Category archive: Oakland Athletics


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


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 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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Joe Beimel rejoined the Rockies and set his sights on Opening Day. The club just wants the left-hander to concentrate on getting ready.

Beimel passed his physical Tuesday and signed a minor league contract, adding to Colorado's depth in the bullpen. Whether he can be ready in time for Opening Day is still in question.

"Maybe that turns out to be," general manager Dan O'Dowd said before the Rockies lost 9-6 to the Padres, "but that's not what we're going into this for. We're trying to win a World Series. We're not just trying to get a major league pitcher. We want him to be right to help us -- put him in the best position to help our club and help ourself."

The Rockies are off Wednesday and manager Jim Tracy expects to meet with Beimel on Thursday. Tracy isn't planning on Beimel breaking camp with the Rockies but didn't rule it out.

"I won't sit here and 100 percent tell you that won't happen," Tracy said, "but I don't how feasible that is."

Beimel, who turns 33 on April 19, said he has been throwing daily since December and throwing off a mound every other day, up to 50 to 55 pitches.

-- The Associated Press


Aramis Ramirez, who had not played since March 13 because of a right triceps injury, returned as the Cubs designated hitter and went 2-for-3 with an RBI in Chicago's 5-5 tie with the Royals. Ramirez is hoping to play third base by Friday.

"Soon as I can," he said. "I don't want to waste any more time. We're only a couple weeks away. As soon as I'm ready to try it the first time, I'm going to be playing third base."

Cubs manager Lou Piniella said Ramirez could have played third if this were a regular-season game.

"Probably," Ramirez said. "Right now, I don't want to take a chance, but I'll be ready. I don't need 30 more at-bats. I need five more and I'll be ready to go."

-- The Associated Press


Jim Edmonds' comeback took another positive step as the 39-year-old drove in five runs to lead the Brewers to a 10-2 win over the Indians.

Edmonds hit a three-run homer off Jeremy Sowers in a four-run first inning and a two-run single off Jensen Lewis in a five-run second.

Edmonds, a 16-year veteran outfielder with 382 career homers and eight Gold Gloves, is on a minor league contract after sitting out last season.

"A guy who hasn't played for a year needs at-bats and I'm trying to get him some," Milwaukee manager Ken Macha said. "He went the other way off that lefty for the double. That was good to see because he's been pulling [the ball] too much."

Macha said Edmonds is still a good outfielder. The Brewers also have veteran outfielders Ryan Braun, Corey Hart and Jody Gerut along with Carlos Gomez, acquired in an offseason trade from Minnesota -- further limiting possible at-bats if Edmonds does make the team.

-- The Associated Press


Left-hander Brett Anderson pitched five simulated innings against minor leaguers Tuesday after a stiff neck forced him to miss his scheduled start a day earlier.

Anderson threw 80 pitches during the hour-long workout, mixing his fastball and curve with an increasingly efficient changeup that impressed A's pitching coach Curt Young.

"From the view I had you can't throw the baseball much better for executing," said Young, who watched Anderson while standing near second base. "It was a great day for him. The one thing he needs to work on, and he knows he needs to work on, is his changeup factor."

Anderson was supposed to start Monday's game against Seattle but was pushed back because of a stiff neck that first began bothering the 22-year-old over the weekend.

Oakland had a day off Tuesday, so Anderson got his work in at the team's minor league camp less than a mile away from the A's spring training facilities. He had seven strikeouts and walked one and allowed three hits.

"I felt good, really good today," Anderson said. "I was trying to feature my changeup a little bit. My last couple of outings I want to incorporate more of my breaking balls like I would throw in a game, so my next outing will be key in that aspect."

-- The Associated Press


Matt Cain pitched into the seventh inning in an impressive start, leading the Giants to a 6-1 victory over the White Sox.

Cain yielded three hits and an unearned run in 6 2/3 innings, helping San Francisco improve to a majors-best 16-6 this spring.

Pablo Sandoval and Bengie Molina each had two doubles and drove in a run for the Giants, who finished with seven doubles.

-- The Associated Press


The Royals are hoping Gil Meche's stiff right shoulder won't cause him to miss any starts. Meche was scheduled to throw 75 pitches and go five innings Monday but left early. He came out after 56 pitches and three innings because of stiffness in his shoulder and neck.

Manager Trey Hillman says it's doubtful that Meche will have his normal bullpen session Wednesday. While the Royals' rotation is thin, Hillman says there are no plans to look outside the organization for another starter.

Meche is in the fourth year of a five-year, $55 million contract. He was limited to 23 starts and 129 innings last season because of shoulder and back problems. He started only four games after the All-Star break with an 8.14 ERA.

Meche is slated to be the Royals' No. 2 starter behind 2009 American League Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke, but that is in jeopardy to begin the season.

If Meche were healthy, Brian Bannister, Luke Hochevar and Kyle Davies would probably fill out the final three rotation slots, but they were a combined 22-34 last season.

Kyle Farnsworth, who has not started since 2000 with the Cubs, and Robinson Tejeda, who made six starts in September after spending most of the year in the bullpen, are rotation candidates.

-- The Associated Press


The Mets are losing their tradition. Tradition Field, the team's spring training home, was renamed Digital Domain Park.

The ballpark was known as Thomas J. White Stadium when it opened in 1988, named after a local politician, and was renamed Tradition Field in February 2004 under a 10-year agreement with Core Communities. That company operates Tradition, a 16,000-home community in the area.

The new naming-rights deal is with Digital Domain Holdings Corp., the parent of the Digital Domain visual effects studio in Venice, Calif. It includes provisions for programming at New York's Citi Field and its scoreboard on some dates.

Digital Domain is planning to open a studio in Port St. Lucie.

-- The Associated Press


Ryan Howard is ready to break camp. The big first baseman hit a pair of solo drives off Matt Garza to help the Phillies beat the Rays 4-3.

"I'm pretty anxious to get up north and get things started," Howard said.

Howard and Shane Victorino connected in the fourth inning to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead. Howard went deep again in the sixth to put Philadelphia ahead 3-2. The All-Star slugger is batting .356 with three homers and eight RBIs in 16 games this spring.

"I put a couple of good swings on the ball today," Howard said. "That's what you work for all spring training, you just take things in stride and try to peak at the right time going into the season."

Jimmy Rollins and Greg Dobbs each had two hits for the Phillies, and Brian Schneider had a game-ending sacrifice fly. Rollins is hitting .313 (15-for-48) in 16 games this spring.

Joe Blanton pitched 5 1/3 innings for the Phillies, yielding two runs and four hits. The right-hander hasn't thrown his slider in a game yet but expects to incorporate it during his last two exhibition starts.

-- The Associated Press


Oliver Perez was pulled after walking consecutive batters in the fifth inning, part of a shaky outing in the Mets' 7-6 victory over the Braves.

Perez allowed three runs and five hits in 4 1/3 innings. The erratic left-hander struggled with his command at times, walking four batters.

New York is counting on Perez to bounce back this season after struggling last year.

-- The Associated Press


Felipe Paulino made progress toward locking up the fifth spot in the Astros' starting rotation, pitching five strong innings in an 11-1 win over the Pirates. Paulino gave up one run and seven hits. He struck out six and walked just one.

