Category archive: New York Yankees

REDS' ARROYO STOMPED IN FINAL SPRING TURN (1:38 a.m. ET)

Bronson Arroyo was hit hard during his final spring start and committed a costly throwing error in the Cincinnati Reds' 10-4 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Friday night.

Arroyo allowed 10 runs and 11 hits in four innings. The right-hander's error in the third led to five unearned runs.

"Bronson wasn't sharp tonight, but he had to get his work in," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He feels good. He just wasn't sharp. He was missing."

-- ESPN.com news services

LOPEZ CLOSES OUT NEAR-PERFECT SPRING (12:45 a.m. ET)

Rodrigo Lopez wrapped up his phenomenal spring with a gem against the Chicago Cubs.

The 34-year-old right-hander, a non-roster invitee who pitched his way onto the Arizona rotation, ran his string of scoreless innings to 19 with 6 2/3 in the Diamondbacks' 5-3 victory over the Cubs on Friday night.

"I finished strong," he said. "This is one of my best spring trainings I ever had in my career. I'm pretty happy to be part of the Diamondbacks this season. This is a good feeling."

Lopez pitched to just 21 batters, one more than the minimum possible, allowing two hits, striking out four and walking one.

Lopez, released by Philadelphia last September after undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery in 2007, did not give up a run after the first inning of his second outing. He is Arizona's No. 4 starter behind Dan Haren, Edwin Jackson and Ian Kennedy. Lopez has a 68-66 record with San Diego, Baltimore, Colorado and Philadelphia, but missed virtually the entire 2008 season. He was 3-1 in five starts for the Phillies last year.

-- ESPN.com news services

ASTROS' MEYERS SOLID IN RETURN TO ACTION (12:30 a.m. ET)

Brett Myers pitched six innings in his first action since a groin strain more than a week ago and the Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays played 10 innings to a 3-3 tie Friday night.

Myers, scheduled to be Houston's third starter behind Roy Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez, allowed six hits and three runs and struck out two.

Myers said he felt great after a week's rest following the injury that caused him to leave after 5 1/3 innings March 25. He said he wanted to work on his fast ball, but that he soon changed things up after they were hitting his fast balls.

"That's what I wanted to work on but after that I was just kind of like: 'I'm not going to let them get the best of me. I'm not going to try to give up six runs just because I'm going to work on some pitches,'" he said. "So I think my competitiveness took over and I just started pitching."

The Astros wanted to keep his pitch count around 80 and he left with 82, but felt like he could have pitched to 100.

"Smart move," he said of being pulled. "I feel strong now, so why not try to stay strong, no sense in putting any more stress on anything because we've got 162 of these to go and hopefully I've got 35 [starts] in me."

-- ESPN.com news services

RAYS CLINCH BEST SPRING RECORD (8:13 p.m. ET)

Matt Garza pitched five scoreless innings in his final tunep for the regular season, helping the Tampa Bay Rays beat the New York Mets 4-2 on Friday night to clinch the best spring training record in the major leagues.

Garza allowed one hit, walked two and struck out six. Three other pitchers limited the Mets to one hit before Mike Jacobs broke up a shutout bid with a two-run homer off Lance Cormier in the ninth.

Pat Burrell drove in Tampa Bay's first run with a second-inning double off Mets starter Mike Pelfrey. Kelly Shoppach had a run-scoring single in the seventh off Fernando Nieve, and the Rays tacked on a pair of unearned runs to make 4-0 in the eighth.

The Rays improved to 20-8-2 this spring and will close out their exhibition schedule at Triple-A Durham on Saturday. They also had the top spring training record in the majors two years ago, when they went on appear in the World Series.

-- The Associated Press

BRUISED THUMB BENCHES RANGERS' CRUZ (8:13 p.m. ET)

All-Star outfielder Nelson Cruz has been scratched from the Texas Rangers' lineup because of a bruised right thumb.

Cruz felt discomfort during batting practice before Friday night's exhibition game against Kansas City. He was hurt a day earlier when he hit a ball of the end of his bat.

Shortstop Elvis Andrus, who was second in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting last season, wasn't in the lineup after getting a cortisone shot Friday to alleviate inflammation in his left wrist. The Rangers said he won't play in the final exhibition game Saturday either.

Cruz and Andrus are both expected to in the lineup for the season opener Monday at home against Toronto.

"I have no level of concern," manager Ron Washington said.

-- ESPN.com news services

RAYS' BLALOCK FREE TO SIGN ELSEWHERE (7:00 p.m. ET)

Hank Blalock did not make Tampa Bay's opening day roster and will try to sign with another major league team.

If Blalock doesn't land a deal, he'll report to the Rays' Triple-A affiliate in Durham.

The two-time All-Star agreed to a minor league contract last month. The deal includes an option allowing him to opt out and seek a job elsewhere if he's not on the 25-man roster coming out of spring training.

Manager Joe Maddon said Friday that Blalock has shown enough this spring that the Rays think he can be helpful if he remains with the organization. Blalock said he plans to do that if another opportunity doesn't materialize.

"I really tried to impress upon him how valuable we feel he is to us," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

"You're talking about an All-Star, and a really good major league player hitting a bunch of homers last year. ... I really think he's going to have a big year, and we want it to be with us. We feel very fortunate that he will go back if this doesn't work out for him otherwise."

Blalock hit .234 with 25 homers and 66 RBIs in 123 games for the Texas Rangers last year.

-- ESPN.com news services

YANKS' PETTITTE RETURNS TO MOUND (5:40 p.m. ET)

Andy Pettitte finally made his second official appearance of spring training on Friday, pitching into the fifth inning in the New York Yankees' 6-6, nine-inning tie with the Baltimore Orioles.

It was the first start for Pettitte since March 17 because of inclement weather. He took part in simulated and intrasquad games after two starts were canceled and a third was limited to one inning by another rain out.

Pettitte scattered seven hits over 4 1/3 scoreless innings Friday on a cloudless day with temperatures hovering in the 80s. Alex Rodriguez had an RBI single and Nick Swisher hit a two-run homer in the Yankees' four-run first inning.

"The biggest reason I needed this was to build my stamina up," Pettitte said. "You can't simulate a game because it's just not real."

Baltimore starter Alfredo Simon went four innings, giving up four runs -- all in the first -- and five hits. Robert Andino had two RBIs for the Orioles.

-- ESPN.com news services

SOGGY START FOR TARGET FIELD (5:30 p.m. ET)

Target Field's gates are open for major league baseball for the first time, and the Minnesota Twins have -- so far -- avoided their first weather problem.

The new ballpark was christened on Friday for an exhibition game against the St. Louis Cardinals, which started on time under a dry sky after steady rain fell through the morning and early afternoon.

Players were prevented from taking batting practice, but the rain stopped about two hours before the scheduled first pitch as fans streamed in. The first few people in through the right field entrance yelled in celebration and sprinted to the seats. When the grounds crew took the tarp off the infield, there were plenty of claps and cheers.

Minnesota's Denard Span hit the first home run, estimated at 360 feet into the right-field seats.

The regular-season home opener is set for April 12. The Twins moved outdoors this year after playing inside the Metrodome since 1982.

-- The Associated Press

GORDON, FIELDS FACE DL STINT TO OPEN SEASON (10:53 a.m. ET)

The Royals are running out of third basemen.

Alex Gordon and Josh Fields likely will open the season on the disabled list, and they remained in Arizona when the club broke camp in Surprise. Gordon has a broken right thumb and Fields a hip injury.

Switch-hitting Alberto Callaspo, who was slated to replace Gordon at third and bat third, has not played since March 25 because of an irritation in his right side that bothers him when swinging left-handed.

If Callaspo is unable to play in the season opener Monday against Detroit, the three candidates to start at third are Mike Aviles, Willie Bloomquist and Wilson Betemit.

-- The Associated Press

POSADA TO MISS ANOTHER GAME WITH STIFF NECK (9:49 a.m. ET)

Yankees catcher Jorge Posada was out of the starting lineup for the second straight game because of a stiff neck.

Posada said the neck was feeling better when he arrived at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., on Friday. He underwent treatment for the injury.

Mike Rivera replaced Posada for Friday's game against Baltimore. The non-roster catcher has been sidelined almost two weeks by a strained right hamstring.

New York backup catcher Francisco Cervelli will not play again during spring training because of a strained left hamstring.

-- The Associated Press

DEWITT TO START AT SECOND FOR DODGERS (10:31 p.m. ET)

The Dodgers have chosen Blake DeWitt as their Opening Day second baseman and knuckleballer Charlie Haeger as their No. 5 starter.

Manager Joe Torre delivered the news to both players when they reported to Dodger Stadium on Thursday for the first of the team's final three exhibition games.

Before Torre and general manager Ned Colletti let DeWitt know he had made the club, they played an April Fool's joke.

DeWitt said Torre told him he was being sent to Triple-A Albuquerque. After DeWitt admitted he didn't know the date, Torre told him it was April 1.

Ronnie Belliard and newly acquired Jamey Carroll will serve as infield backups.

-- The Associated Press

PEAVY SAYS HE FEELS AS GOOD AS '07 (9:53 p.m. ET)

Jake Peavy declared he feels as good as he did in his 2007 Cy Young Award season despite giving up two home runs in four innings in his final spring start as the White Sox lost to Triple-A Charlotte 4-3.

Peavy gave up three runs and four hits with seven strikeouts and no walks. Peavy struck out six through three scoreless innings before surrendering home runs to Stefan Gartrell and Josh Kroeger on cut fastballs. He left after throwing 68 pitches.

Mark Kotsay and Carlos Quentin homered for Chicago, which played its regulars four innings before finishing the game with many players from Class A Winston-Salem.

Jeff Marquez allowed two runs and five hits in five innings for the Knights.

-- The Associated Press

REDS DELAY ROSTER CUTS (9:03 p.m. ET)

The Reds' plans to slash their spring training roster have been pushed back another day.

The Reds made two moves, optioning right-hander Carlos Fisher to Triple-A Louisville and reassigning catcher Corky Miller to their minor league camp. They're left with 38 players in camp -- 13 over the limit for Opening Day.

General manager Walt Jocketty had indicated the club would substantially reduce the roster on Thursday. However, the team wasn't able to tell some of the players about its plans before they left the training complex following a 7-6 win over Texas, so the rest of the moves were put off for another day.

-- The Associated Press

ANDERSON TO TRY TO BECOME PITCHER (8:57 p.m. ET)

Outfielder Brian Anderson is going to give pitching a try.

Anderson signed a one-year, $700,000 free-agent contract with the Royals in the offseason after finishing 2009 with the Red Sox. But instead of taking a minor league assignment as an outfielder, the former first-round draft pick opted to go to the low minors and work his way back as a pitcher.

Royals manager Trey Hillman says he's not sure how the transition will work "but it's going to start at the very bottom."

Anderson last pitched in college for Arizona, where he appeared in 17 games and had a 5.40 ERA in 21 2/3 innings.

Selected by the White Sox with the 15th overall pick in the 2003 amateur draft, Anderson has a .227 average in five major league seasons with 22 homers and 80 RBIs.

