Category archive: Toronto Blue Jays

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


The Padres have pushed back right-hander Mat Latos' scheduled Saturday start because of a sore elbow.

Manager Bud Black says Latos, one of several pitchers battling for two spots in the rotation, will instead throw in the bullpen and that he's already improving.

Latos is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in four appearances this spring. In 14 innings, Latos has allowed nine hits and walked three while striking out 11 batters.

Last season, Latos was 4-5 with a 4.62 ERA in 10 starts until the Padres shut him down in early September to reduce the wear and tear on his arm. Latos had pitched a combined 123 innings between the major and minor leagues after throwing 56 combined innings in 2008.

The Padres have said Latos won't throw more than 150 innings this year.

-- The Associated Press


Second baseman Brian Roberts tested his ailing back in a game Friday night for the first time this spring. Although he showed no sign of injury, his swing still apparently needs some work.

Roberts went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts in Baltimore's 4-3 loss to the Twins. Roberts spent the previous six weeks at camp receiving treatment and doing exercises to ease the pain of a herniated disc in his lower back.

"My body, it felt pretty good," he said after his six-inning stint.

And his swing?

"Obviously not stellar," Roberts said. "My last at-bat, actually I started to finally feel a lot more comfortable in the box. My first two, I was pretty clueless."

-- The Associated Press


Jamie Moyer bolstered his bid to win Philadelphia's fifth starter spot by giving up one hit over 6 2/3 innings in the Phillies' 3-0 victory over the Yankees.

The 47-year-old left-hander is competing with Kyle Kendrick, who has a 1.37 ERA in 19 2/3 innings over five games. Moyer struck out six and hit one batter with a pitch.

"Pretty good," Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said. "Threw good quality strikes down. Even when he missed, he was close. Got a little yo-yo on it every now and then. Back door. Up and down."

Moyer underwent two major offseason surgeries. He had a sports hernia operation in October and underwent another procedure on his left knee in January.

"I really didn't know what to expect because I haven't been through his kind of thing in the past," Moyer said. "So, go wing it and see what happens. Being in this clubhouse with this group of guys, it's a winning environment, it's a winning situation. It's really hard to walk away from."

-- The Associated Press


Junior's still got it. Ken Griffey Jr. hit a grand slam off Kip Wells in the bottom of the ninth inning to give his Mariners a 6-5 victory over his former team, the Reds.

Asked the last time he had hit a game-ending slam in any game -- spring training, during any of his 24 professional seasons, at Cincinnati Moeller High School -- Griffey said, "Never."

Griffey, who has hit 630 home runs in his career, had swung wildly and missed with the count 3-0, looking anxious. On 3-1, he again looked antsy chasing a low pitch.

Then he drove a belt-high fastball from Wells into right-center field. Griffey was grinning as he approached the plate. All the Mariners were waiting with high-fives and back slaps but spared him the joyous pummeling that he got a couple times last season for late-game hits.

"Just one of those things," Griffey said. "It's spring training. Everyone's working on something. I'm starting to be able to do some things [like wait on pitches]. And I happened to get a ball up into the wind tunnel."

-- The Associated Press


After struggling in his last two starts, Diamondbacks right-hander Edwin Jackson had his best outing of spring training. Jackson threw six scoreless innings, allowing five hits with three walks and two strikeouts in Arizona's 10-1 victory over the White Sox.

"His delivery was significantly better," Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch said. "He wasn't jumpy or out of control like he had been his last couple of outings. He was very much in control of the game."

Jackson has worked on his mechanics after allowing seven runs in 2 1/3 innings against the Reds and four runs in 4 2/3 innings against the Giants.

He said he shook off few signs from catcher Chris Snyder.

"I was just finding a rhythm, going out there and keeping a nice tempo, making adjustments from pitch to pitch instead of waiting until the inning snowballed to make an adjustment," said Jackson, Arizona's No. 2 starter behind Dan Haren.