"That's what I'm looking for," he said. "All spring training, my mechanics have been getting better. All the work I've done is coming together. The ball was coming real smooth out of my hand."

The 26-year-old Paulino and veteran Brian Moehler are vying for the last rotation spot. Astros management would seem to prefer that Paulino, who is younger and has a livelier arm, wins the battle, but his control issues this spring have made them think twice. He came into the game with a 6.00 ERA in three outings, with six walks in six innings.

Paulino has been working on staying closed as he delivers the ball, which helps boost his velocity. He's also been trying to maintain a consistent release point.

"Last year, I just used my slider and fastball in spring training," Paulino said. "This year, it's been different. I've tried to use all my pitches -- my two-seamer, my four-seamer, my curveball, my slider, my changeup. That's made me a better pitcher. All my pitches were working today."

"I'm just trying to do the best I can," he said. "It's not my decision. The Astros have waited for me the last two years, so I know I have to do something better this year."

-- The Associated Press


Jon Garland has thrown 30 pitches in a bullpen session and is set to start for the San Diego Padres in an exhibition game Friday.

Garland hasn't pitched in a game since March 16 because of what manager Bud Black calls a cranky shoulder. The Padres gave him four days off before he resumed playing catch over the weekend.

"I threw all the pitches. My last five or six, I cut the fastball, let it loose," Garland said. "Everything feels good. That's just something we'll have to keep an eye on and make sure it doesn't get like that and it'll be good for another 200 innings."

Garland went a combined 11-13 in 33 starts for the Dodgers and Arizona last year. The right-hander is 117-102 lifetime.

Also, outfielder Scott Hairston said his sore left calf was improving and he hoped to be back in the Padres' lineup by Wednesday. He fouled a pitch off his calf on March 11 and has been limited to minor league duty since.

-- The Associated Press


Pirates closer Octavio Dotel, who has missed much of spring training with a strained oblique muscle, threw an inning against a Phillies minor league squad on Monday. He's confident he'll get enough work in the next two weeks and be ready for the start of the season.

"I will be ready for Opening Day," Dotel said, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I don't think I'll have any problems with that. I don't think there will be any setbacks. I'm going to be fine."

Dotel threw 18 pitches, 14 for strikes, and recorded three strikeouts and a fly out (a fourth out was added to the inning so he could reach his pitch count). He's expected to throw again Wednesday against the Red Sox.

"Everything feels good," Dotel said, according to the report. "We've just got to get going with the next step."

-- news services


Although Daniel Murphy has struggled at the plate this spring, he still has New York Mets manager Jerry Manuel's confidence.

Murphy is hitting just .133 in 30 at-bats with less than two weeks left before the start of the season. Still, Manuel remains optimistic the 24-year-old can be an effective first baseman for the team. And he still sees Murphy as the frontrunner in a competition that also includes Mike Jacobs, who is in camp on a minor-league contract.

Murphy, who was charged with 10 errors in 101 games at first base last season, focused on improving his defense during the offseason. He came to spring training early to work with former Mets star Keith Hernandez, an 11-time Gold Glove winner at first.

"[Murphy] has looked extremely well at first base -- very active, very aggressive," Manuel said. "For him now, it's just a matter of him getting back to using the whole field as a hitter and becoming the offensive player we think he should be or can become."

Offensively, Jacobs is off to a slow start as well, hitting just .174 in 23 at-bats.

Despite praising both players, Manuel said he isn't any closer to deciding who will start at first Opening Day.

"We're still a ways away," Manuel said. "Once we get down to maybe the last four or five ballgames, everybody, we feel, is very close to being major league ready, and then we'll probably put a little bit more into the evaluation process at that time."

-- news services


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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 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


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.

-- news services


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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.

-- news services

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.

-- news services

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.

-- news services


Playing in two consecutive games for the first time since last April, Eric Chavez handled seven chances at first base flawlessly Sunday in Oakland's 10-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals.

Chavez, who was 0-for-3 at the plate, will sit out two days and then play in two consecutive games again. He said that will be his first real test of the spring.

"It was better than I thought and that's a good sign," Chavez said. "Obviously the next time I go back-to-back will be another hurdle. I'll let my body recover and get ready for two more."

The six-time Gold Glove third baseman is changing positions after season-ending back surgery last June. Chavez moved capably around first base Sunday in his fifth appearance there. He had made one regular-season appearance at first in 2001.

-- news services


Chris Young had his second straight solid start in his comeback from a shoulder injury in the San Diego Padres' 5-3 win over the Cleveland Indians on Sunday.

Young, whose season ended in June last year, allowed five hits and two runs over 3 2/3 innings.

A healthy Young is penciled in as San Diego's No. 1 starter.

"I liked Chris' increased stamina," said Padres manager Bud Black. "His pitch count was in the mid-60s, his fastball was consistently in the high 80s, which is good for him at this time of year, and he had his best stuff in his last 20 pitches.

"He used all his pitches -- fastball, curve, slider and change, especially working on the slider. He got a lot accomplished."

-- news services


Although shaky at times, Felix Hernandez was sharp when he needed to be in his spring debut.

The Seattle ace pitched out of early trouble, allowing four hits over 2 2/3 innings in the Mariners' 5-4 loss to Colorado on Sunday.

This spring, the Mariners have been slowly bringing along Hernandez, who won 19 games last year and finished second in AL Cy Young Award voting.

Before Sunday, Hernandez had thrown just two simulated games. He was on a 50-pitch count against Colorado, but went three over as manager Don Wakamatsu allowed him to throw into the third.

-- news services


Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos wouldn't deny he's interested in Cuban defector Adeinis Hechavarria, but he declined to comment on a published report that the team might be close to signing the shortstop for $10 million.

The New York Post reported Sunday the Jays were closing in on the talented 21-year-old prospect.

"If there's a report that says we have an agreement, then we don't have any agreement," Anthopoulos said. Asked about the accuracy of the report in the New York Post, he replied: "I don't want to lie and I don't want to comment."

Toronto has had six different opening day shortstops in the past eight seasons and last year's, Marco Scutaro, signed as a free agent with Boston.

-- The Associated Press


Rick Porcello pitched four scoreless innings and rookie Austin Jackson tripled twice as Detroit beat Tampa Bay 9-6 on Sunday.

Porcello, a 21-year-old right-hander who won 14 games in 2009 as a rookie, has yet to allow a run in nine exhibition innings.

"I felt pretty good," Porcello said. "I'm doing a better job of getting ahead. I'm trying to get a good mix of pitches in there and keep them off-balance."

Porcello faced 15 batters, giving up two hits while striking out one and walking two in an efficient, if not overpowering effort.

-- The Associated Press


The Twins held catcher Joe Mauer out for the second game with a sore right shoulder.

Mauer missed the Twins 5-4 loss to the Phillies on Saturday with the same ailment. He said the injury is not a concern and that he would've played if this were the regular season. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire also scratched first baseman Justin Morneau from the lineup with general soreness.

"We decided to shut them down for a couple of days," Gardenhire said. "We're not going to push it. It's not going to happen."