-- The Associated Press

CUETO STRUGGLES THROUGH BACK PROBLEMS (7:53 p.m. ET)

Right-hander Johnny Cueto had trouble getting his back loose and struggled through four innings, but Scott Rolen hit a homer and sacrifice fly that rallied the Reds to a 7-6 victory over the Rangers.

Cueto hasn't had any issues with his back this spring and didn't think the problem was serious. He gave up 10 hits and five runs in four innings. He also hit two batters.

Rolen hit a two-run homer off closer Frank Francisco, who started the game and gave up four hits in his one inning. Reds minor leaguer Daniel Dorn singled home a run in the seventh and hit a two-out solo homer in the ninth off left-hander Richard Bleier to win it.

-- The Associated Press

SORIANO SPOILS FRANCIS' BEST OUTING THIS SPRING (6:33 p.m. ET)

Jeff Francis, who missed last season after undergoing shoulder surgery, pitched five scoreless innings for Colorado before Alfonso Soriano's two-run homer in the sixth lifted the Cubs to a 2-0 victory over the Rockies.

Francis entered with a 7.27 ERA but Colorado's No. 2 starter held the Cubs to three singles and three walks in his best outing. The left-hander won 17 games in 2007 before going 4-10 the next year as his shoulder became problematic.

Soriano, who slumped most of March, capped his three-hit day with a homer off Matt Daley. Coming off his worst season -- .241 with 20 HRs and 55 RBIs -- Soriano has only two homers and five RBIs this spring.

Cubs starter Carlos Silva allowed six hits over five scoreless innings.

-- The Associated Press

WHITE SOX'S ELARTON OUTDUELS MARINERS' SNELL (6:28 p.m. ET)

Scott Elarton pitched two scoreless innings in his first start since 2008 and a squad of White Sox minor leaguers roughed up Ian Snell in a 9-4 win over the Mariners.

Elarton, who hasn't pitched in the majors since the Indians placed him on the disabled list in July 2008 for what the club then called a non-baseball medical condition, signed a minor league deal this week. He gave up one hit and struck out one.

Snell, the Mariners' No. 2 starter, gave up six runs and 10 hits while striking out five.

The White Sox's big league roster left Thursday morning for exhibition games in Charlotte, N.C., and Atlanta.

-- The Associated Press

LACKEY WALKS FIRST BATTER OF SPRING (5:58 p.m. ET)

John Lackey walked his first batter in 20 innings this spring and gave up a run in the Red Sox's 5-3 win over the Twins.

The Red Sox scored two runs in the eighth inning off Twins reliever Ron Mahay. Scott Schoeneweis pitched a scoreless eighth for the Red Sox.

Lackey went five innings and gave up six hits, including a homer to Jim Thome. He walked six and struck out two.

"I thought he got on some fastballs," manager Terry Francona said. "I think like [Jon] Lester and [Josh] Beckett, he's ready for the season. I think he's raring to go. I think he was chomping at the bit a little bit today even."

-- The Associated Press

MOYER, PHILLIES CLOSE OUT SPRING SCHEDULE (4:58 p.m. ET)

Jamie Moyer pitched six strong innings and the Phillies closed out their spring training schedule with a 4-2 win over the Pirates.

Moyer, who was named the fifth starter two days earlier, gave up solo home runs to Ryan Church and Ryan Doumit but held Pittsburgh in check the rest of the way. The 47-year-old left-hander scattered six hits while striking out three and walking none.

Moyer, who underwent three offseason operations, enters his 24th major league season healthy and coming off a strong spring. In six starts, including three B games, Moyer had a 2.02 ERA while striking out 23 and walking just one in 26 2/3 innings.

-- The Associated Press

ROBERTSON DEBUTS WITH MARLINS (4:34 p.m. ET)

Newly acquired Nate Robertson allowed one earned run on two hits in seven innings and even drove in a run in the Marlins' 3-1 victory over the Cardinals.

"I got here yesterday with a full car, my family is back in Detroit and I'm pitching seven innings in the final game of the Grapefruit League," Robertson said. "But I'm excited to be here. If there was a team to go to, it's definitely the team that drafted me and got me going into my professional career."

Robertson, acquired in a trade with the Tigers on Wednesday, surrendered a run in the fifth when Ryan Ludwick led off with a double to left, stole third and scored on David Freese's groundout to short.

"What I saw today I liked," Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He threw a lot of strikes. I think he went seven innings and didn't get to 90 pitches."

-- The Associated Press

ASTROS' JOHNSON HITS SEVENTH SPRING HOMER (4:31 p.m. ET)

Chris Johnson hit his team-leading seventh home run of the spring, but the Astros dropped a game to a Tigers split-squad 4-2.

Houston reliever Brandon Lyon allowed three runs on four hits in one inning.

-- The Associated Press

TEIXEIRA RETURNS AFTER TWO-GAME ABSENCE (4:05 p.m. ET)

Mark Teixeira doubled and singled after missing two games with a sore elbow as the Yankees beat the Blue Jays 5-2.

Teixeira wore a protective shield on his right elbow, which was bruised when he was hit by a pitch Monday against Baltimore. Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher each had a pair of singles for New York.

Right-hander A.J. Burnett allowed two runs on five hits in 4 2/3 innings for the Yankees, including Jose Bautista's home run on his second pitch.

New York's Joba Chamberlain pitched in consecutive games for the first time this spring.

-- The Associated Press

MAINE GIVES UP SIX HITS TO NATS (3:18 p.m. ET)

Mets right-hander John Maine pitched through stomach problems and allowed four runs in 4 2/3 innings as the Washington Nationals defeated New York 9-3 Thursday.

Maine, who will pitch second in the Mets' rotation, gave up six hits and walked four.

Josh Willingham hit a two-run homer for Washington in the fourth off Maine to make it 3-2, and the New York pitcher couldn't get through the fifth.

He walked two to start the fifth. Adam Dunn followed with an RBI single and Willingham drove in another run on a ground-rule double to take the lead.

-- The Associated Press

SWEENEY LIKELY PART OF MARINERS' ROSTER (2:28 p.m. ET)

Five-time All-Star and camp long shot Mike Sweeney has likely made the Seattle Mariners as a pinch-hitter and backup first baseman.

The news came as part of the Mariners' announcement infielder Ryan Garko was claimed off waivers by Texas. Left-hander Garrett Olson was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma.

The 36-year-old Sweeney has kept his spring batting average well above .500. He also has picked up where he left off last season by mentoring young players, and has been a popular clubhouse leader.

-- The Associated Press

INDIANS NAME HUFF FIFTH STARTER (12:48 p.m. ET)

David Huff is the Cleveland Indians' No. 5 starter.

Right-hander Carlos Carrasco, who was in competition for the job, was optioned to Triple-A Columbus.

Huff gave up one run and five hits in seven innings to the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday in his final spring audition. The 25-year-old led Cleveland with 11 wins a year ago as a rookie after making his major-league debut on May 17.

Carrasco, 23, was one of four players acquired from Philadelphia in the trade that sent 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee to the Phillies in July. He had a 12-inning scoreless stretch earlier this spring and compiled a 4.60 ERA overall in four outings.

-- The Associated Press

SANCHEZ WHIFFS 11 (7:48 p.m. ET)

Jonathan Sanchez had his strongest outing of the spring Monday, giving up one run on three hits and striking out 11 in six innings as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 8-6.

Sanchez, who threw a no-hitter against San Diego on July 10, gave up only one hit after the first inning. Rickie Weeks homered with one out in the sixth inning.

John Bowker, making a bid for an outfield spot on the Giants' opening day roster, continued his strong hitting with his fifth home run and a double.

Bowker hit a two-run shot in the fifth inning, one of two given up by Brewers starter Dave Bush.

Eugenio Velez went deep with a man on in the first for San Francisco.

-- The Associated Press

PINEIRO DOMINATES (7:25 p.m. ET)

Joel Pineiro took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and the Los Angeles Angels defeated the Kansas City Royals 10-2 on Monday.

Pineiro worked 6 2/3 innings, his longest of five spring appearances, and allowed only two hits and a run with two walks and two strikeouts.

Over his last 15 2/3 innings, Pineiro has allowed three earned runs. His spring ERA is now 3.48.

Scott Podsednik?s lead-off double in the sixth broke up the no-hitter. Podsednik scored one out later on Rick Ankiel?s double.

Royals starter Kyle Farnsworth made his second start and fifth appearance of the spring and allowed one hit in two innings.

Royals closer Joakim Soria was hit hard, allowing four hits and four earned runs without recording an out.

-- The Associated Press

CALLASPO HURTING (5:44 p.m. ET)

Alberto Callaspo may not be ready for the Kansas City Royals season opener April 5 with Detroit because of an irritation in his right side.

Callaspo has been held out of all baseball activities since the injury, which occurred Friday while taking batting practice.

Callaspo hit .300 last season with 41 doubles and 11 home runs. He was slated to bat third and play third base.

-- The Associated Press

PIRATES TO BAT PITCHER EIGHTH (5:44 p.m. ET)

Andrew McCutchen hit one of Pittsburgh's four home runs and the Pirates unveiled their new-look batting order Monday in a 13-1 romp over the Houston Astros.

Pirates manager John Russell plans to begin the season with his pitcher hitting eighth, a move that will shift McCutchen from leadoff to second in the batting order.

With pitcher Paul Maholm in the No. 8 spot, Akinori Iwamura hit leadoff, McCutchen was in the No. 2 spot and shortstop Bobby Crosby batted ninth.

The only change Russell might make would be putting Ronny Cedeno, scratched because of lower back pain, in the lineup instead of Crosby.

Iwamura hit a three-run homer and McCutchen, Brandon Jones and Andy LaRoche had two-run shots.

"It sets us up to score more runs," Russell said. "It really seems to make a lot of sense, a way to get more guys in scoring position in front of Aki, Andrew, [Garrett] Jones and ([Ryan] Doumit. It creates good balance in the lineup."

The Pirates claimed RHP Hayden Penn off waivers from the Florida Marlins. To clear space on the 40-man roster, OF Brandon Moss was designated for assignment. The Pirates have 10 days to trade, release or waive him.

Moss, a former Red Sox prospect acquired in the Jason Bay trade in July 2008, hit .081 this spring. He hit .232 with 13 home runs and 64 RBIs in 178 games with Pittsburgh. The 25-year-old Penn was 1-0 with a 7.77 ERA in 16 games with Florida last season and is 4-6 in 30 games with the Orioles and Marlins.

For the Astros, right-handed pitcher Roy Oswalt (left hamstring tightness) was examined in Houston by Dr. Michael McCann. Oswalt received an injection in his back and will make his scheduled start Wednesday. Oswalt is expected to start as planned on Opening Day.

-- The Associated Press

CARPENTER GETS NOD; GARCIA BATTLES (5:37 p.m. ET)

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa confirmed that Chris Carpenter will start Opening Day in Cincinnati.

And Jaime Garcia kept up his bid for a spot in the St. Louis rotation, pitching six innings Monday as the Cardinals beat the Minnesota Twins.

Garcia gave up two runs and eight hits without a walk. La Russa said there probably would be an announcement about the starting staff.

"He knew what was at stake and he handled himself well," La Russa said. "He got a lot of balls on the ground and threw a good assortment of pitches."