-- The Associated Press


It was a wonderful day of pitching for both the Cubs and Athletics -- until Carlos Marmol took the mound.

"You can't have a perfect day in spring training," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said after a ninth-inning meltdown by his closer helped an A's split squad to a 5-2 victory.

Oakland starter Dallas Braden was outstanding, Chicago's Carlos Zambrano was even better and several relievers excelled, too. Then Marmol, anointed the Cubs' bullpen ace after spending most of three seasons as the primary setup man, served up Travis Buck's tiebreaking homer on his third pitch.

He followed that by hitting Michael Taylor with a pitch and giving up Landon Powell's single. After Cliff Pennington's run-scoring grounder, Marmol yielded pinch-hitter Shane Peterson's RBI single.

In his previous game, Marmol blew a save by allowing a two-run homer. He has hit a batter in three straight outings.

"His mechanics are off," Piniella said. "He was really flat with his pitches and we were wondering why. I think we found something on the tape. He's coming almost sidearm ... and you lose that good snap. It's something to work on. That's why it's called spring training."

-- The Associated Press


Tim Lincecum left early with a small cut on the middle finger of his pitching hand in the Giants' 5-3 win over the Angels.

The two-time defending NL Cy Young winner had hoped to pitch about six innings but lasted only four, leaving the game with the Giants trailing 1-0. Lincecum threw 84 pitches, giving up a run on six hits while walking two and striking out seven.

The right-hander didn't mention the cut to reporters afterward, but manager Bruce Bochy said it was a combination of the dry Arizona air with Lincecum's grip. Bochy said the same situation also surfaced last spring.

Bochy doesn't expect Lincecum to miss his final start of the spring on March 31, and his ace remains on target to start the season opener at Houston on April 5.

-- The Associated Press


Jim Edmonds hit a two-run homer and an RBI double in the Brewers' 9-4 loss to the Padres. Edmonds' drive off Jon Garland in the second inning was his second homer of the spring. The Gold Glove center fielder made the team Thursday when the Brewers purchased his minor league contract.

Garland pitched five innings, yielding two runs and three hits. He missed his last scheduled start with a balky right shoulder.

Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee's leading candidate to start on Opening Day, had a far less successful outing, allowing six runs and eight hits in three innings.

Gallardo had allowed four runs in 14 innings over his previous four spring appearances.

-- The Associated Press


Opening Day starter Jake Westbrook walked five over four-plus innings during the Indians' 5-4 victory over the Rockies.

Westbrook was charged with two runs and seven hits. He left with a 3-1 lead and the bases loaded. Saul Rivera got out of the jam, allowing one run.

Westbrook is eagerly awaiting his Opening Day assignment -- which will be his first game for Cleveland since May 28, 2008. The right-hander spent all of 2009 recovering from Tommy John surgery.

-- The Associated Press


David Wright homered and drove in three runs, continuing his solid spring training for the Mets. Wright hit a solo drive in the third inning for his fourth homer as the Mets and Marlins played to an 8-8 tie, calling it off after neither team scored in the 10th.

Nelson Figueroa had his worst outing of the spring for New York, allowing seven runs and eight hits in 2 2/3 innings.

Wright's shot made it 5-0 but Florida scored eight runs in the bottom half of the third.

-- The Associated Press


Jon Lester pitched six strong innings in his fifth spring start, helping the Red Sox beat a Blue Jays split-squad 3-2.

Lester allowed two unearned runs and six hits, struck out five and walked two. Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima and Ramon Ramirez finished up with a scoreless inning apiece.

-- The Associated Press


Shaun Marcum, Toronto's scheduled Opening Day starter, was hit hard in the Blue Jays' 14-10 loss to the Rays. Marcum allowed nine runs and nine hits over five innings, raising his spring ERA to 8.10.

Blue Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay departed with a left knee contusion in the top of the first inning after he made contact with Carl Crawford. He is day to day.