-- news services


Boston Red Sox righty Josh Beckett did not make his scheduled start Sunday afternoon against the Minnesota Twins. A Boston spokesperson said he had been scratched due to illness.

Right-hander Ryne Miller, who finished last season with in Double-A Portland, was summoned from minor league camp to make the start in Beckett's place.

"He'll pitch again on his normal day," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said of Beckett. "It might cost him getting stretched out by one inning. He wasn't feeling well. He'll just stay right on his schedule. The biggest thing is for him to get himself better."

The Red Sox beat the Twins 6-4.

-- news services


Kansas City Royals outfielder Rick Ankiel will miss at least a week of spring training with a right ankle injury.

Manager Trey Hillman said Sunday he would hold Ankiel out of spring training games for another six to seven days with the sore right ankle. Ankiel was scratched from the lineup Friday with the injury and Hillman was optimistic Ankiel could return after a couple of days rest, but the Royals opted to give him additional time off.

"He doesn't know how it happened," Hillman said. "It was a little bit sore the day before [Friday]. That's a mystery to me. I don't think there is anything specific that triggered it."

The Royals signed Ankiel as a free agent on Jan. 25 to be the starting center fielder. He has hit .214 in six exhibition games with a home run, triple and four RBIs.

-- The Associated Press


Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Dustin McGowan has pitched his second simulated game, throwing 44 pitches over two innings.

Barring any right shoulder soreness in the next two days, he expects to throw 50-60 pitches Friday in a game against Blue Jays minor leaguers.

McGowan last pitched in a regular-season game July 8, 2008, before undergoing shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum. He sat out the 2009 season because of setbacks in rehabilitation, one requiring left knee surgery. He is likely to start the season on the disabled list.

-- The Associated Press


Former major league infielder Dallas McPherson was among the 10 players the Oakland Athletics reassigned to their minor league camp on Sunday.

The team also reassigned right-handed pitchers Sam Demel and Matt Wright, left-handed pitcher Cedrick Bowers, catchers Joel Galarraga and Max Stassi, and infielders Grant Green, Jemile Weeks, Matt Whitney and Corey Wimberly.

The Athletics have 53 players remaining in camp with the 40-man roster and 13 non-roster invitees. The breakdown includes 27 pitchers, four catchers, 12 infielders and 10 outfielders.

"Right now [Kevin] Kouzmanoff is going to start to play a lot more and we're going to use Daric Barton and Eric Chavez at first more often, so we wanted Dallas to keep his at-bats up," A's manager Bob Geren said.

Chavez was scheduled to play in back-to-back games for the first time Monday when the A's host the Kansas City Royals. Geren said it was a planned progression but that it did signal a significant point in Chavez's recovery from shoulder and back issues.

Also, right-hander Justin Duchscherer was bumped back a day to give him a chance to throw a full bullpen session. He will throw in a minor league game on Wednesday.

-- The Associated Press


Kerry Wood says he's not worried about missing any more time with the Cleveland Indians because of a sore back.

The veteran closer says missing an outing Saturday was just precautionary. He said the soreness would not have kept him from pitching in a regular season game.

Wood is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Monday and return to the mound Wednesday night against the Cincinnati Reds.

The 32-year-old right-hander missed a few days of spring training a year ago with some back soreness, but went through the 2009 season without a trip to the disabled list. Wood made 12 trips to the DL with various arm ailments and surgeries in 11 years with the Chicago Cubs. He signed a two-year, $20.5 million deal with Cleveland in 2008.

-- The Associated Press

This is a pitcher-catcher partnership that Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Rich Harden could like.

Harden, in his Texas debut, pitched two innings of one-hit ball and Saltalamacchia and Matt Brown each hit a three-run homer, leading the Rangers to a 13-3 win over the Kansas City Royals on Thursday.

Harden, who spent the past 11/2 years with the Chicago Cubs, had one walk and one strikeout and gave up one unearned run.

"Rich looked great," Rangers catcher Saltalamacchia said. "He was throwing all his pitches with command, which is big, and he was just working on things. He looked comfortable. I could call anything at any time."

-- The Associated Press

Seattle Mariners closer David Aardsma tweaked his groin during his one-inning outing Thursday against San Diego, but the Mariners do not believe he will miss much time.

"We don't think it's very serious and he might miss one outing hopefully and that's it," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "It was the very last pitch and he felt something in his groin. Hopefully, we caught it before it gets to be anything serious."

Aardsma worked the third inning, issuing a walk to leadoff batter Yorvit Torrealba. He then got Everth Cabrera to hit into a double play. He induced Tony Gwynn Jr. to end the inning with a left-side groundout.

Aardsma started last season as the team's set-up man, but when Brandon Morrow lost his effectiveness, Aardsma assumed the closer's role on May 15. He had 38 saves in 42 opportunities after going 128 big-league appearances without a save.

-- The Associated Press

Brett Myers showed off his new threads during the Astros' windy spring training opener.

Unfortunately, the veteran pitcher's control wasn't quite as sharp as his new uniform.

Myers, the longtime Phillies hurler, allowed three runs -- two earned -- in two innings, but the Astros rallied with nine runs in the bottom of the fourth inning and cruised to a 15-5 win over a Washington Nationals split-squad on Thursday.

Myers is projected to be the Astros' No. 3 starter behind Roy Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez.

"The good thing was that my ball was moving a lot," Myers said. "The bad thing is I couldn't control where it was moving."

-- The Associated Press

Jason Bay's debut was low-key, but David Wright homered in his first at-bat and the New York Mets beat the St. Louis Cardinals 17-11 on Thursday.

Bay, a former Red Sox left fielder, went 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout in his first game of the spring and first live action with the Mets since signing a four-year, $66 million contract in December.

The Mets brought in Bay to add power to the lineup after he recorded 36 homers last year.

-- The Associated Press

Oakland right-hander Jason Jennings, who signed with the Athletics on Sunday, is scheduled to pitch in a game within a week.

Jennings threw live batting practice for the first time on Wednesday and will throw one more time in game-like situations before the A's slot him into their pitching plans.

Jennings said his arm felt great the morning after his latest throwing session. The A's plan to stretch him out as a starter or long relief. He moved to the bullpen with the Texas Rangers last year.

-- The Associated Press

New York Yankees designated hitter Nick Johnson was scratched from the starting lineup for Thursday's game against Philadelphia because of a stiff lower back.

Jamie Hoffmann replaced Johnson in the game that featured new Phillies ace Roy Halladay and Yankees star CC Sabathia.

Johnson was signed during the offseason to take the spot of 2009 World Series MVP Hideki Matsui, who is now with the Los Angeles Angels. Johnson hit an RBI double in the Yankees' exhibition opener Wednesday.

Johnson was hurt during batting practice, saying the problem stemmed from wearing spikes for the first time instead of turf shoes on the mats used in the cage.

"Caught a spike," Johnson said. "I felt a little something. I could have played. We'll see how I feel tomorrow."

-- The Associated Press

Outfielder Nelson Cruz and shortstop Elvis Andrus are among 14 Texas Rangers who signed one-year contracts Thursday before the team's first spring training game.