Kyle McClellan, who was in competition with Garcia and Rich Hill for the final rotation spot, has been a valuable member of the bullpen the last two seasons with a 3.73 ERA in 134 games. He can be used in the middle to late innings.

"That's where we need him," manager Tony La Russa said. "I just don't think we have enough depth."

Said McClellan: "It's pretty obvious with [Garcia] in our rotation it's going to be a very solid rotation. I can go back to the bullpen and improve on what I've done the last two years."

Albert Pujols and Ryan Ludwick homered off Twins starter Kevin Slowey. Minor leaguer Daniel Descalso hit a two-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to win it.

-- The Associated Press

YANKEES HURLER BRIDGES GAP BETWEEN RIGHT, LEFT (2:53 p.m. ET)

Yankees minor league ambidextrous pitcher Pat Venditte is expected to pitch in his first major league spring training game during Tuesday's split-squad contest against Atlanta.

Venditte, who uses a six-finger glove, pitched at Class-A Charleston and Tampa last season, posting a combined 4-2 record with 22 saves.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi says he has wanted to see Venditte pitch all spring.

Girardi earlier this spring asked that Venditte be sent over for a big league game from the minor league complex.

Yankees Opening Day starter CC Sabathia is scheduled to start the game with the Braves.

Also, reliever Alfredo Aceves has back tightness and will not pitch for the next few days.

-- The Associated Press

METS' REYES TAKES BATTING PRACTICE (2:18 p.m. ET)

Jose Reyes is a step closer to appearing in a game for the first time this spring.

The New York Mets' shortstop took batting practice against minor league pitchers Monday morning and said the session went better than expected.

Reyes has participated in six workouts since returning to camp Wednesday, following a three-week absence with a hyperactive thyroid that prevented him from doing any physical activity.

"I didn't expect to hit the ball that hard today," Reyes said of the session. "I expected to swing at a couple and miss, but it was better than I expected."

The two-time All-Star hasn't played in a game, other than an intrasquad scrimmage, since last May when he was sidelined because of a hamstring injury.

Reyes said he still doesn't know when he will get into a game or if he will be ready for Opening Day, but he hasn't had any problems since returning.

"I haven't played since last May so I can't wait to get on the field and play with my teammates, but right now we're going to take it one day at a time and see what happens next," he said.

-- The Associated Press

MORROW RESUMES THROWING FOR BLUE JAYS (2:09 p.m. ET)

Toronto right-hander Brandon Morrow threw 52 pitches in a simulated game after being shut down for a week due to a "dead arm."

He allowed one hit, walked one and struck out four of 14 batters. He says he "felt great, could've kept going."

Morrow, projected as the No. 3 starter in the Blue Jays rotation, is scheduled to make his final spring start Saturday at Houston and said he could go five or six innings against the Astros.

He took himself out of his previous start on March 19 against Houston after experiencing soreness in his right shoulder while warming up in the bullpen.

-- The Associated Press

BEDARD RETURNS TO MOUND AT MARINERS CAMP (1:22 p.m. ET)

Erik Bedard is back on a mound for the Mariners -- albeit at less than half speed.

The oft-injured left-hander took his first step to rejoining Seattle's jumbled rotation by tossing about 20 pitches off the mound out of the stretch position Monday morning.

General manager Jack Zduriencik, special assistant Tony Blengino, manager Don Wakamatsu, pitching coach Rick Adair, two other coaches and two trainers watched the 6-minute session in a side bullpen.

The Mariners estimate Bedard could pitch again by June, though this mound work is earlier than originally expected.

Bedard joked to Zduriencik his throws were "all strikes."

-- The Associated Press

NATIONALS' FIFTH STARTER "UP IN THE AIR" (1:19 p.m. ET)

Washington Nationals manager Jim Riggleman says the team has settled on four-fifths of its starting rotation, with 1997 World Series MVP Livan Hernandez and Craig Stammen earning spots along with Opening Day starter John Lannan and Jason Marquis.

Stammen will be the team's No. 3 starter, and Hernandez earned the fourth spot after signing a minor league contract in February.

Riggleman says Monday the fifth starter's job is "up in the air," with Scott Olsen, Garrett Mock and J.D. Martin in the running.

The Nationals have some time to make a decision, because an off day early in the regular season means they won't need a fifth starter until April 11.

-- The Associated Press

BRADEN ON ANTIBIOTICS AS PRECAUTION (10:13 p.m. ET)

Oakland Athletics left-hander Dallas Braden possibly has a staph infection on his left shin but isn't expected to miss any time.

Braden woke up Friday morning with a lump on his leg and after being checked out by team trainers, was sent to see a doctor, just hours before he was scheduled to pitch against the Cubs. Although no firm diagnosis was made, Braden was given antibiotics as a precaution.

Braden, slated second in Oakland's starting rotation behind ace Ben Sheets, missed the final two months of last season because of nerve damage in his left foot. The condition left him with a tingling sensation in his entire foot -- and no feeling at all in about half of it. Earlier this week, a neurologist told him the numbness never would subside.
-- The Associated Press

STAUFFER WILLING TO HELP PADRES AS NEEDED (10:04 p.m. ET)

After pitching four shutout innings to help a Padres split-squad beat the Reds 3-2, Tim Stauffer thinks he can help San Diego, even if it's out of the bullpen.

Stauffer, a 2003 first-round pick who is out of options, is pushing hard for the final spot in the Padres' rotation but is open to a reliever role. The right-hander allowed two hits and struck out four in his first appearance since last Saturday.

"During the season relievers have to go that long or longer so I guess if that's something that's a possibility I need to get used to it," Stauffer said after a seven-day layoff. "That wouldn't be a hard transition to make."

Stauffer went 4-7 with a 3.58 ERA in 14 starts last season after missing all of 2008 with a shoulder injury. He lowered his spring ERA to 2.57.
-- The Associated Press

JOBA THE RELIEVER JOTS DOWN SAVE (7:57 p.m. ET)

Joba Chamberlain's first relief outing since he was sent back to the bullpen was a bit of an adventure -- he allowed two hits and struck out one during a scoreless ninth inning, earning the save in the New York Yankees' 2-1 victory over Detroit. It was his first game since manager Joe Girardi announced on Thursday that Phil Hughes had won the competition for the team's fifth starter spot, beating out Chamberlain and three other candidates.

"A lot of guys came in and worked hard, and we didn't make anybody's decision easy," Chamberlain said. "That was our goal as guys coming in. I'm excited about being able to get the opportunity to help this team. We'll go from there."

Chamberlain is in the mix for the eighth-inning setup role before closer Mariano Rivera. The right-hander made 31 starts and one relief appearance during the regular season last year, but pitched out of the bullpen during the playoffs.
-- The Associated Press

HOMER A SPRING FIRST FOR FIELDER (7:52 p.m. ET)

Prince Fielder hit his first home run of the spring and Randy Wolf outdueled C.J. Wilson, leading the Milwaukee Brewers to a 3-1 victory over Texas. Wolf allowed only Julio Borbon's two-out single in the third over six shutout innings. He walked one, struck out seven and faced only three batters over the minimum.

Wilson was nearly as untouchable, scattering two hits over his first five innings before tiring and giving up Fielder's two-run, two-out home run just over the left-field fence in the sixth.
-- The Associated Press

PUJOLS SCHEDULED FOR DAY OFF (7:38 p.m. ET)

Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols, who rested Friday, struck out twice in a 3-2 win over Florida. Manager Tony La Russa plans to use the NL MVP on Sunday and Monday before giving him a day off Tuesday.

Brad Penny, projected to be the Cardinals' No. 3 starter, allowed one run and five hits while lowering his spring ERA to 6.10.

Penny had a scary moment in the sixth, when Hanley Ramirez's hard groundout struck him on the inside of his left thigh. He was examined on the mound by trainers and left after retiring the next two batters.

"Hit me in the muscle, good spot again," Penny said. "If it had been a knee, it might have been a problem."
-- The Associated Press

MARLINS' JOHNSON TO THROW; HENSLEY STILL SHINING (7:30 p.m. ET)

Florida Marlins right-hander Josh Johnson, who was scratched from his scheduled start on Friday because of the flu, threw on flat ground Saturday morning.

Florida's ace is scheduled to throw off the mound Sunday. If that goes well, he should make his next start on Wednesday, which would allow him to start the season opener April 5 in New York against the Mets.

Johnson, 26, won 15 games in 33 starts last year and struck out 191 in 209 innings.

Meanwhile, Clay Hensley pitched six innings in a 3-2 loss to St. Louis, yielding three runs, one earned, and three hits. He dropped his spring ERA to 0.55 in 16/3 innings, making a strong case for a rotation spot.

"I thought he did outstanding," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He's getting closer to being on the team."
-- The Associated Press

TWINS TO SEND JONES TO MINORS (5:51 p.m. ET)

Jacque Jones has been told that he will not make the Minnesota Twins' Opening Day roster.

Jones hit .344 this spring with two home runs and three doubles. But manager Ron Gardenhire told him Saturday that there wasn't enough room for the veteran outfielder on a loaded Twins roster.

Jones will finish out spring training with the team and travel to Minnesota to play in an exhibition game against the Cardinals. After that, he will report to Triple-A Rochester.

After playing in the independent Atlantic League in 2009, Jones signed a minor league deal with the Twins in February. He spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Twins before leaving in 2006 for the Cubs. He also played for Detroit and Florida in
-- The Associated Press

RANGERS ACQUIRE BLANCO FROM CUBS (5:35 p.m. ET)

The Texas Rangers have acquired second baseman Andres Blanco from the Chicago Cubs for a player to be named or cash.

Blanco was unlikely to make Chicago's 25-man roster and he was out of options. In 2009, his 10th professional season and first with the Cubs, Blanco batted .252 with one homer and 12 RBIs in 123 at-bats. He sprained his knee early in spring training and was limited to nine at-bats.

Rangers manager Ron Washington says he still needs a utility infielder to spell Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus.

In 131 career major league games, including 78 during three short stints with the Royals, Blanco batted .252 with one homer and 31 RBIs.
-- The Associated Press

CHAPMAN AMONG 3 VYING FOR REDS' LAST SPOT (5:09 p.m. ET)

The only opening in the Cincinnati Reds' rotation has produced the biggest surprise of camp.

There was a glut of veterans trying to win the fifth starting spot when camp opened. With a week left, it's down to three youngsters who have never thrown a pitch in the majors.

Right-hander Mike Leake and left-handers Travis Wood and Aroldis Chapman are the last three standing. The 23-year-old Wood has the most experience -- five years in the minors. Leake was the Reds' top pick last June. Chapman is a 22-year-old Cuban defector whose sore back has hurt his chances.

The final decision likely will come down to one more head-to-head audition next week and front-office rumination about which one fits best at the moment.

Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey have the other spots.
-- The Associated Press

WELLEMEYER UPS BID FOR GIANTS' SPOT (1:06 a.m. ET)

Todd Wellemeyer made another strong start in his bid for the fifth spot in San Francisco's rotation and Aaron Rowand had two hits and drove in a run and the Giants turned away Bay Area rival Oakland 6-3 on Thursday night.