-- The Associated Press


Derek Lowe pitched six effective innings to help the Braves beat the Tigers 5-3. Lowe allowed two runs, one earned, and eight hits. Atlanta's scheduled Opening Day starter struck out four and walked none.

Brian McCann raised his average to .500 by going 2-for-3 for the Braves. Nate McLouth had two hits and two RBIs and is 4-for-9 in his past three games after a 1-for-35 start.

Justin Verlander, scheduled to start on Opening Day for Detroit, gave up three runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings.

Brandon Inge and Gerald Laird each had two hits for the Tigers.

-- The Associated Press


Russell Branyan's dream has turned into an Indians nightmare.

Signed to a $2 million free-agent deal in February and immediately made the starting first baseman by new manager Manny Acta, the 34-year-old Branyan has yet to play this spring with less than two weeks until the season opens.

"It's frustrating," said Branyan, sidelined by a herniated disk in his back. "This was my dream come true, to come back to the Indians and play every day. I've never really had that -- maybe for half of last year. I was pretty excited. This wasn't in the plans."

Acta's lineup plans are on hold as he awaits word on Branyan's progress. Until then, two of the Indians' prized prospects, Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley, also are in limbo. Both were acquired in the blockbuster trade that sent 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner CC Sabathia to Milwaukee in July 2008.

If Branyan is healthy enough to play first base, LaPorta will go to left field and Brantley most likely back to Triple-A Columbus. Right now, LaPorta, coming off left hip and big toe surgery in October, is playing first base.

-- The Associated Press


Kiko Calero is coming off what he calls the best year of his career. Now the Mets' right-handed reliever wants to improve on it by getting through a whole season without shoulder problems.

New York signed Calero to a minor league deal at the beginning of March despite concerns about a right shoulder that has given the 35-year-old trouble since he had shoulder surgery in 2007.

He was 2-2 with a 1.95 ERA for the Marlins last season, striking out 10.35 hitters per nine innings with the help of a biting, 80 mph slider, but he missed 18 games before the All-Star break with shoulder inflammation.

A candidate for the eighth-inning setup role, Calero said on Friday that he is healthy and expects to be ready for the season.

-- The Associated Press


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


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

Roy Halladay pitched three shutout innings and struck out five in his second spring appearance as the Phillies downed the Braves 7-4.

Halladay was making his second start since being acquired from the Blue Jays during the offseason. Halladay went 17-10 with a 2.79 ERA for the Blue Jays last season. He said the results didn't matter and that he's just looking do build his stamina for the season. He's pitched five innings this spring without allowing a run.

-- The Associated Press

Justin Upton hit a two-run homer and the Diamondbacks roughed up right-hander Aaron Harang in his first spring training start, pulling away to a 10-4 victory over the Reds.

Upton got a six-year, $51.25 million deal -- the second-largest in franchise history -- last week. The 22-year-old outfielder singled home a run and had a two-run shot off Matt Maloney, who is competing for the Reds' fifth starter role.

Harang, already picked to start his fifth straight season opener, lasted only 1 1/3 innings. He gave up four hits, including three doubles, and walked one, allowing three runs overall.

When spring training began, manager Dusty Baker was noncommittal about whether Harang would start a fifth straight season opener. He has since decided to stay with Harang.

"The ball was coming out of Aaron's hand real nice today," Baker said. "He got two strikes on almost everybody but couldn't put them away. He threw 50 pitches in a short period of time."

-- The Associated Press

Hideki Matsui made his spring debut for the Los Angeles Angels, getting a single in two trips to the plate during a 6-5 win over the San Diego Padres.

Matsui struck out against Chris Young in the first and grounded Radhames Liz's 3-1 pitch up the middle for a hit in the fourth.

Matsui agreed to a $6 million, one-year contract with the Angels in December after spending seven seasons with the New York Yankees. The Japanese slugger hit .274 with 28 homers and 90 RBIs last year, then was selected World Series MVP despite starting only three of the six games against Philadelphia.