With the moves, the Rangers have every player on their 40-man roster signed for the 2010 season.

Cruz, who hit .260 with 33 home runs and 76 RBIs in 128 games last season, got the biggest contract Thursday at $440,000. Andrus got $418,420 after being one of the AL's top rookies (.267, 33 stolen bases).

Jarrod Saltalamacchia ($418,580) and Taylor Teagarden ($407,010), catchers competing for the starting job, also signed.

The others who signed, all for at least the $400,000 major league minimum, were infielder Joaquin Arias; first baseman Chris Davis; left-hander Matt Harrison; right-handers Eric Hurley, Warner Madrigal, Guillermo Moscoso, Darren O'Day, Alexi Ogando and Pedro Strop; and catcher Max Ramirez.

-- The Associated Press

Big leaguers Ken Griffey Jr., Torii Hunter, Ryan Braun, Orlando Hudson and Carl Crawford appear in a new TV commercial for Dick's Sporting Goods. The ad shows Griffey and Hunter racing through the store, and concludes with the other players arguing vehemently over whether Hunter was out on a tag play with Griffey at home plate.

The five players filmed the spot at a Dick's store in Dallas in the first week in February. "It was an all-day event,'' Braun said. "It's amazing how much goes into a 30-second commercial.''

Hunter said he spent almost 11 hours at the store -- several more than any of the other participants.

"They all left after six or seven hours, and I was still there doing all the running in the store,'' Hunter said. "I was sweating so much, it took them 30 minutes to get the sweat off me. Man, it was a workout.''

Wherever Hunter goes this spring, somebody asks him, "Torii -- safe or out?''

"It was Griffey's commercial, so it's going to seem like I was out,'' Hunter said. "But I was safe. I got in there.''

-- Jerry Crasnick, senior baseball writer

Tim Lincecum has back-to-back National League Cy Young Awards and a two-year, $23 million contract in his back pocket to show for it. But that hasn't made him jaded about meeting a childhood hero.

Lincecum, a Seattle native, was talking to reporters after throwing an inning against the Mariners when Ken Griffey Jr. -- a player he rooted for as a boy -- dropped by to say hello.

"Lincecum, what's up? I just wanted to say hi," Griffey said, extending his hand.

"It's a pleasure," Lincecum replied, looking awestruck as he shook Griffey's hand and watched him walk away. "It was nice meeting you," he added as Griffey headed for the Mariners' clubhouse.

Lincecum paused, let out a breath and said, "Man. Wow. He just came over. That was pretty cool."

He paused again. Then, he asked the media surrounding him, "What were we just talking about?"

Later, Lincecum acknowledged the experience took him by surprise.

"I followed him. I'm a Seattle native, so getting to watch him do his thing, actually all those guys -- [Jay] Buhner, [Joey] Cora was awesome," he said. "Just to have a guy like that come over, it caught me off guard."

-- news services

Cole Hamels' bread-and-butter pitches have been his fastball and changeup. This spring, the Phillies starter has been working on sharpening his curveball and adding a cutter as well.

But Hamels is also tinkering with a fifth pitch -- a sinker. He's tried it out during games before, with mixed results, and now wants to see if it can become a permanent part of his arsenal, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

"A few games, I would throw it, but it would get hit, and I would say, 'Forget this,'" Hamels said, according to the report. "But it's still something I'm throwing in the bullpen and am working with."

Hamels and Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee don't remember how many times Hamels tried throwing a sinker last year.

"If you're trying to pin me down to specific dates, I don't remember, but he threw it more than you might think," Dubee said, according to the report. "It could be a good pitch for him."

-- news services

A vision test during a team physical exam has confirmed what Brewers outfielder Corey Hart has suspected since last year -- he's nearsighted.

"It kind of started last year, but I didn't really think about it," he said, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I just kept playing. The ball was a little fuzzy at times, but I didn't think it was that big of a deal."

Rather than eyeglasses or contact lenses, Hart plans to wear prescription goggles in the field to correct his vision, according to the report. He's hoping he can get accustomed to wearing them during spring training.

"I'm hoping they work for me," he said, according to the report. "I don't want to have any trouble picking the ball up. Right now, it's a little fuzzy."

Why wasn't the problem caught last year? "I guessed right [on what letters were shown on the eye chart]," Hart said, according to the report. "This year, I guessed wrong. By the third letter, I was like, 'Maybe H?'"

-- news services

Spring Training Blog: Feb. 28

February, 28, 2010
Jose Guillen is ready to play for the Kansas City Royals. Willie Bloomquist is not.

Guillen, who had ankle and lower back surgery after his final game on Sept. 2, is penciled in to play in the outfield for the Royals on Wednesday in an intrasquad game.

"I talked to Jose about that today," Royals manager Trey Hillman said Sunday. "I gave him a heads up. I got him in one of the projected lineups in right field. He's said he's good to go."

The Royals want to see how Guillen, who hit .242 with nine home runs last season in only 81 games, is moving after the two operations. With the addition of outfielders Scott Podsednik and Rick Ankiel, Guillen will likely get the bulk of his at-bats as the designated hitter.

Bloomquist played in more games (125) and had more at-bats (434) last year with the Kansas City Royals than he had in his previous six seasons with the Seattle Mariners.

It took a toll.

The day after the season ended Bloomquist had arthroscopic surgery on both knees. He was on crutches for six weeks and spent most of the winter rehabbing at the Royals complex in Surprise.

The Royals have limited Bloomquist's activities in spring training and he won't be playing in any of the early exhibition games.

-- The Associated Press

Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts took live batting practice for the first time this spring on Sunday, but manager Dave Trembley said he still isn't sure when Roberts, who has a herniated disk in his back, will play in a game.

Trembley said he'll wait for the trainers to give him the go-ahead before he gets Roberts any game action. In the meantime, "I can't put a timetable on it," Trembley said.

The Orioles have continued to portray Roberts' back issues as minor, but they've held Roberts back from normal spring activities. He reported back pain about a month before spring training and was diagnosed as having a small herniated disk a week ago. He is still expected to be ready for Opening Day.

"He's moving right along," Trembley said. "That [live BP] was the last phase. He's done everything else."

-- Jayson Stark,

Red Sox outfielder Mike Cameron was forced to cut his morning short after he tweaked his groin during drills.

The outfielders were working out on Field 1 at the Player Development Complex when Cameron told Red Sox first base coach Ron Johnson that his groin was bothering him. Johnson told Cameron to go see Francona, who immediately told the outfielder to get off the field.

"He's felt it the last couple of days," said Francona. "During outfield drills today, he said something to RJ and RJ sent him over to me. Because we were getting pretty active with the relays, I told him to come in and get treatment. I don't think it's anything. He tested it out and his strength was good, his range of motion was good. But it's not something we want to make worse now."

Cameron received treatment and said he's fine.

"I just need to slow my pace down a little bit and let my body catch up," he said. "I just felt like I couldn't get loose today and I didn't want to push it too much."

-- Joe McDonald,

Astros reliever Brandon Lyon is getting close to returning to the mound after having a cyst in his right, throwing shoulder drained in January.