Wellemeyer, a 31-year-old right-hander who is in camp as a non-roster invitee, pitched five innings for the second straight game. He gave up two runs (one earned) and three hits while walking two and striking out four and improved to 3-0.

Rowand, the Giants' leadoff hitter, singled and scored in a two-run third inning and hit an opposite-field double to right to bring home a run in a two-run fourth after Oakland had cut the lead to 2-1. Rowand has a hit in 11 of his 13 games this spring.

John Bowker, making a bid for a reserve outfield spot, had a pair of doubles after homering twice and driving in seven runs in a 7-0 win over Kansas City on Wednesday.

Giants closer Brian Wilson recorded his second save.

-- Associated Press

ROTATION SPOTS STILL UP FOR GRABS (10:14 p.m. ET)

Trying to earn rotation spots, Detroit's Jeremy Bonderman worked out of trouble over 4 1/3 innings, while Washington's J.D. Martin began poorly but finished well, and Johnny Damon's two hits helped a Tigers split squad beat the Nationals 8-2 Thursday night.

Still working his way back from shoulder surgery in 2008, Bonderman allowed five hits and two runs -- one earned. He also threw a wild pitch and walked a batter while recording only one 1-2-3 inning. He's competing with Dontrelle Willis and Nate Robertson for two openings.

Martin gave up five runs in the first, then retired the last 11 Tigers he faced over five innings.

Nationals center fielder Nyjer Morgan singled twice and stole two bases in his first game after being sidelined 10 days with a tight right hamstring.

-- Associated Press

PADRES' LEBLANC IMPROVES TO 3-0 (6:33 p.m. ET)

Wade LeBlanc limited the Chicago White Sox to two runs over six innings and the San Diego Padres won for the 10th time in 12 games with a 5-3 victory on Thursday.

LeBlanc, battling for a spot in the Padres' starting rotation, improved to 3-0 and lowered his spring ERA to 1.80 after allowing one earned run with five strikeouts.

Third baseman Chase Headley had two hits and two RBIs for the Padres.

White Sox starting pitcher Mark Buehrle allowed two unearned runs over five innings.

-- Associated Press

KENDRICK KEEPS FIGHTING FOR SPOT (6:12 p.m. ET)

Kyle Kendrick kept his name in the minds of the coaching staff and management as he continues to compete for the fifth starter's job. The 25-year-old right-hander allowed two runs -- one earned -- in 5 2/3 innings in the Phillies' 8-7 win over the Houston Astros.

"Obviously, you want to hear something, but it'll come down to the wire," Kendrick said. "They don't have to make a decision now. Like I've said before and like I've said all spring, it's out of my hands."

Kendrick is competing with 47-year-old Jamie Moyer for the final spot in the rotation. Moyer is scheduled to start Friday night when the Phillies travel to Tampa to take on the New York Yankees.

-- Associated Press

BERGESEN GETTING FORM BACK (6:06 p.m. ET)

Brad Bergesen got the confidence boost he needed -- at the expense of the defending world champion New York Yankees.

Bergesen took a shutout into the sixth inning, and the Baltimore Orioles got a home run from Adam Jones in an 8-0 victory Thursday.

Bergesen allowed three hits, walked two and struck out two in 5 2/3 innings. Both his strikeouts came against Alex Rodriguez.

"Today was the best I felt," Bergesen said. "Going up against the Yankees and being able to go 5 2/3 helped out, built some confidence."

Bergesen missed the final two months of his rookie season last year after being struck in the shin by a line drive. During the offseason he injured his shoulder during a commercial shoot and was forced to sit out the first 10 days of spring training camp.

-- Associated Press

ANGELS SCRATCH LHP KAZMIR (5:37 p.m. ET)

Los Angeles Angels lefty Scott Kazmir was scratched from his scheduled start Thursday against the Texas Rangers because of tightness in the deltoid muscle near his pitching shoulder.

Manager Mike Scioscia told reporters in Tempe, Ariz., that the injury, caused by fatigue in the deltoid muscle near his shoulder, should not affect Kazmir's ability to start the season on time. He is slated to open April 8 against the Oakland Athletics.

-- ESPN.com news services

WILLIS DISPLAYS COMMAND OF PITCHES (4:33 p.m. ET)

Dontrelle Willis overcame a shaky start and allowed just one run in four innings Thursday to lead the Detroit Tigers past the Toronto Blue Jays, 5-1.

Willis, who is competing for one of the final two spots in the Tigers' rotation with Nate Robertson and Jeremy Bonderman, walked three, but allowed only one hit. His spring training ERA rose to 1.20.

Willis walked the first two Blue Jays of the game and worked out of a jam with runners on second and third to retire the side.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland wouldn't speculate on his opening day rotation, but said that he was pleased with Willis' command of his pitches, not his control.

-- The Associated Press

MATSUZAKA GOES TWO INNINGS FOR RED SOX (3:54 p.m. ET)

Daisuke Matsuzaka made his first appearance of spring training, coming on in relief of starter Tim Wakefield, and the Boston Red Sox beat the Florida Marlins 6-4 on Thursday.

Matsuzaka, whose spring has been delayed by back and neck ailments, pitched two innings, giving up a run on two hits after Wakefield allowed three runs on six hits with two walks in six innings.

In his fifth start of the spring, Chris Volstad went 4 1/3 innings for Florida, giving up four runs -- one earned -- on eight hits with three strikeouts and no walks.

Dan Uggla hit a two-run homer for the Marlins, his second home run of spring training.

-- The Associated Press

KINSLER HOPES TO PLAY MONDAY (10:36 a.m. ET)

Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler, who is recovering from a right high ankle sprain, hit off a tee on Monday. He has yet to put any pressure on his ankle while running, but is still targeting a Monday return to game action.

"I'm trying to keep a bat in my hands as much as possible," Kinsler said. "It's just a matter of getting the timing down. The key is seeing as many off-speed pitches as I can. So that's what I'm hoping to do."

-- Richard Durrett, ESPNDallas.com

YANKEES RELEASE RIGHT-HANDER GAUDIN (10:32 a.m. ET)

The New York Yankees have released pitcher Chad Gaudin, who was one of five candidates for the fifth starter spot.

New York general manager Brian Cashman made the announcement on Thursday.

Gaudin went 2-0 with a 3.43 ERA in 11 games, including six starts, with the Yankees last season.

Also, Alex Rodriguez declined comment for the second straight day on his pending meeting with federal investigators regarding his possible connection to a Canadian physician.

The Yankees third baseman is scheduled to meet with officials Friday in Buffalo, N.Y.

-- The Associated Press

KENNEDY CONTINUES TO IMPROVE (9:11 p.m. ET)

Right-hander Ian Kennedy is making a strong case to join the Arizona Diamondbacks' rotation.

Kennedy struck out eight in five scoreless innings and the Arizona Diamondbacks earned a 5-4 win in 10 innings over the San Diego Padres on Monday.

Kennedy lowered his ERA to 2.70. He allowed two hits -- a two-out double by Will Venable in the first inning, and a single by Chris Denorfia in the third inning. Kennedy then picked off Denorfia at first.

"I really don't go out for strikeouts from the get-go," said Kennedy, who could follow Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson in the rotation. "If they come, that's awesome. [Catcher Chris Snyder called a great game. We worked really well together."

Arizona manager A.J. Hinch said Kennedy threw one of the best outings of the spring by a Diamondbacks starter.

"Excellent. Ian was really, really good. He had good rhythm. He had good command," Hinch said. "He had swing-and-miss pitches."

Hinch said the Diamondbacks will likely begin the season with four starting pitchers, as Brandon Webb is expected to miss the start of the season. He has yet to pitch in a Cactus League game.

Arizona is allowing Webb to build his arm strength through long toss. No date is set for his next bullpen.

-- The Associated Press

DUCHSCHERER DECLARES HIMSELF READY FOR SEASON (8:58 p.m. ET)

Justin Duchscherer put up a string of zeros while facing another team for the first time in 19 months. He then declared himself ready for the start of the season -- and past all of his troubles in 2009.

Duchscherer allowed four hits over four innings to help the Oakland Athletics beat the Seattle Mariners 7-2 on Monday.

"I was nervous, very anxious anticipating getting out there for the first time against big league guys," he said. "It's been a while."

Duchscherer missed all of last season because of elbow surgery and depression. The 32-year-old right-hander last pitched in a big league game Aug. 18, 2008.

Even though he only threw about 50 pitches -- he went to the bullpen for 10 pitches after he was finished -- Duchscherer said he expects to be in Oakland's rotation at the beginning of the season.

"As long as I'm ready to go five or six innings, I think that's kind of the plan," he said. "As the season goes, my second, third, fourth start I can progress back up to the 100, 100-pitch count range and hopefully get in seven, eight, nine innings like I feel like I'm supposed to."

Manager Bob Geren said Duchscherer should be ready to start the season in the rotation if he progresses with each spring outing.

Duchscherer was an All-Star in 2005 and '08 before the problems with his back, elbow and depression. He's still on an amended training schedule designed to preserve his back.

-- The Associated Press

MECHE LEAVES GAME WITH SORE SHOULDER (8:41 p.m. ET)

Gil Meche pitched three innings Monday before leaving the Kansas City Royals' 9-5 victory over the Chicago White Sox with a sore right shoulder.

Meche allowed three runs and four hits, struck out one and walked one. He threw 31 of his 56 pitches for strikes.

"The reason I came out was because I felt some stiffness in my shoulder," Meche said. "I didn't want to push it with the season coming up. It's nothing serious. I did all the tests. They checked me out. The shoulder is strong, but the tightness is there."

"There's no pain going on, so I'm not worried about it. After the third, I told Mac [pitching coach Bob McClure], 'Look, I don't feel like I'm getting anywhere. I'm just going through the motions, let's just shut it down and save it for later."

Meche was limited to 23 starts and 129 innings because of shoulder and back problems in 2009.

"Last year I did push through things and I know where that got me," Meche said. "I want to make sure I feel 100 percent when the season starts. It's a matter of me being smart right now. If I have it now, it's OK, but I'm just going to make sure I do the right things, so it goes away."

"When you get stiff on the mound, the next thing you know your neck is bothering you because you're not throwing normal. I felt a little stiffness in my neck coming on, too," he said. "I was like it's not going to be worth it. I'm only going to make myself worse by staying out here trying to pitch."

Meche was scheduled to throw five innings or about 70-75 pitches with only two more starts left in spring training.

"If I go out there throwing two more innings and not being free and easy, who knows what could happen?" he said. "I know I need to get a pitch count up, but if you don't throw correctly that's when injuries happen. The trainers agreed it was a good idea to come out."

-- The Associated Press

CRISP SLATED TO PLAY OUTFIELD THIS WEEK (8:03 p.m. ET)

Oakland center fielder Coco Crisp homered as a designated hitter in his return to the Athletics' lineup against Seattle after being sidelined for nearly two weeks with a sore hamstring.

Crisp is scheduled to play the outfield for the first time this spring Wednesday.

He signed a $5.25 million, one-year contract with the A's in December, six months after undergoing operations on both shoulders. A tender hamstring sidelined the 30-year-old crisp for 12 days before his return Monday.