He was scheduled to make his Angels debut on Sunday but the game was rained out.

-- The Associated Press

Left-hander Jeff Francis is hoping his second spring start goes better than his first.

Francis missed last season following shoulder surgery and was hit hard in his first spring start against San Francisco on Friday. He is scheduled to face Kansas City on Wednesday.

Francis says he has made progress during his bullpen sessions and may have been a little too excited when he faced the Giants.

Francis went 17-9 in 2007, helping the Rockies reach the World Series. He slumped to 4-10 in 24 starts in 2008 when he was plagued by shoulder problems.

He underwent arthroscopic surgery to have his torn left labrum repaired last year.

-- The Associated Press

Blue Jays right-hander Dustin McGowan is feeling good this spring as he tries to make it back from shoulder surgery. McGowan threw 30 pitches during a simulated game at Toronto's minor league complex while the rest of the team had the day off.

McGowan hasn't appeared in a major league game since July 8, 2008. He had season-ending surgery three weeks later to repair a frayed labrum and a series of setbacks sidelined him last season.

If McGowan feels no soreness Wednesday or Thursday, the plan is for him to throw one more simulated game, most likely Sunday or Monday. He then could appear in a spring game in mid-March.

General manager Alex Anthopoulos says McGowan looked great Tuesday.

-- The Associated Press

Royals catcher Jason Kendall has returned to spring training and says his divorce and child custody case won't be a distraction.

Kendall missed the exhibition game Monday against Cincinnati to be in court in Los Angeles. He returned Tuesday and told reporters he will not "dignify the ridiculous accusations" being carried by various media outlets about his divorce.

He says he wants his personal life to remain private. Kendall, a three-time All Star, brushed off any thought the divorce would affect his play, saying, "Not at all."

Kendall signed a two-year, $6 million contract with the Royals in December. The 14-year veteran played the past two seasons in Milwaukee.

-- The Associated Press

Mets right-hander Mike Pelfrey returned to the mound Tuesday after being sidelined by a sore right leg.

Pelfrey was struck on the outside of the knee by a comebacker during his first spring start Saturday. He stayed in the game against the Nationals and pitched three innings, but he pushed a scheduled bullpen session back a day because the leg was sore.

Pelfrey said he still had a large bruise but was planning to make his next scheduled start Thursday against the Red Sox.

"It's a little sore but tolerable," he said. "Hopefully after two more days it will feel a lot better."

Closer Francisco Rodriguez, who missed more than two weeks of camp with conjunctivitis, also threw a bullpen session. It was his first time on a mound since Feb. 28. Rodriguez returned to camp Monday and could pitch in a game as soon as Saturday.

Rodriguez still has pink eye, but it's no longer considered contagious. Because he isn't allowed to wear contact lenses yet, he sported prescription sunglasses similar to the ones he wore from 2003 to 2007 while pitching for the Angels.

-- The Associated Press

Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts is feeling ill, hurting his rehabilitation for a back injury.

Roberts, who led the American League with 56 doubles last season, has yet to play this spring. To speed his recuperation from the back injury, Orioles medical personnel gave him some medication on Sunday. On Monday night, he reported feeling ill. Manager Dave Trembley says Roberts will not be able to resume baseball activities until at least Thursday.

The Orioles begin the season April 6 at Tampa Bay, and Trembley says he believes Roberts will be ready as long as he gets at least 25 at-bats this spring.

"I'm still confident we can get him that," Trembley said. "I'd still like to see him out on the field, but can't get out on the field now that he's sick."

Baltimore also renewed the contract of outfielder Adam Jones on Tuesday for $465,000. Jones, beginning his third season with the Orioles, said he was not upset about the move. "There's no bad blood between the sides," Jones said. "Sign and play out this year."

-- The Associated Press

Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez has begun taking swings off a tee and considers himself ahead of schedule as he recovers from a procedure on his non-throwing left shoulder.