"They think, from a health standpoint, he's fine and he just needs to continue to build the strength up," general manager Ed Wade said, according to "My guess is probably early in the week he'll get up on the mound, and we'll let him throw and continue to get comfortable with his surroundings. We're still of the mind he's going to be fine."

Lyon signed as a free agent in the offseason after spending last season with the Detroit Tigers, where he went 6-5 with a 2.86 ERA and registered 15 holds and three saves.

-- news services

Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman needed only four full seasons to establish himself as one of baseball's brightest stars.

And he's not satisfied.

His 2009 campaign -- a .292 average with 33 homers and a team-leading 106 RBIs -- was capped by the kind of first-time accolades every player dreams of: selection to the All-Star Game, a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger as the National League's top offensive player at his position.

So what does Zimmerman do for an encore?

Point out his flaws and vow to erase them.

"I honestly try to get better every year. Obviously, I had my best year individually last year. From when I went back and looked at it, I made a lot of mistakes," Zimmerman said Sunday. "I can do better than that. You just got to work hard, learn from what you did wrong and get better."

Zimmerman's message heading into 2010: The front office has done its job and fortified the roster, so it's the players' responsibility to enact a turnaround from a 103-loss season.

"Even if you have a $200 million team like the Yankees, if those guys don't go out there and play, [you don't win]. It's up to us to execute and to do the little things right and win," Zimmerman said. "When it comes down to it, it's our team and we're the ones who have to execute."

-- The Associated Press

Dustin McGowan was pitching to major league hitters on Sunday for the first time in more than a year and a half.

Making Toronto's Opening Day roster is not a priority for the Blue Jays -- and shouldn't be for McGowan either.

"We've talked to him about it. That date is non-existent for us with him," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "If it happens to fall on that date, great. If it happens a week later, that's fine as well, even three month after that."

The 27-year-old last pitched on July 8, 2008, removed early in a game against Baltimore with a sore right shoulder. Two days later he went on the disabled list and underwent surgery July 31 to repair fraying of the labrum. It finished him for that season and last year's as well. Then on July 9, 2009, he had surgery to repair damaged cartilage in his right knee, delaying his rehabilitation by about six weeks.

McGowan was scheduled to throw only in the bullpen on Sunday, without facing batters, "but I talked with (pitching coach) Bruce Walton," Anthopoulos said, "and our trainer signed off on it, and Dustin felt good and wanted to throw to hitters. We didn't have a problem with it."

-- The Associated Press

New Detroit Tigers closer Jose Valverde has returned to his home country of the Dominican Republic for a death in the family, manager Jim Leyland said.

Valverde will be back at the Tigers' spring training camp in Lakeland, Fla., after a few days, Leyland said Friday.

Valverde came to the Tigers as a free agent after recording 116 saves in three years for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Houston Astros.

"He's a big, strong, outstanding-stuff guy with a great personality," Leyland said.

-- news services

Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington said the center field and leadoff starting jobs are Julio Borbon's to lose.

"For me, Borbon is in the same position that [shortstop] Elvis Andrus was last year," Washington said Sunday. "It's up to us to keep him relaxed and let him be who he is."

Borbon made his debut with the Rangers last season as a substitute for an injured Josh Hamilton and hit .312 in 46 games. The 23-year-old entered this spring as the leading candidate to replace Marlon Byrd, who signed with the Chicago Cubs in the offseason.

One distinct difference in the way Borbon will be used is that Washington plans to play Borbon every day, versus both right-handers and left-handers. Last season, Borbon was a meager 2-for-15 against lefties in the limited opportunities he was given.

"I feel comfortable against lefties," Borbon said. "I've never had any doubts hitting versus righties or lefties. It's a matter of coming back out and doing it consistently."

-- The Associated Press

Who better to teach the Oakland Athletics' best base-stealing threat than baseball's all-time stolen base leader?

Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, who's visiting Oakland's camp as a special instructor this week, spent half an hour with center fielder Rajai Davis on Saturday. He predicted Davis, who stole 41 bases in 2009, could swipe as many as 80 bags this season.

"He had no balance, but then we kept talking. I said there's something you're doing wrong," Henderson said of his work with Davis. "Everything he did, he did flat-footed. I asked him how he got to be so fast when he's flat-footed. "I said, 'Get a little on your toes,' and he never knew it made such a difference. And that's one little thing that changed him already."

"He's a good kid, and to me he's got the heart that he wants to be a basestealer," Henderson added. "The biggest thing is fear that I got to get out of him -- fear in him going out and taking control of the bases and changing the game."

Davis welcomed the opportunity to learn from Henderson.

"To get another perspective from a guy who has proven his success at this level in the major leagues is a great opportunity," Davis said. I don't know how many teams get this chance to bring back guys who are in the Hall of Fame."

-- news services

Mets right-hander Kelvim Escobar has yet to throw off the mound in spring training and is now expected to start the season on the disabled list with shoulder weakness, manager Jerry Manuel says.

The Mets signed Escobar to a one-year contract worth $1.25 million plus incentives, believing he could likely overcome the injury woes that sidelined him for most of 2008 and 2009 and recover the form that delivered 17 wins for the Los Angeles Angels in 2007. He was penciled in as a likely set-up man for closer Francisco Rodriguez.

Escobar said he's been playing catch every other day, but has no turntable for returning to the mound, according to "They don't want to rush me back, because I've already had a couple of setbacks trying to rush myself," he said. "This time, I want to do things right and make sure."

With Escobar not expected to be ready, the Mets are considering possibilities including Ryota Igarashi, Bobby Parnell, Sean Green and Fernando Nieve.

"If [Escobar's] healthy, it would have been a tremendous, tremendous fit for us," manager Jerry Manuel told reporters. "We felt like we kind of had that covered. But now with the injury situation, we have to have someone else step up and handle that role."

-- news services

Spring Training Blog: Feb. 27

February, 27, 2010

When word first spread that veteran pitcher Jose Contreras was joining the Philadelphia Phillies last month, no one was happier than Danys Baez.

It wasn't just that one new member of the Phillies would be able to break in the pen with another. When Contreras joined the Phils, a team Baez had signed with earlier in January, it finalized a remarkable reunion of two men who escaped Cuba and found success in the major leagues.

Baez says he called Contreras right after he heard he signed.

Contreras told his wife that having Baez on his team made life easier.

Baez and Contreras were both members of the Cuban National team 10 years ago.

-- Associated Press

Detroit Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge says he's ahead of schedule in his return from offseason knee surgery and expects to be completely healthy by the time the regular season begins.

After earning a spot in last year's All-Star game, Inge was hampered down the stretch by tendinitis in both knees and forced to have them repaired in November. He spent several weeks wearing braces on both legs that stretched from his ankles to his thighs.

The 32-year-old has gone through conditioning and workouts with the team, but won't begin playing until the latter part of spring training.

However, "I could play right now," Inge said.

"He's doing fine," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "He's ahead of schedule, by his own admission. Exactly how far ahead of schedule I don't know."

-- Associated Press


Texas Rangers left-hander Derek Holland threw a lengthy bullpen session on Saturday, his first work from the mound since spraining a knee last week.

"I had a little bit of adrenaline flowing," said Holland, who sprained his right knee during an agility drill on Feb. 20. "Nobody likes to be on the tables in the training room."