Batting leadoff, Crisp struck out in his first at-bat then hit a three-run homer in the second inning off Seattle starter Ian Snell.

-- The Associated Press

MCLOUTH LOOKING TO OVERCOME STRUGGLES (7:41 p.m. ET)

Wearing a new set of contact lenses, Nate McLouth has been able to see the ball better than ever this spring.

That doesn't mean, however, that the Atlanta center fielder has been able to hit it.

Mired in a 0 for 28 slump with 12 strikeouts, McLouth batted in every inning of a rain-shorted minor league game Sunday in hopes of getting on track with the start of the season two weeks away.

McLouth got three hits -- two more than he's had in real spring games. Maybe the move worked. Finally, he had something positive to build on.

"I just needed to step away," said McLouth, batting .029. "Hitting is a funny thing. It can wear on you, even in spring training when numbers don't matter -- because they do.

"Not necessarily numbers, but feeling well and making good contact matters. And when that's not happening, regardless of whether it's spring training or not, that's frustrating."

Frustrating for McLouth and worrisome for the Braves. They are counting on him to be their leadoff hitter.

How bad has McLouth been this spring? His one hit in 35 at-bats came on March 6 and he has 14 strikeouts and three walks, striking out twice in five of his past eight games.

-- The Associated Press

TALLET GETTING FEEL FOR CHANGEUP (6:27 p.m. ET)

Brian Tallet has been working on his changeup this spring, and he's still trying to get a feel for it.

Tallet decided to keep the pitch out of the dirt while facing Brandon Inge in the first inning of the Toronto Blue Jays' 8-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Monday, and the third baseman connected for a three-run homer.

"I just told myself, 'I'm not going to bounce them anymore. It's not going to get any better by bouncing it,'" Tallet said. "I've got to be able to get that pitch in the zone. So we were working on getting it up a little bit and got that one up just too much."

Tallet, expected to be Toronto's fifth starter, allowed five runs and eight hits in five innings.

"You take that one [changeup] away and it's a whole different ballgame," he said.

"I don't think he would've thrown it in a [regular-season] game, especially 1-1, kind of a contact situation," catcher John Buck said. "Probably the cutter or that good sinker, his go-to pitches in that situation, two runners on. But I wanted him to throw that in a pressure situation."

-- The Associated Press

GARCIA MAKES CASE FOR ROTATION SPOT (6:21 p.m. ET)

Jaime Garcia is making a strong bid for a spot in the St. Louis Cardinals' rotation.

Garcia threw four crisp innings, David Freese and Joe Mather hit their first spring homers and a Cardinals split-squad beat the Houston Astros 6-4 on Monday.

Garcia, who missed last season after undergoing reconstructive left elbow surgery, allowed one run and two hits in relief of Kyle Lohse. He has yielded two runs while striking out 15 in 12 2/3 innings over four outings this spring.

"My arm feels awesome," he said. "It feels better than it has ever felt. I did everything I could in the offseason. Finally now I feel like everything is paying off. It's feeling good and everything is going the way it's supposed to go."

Garcia is competing with non-roster invitee Rich Hill and Kyle McClellan for the final spot in the rotation behind Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Lohse and Brad Penny.

Garcia was thought to be a long shot for the spot because of the surgery, but his success has put him in a close race with McClellan while Hill has struggled.

-- The Associated Press

RAYS HIT SEVEN HOMERS OFF RED SOX (4:51 p.m. ET)

James Shields was solid for 5 2/3 innings and Evan Longoria hit two of Tampa Bay's seven home runs Monday in an 11-9 win over a split squad of Boston Red Sox.

Shields recently was picked by Rays manager Joe Maddon to start on Opening Day for the third straight year. The right-hander gave up one run and five hits.

Kelly Shoppach homered twice for Tampa Bay and drove in four runs. Ben Zobrist, Sean Rodriguez and Hank Blalock also homered for the Rays.

Boof Bonser was hit hard in his first start for the Red Sox, giving up five runs and six hits in two-plus innings.

Mike Cameron had two hits for Boston and is batting .423 this spring.

-- The Associated Press

NATIONALS TEE OFF ON METS' PELFREY (4:23 p.m. ET)

Ryan Zimmerman and Josh Willingham each hit two homers off Mets starter Mike Pelfrey, leading the Washington Nationals to a 7-5 victory over New York on Monday.

Zimmerman hit a towering, wind-aided solo drive in the first inning, and a two-run shot in the fifth. Willingham had a solo shot in the second and a two-run homer in the fourth.

Pelfrey was charged with six runs, five earned, and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings.

Jason Marquis pitched 4 2/3 innings for the Nationals, yielding three runs and seven hits.

-- The Associated Press

HAFNER FEELING LIKE HIMSELF AGAIN (4:19 p.m. ET)

For the first time in two years, Travis Hafner, the Cleveland Indians' easygoing, hard-swinging designated hitter, is looking like himself again. Now almost 18 months removed from shoulder surgery, the man nicknamed "Pronk" -- part project, part donkey -- by teammates years ago, is driving the ball and turning on pitches the way he once did.

In the past week, Hafner has hit a pair of homers -- one a tape-measure shot to center field -- that has given the Indians hope he can anchor the middle of Cleveland's lineup the way he did in 2006, when he hit a career-high 42 homers with 117 RBIs.

"It's starting to get close to where it was," said Hafner, who has studied nuances of his swing on video. "You can notice a pretty big difference in my swing in '08 and '09. But this year, I've been able to do some things and hopefully get back to where I was."

Last season, he batted .272 with 16 homers and 49 RBIs in 94 games. He had opened the season feeling fine, but wound up on the disabled list in late April with shoulder soreness and didn't return until June. The statistics aside, what was more troubling was Hafner appeared lost at the plate.

Hafner isn't making excuses. "I didn't swing the bat the way I wanted to," he said. "I just didn't see the ball the same as I used to. I swung at bad pitches. Hitting is all about consistency."

-- The Associated Press

MARCUM GETS OPENING DAY START FOR BLUE JAYS (3:31 p.m. ET)

Right-hander Shaun Marcum will be Toronto's Opening Day starter.

It will be the first time in eight years that Roy Halladay won't take the mound to open the Blue Jays' season. Now that Halladay has been traded to Philadelphia, manager Cito Gaston said Monday it was an easy decision because of the way Marcum has pitched this spring. In two starts covering five shutout innings, he has allowed one hit and one walk while striking out four.

Gaston has not decided on the rest of the rotation for the opening series against Texas.

"I think he's earned it from what he's done in the past," Gaston said of Marcum, 12-9 in 2007, his first full season with the Blue Jays, and 9-7 in 2008 before a sore elbow ended his season.

Marcum missed half of the 2008 season and all of 2009 recovering from elbow surgery. He says "it never even crossed my mind that I'd be in this position."

-- The Associated Press

JOBA THROWS IN YANKEES INTRASQUAD GAME (2:12 p.m. ET)

Joba Chamberlain made a big start in an empty ballpark.

Bidding for the fifth spot in the New York Yankees' rotation, Chamberlain allowed two runs and six hits over five innings in an intrasquad game on Monday. The contest at Steinbrenner Field was not open to the public, which meant only a handful of people were in the 11,076-seat stadium.

"I felt like I was back in the Florida State League where it all started," said Chamberlain, who pitched for Single-A Tampa of the FSL in 2007. "That was kind of the mindset I took out of it and I think that was good for me. Why I got to where I'm at with the hard work and everything."

Chamberlain had one strikeout, one walk and induced three double plays.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi and other team officials will meet Wednesday to discuss the final rotation spot. The winner could be announced Thursday or Friday.

-- The Associated Press

NATIONALS SEND DUNCAN TO MINOR LEAGUE CAMP (9:22 a.m. ET)

The Nationals have reassigned outfielder Chris Duncan to minor league camp, the team announced Monday.

Duncan had been trying to make the Nationals as a non-roster invitee. He spent parts of five years with the St. Louis Cardinals, including the team's run to a World Series title in 2006. But injuries limited Duncan's effectiveness the past three seasons. He was traded to the Red Sox in July and released after he hit less than .200 in 92 minor-league at-bats.

The Nationals also reassigned infielder Pete Orr to minor league camp and optioned right-handed pitcher Shairon Martis to Triple-A Syracuse.

The moves trimmed the Nationals' big-league roster to 36 players.

-- ESPN.com news services

RANGERS CATCHER STRAINS BACK MUSCLE (9:00 p.m. ET)

Texas catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia was scratched from the lineup because of a strained muscle in his upper left back.

He was injured warming up the pitcher. X-rays were negative.

Last season, Saltalamacchia had surgery on the right side for thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition where a rib bone pushes on a nerve and causes numbness in the arm and hand.

-- Associated Press

KEARNS MAKES CASE FOR STARTING SPOT (8:09 p.m. ET)

Austin Kearns hit his first two home runs of the spring and drove in five runs as the Cleveland Indians rolled to a 12-5 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday.

Kearns, who has a chance at the Indians' starting left field job, went deep against Dodgers starter Eric Stults and again against reliever Aaron Miller. In 25 at-bats before Sunday, he had just two extra-base hits and had not driven in a run.

"He's a right-handed bat with a track record and some power," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "He can play the three outfields. His best position is right field but he can play center and occasionally left and he's taking ground balls at first base."

Indians starter Jake Westbrook pitched well, giving up one run on six hits in 4 2/3 innings. He did not walk a batter and had three strikeouts. Westbrook has not pitched in a big-league game since May 2008 because of elbow problems.

-- Associated Press

THOME CONTINUES TO IMPRESS (8:02 p.m. ET)

Jim Thome has impressed the Minnesota Twins so far this spring.

Thome went 2 for 4 with a double and three RBIs, leading the Twins past the Tampa Bay Rays 12-3 on Sunday.

The Twins sent out their Opening Day lineup, with Thome spelling Jason Kubel as the designated hitter with Kubel playing in an intrasquad game, and tagged Rays starter Wade Davis for five runs in the first inning.

Davis, trying to earn a spot in Tampa Bay's starting rotation, gave up seven runs -- five earned -- in two innings. He walked one and struck out one.

"I had one goal, and that was to try to pitch all my innings," Davis said. "That didn't happen. I think I can do a lot better against them. I know I can do a lot better."

Scott Baker, already named the Twins' Opening Day starter, struck out three, walked one and gave up one hit in five innings.

Joe Mauer went 2 for 4 with a run scored, boosting his spring training batting average to .471 before the team announced his agreement on an $184 million, eight-year contract extension.

-- Associated Press

GREINKE THROWS MORE BALLS THAN STRIKES (6:49 p.m. ET)

AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke gave up two runs in five innings of a minor league game Sunday.

Pitching for Triple-A Omaha, Kansas City's Greinke allowed six hits, including a home run, walked three and struck out two. He threw more balls, 39, than strikes, 38.

"I was trying to throw a strike every pitch, so that was really bad," Greinke said. "Even the strikes weren't where I wanted them. The last pitch of the game was probably the only one where I actually hit my spot the whole time. I don't why I was so bad. I haven't been that bad in a long time."