But he's still set to begin the season on the disabled list. A three-time All-Star and the 2006 NL batting champion with Pittsburgh, Sanchez had the shoulder procedure Dec. 23. He's also coming off left knee surgery late last season.

"That hasn't changed," general manager Brian Sabean said. "The optimism is great but that doesn't mean a whole lot. He needs to be game-ready and until he plays a game we can't have a timetable."

Sanchez signed a $12 million, two-year contract with the Giants on Oct. 30. He was acquired July 29 in a trade with the Pirates but was limited to 25 games for San Francisco because of injuries.

-- The Associated Press

Chad Cordero, who accepted a minor league offer from the Seattle Mariners last year, knows he might not stick with the big club right away, and is mentally prepared to pitch in the minors for a while.

But he can still imagine his return to a major league ballgame -- and that would be a triumphant return after suffering career-threatening injuries in 2008 while pitching for the Washington Nationals.

Cordero had a spectacular start to his career. In 2005, he saved a major-league high 47 games in his first full big-league season in Washington. He had 27 saves in 2006 and 37 in 2007, becoming the second- youngest pitcher in history to reach the 100-save plateau, at age 25.

"All those years in D.C., I was feeling so good, then all of a sudden it all comes crumbling down," Cordero said. "It was definitely something I can learn from. Just go out there and work hard and never take this game for granted. This game is awesome and I never want to stop playing."

Cordero, with a torn side muscle, torn labrum and torn biceps, had season-ending shoulder surgery on July 8, 2008, The Nationals released him after the season, and no one took a chance on him. He rehabbed by himself in 2009, and pitched a few innings for a pair of low-level teams.

In his first outing last Friday for the Mariners, Cordero allowed an opening single, then retired the next three batters.

"It'll definitely be exciting to be back up there again but once I get on the mound it'll be like I never left," Cordero said. "I'll be really excited, like a little kid again."

-- The Associated Press

Jeremy Bonderman struggled with his control again, and this time it hurt him.

Bonderman failed to make it out of the first inning in his second spring start, yielding Randy Ruiz's grand slam in the Detroit Tigers' 8-5 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday.

"Rough day, to say the least," Bonderman said. "I'm just having a hard time with sinkers running off the plate and diving and staying down, which is good. But I've got to figure a way to throw consistently where I want. I was trying to throw it over the plate."

When he got it over the plate, "it was right down the middle," he said.

Bonderman recorded just two outs and was charged with six runs and six hits. Jose Bautista connected for a leadoff homer, Ruiz went deep and Travis Snyder hit his 36th and last pitch for a sacrifice fly.

Bonderman missed most of the last two years because of a blood clot in his right shoulder that required surgery. He is entering the final season of a $38 million, four-year contract.

"There's five, six guys fighting for two jobs," said Bonderman, who won 14 games in 2005 and 2006. "Until [manager Jim Leyland] comes up to me and says 'It's your job,' I don't think I have a job. Just 'cause you're under a contract doesn't mean anything."

-- The Associated Press

J.A. Happ and Phillippe Aumont felt better after their second spring outings.

Happ and Aumont combined for five scoreless innings in the Philadelphia Phillies' 5-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday.

Happ allowed two hits, walked two and struck out two in 2 1/3 innings. Aumont replaced him in the third and gave up two hits in 2 2-3 innings, bouncing back after yielding five runs in an exhibition game against Florida State on Wednesday night.

"I was a little more consistent with mechanics and I was able to throw more strikes," said Aumont, one of three prospects acquired by the Phillies in the Cliff Lee trade. "We've been working the last few days on some stuff and it paid off."

Happ, who finished second in last year's voting for the NL Rookie of the Year, threw two shutout innings against the Seminoles but said he felt better after facing Tampa Bay.

"I just need to get reps," he said. "With more reps, that's how you pick up your comfort level."

