' 4-3 win over the Cleveland Indians.

Lee has struggled, allowing 14 earned runs in 6 2-3 innings coming in. But he found his rhythm against the Rockies, giving up two runs in five innings.

Cook had another stellar outing, allowing one run and five hits over five innings. His 1.89 ERA is among the lowest in the Cactus League.

The Tampa Bay Rays aren't budging on their stance that a decision on where top pitching prospect David Price begins the season will not necessarily be based on the left-hander's spring training performance.

The No. 1 pick in the 2007 amateur draft worked four scoreless innings in a 5-0 victory Sunday that snapped the New York Yankees' nine-game exhibition winning streak.

Ray Sadler homered and Yankees pitchers walked in three runs to help Tampa Bay beat a lineup missing most of New York's regulars.

Pitcher Yasuhiko Yabuta was among four players the Kansas City Royals have assigned to their minor league camp.

The 32-year-old spent 12 years with the Chiba Lotte Mariners of Japan's Pacific League before signing a $6 million, two-year contract with the Royals before last season. He had an 8.53 ERA and .375 opponents' batting average in seven spring training appearances, allowing 12 hits, two homers and five walks in 6 1-3 innings.

Kansas City also assigned outfielder Chris Lubanski, catcher J.R. House and right-hander Oscar Villarreal to the minors. A first-round pick in the 2003 amateur draft, Lubanski hit .321 with two homers in 19 exhibition games. House was 1-for-14. Villarreal has not pitched because of a sore elbow.

Ivan Rodriguez looked right at home with the Houston Astros.

Making his spring training debut with his new team, Rodriguez stroked a single to center field in his first at-bat and helped Houston to a 1-0 victory over the Washington Nationals on Sunday.

The Astros plugged Rodriguez into the No. 2 spot in the lineup and the 14-time All-Star catcher finished 1-for-3 at the plate.

"I feel good out there," Rodriguez said. "I'm just trying to get used to my new teammates, and so far it was good. I was very pleased with the way I played today and the way our team played today."

After waiting all winter to land a job, Rodriguez finalized a $1.5 million, one-year contract with the Astros on Friday. He can earn an additional $1.5 million in performance bonuses.

Houston starting pitcher Brian Moehler left the game as a precaution after he was hit on the right shoulder by Ryan Zimmerman's line drive. He doesn't expect to miss any starts.

Astros right fielder Hunter Pence made his first appearance since straining his left calf Tuesday. He went 0-for-2.

Yankees catcher Jorge Posada threw out three of four runners attempting to steal second base in a minor league game on Sunday, a step forward in his recovery from right shoulder surgery last July 30.

Posada had been unsuccessful in four previous throws -- three to second and one to third -- this spring training.

"Now you know you can trust your arm again," Posada said. "That's the only thing I wanted to do -- come out of spring training knowing you can throw somebody out and trust your arm again."

Three of the baserunners were inserted into the game by Pittsburgh's Triple-A Indianapolis team to give Posada the opportunity to make throws. After Gemmy Gonzalez stole second on the first attempt, which Posada said he rushed, the catcher then threw out Brian Friday, Shelby Ford and Gonzalez.

"I told myself, just slow everything down, and that's what I did," Posada said. "It worked out. We're going to keep building from today, but today is special. You throw a couple guys out and you feel good about that. It feels good that I'm back to 100 percent."

Right-hander Junichi Tazawa was optioned to Double-A Portland on Sunday by the Boston Red Sox, who optioned Michael Bowden to Triple-A Pawtucket.

Boston also reassigned right-hander Marcus McBeth and left-hander Bill Traber to its minor league camp.

The 22-year-old Bowden allowed one run and three runs Saturday against the Marlins and was 0-1 with a 7.59 ERA. He is rated by Baseball America as the top pitching prospect in the Red Sox organization.

Tazawa, also 22, signed a $3.3 million, three-year contract with the Red Sox in December after pitching for four seasons in the in Japanese Industrial League. He allowed one earned run and five hits in nine innings over five spring-training appearances.

"Tazawa was lights out," Francona said. "He just handled everything. Nothing threw him off. He was comfortable on the mound. He's the quickest guy to the plate on our staff. ... He just needs experience."

Tampa Bay's first serious loss had nothing to do with the WBC, and it may be worse than originally anticipated.

Fernando Perez underwent surgery in Phoenix on Saturday for a tear in his left wrist.

"It was pretty bad," Perez said Sunday morning. "I pretty much tore everything. So it looks like four to six months. In the meantime, I am in a lot of pain."

Perez tore the wrist diving for a fly ball. He was expected to open the season in center field to allow B.J. Upton a couple of weeks of further recovery time from left shoulder surgery. If Upton isn't ready, the Rays are expected to use Gabe Kapler and Ben Zobrist in center field.

-- Peter Gammons, ESPN

Brandon Backe won't be ready to start the season for the Astros. The team had the option of placing him on the disabled list or, if he was available to pitch by April 1, releasing him and saving a portion of his $1.55 million salary for 2009.

The team decided to put Backe, who is battling a strained side muscle after slipping off a mound, on the disabled list.

"As far as the decision is concerned, it's the route that I can go in order to stay here," Backe said, according to "But it doesn't diffuse the frustration that I have as far as the whole situation -- all this happened because of a slip on the mound. And that's what's so aggravating about this whole thing."

Orioles left-hander Rich Hill is doubtful to break camp with the team and is more likely to start the season on the disabled list because of elbow soreness.

Hill might be ready to pitch by the second week of April.

"We're too far away. I don't think he's got a chance of breaking with the club," pitching coach Rick Kranitz said, according to "That's not my say, but if you're not going to make the club because you're not ready, obviously there's only a couple of options. One of them is the disabled list, so I'd think that's kind of where he may go. He won't be ready for [the start of] the season."

RHP MINER RULED OUT AS NO. 5 (10:36 a.m. ET)
Manager Jim Leyland said right-hander Zach Miner has been ruled out for the Tigers' fifth spot in the rotation, leaving Nate Robertson and Dontrelle Willis and rookie Rick Porcello as candidates to fill the role.

"I think I took [the news] probably better than I would've imagined," said Miner, who has struggled this spring with a 9.69 ERA. "It's kind of like, 'All right, I'll get ready to do something else.' It shouldn't change how you go about your business."

The Tigers said Sunday they optioned the contract of right-handed pitcher Freddy Dolsi to their Triple A Toledo affiliate and assigned right-hander Casey Fien and left-hander Fu-Te Ni to minor league camp.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.