The Royals opted to have Greinke to get his work in against Triple-A Portland, a San Diego affiliate, on a back field rather than face the Colorado Rockies at Surprise Stadium, but he said pitching on a back field with few watching did not affect him.

"I just pitched bad," he said. "I didn't really feel like I wasn't up for it. It was just bad pitching. I couldn't throw the ball where I wanted, so I couldn't work on anything."

-- Associated Press

YANKS SCRAMBLE TO GET PITCHERS ON MOUND (4:16 p.m. ET)

Yankees manager Joe Girardi faced a pitching problem: too many pitchers and not enough innings.

Girardi and other team officials spent two hours after Sunday's game against the Detroit Tigers was canceled by rain organizing plans for eight different pitchers.

The Yankees set up an intrasquad game Monday, which will have fifth starter candidate Joba Chamberlain and Andy Pettitte face each other. Closer Mariano Rivera, Damaso Marte, Chan Ho Park and David Robertson will also pitch.

A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes, who is also competing for the final rotation spot, will pitch in a road game against Philadelphia.

-- Associated Press

BRAVES' JURRJENS STILL ON TRACK (4:02 p.m. ET)

Jair Jurrjens hasn't had much luck with the weather this spring, but the Atlanta Braves right-hander is still on track to make his first regular-season start April 8 against the Chicago Cubs.

Jurrjens fell victim to the rain again Sunday, which washed out Atlanta's scheduled game against the St. Louis Cardinals. He'll get his work in during a minor league game Monday as he continues in catch-up mode after reporting to spring training with a sore shoulder.

A 14-game winner in 2009, Jurrjens was held out of the canceled game because of the weather, as was scheduled Cardinals starter Brad Penny. The teams ended up making it into the second inning despite the rain before play was stopped.

"I wanted to pitch today, but it's not a problem," Jurrjens said. "My shoulder feels good now, so I'm OK. I'll get my work in."

-- Associated Press

METS' FIGUEROA NOT PREPARING FOR BUFFALO (3:40 p.m. ET)

Nelson Figueroa appreciates the chance the New York Mets have given him to pitch in the majors, but he admits he is leaving every possibility open to pitch somewhere else -- just maybe not Buffalo.

"I feel like I've continued to have success," the right-hander said after earning the win by throwing three innings and striking out five in the Mets' 8-1 victory over the University of Michigan on Sunday at Tradition Field.

"Until I hear otherwise, I'm going to prepare as if I'm breaking camp [with the Mets]."

If not, he said, he will explore other options, including any that don't include another stint with the Mets' Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo.

He said that while he tries to keep the thought in the back of his mind, he can't help but think of camp coming to an end and what his reaction would be if he were designated for assignment to Buffalo.

"There's no way it's not on my mind," he said. "It's a situation that isn't ideal. I think I have a good rapport with the club and I like the staff [at Buffalo].

"Still, I don't looking forward to pitching in 30 degree weather for the first month and a half."

-- Associated Press

MCCUTCHEN CLOSING GAP ON RACE TO START (3:07 p.m. ET)

Pittsburgh right-hander Daniel McCutchen's start was pushed back a day after the Pirates' game against the Tampa Bay Rays was rained out on Sunday.

He'll pitch Monday in Clearwater against the Phillies' Triple-A club -- an assignment that indicates he's closed the gap on Kevin Hart in the race to be Pittsburgh's fifth starter.

Closer Octavio Dotel, out all spring due to a strained oblique, will make his first appearance Monday against another Phillies' minor-league team.

Rays right-hander Andy Sonnanstine also was pushed back. He will pitch Monday, either against the Boston Red Sox or in a minor league game.

-- Associated Press

HOLLIDAY SAYS HE'LL BE BACK MONDAY (1:10 p.m. ET)
Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday says he expects to return to the team's starting lineup on Monday for a spring training game against the Boston Red Sox, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported.

Holliday, who is recovering from a muscle strain on his right side, has only five official at-bats this spring, with two doubles and four walks. But he said the remaining two weeks of spring training are enough time for him to get ready for Opening Day, according to the report.

"I'll be able to get another 20 or 30 [at-bats] and I should be fine," he said, according to the report.

-- ESPN.com news services

MARLINS' JIMENEZ RETURNED TO RED SOX (11:55 a.m. ET)
Third baseman Jorge Jimenez, a Rule 5 draft pick, has been offered back to the Red Sox, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.

Players chosen in the Rule 5 draft must be returned to their club of origin if they are not on the major league roster.

"You have to carry him on the big club. We felt that wasn't going to be the case," Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said Sunday before a spring training game against the Nationals, according to the report.

Jimenez was hoping to either beat out Jorge Cantu at third or win a roster spot as a left-handed pinch hitter.

-- ESPN.com news services

REPORT: A'S RELIEVER MELOAN HAS TORN LIGAMENT (11:45 a.m. ET)
Athletics right-handed reliever John Meloan says he has a torn elbow ligament and expects he will have season-ending surgery, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Meloan, who had an MRI exam on Friday, says he plans to go to Dr. James Andrews. He hopes to be ready for next spring, according to the report.

Reliever Joey Devine and closer Andrew Bailey, the reigning AL rookie of the year, have also experienced elbow problems during spring training.

-- ESPN.com news services

SILVA SOLIDIFIES PLACE IN CUBS' ROTATION (6:30 p.m. ET)
Carlos Silva solidified his claim on a spot in the Cubs' rotation with four shutout innings and Xavier Nady had a two-run double Tuesday, leading Chicago to a 4-1 victory over the Texas Rangers.

Silva allowed two singles, hit a batter and struck out three in his sharpest outing. Acquired from Seattle for Milton Bradley with two years and $25 million left on his contract, the righty has pitched seven scoreless innings since getting hit hard in his first game.

Nady's RBIs were his first since signing a $3.3 million contract to back up all three outfield positions. He has been limited to DH duties while recovering from Tommy John surgery on his throwing arm. He doubled again in the eighth.

-- The Associated Press

TURNBOW SUFFERS SHOULDER PAIN, SAYS MARLINS SHOT 'OVER' (5:57 p.m. ET)
Former All-Star closer Derrick Turnbow says his chances of making the Florida Marlins are "over" after he left Tuesday's game with severe shoulder pain.

Turnbow said he was sure he would "be shut down for a while." He exited Florida's 12-3 victory against the Nationals in the eighth inning.

Turnbow walked one batter and hit another before walking off the mound with the team trainer. He will undergo an MRI on Wednesday and said surgery was a possibility.

The hard-throwing right-hander had 39 saves in 2005 for the Brewers and pitched in the 2006 All-Star Game. He hasn't pitched in the majors since 2008.

He threw 10 pitches Tuesday. As he threw a pitch that hit Danny Espinosa, Turnbow buckled on the mound.

-- The Associated Press

YANKEES HIRE FORMER PADRES GM TOWERS AS SCOUT (4:12 p.m. ET)
Former San Diego Padres general manager Kevin Towers has been hired as a special assignment scout by the New York Yankees.

Towers was fired by the Padres during the final weekend of the 2009 season after 14 years as their GM.

Towers will scout both professional leagues and amateur players, and evaluate the Yankees' minor league system.

-- The Associated Press

MARINERS PROSPECT ACKLEY HEADED TO DOUBLE-A (3:04 p.m. ET)
The Seattle Mariners have sent second overall draft choice Dustin Ackley to Double-A West Tennessee, where the impressive 22-year-old will likely begin his first full professional season.

Last August, the Mariners and Ackley agreed on a five-year major league contract worth $7.5 million. Seattle has since tried the sweet-swinging former first baseman and outfielder at North Carolina at second base.

He had three hits in 19 at-bats (a .158 batting average) with three RBIs and one error in 10 spring games.

The Mariners have said they expect Ackley to reach the major leagues soon, though he was expected to begin this season in the minors.

Seattle also optioned outfielder Ezequiel Carrera to Triple-A Tacoma on Tuesday.

-- The Associated Press

NATIONALS' DUNN LEAVES GAME WITH BACK SPASM (2:56 p.m. ET)
Washington Nationals first baseman Adam Dunn left Tuesday's split-squad game against the Florida Marlins after two innings because of a spasm in his lower back.

Dunn made an error in the second inning when he bobbled a grounder in the hole by Logan Morrison. Dunn flied out in the bottom half of the inning and left the game.

A team spokesman said the slugger was day-to-day.

-- The Associated Press

DOMBROWSKI TALKS TIGERS TOPICS (1:54 p.m. ET)
Detroit Tigers CEO, president and general manager Dave Dombrowski weighed in on several Tigers topics on Tuesday morning. Among the highlights:

• Dombrowski called pitcher Dontrelle Willis (7 innings, 5 hits, 1 run, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts this spring) "a pleasant surprise."

Why? "Because he's thrown strikes more consistently. He worked very hard this winter. And his stuff is fine. ... But the best part is, he's throwing the ball over the plate on a consistent basis."

• Dombrowski said rookie center fielder Austin Jackson (.429 average, .515 on-base percentage) "looks like an every-day player on the big league level. He can go get the ball. He's a quality guy. He works very hard. And offensively, if he keeps doing this all year, we'll be in good shape."

• Dombrowski said Magglio Ordonez "is swinging the bat as well as I've ever seen him swing it in the past. He's driving the ball. But he's done that since the very first day he reported. ... I think the ball has a different sound coming off the bat now, like it has in the past."

-- ESPN.com senior baseball writer Jayson Stark

INDIANS OBTAIN PITCHER FROM BREWERS (12:44 p.m. ET)
The Cleveland Indians have acquired right-hander Omar Aguilar from the Milwaukee Brewers.

In return for the 25-year-old, the Brewers are keeping left-hander Chuck Lofgren. Milwaukee selected him in the Rule 5 Draft in December. To send Lofgren to their minor league system, the Brewers had to work out a deal with Cleveland or offer him back to the Indians for half the $50,000 they paid in the draft.

The 24-year-old Lofgren went a combined 9-11 with a 4.15 ERA between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus in the Indians' system in 2009.

Aguilar split 2009 between Class A Brevard County and Double-A Huntsville. He went 3-1 with a 4.72 ERA and 14 saves. He will report to the Indians' minor league camp.

-- The Associated Press

WHITE SOX CLOSER JENKS DOWNPLAYS BULLPEN SESSION (9:22 a.m. ET)
Chicago White Sox closer Bobby Jenks, coming off a calf muscle injury that shut him down last September, threw a 50-pitch bullpen session on Monday night.

Jenks had been scheduled to throw an inning against the Kansas City Royals. But he says there should be no cause for alarm over the decision to throw in the bullpen instead.

''It's the reason we went out there,'' Jenks told reporters. ''It was necessary to get to the point where we could make sure there was nothing wrong."

''I'm excited about where I am physically and mentally, being able to locate and being down with the ball," Jenks said. ''Where I am now, with a few more sessions like this, the game will become not easy but easier.''

-- ESPN.com news services

ORIOLES CONSIDERING PLAN B AT SECOND (9:09 a.m. ET)
The Baltimore Orioles are facing the possibility that second baseman Brian Roberts might not be ready for Opening Day, due to a herniated disk in his lower back.