Holland threw from a full windup and the stretch in the bullpen under the supervision of Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux.

The 23-year-old said he expects to throw live batting practice Monday.

"I wanted to keep going but they want me to take it day to day," Holland said.

Holland was 8-13 in 33 appearances -- 21 starts -- with a 6.12 ERA last season.

-- Associated Press


The top of the New York Mets' rotation is in good hands again, with Johan Santana looking healthy this spring after season-ending elbow surgery last year.

After Santana, well, there's a lot of ifs, maybes and question marks.

Mike Pelfrey regressed last year after a promising 2008 season. John Maine has struggled to stay on the field. Oliver Perez was so disappointing last season he was sent to the bullpen for a stretch. The top candidate for the final spot in the rotation is coming off surgery to repair a torn right hamstring.

And the consensus is this group could be the biggest key to New York's season.

-- Associated Press


Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson arrived at the Oakland Athletics' spring training facilities Saturday in Phoenix and many of the A's said they were looking forward to working with him on stealing bases.

A's manager Bob Geren said Henderson's primary focus will be on stealing bases, but he won't be limited.

That's fine with A's outfielder Rajai Davis, who led the team with 41 steals last year. Davis wants to talk about batting leadoff and playing the outfield as well.

The A's were fourth in the majors in stolen bases last year and adding players such as Coco Crisp to the mix could increase those totals.

-- Associated Press

Spring Training Blog: Feb. 24

February, 24, 2010
In a perfect world, Jason Giambi would be reporting to spring training as a designated hitter for a contender in the American League. Instead, Giambi returned to the Rockies in Tucson on Wednesday, where he will be an occasional fill-in for Todd Helton at first base and a pinch-hitter.

Giambi signed a one-year deal for $1.75 million in January after not being able to secure a job as an everyday DH. Just because it was Plan B doesn't make it any less desirable, Giambi said.

"Trust me, in a perfect world, I'd love to say I could still go out there every day at first base and still play," Giambi said after reporting to camp Wednesday. "I would've loved that opportunity to see what I could do [as a] DH day-in and out with a team that had an opportunity [to win]. But I enjoy it here. I really had a great time, and I'm excited to be back."

The 36-year-old Helton admitted to wearing down at the end of last season. He told Tracy that he was amenable to more rest this season, which would open up at-bats for Giambi. And Giambi's presence bolsters the bench and gives Tracy another left-handed bat to go with outfielder Seth Smith.

Helton said Giambi, a lifetime .282 hitter with 409 home runs and .527 slugging percentage, brings "intimidation" at the plate and a "clubhouse presence" to the Rockies. One of Giambi's strengths, Helton said, is his ability to discuss hitting and do it with a calming influence.

-- The Associated Press

Washington general manager Mike Rizzo said RHP Stephen Strasburg, the No. 1 pick in June's draft, would make his first exhibition start on March 9 against Detroit at Space Coast Stadium and will pitch every fifth day, regardless of where the game was to be played.

Washington pitching coach Steve McCatty told he is looking forward to watching Strasburg throw against big league hitters.

"This will be my first chance to see him face hitters. Everybody is really excited," McCatty told "We'll see how it goes. Who knows what's going to happen after that. We are just going to go and see how it's going to works out. We are going to have a rain day every once in a while, so everything is always done in pencil."

-- news services

Joel Zumaya's overpowering pitching sessions have attracted a lot of attention in the early days of spring training. Just six months ago, as he was preparing for a second major operation in less than two years on his aching right shoulder, he wondered whether his career might be over at the age of 24.

"I've asked myself plenty of times: When does this stop? It's come down plenty of times to: That's enough, my arm is shot," Zumaya said. "I've had so many surgeries already. I've seen plenty of guys' careers end. They're done; they just make the decision to go home. I know I have some left. I have a lot left."

He has so much left that manager Jim Leyland sometimes shakes his head in disbelief.

"I watched him throwing the other day and I remarked to one of the coaches: 'How does a human being hit that?'" Leyland said. "That blows my mind ... the ball is exploding up there, and it's impressive enough that he can throw it that way; it's more impressive that somebody can hit it."

The Tigers would like Zumaya to take back the eighth-inning role he had in his rookie season of 2006, when he struck out 97 in 83 1/3 innings and they won the pennant.

"It bothered me all last year," Zumaya said. "I kept my mouth shut, but it hurt all year. I tried to do as much as I could to help this team, and it's probably my fault that I did it but I'm a competitor. I don't want to sit on the bench and watch my teammates go out there and battle it off, and then the seventh and eighth inning come along and the game goes the other way."

-- The Associated Press

The Phillies say they have some "unfinished business" this year after falling two wins shy of repeating as World Series champions.

"Last year didn't go the way we wanted it to," Ryan Howard said. "Hopefully everyone comes in here with the mindset of unfinished business, everyone gets locked in and we have a good spring training and carry it out to the season."

The two-time defending NL champions are hoping for another long season that carries into late October and possibly early November. But they've got a long way to go before they get there. The team held its second full-squad workout Wednesday and live batting practice starts Thursday.

Chase Utley and Raul Ibanez are among the hitters scheduled to face new ace Roy Halladay.

-- The Associated Press

Vernon Wells says he's finally prepared to assume the mantle of leadership for the youth-laden Toronto Blue Jays.

"It's a fun role to be in," he said. "Guys look at you to do the right things and how to be successful at this level. It's a role I'm looking forward to. For me, it's pretty easy. You expect guys to go out and play hard. That's my point to everybody. There's one thing you can control in this game and that's going out and playing the game the right way and respecting the game. Things will work out after that."

Manager Cito Gaston said Wells and second baseman/designated hitter Aaron Hill, starting his sixth season, "are probably going to be two guys who step up and do it. You've always got to remember you lead by example.

"You're going to have bad nights and you're going to have to handle them the right way. You're going to have good nights and you're going to have to handle them the right way," Gaston said. "Leadership is tough to do. Some people are leaders, some are not."

One thing Wells has going for him this spring is a pain-free left wrist. He fractured it making a sliding catch in Cleveland on May 10, 2008, underwent surgery and missed 26 games, and 25 more because of hamstring problems.

-- The Associated Press

Pirates reliever Octavio Dotel is off to a slower start than he expected at spring training.

Dotel strained a muscle on the left side of his upper body Sunday while throwing a bullpen session. The injury is not considered serious, but Dotel has been shut down for a few days as a precaution.

The 36-year-old Dotel has pitched a total of 160 innings over the past three years. The Pirates signed the oft-injured pitcher in the offseason.

"It's good that it wasn't a big pop or a snap or anything," manager John Russell said Wednesday. "It's better it happened now than later in camp. There are no concerns he won't be ready for the season."

The Pirates already had planned on taking it easy with their new closer. Like Dotel, right-hander Brendan Donnelly also will be eased into his spring workload.

-- The Associated Press

Brett Anderson, who went 11-11 with a 4.06 ERA and finished sixth in American League Rookie of the Year balloting last season, is concentrating on improving his changeup. He went home to Stillwater, Okla., in the offseason and worked on the pitch with his father, Frank, the head baseball coach at Oklahoma State.