Roberts was expected to return to Orioles camp in Sarasota on Monday after undergoing an exam from a back specialist and receiving an epidural injection to help address the discomfort, The (Baltimore) Sun reported. He has yet to play in a spring training game and the team is waiting to see how he responds to treatment.

The team is considering possible trades to fill the position until Roberts returns, though there have not been extensive talks, Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said, according to the report.

Manager Dave Trembley says Ty Wigginton, Robert Andino and Justin Turner could fill the void at second base until Roberts returns.

"We need to do what we can with what we have right here in camp," Trembley said, according to The Sun. "If something happens from outside the camp, we'll deal with it then. We still like to believe that Roberts will be our guy, but we're at the point now where we have to start thinking about the possibility and what we can do elsewhere."

-- ESPN.com news services

CHAPMAN PITCHES TWO SCORELESS INNINGS (6:20 p.m. ET)

Aroldis Chapman struck out two over two scoreless innings and the Cincinnati Reds beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 on Friday.

Chapman allowed just two infield singles. His strikeouts came on the last two batters he faced, overpowering Matt Kemp on a high fastball and getting Casey Blake looking.

Chapman defected from Cuba last year and agreed to a $30.25 million, six-year contract with the Reds in January. The left-hander has allowed three hits over four scoreless innings in two spring outings.

-- Associated Press

GIAMBI GETS DEFENSIVE IN DEBUT (6:03 p.m. ET)

Jason Giambi made his spring training debut Friday, flying out to center and taking a pitch off the forearm in the Colorado Rockies' 9-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants.

Giambi also made a diving stop at first base, a play he might have missed out on had he followed through with his original plan of being a designated hitter with an American League team this spring.

Instead, he opted to sign a one-year deal with Colorado as a fill-in at first for Todd Helton and a pinch hitter.

Todd Wellemeyer pitched four scoreless innings for the Giants, allowing just two hits. Nate Schierholtz and Buster Posey each drove in two runs.

Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa went four innings, giving up one earned run.

-- Associated Press

HARDY, HUDSON GETTING ACQUAINTED (5:37 p.m. ET)

Shortstop J.J. Hardy and second baseman Orlando Hudson, the Minnesota Twins' new double-play combination, are getting acquainted.

The two are being paired during spring training so they can learn each other's tendencies around the middle of the infield. Even though they have yet to turn a double play in four exhibition games, both Hardy and Hudson said they expect their new working arrangement to go smoothly.

Hardy was acquired in a trade from the Milwaukee Brewers, while Hudson signed with the Twins as a free agent. Minnesota is Hudson's fourth major league team.

-- Associated Press

BRAVES' JURRJENS FINALLY MAKES DEBUT (5:26 p.m. ET)

Atlanta Braves right-hander Jair Jurrjens managed to make his spring debut, anyway.

Jurrjens threw two scoreless innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday before the game was called after three due to showers that washed away the exhibition slate in Florida.

Jurrjens had been struggling with inflammation around his right shoulder and manager Bobby Cox decided to be cautious. Jurrjens, who turned 24 in January, went 14-10 with a 2.60 ERA for the Braves last season.

Jurrjens was supposed to start Wednesday against the New York Yankees, but the game was called due to rain. He made the 90-mile bus ride to Tampa and said it was tough to get back into his rhythm for a second straight day, but he said his arm felt fine.

-- Associated Press

WEEKS PAINED TO PLAY WITHOUT HARDY (4:25 p.m. ET)

Rickie Weeks is eager to resume his career, but he's not exactly looking forward to Opening Day.

The Brewers second baseman hasn't played since tearing the sheath of a tendon in his left wrist in May. When he takes the field next month, his double-play partner at shortstop, J.J. Hardy, won't be there.

Hardy was traded in the offseason to the Twins for center fielder Carlos Gomez in a move that made way for Alcides Escobar. Weeks says he and the rookie Escobar will make a strong combination, too.

Weeks says he'll hurt a little because he and Hardy were close and that they've talked during spring training.

Brewers manager Ken Macha thinks Weeks looks the same despite injuries that have cost him parts of the last four years.

-- Associated Press

PETTITTE TOSSING STRIKES (3:06 p.m. ET)

Andy Pettitte peered over his raised black glove for a sign from the catcher, shook him off, nodded "OK," then froze Jimmy Rollins with a changeup for strike three.

Vintage Pettitte.

Too bad the sequence took place in a batting cage under the stands at Steinbrenner Field -- and Philadelphia's Rollins was nowhere to be found.

Torrential rains forced the New York Yankees' bus to turn around about an hour into the trip to Viera on Friday, and Pettitte's first scheduled start of spring training was turned into another simulated outing.

"I got my normal warm-up in, and then I got all my throws in and I'm tired," Pettitte said. "That's the biggest thing, I wanted to make sure I was good and fatigued. Obviously, I would've loved to face hitters but the way the weather's been I had to get my work in here today."

After a two-inning simulated outing on a back field Sunday, Pettitte went three innings Friday and threw 50 pitches, mixing in several breaking balls.

-- Associated Press

TIGERS' PITCHING WEATHERS RAIN (2:58 p.m. ET)

Tigers manager Jim Leyland might complain about the weather if he thought it would do any good.

"It's not OK, but it's OK," Leyland said after Friday's exhibition game against the Philadelphia Phillies was rained out. "You can't do anything about it so you just do the best you can.

"Obviously we've got a lot of work to do. I think the next 10 days or so are going to be critical for us in the pitching area. It's actually OK for some guys to get a little blow, but other guys it's not."

Jeremy Bonderman and Nate Robertson, candidates for open spots in Detroit's pitching rotation, had been scheduled to pitch Friday. They will pitch instead in Saturday's split-squad game against the New York Yankees.

"The plan is to have Bonderman, Robertson and [Dontrelle] Willis, not necessarily in that order, pitch three innings apiece here, and [Max] Scherzer will pitch in the road," Leyland said. "So we'll have all four of those guys pitching and that's good." Scherzer and Ryan Perry will be among the pitchers traveling to Port St. Lucie to face the New York Mets.

-- Associated Press

RED SOX, CARDINALS JUGGLE ROTATION (2:55 p.m. ET)

The St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox will adjust their pitching plans after rain forced the postponement of Friday's spring training game.

Boston and St. Louis will split their squads on March 22, adding a game in Jupiter and "B" games on Saturday against their minor leaguers.

Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz, scheduled to start Friday, will start Saturday's "A" game against the Pirates in Fort Myers. Michael Bowden follows Buchholz.

Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols is expected to return to the lineup Saturday after missing about a week to nurse an ailing lower back, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Cardinals right-hander Rich Hill, scheduled to start Friday, will start the "B" game on Saturday and right-hander Chris Carpenter will keep his regular scheduled start at 1:05 p.m. against Houston on the main field.

The Red Sox are playing Tampa Bay in Fort Myers on March 22 and the Cardinals have a game in Kissimmee against the Astros.

-- ESPN.com news services

ORIOLES' JOHNSON HOPES FOR REVIVAL IN EIGHTH (2:43 p.m. ET)

After struggling when given a chance to replace George Sherrill as closer during the second half of last season, Jim Johnson hopes for a revival now that he's back to a set-up role for the Baltimore Orioles.

"When I took over for George last season, I probably tried to overdo it," Johnson said. "That never really leads to success."

Johnson blew three of his 11 save chances in the ninth-inning role after Sherrill was traded to Los Angeles, and Baltimore signed Mike Gonzalez during the offseason to become its closer.

"We all understand what Mike was brought here for," Johnson said, "and that's fine."

A starter in the minor leagues, Johnson was converted to a reliever two years ago. He didn't allow a run in his first 10 appearances and he didn't allow a home run all season.

His finished 2-4 with a 2.23 ERA in 2008 but slumped to 4-6 with a 4.11 ERA last year, when he allowed eight homers and failed to convert six of 16 save chances.

"He will be himself. He will be effective as an eighth-inning guy as opposed to a closer," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "He did try to do a little more than he should have when he was the closer. I think he'll be better suited for the eighth inning."

-- The Associated Press

RAYS STILL SPRING'S WINNINGEST TEAM (2:28 p.m. ET)

The Phillies-Rays spring training game has been canceled because of rain.

Friday's cancellation means Tampa Bay's franchise-record streak of nine straight exhibition wins will remain intact at least another day. The Rays are scheduled to host the Florida Marlins in Port Charlotte on Saturday.

-- The Associated Press

K-ROD'S PITCHING SESSION ON HOLD (12:16 p.m. ET)

The cancellation of the Mets-Twins spring training game has forced New York closer Francisco Rodriguez to postpone pitching to live batters.

Rodriguez said Friday he expects to throw to live hitters Saturday in what should be the final step before pitching in a spring training game.

Rodriguez has yet to pitch to hitters this spring after dealing with a case of conjunctivitis, otherwise known as pinkeye. He plans to wear prescription goggles under doctors' orders, though he said he feels fine.

Rodriguez said he needs to get back on the mound so he can determine what he needs to improve before Opening Day.

-- The Associated Press

MARLINS-ORIOLES RAINED OUT (11:24 a.m. ET)

Rain has forced the cancellation of the Florida-Baltimore exhibition game.

The announcement Friday came two hours before the scheduled start. The game will not be made up.

The Marlins traveled from Jupiter for games Friday in Sarasota and Saturday in Port Charlotte against Tampa Bay. The Orioles were scheduled to start Jeremy Guthrie, and Florida was to start Andrew Miller.

To give pitchers extra work, Baltimore added a split-squad game Sunday at Pittsburgh's minor league complex, Pirate City in Bradenton.

-- The Associated Press

YANKEES-NATIONALS WASHED OUT (10:12 a.m. ET)

Heavy rains washed out Friday's scheduled exhibition game between New York and Washington.

A sellout crowd was expected at Space Coast Stadium for the defending World Series champions' only visit of the spring. The Yankees were already en route from Tampa when informed of the cancellation early Friday. Water had collected in some areas of the outfield before the decision was made to call the game.

It's the second consecutive rainout for the Nationals, who were planning to start right-hander Jason Marquis against Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte.

The Nationals reassigned catcher Devin Ivany and first baseman Josh Whitesell to their minor league camp.

-- The Associated Press

CUDDYER, MAUER HELP TWINS POUND MILLWOOD (11:14 p.m. ET)
Michael Cuddyer homered, reigning AL MVP Joe Mauer had two hits and the Twins beat the Orioles 8-3.

The game was called in the top of the ninth inning because of rain.

Kevin Millwood, in line to be Baltimore's Opening Day starter, was hit hard again. He was charged with five runs and nine hits over 2 2/3 innings and has a 29.70 ERA this spring.

Scott Baker, slated to start on Opening Day for Minnesota, worked three effective innings. He limited Baltimore to five hits, including Robert Andino's homer in the third.

-- The Associated Press

CERVELLI TO WEAR SPECIAL HELMET (8:04 p.m. ET)
Francisco Cervelli is choosing safety over style.

The Yankees' backup catcher will begin wearing a bulky protective helmet similar to one briefly worn last season by Mets star David Wright after he sustained a concussion.

Cervelli talked about the change before Thursday night's game against the Braves was canceled due to rain.

Like Wright last summer, Cervelli was hit in the helmet by a 94 mph pitch that gave him a concussion -- Cervelli's second since November. Cervelli was injured Saturday and was cleared by a neurologist Monday. He is scheduled to play his first game Friday, when the Yankees travel to Viera to face the Nationals.

-- The Associated Press

RAYS MAKE FIRST SPRING CUTS (7:48 p.m. ET)
The Rays have optioned left-handed pitcher Jake McGee to the minor leagues and reassigned shortstop Tim Beckham and catcher Nevin Ashley to minor league spring training camp.

The team announced the moves after Thursday's 4-1 split-squad victory over the Blue Jays.

The Rays did not say which affiliate McGee will be assigned to.

-- The Associated Press

COOK HIT HARD IN SECOND SPRING START (7:07 p.m. ET)
Aaron Cook was hit hard in his second spring start, allowing nine hits and nine runs, five earned, in 2 2/3 innings, as the Rockies were pounded by the Rangers 16-3.

Cook hit Ian Kinsler with a 1-2 pitch during a four-run first when he gave up three hits, including a two-run homer to first baseman Chris Davis, who went 4-for-4 with 3 RBIs. Michael Young was 3-for-3 and Taylor Teagarden knocked in three runs for the Rangers, who had 23 hits.

Cook was hoping to throw 40 pitches or less but ended up throwing 73, leaving after a double by Young during a five-run second inning for Texas. Four of those runs were unearned because of a throwing error by third baseman Ian Stewart on an attempted force play.

-- The Associated Press

AFTER ADJUSTMENT, SILVA THROWS THREE SCORELESS INNINGS (7:00 p.m. ET)
Carlos Silva threw three scoreless innings after making an adjustment during a bullpen session, helping the Cubs beat the Padres 8-7.

ilva, acquired from Seattle for Milton Bradley and cash in December, allowed four hits, walked one and struck out none.

Starlin Castro, one of Chicago's top prospects, had two hits and scored three times. The shortstop hit his first homer of the spring in the fifth.

-- The Associated Press

VOTTO HOMERS FOR FIRST SPRING HIT (6:23 p.m. ET)
Joey Votto homered for his first hit of spring training, leading the Reds to a 3-1 victory over a Brewers split-squad.

Votto hit a solo shot off left-hander Chris Capuano, who is trying to resume his career after reconstructive elbow surgery. Votto was 0-for-9 before he homered in the sixth inning.

Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto pitched three scoreless innings, a big improvement over his first spring outing.

-- The Associated Press

ORTIZ CONTINUES BID TO MAKE DODGERS' ROTATION (6:22 p.m. ET)
Russ Ortiz pitched three scoreless innings and Andre Ethier and Casey Blake homered as the Dodgers beat the Royals 6-4.

Ortiz, a veteran right-hander who is a non-roster invitee, gave up two singles, struck out three and walked none. He has worked five scoreless innings and yielded four hits in his bid to make the Dodgers' rotation.

Ethier hit a three-run homer in the third off Gil Meche, while Blake homered in the fifth off rookie left-hander Edgar Osuna.

-- The Associated Press

LINCECUM ROUGHED UP VS. MARINERS (6:17 p.m. ET)
Tim Lincecum, the two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, doesn't quite look like himself yet at spring training and struggled through 2 2/3 innings in the Giants' sloppy 6-2 loss to the Mariners. He isn't one bit worried.

He is finding his balance, his rhythm -- acknowledging perhaps that he's even thinking about a few too many things at once when it comes to mastering his mechanics. He's not concerned with results this early.

"Stuff-wise I felt like everything was good," Lincecum said. "I think right now everything is just location. I just try to take something positive from each outing. My curveball was breaking really well, the slider was doing well. The changeup when it was down was good, same with the fastball. The only time I really got hurt was Ichiro's hit. ... The key for me is rhythm. My mechanics kind of follow that."

The 25-year-old right-hander had his second subpar outing in as many appearances against the team he once hoped to play for as a kid growing up in Seattle. Lincecum was tagged for six hits, struck out four and walked two in his 59-pitch day. He lowered his spring ERA by nearly half, from 18.00 to 9.82.

-- The Associated Press

NAVARRO INJURES LEFT THUMB (5:58 p.m. ET)
Dioner Navarro and the Rays were hoping for the best after a simple pickoff play in the third inning. Navarro was struck by a pickoff throw during the Rays' 16-15 victory over the Pirates and departed with an injured left thumb.

Navarro was hit when Jack Taschner threw over to first. It was diagnosed as a contusion, and he returned to the Rays' complex in Port Charlotte for further evaluation.

Navarro described the ball as pushing his thumb backward.

"I've been hit so many times that I don't even know when my bone is broken," he said. "This one, maybe because I wasn't catching, hurt more than when I'm behind the plate. Hopefully, it's OK."

-- The Associated Press

JACKSON STEPS UP IN WEBB'S ABSENCE (5:54 p.m. ET)
With the uncertain status of Brandon Webb, newcomer Edwin Jackson's performance thus far this spring must be comforting for the Diamondbacks.

The right-hander, acquired in a trade with the Tigers in the offseason, blanked the Angels on one hit through three innings in Arizona's 4-1 victory. The right-hander has yet to give up a run in five innings this spring.

Jackson, an All-Star with the Tigers last year, will start the season as the Diamondbacks' No. 2 starter behind Dan Haren.

-- The Associated Press

LACKEY'S SHUTOUT STREAK CONTINUES (5:16 p.m. ET)
John Lackey is off to a nice start with the Red Sox. The right-hander threw three shutout innings in Boston's 8-2 victory over Jason Bay and the Mets.

Lackey allowed three hits in his second spring outing and has yet to allow a run since he finalized an $82.5 million, five-year contract with the Red Sox in December.

After Lackey was finished on the field, he got some work done in the bullpen before showers caused a 30-minute delay after the fourth inning.

Bay, playing in his first game against his former team, went 0-for-2 before leaving during the delay.

-- The Associated Press

JOHNSON STARTS STRONG, BUT NUNEZ ENDS BADLY (4:50 p.m. ET)
The Marlins got another strong start from ace Josh Johnson but a bad ending from their closer. Johnson struck out four in three scoreless innings before the Cardinals beat up on closer Leo Nunez during a five-run ninth for a 5-3 win.

Nunez, who saved 26 games last season, allowed four hits before leaving with two outs and runners at second and third. He was charged with five runs, three earned.

Johnson, the Marlins' Opening Day starter, struck out the side in the first inning, mixing in a changeup with a fastball that hit 94 mph.

-- The Associated Press

WHITE SOX LOOK TO KEEP BUEHRLE WELL RESTED (2:54 p.m. ET)
Ace Mark Buehrle won't have his second start of spring training until next Monday as the White Sox seek to keep him rested before the regular season begins.

Buehrle made his first start on March 5 against the Dodgers, allowing an unearned run on three hits with two strikeouts over two innings.

Jake Peavy starts Friday against the Angels in a split-squad game. Gavin Floyd and John Danks, the next two pitchers in the White Sox's projected rotation, get the call Saturday and Sunday against the Brewers and Reds.

Closer Bobby Jenks is also scheduled to pitch on the same day as Buehrle.

-- The Associated Press

GIANTS HALL OF FAMERS VISIT SPRING TRAINING (1:35 p.m. ET)
Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda and Gaylord Perry gathered for a little reunion and some good-natured ribbing.

Mays, often the instigator with his gentle jabs, razzed Perry and then got it right back. It's not every day these guys turn up together at spring training. On Thursday, they spent the morning leading a team meeting for the San Francisco Giants -- something that has become a spring tradition of sorts for these old greats.

Players took turns greeting the guys before the meeting began.

-- The Associated Press

MOUSTAKAS AMONG SEVEN SENT DOWN BY ROYALS (1:30 p.m. ET)
Third baseman Mike Moustakas, the second overall pick in the 2007 draft, was among seven players reassigned to minor league camp Thursday by the Kansas City Royals.

Also sent down were outfielder David Lough, who hit .325 last season and was the Royals' 2009 minor league player of the year, and left-hander Danny Duffy, who pitched in the Futures All-Star Game and was 9-3 with a 2.98 ERA with Single-A Wilmington.

Other players sent to the minor league camp were outfielder David Robinson, first baseman Ernest Mejia, infielder Mario Lisson and catcher Steve Lerud.

All seven players were non-roster invitees. The Royals have 58 players left in camp.

-- The Associated Press

GUARDADO, ESTES CUT BY NATIONALS (10:38 a.m. ET)
Left-handers Eddie Guardado and Shawn Estes have been released by the Washington Nationals in the first round of spring training cuts.

The Nationals also reassigned six players to their minor league camp.

Guardado had pitched in two exhibition games and had an ERA of 18.00 in two innings. Estes had made one appearance, pitching one inning to an ERA of 18.00. Both veterans had been signed to minor league contracts with invitations to major league camp.

Right-handers Logan Kensing, Joel Peralta, Ryan Speier, left-hander Victor Garate, outfielder Jerry Owens and catcher Derek Norris were reassigned to the minor league camp.

-- Associated Press

IF AT FIRST, TRY, TRY AGAIN (10:06 a.m. ET)
The last time Garret Anderson played first base, he was a 21-year-old prospect playing for the Los Angeles Angels' Triple-A team in Vancouver.

Now he's a 37-year-old veteran in Dodgers camp on a minor-league deal, facing a roster logjam in the outfield and no guarantees manager Joe Torre will keep a left-handed bat on the bench. So Anderson, a longtime outfielder, is digging out his first baseman's glove and headed back to the infield, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Anderson, who signed last week and has yet to appear in a spring training game, says he's doing his best to learn the position, according to the report.

"It wouldn't be instinctive," Anderson said, according to the Times. "As an outfielder, I have an idea of where the infielders are going to be when I throw a ball in. I know where the first baseman is going to be. But to actually have that point of view of it and do it, it's going to be different. I'm going to have to learn some stuff."

-- ESPN.com news services

DUNCAN TRYING TO MAKE IT BACK WITH NATIONALS (9:52 a.m. ET)
In years past, when Chris Duncan wanted a pregame word with his father, longtime St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan, he simply walked into his dad's office. On Wednesday, they had to chat outside the batting cage when the Nationals went to play the Cardinals.

Chris Duncan, who is in Nationals camp as a non-roster invitee, spent parts of five years with St. Louis, hitting .293 with 22 home runs in 90 games during the Cardinals' World Series title run in 2006. But injuries limited Duncan's effectiveness the past three seasons. He was traded to the Red Sox in July and released after he hit less than .200 in 92 minor-league at-bats.

"It was kind of tough at the end," Duncan said. "I remember the last game I started at home I was getting booed. The bottom line was that I was not playing well and we were competing for a pennant."

Washington manager Jim Riggleman expects Duncan to compete for a reserve spot on the Opening Day roster. Riggleman has liked what he's seen so far from Duncan, who went 0 for 5 with an RBI on Wednesday, including two strikeouts in the late innings with runners in scoring position.

"In your idle time as a manager when you are scribbling out lineups and rosters on napkins, there are some scenarios where he is there and there are some where he is not," Riggleman said prior to the game. "He's competing and he's going to make it a tough decision for us."

-- The Associated Press