Anderson hopes the pitch will help him put more balls in play early in counts and allow him to go deeper in games. He threw 175 1/3 innings in his rookie season.

"I've thrown a change before, but it's never been a confidence pitch for me," Anderson said. "I've always had enough confidence in my slider and curveball to throw them whenever I wanted to. [The changeup] is getting better, but it's a process."

Anderson also plans to do a better job of moving the ball around in the strike zone. He recalls a confrontation with Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval last year, when he kept pounding the inside corner with fastballs before finally surrendering a three-run homer.

"No matter how good your stuff is, if big league hitters are looking for one pitch in one location, they're definitely going to hit it," Anderson said.

-- Jerry Crasnick,

This spring, Mets manager Jerry Manuel is looking for someone to pitch the eighth inning, and deliver the ball to closer Francisco Rodriguez. When asked which of the many candidates might have a slight edge, he pointed at 30-year-old right-hander Ryota Igarashi from Japan.

"He throws strikes, and he has this," Manuel said, putting his right hand in a split-fingered grip position. "He could give a different look to hitters the first month of the season."

Igarashi, 30, was 3-2 with a 3.19 ERA in 56 games last year for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, in Japan. Kelvim Escobar, Bobby Parnell and Sean Green are other likely candidates for the set-up role.

The Mets opened camp with a rotation that includes Johan Santana, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez and John Maine. Jonathon Niese is perhaps the leader among several candidates for the fifth starter spot.

Finding a complement for Santana at the top of the rotation will be crucial to the Mets' chances to contend in the National League East. Perez, always erratic, came to camp in very good shape, several Mets said. He has worked with Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax in camp and has, from all reports, thrown the ball well in his bullpen sessions this spring.

-- Tim Kurkjian, ESPN The Magazine

When the Mariners trotted out for infield drills on Tuesday, second baseman Jose Lopez went to third base and newly acquired third baseman Chone Figgins headed over to second.

Was it spring training jitters? Or some clubhouse humor at the new guy's expense? No, and no. Lopez has been asked to give third base a try, while Figgins, who has big league experience at second, will move across the infield.

"I'll try to catch ground balls at third base and see what happens at spring training, play in a couple of games," Lopez said, according to The Seattle Times. "If I like it, I like it. I'll try."

Lopez said he had a hunch that he might be asked to make the shift when the Mariners signed Figgins, according to the report. And when Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu approached him with the idea, he agreed to give it a try.

"Figgins is a good guy and quick," Lopez said, according to the Times. "He's got better range. And we need it. I've got a better arm than Figgins at third base, especially with a diving catch. But it's no big deal. I'll wait for the games and see how I'm feeling in the games."

"We're going to look at it and see," Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said, according to the report. "There's nothing etched in stone right now. We're just looking to see what our different options are."

-- news services

The comparisons already are out of control for Atlanta Braves prospect Jason Heyward.

Chipper Jones says the 6-foot-5 Heyward looks like former Braves first baseman Fred McGriff, only bigger.

Eric Hinske says Heyward hits line drives like Cliff Floyd.

Leave it to manager Bobby Cox to trump those comparisons.

Cox says the ball sounds different coming off Heyward's bat. It's a sound Cox says he has heard before -- "kind of like ol' Hank Aaron's sound."

Heyward calls Cox's comparison to the Hall of Famer "awesome." Even more exciting to the 20-year-old is the word from Cox that Heyward can win a starting job in right field this spring.

-- The Associated Press

Detroit Tigers catcher Gerald Laird is especially eager to get going this season.

Laird hit .225 last year after the Tigers acquired him from Texas, then was arrested in late December at a Phoenix Suns home game after a brawl.

Laird said he pleaded no contest and has been attending anger management classes. He said he wanted to have the legal matter cleared up before starting spring training.

"The sooner it was over, the better," Laird said Tuesday. "I don't really want to get into it, but it's behind me and now I get to concentrate on baseball."

Laird said he spent most of last season working on learning the Tigers' pitching staff. Manager Jim Leyland said Laird called a good game last year but that he expected him to hit at least .260 in 2010. Reserve catcher Alex Avila batted .279 in 29 games over the last two months of the season.

"We need to get more production out of (Laird)," Leyland said, "He knows our pitching staff now and if he can raise his average by about 30 points, that's all we need. We know he can catch. I love the way he handles our pitching staff."

Leyland and the Tigers held their first full-squad workout under overcast skies and manager, who has been a part of spring training since 1963, was extremely upbeat. Everyone reported on time and except for some minor bursitis in setup man Bobby Seay's shoulder, there were no injuries.

New left fielder-designated hitter Johnny Damon was among the first to arrive, just a day after signing a one-year, $8 million deal to play for the Tigers.

Leyland met early in the morning to meet with his other left fielder-DH, Carlos Guillen, to sort out his role with the team. Leyland promised Guillen the starting left field job after the end of the 2009 season, never imagining the Tigers would sign Damon.

-- The Associated Press

While Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston ponders this spring who among a dozen candidates will be in his starting rotation, he also has to look at the other end of the game.

Who among three or more pitchers will be Toronto's closer -- or closers?

Right-hander Jason Frasor and lefty Scott Downs pretty much shared the role last season after the oft-injured and ineffective B.J. Ryan was released. Of the Blue Jays' 25 saves, Frasor had 11 and Downs nine. Added to the mix this year is more experienced closer Kevin Gregg, signed to a one-year, $2.75 million contract.

"Whatever role we all end up in, you're making that bullpen pretty deep," Gregg said. "Looking at the starters, and seeing these guys are pretty young, with what they've done and what they've accomplished, it allows us to shorten the game."

"We're not going to have to push those guys and try to get them into the seventh and eighth inning. When you've got three guys that can close the door at the back end, it really helps out the starters and their situation, too. It lets everybody grow."

Gregg was a middle reliever for the Angels from 2003-06. With Florida in 2007-08 and the Chicago Cubs last year, the right-hander compiled a 3.86 ERA and 84 saves, but had 20 blown saves as well.

He had left knee surgery after the 2008 season and in his final 26 appearances for the Cubs last year, Gregg's ERA ballooned to 7.83. Batters hit .258 against him, he saved four games and blew four, and he lost the closer role to Carlos Marmol.

-- The Associated Press

Ichiro Suzuki can talk about separating the way last season ended from the start of a new year, but all indications are that the good vibes will linger with the nine-time All-Star.

The Seattle Mariners won their final game of 2009, finishing with 85 wins, and had the fans at Safeco Field wishing the season could go on. Teammates carried Suzuki, the team's biggest star, off the field on their shoulders.

Fast-forward to Monday and Tuesday, with Suzuki returning the love through a lot of hugs and handshakes and joking with his teammates in a jovial clubhouse and on the field.

Suzuki was particularly glad to see Ken Griffey Jr. Junior held Suzuki back from starting his shuttle run during Tuesday's workout on purpose, drawing laughter from onlookers. Later, as Suzuki ran, Griffey jogged alongside, egging him on.

"I think he came back this year to do that to me," Suzuki said through an interpreter. "He said he needed to do more against me than last year, so I guess this is a good start for him.

"I wasn't missing it at all, but I was prepared for it," Suzuki added.

Let the fun begin again in what was last year a good-time environment among the Mariners.

"I feel very comfortable this year because when you talk about the coaches we've been having, new coaches almost every year, that's what it seems like. But this year, we have one new coach but besides that everyone's all here. Besides that, it's hard to hug someone you don't know," he said.

-- The Associated Press

After two years of roster upheaval and trading away veteran players, the Pittsburgh Pirates plan to reverse course this season.

That was the message delivered Tuesday by principal owner Bob Nutting and president Frank Coonelly, who addressed a team meeting before the first full-squad workout of spring training.

"The last couple of years there's been the concern of who's going to be with the team in September," Nutting said. "That's much less of a discussion now. This team needs to jell, to set its own standards and perform."

"The expectation level has been raised," Coonelly added. "We believe this team can be the one that turns this franchise around. And instead of being concerned about subtractions from the team, this is a core to which we can add."

Since Coonelly was hired in 2007, the Pirates have jettisoned experienced players such as Jason Bay, Nate McLouth, Jack Wilson, Freddy Sanchez, Adam LaRoche and Matt Capps. The Pirates will begin the 2010 season with a payroll of about $35 million, likely to be the lowest in the majors.

Last season, after Sanchez and Wilson were dealt, the Pirates went 19-41 to close out their 17th straight losing season. Management hopes roster stability will lead to better results this year.

-- The Associated Press

Miguel Tejada manned a new position and moved to the next phase of his career at the Baltimore Orioles' first full-squad workout.

Tejada is moving over from shortstop to third base after rejoining the Orioles, who signed him to a one-year deal last month. He took ground balls Tuesday from infield coach Juan Samuel and launched monstrous home runs during batting practice

"It's the first day with the team, but I'm feeling comfortable," said Tejada, who spent four seasons with the Orioles before being traded to the Houston Astros in December 2007. "Since I signed I've been working out at third base, and today was real exciting. I'm like a little kid with a new toy. I'm enjoying today."

Tejada's name surfaced in the Mitchell report the day after he was traded from Baltimore to Houston in 2007. He later admitted to an age discrepancy and received a year's probation for lying to congressional investigators about the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.

"Everybody knows that I've been through a lot of stuff off the field, but it's all behind me now and I feel like I'm going to start a new career," he said. "The last five years I came to spring training with a lot of stuff on my mind. Now my mind is clear. Now I'm just thinking every day what I can do to help this team."

-- The Associated Press

Jason Bay arrived at the New York Mets' spring training camp Tuesday and talked about everything from his health to his defense to his reaction to Canada's loss to the U.S. in Olympic hockey.

"That stung a little bit," said Bay, a British Columbia native who became a U.S. citizen last summer but was quick to add, "I'm still a Canadian, through and through."

He's also a Met, having signed a four-year, $66 million contract as a free agent in December.

Bay, a three-time All-Star and the 2004 National League Rookie of the Year, said neither the size of the market nor the ballpark was a factor in his decision to sign with the Mets.

"I honestly never gave a ballpark any second thought," said Bay, 31, who batted .267 with 36 home runs and 119 RBIs for the Boston Red Sox last season.

"I'm confident with myself," he added. "At the end of the day, I try to get on base and try to knock in runs. If you knock in 100 runs with 10 home runs, so be it. That's by no means my plan."

-- The Associated Press

Eric Chavez is trying to get comfortable at a new position for the Oakland Athletics.

Chavez got his first workout Tuesday at first base during Oakland's practice in Phoenix.

Chavez won several Gold Gloves at third base for the A's. He's been limited by injuries during the past three seasons, but Oakland wants to try to keep his bat in the lineup this year.

-- The Associated Press


Minnesota Twins reliever Jose Mijares has arrived at spring training a day late.

The left-hander joined the team for the workout on Tuesday. He says he missed his scheduled flight to Florida from his native Venezuela and arrived at the airport five hours early on Monday morning to make sure he made it.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire says he has put aside his disappointment with Mijares. Conditioning has been a problem for the burly Mijares in the past, but the manager praised the 25-year-old's work ethic on Tuesday.

Gardenhire says he expects Mijares to again assume an important role in the bullpen this season. Mijares posted a 2.34 ERA in 71 appearances last year for the Twins.

-- The Associated Press

Athletics left-hander Lenny DiNardo will miss a couple of days after straining his left Achilles tendon.

A's manager Bob Geren said Tuesday that the 30-year-old felt something while throwing a day earlier and will be held out of drills for the next two days.

DiNardo, who last won a major league game in April 2008 while with the A's, signed a minor league contract in January and was invited to spring training as a non-roster player.

He's spent parts of the past five seasons with the Boston Red Sox, Oakland and the Kansas City Royals.

-- The Associated Press

Cincinnati's chances of making an impact in the NL Central would be helped considerably by a breakout season from pitcher Johnny Cueto, whose performance in 2009 was eerily similar to what he did in 2008.

Cueto, 24, posted an 11-11 record with a 4.41 ERA after going 9-14 with a 4.81 ERA as a rookie. But his strikeout total declined markedly and he continued to have problems with the long ball; Cueto has given up 53 home runs in 61 big league starts.

"The more experience he gets, the better he's going to be,'' general manager Walt Jocketty said of Cueto. "He needs to use his changeup more, but he's still learning, He's still a baby.''

-- Jerry Crasnick,

Mark Teixeira believes the defending World Series champion New York Yankees will not be complacent and are the favorites this season.

The first baseman says that complacency won't be an issue "because we're the Yankees," and that winning a championship "just makes you want it even more."

"Once you taste that victory, you realize it's everything you've ever hoped for," said Teixeira, who reported to camp Tuesday.

As for considering New York to be the 2010 favorite, Teixeira says the Yankees "have to feel that way every single season."

Teixeira is in the second season of a $180 million, eight-year contract. He hit .292 with 39 homers and 122 RBIs last season.

-- The Associated Press

Sporting a thick, scraggly beard and long hair flowing beneath his baseball cap, Jayson Werth caused a stir with his appearance Monday at camp.

His look -- described by teammate Brad Lidge as "a cross between Jesus Christ and the Geico Caveman" -- might be drawing double takes, but it's his future with the Phillies that will need another look.

Werth is entering the final year of a $10 million, two-year deal, and it's uncertain whether the Phillies will be able to afford him when he becomes a free agent this offseason. Werth, who will be 31 in May, might be considered a late bloomer, after missing all of 2006 as he recovered from a serious wrist injury. But last season, he batted .268 with 36 homers, 99 RBIs and 20 steals, earning a trip to the All-Star Game in his first full season as a regular.

Does that mean Werth would be willing to give the Phillies a hometown discount to stay? His price tag on the open market could be comparable to the $66 million, four-year deal Jason Bay signed with the New York Mets.

"It's tough to say right now," Werth said. "I'm very grateful for what they've done for me ... I don't want to be sitting here blowing smoke. I love the Phillies, I love Philadelphia, I love playing there, I love my teammates. I'm just focused on the task at hand."

-- The Associated Press