-- The Associated Press

Ian Kennedy has shown promise in the minor leagues. The Diamondbacks are hoping he can finally bring that success to the big league level.

Kennedy got off to a positive start Sunday, throwing two scoreless innings in a 9-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies. The game between split squads was called because of rain after 5½ innings.

Kennedy said he threw all his pitches, including two curveballs, but focused on his fastball command. He allowed two hits and walked one. The 25-year-old right-hander is expected to be Arizona's No. 4 starter.

Last season, Kennedy's season was cut short by an aneurysm under his right armpit. He pitched one major league inning and 22 2/3 innings in the minors. He has a 19-6 record and 1.95 ERA in the minors compared to a 1-4 record and 6.03 ERA in 59 2/3 big league innings.

"Here, they've said from the get-go, I still have to prove myself, but the doors are open for me," Kennedy said.

-- The Associated Press

Oliver Perez looked shaky in his first spring start, but Omir Santos hit an inside-the-park grand slam to help the Mets beat the Nationals 6-5 on Sunday in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

Perez, coming off a terrible 2009, allowed five runs and seven hits in three innings. The notoriously wild left-hander issued just one walk and struck out two.

Jason Marquis, who signed a free-agent deal with Washington in the offseason, also had a rough start in his first spring game. He gave up five runs and three hits in two innings.

Santos hit a drive into the left-field corner in the second that Willy Taveras signaled was out of play after trying to retrieve it. The umpire ruled it was in play as Santos circled the bases.

-- The Associated Press

Padres outfielder Scott Hairston, who was hit on the hand by a pitch Saturday in a loss to the Mariners, is day to day with a bruised left hand.

He said he's already seeing improvement. Hairston said he had full strength in his hand though he planned to take the day off.

"The look of it made me nervous," Hairston said. "Right now it's very early in spring training. It's not necessary to push things right now. I just want to make sure it's right."

Padres manager Bud Black had a brief conversation with Hairston in the morning and believes he will return soon.

Also, Padres right-hander Jon Garland said he felt good enough to avoid treatment a day after he was struck on the inside of the left knee by a line drive.

-- The Associated Press

The Tampa Bay Rays did something Sunday they did only once all last season: They played DH Pat Burrell in the outfield.

Burrell started in left field against his old team, the Phillies, after suggesting to manager Joe Maddon that he'd like an opportunity to play in the field more often.

While Carl Crawford is set in left field, the Rays are still trying to figure out who's going to be their right fielder. But Maddon said Sunday he didn't foresee Burrell playing regularly in right.

"I'm not going to play him in the outfield if I think we're better suited not to have him play in the outfield," the manager said. "You look at our team defensively ... and we really pride ourselves on that. We think that's a big part of our success, because obviously, we have some really good defenders out there. I'm not saying he can't get out there. We'll see how the season plays out. But for right now, he's the DH."

Burrell's take: "I'm here as a player, and what they call on me to do, I do. I'd like to create as many options for them as I can. And playing the outfield is an option. But if it's not, it's not."

-- Jayson Stark,

Shortstop Jack Wilson and center fielder Franklin Gutierrez are expected to be back in the lineup when the Mariners play a pair of spring games Monday in Arizona.

Wilson left Seattle's 9-3 loss to San Diego on Friday when he felt tightness in his right hamstring. Gutierrez has been hampered by a sore right shoulder and will make his first spring start when the Mariners play Milwaukee and the Chicago White Sox in split-squad games Monday.

Closer David Aardsma, who strained his groin Thursday against San Diego, is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Monday.

-- The Associated Press

The Indians and Rangers were rained out Sunday, pushing Jake Westbrook's first spring training start back to Monday. He's scheduled to throw two innings or 30 pitches against the Diamondbacks in Tucson.

Westbrook, 32, won 44 games and averaged 213 innings a season for Cleveland from 2004 through 2006 before the injuries hit. He underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in May 2008, and made two unsuccessful attempts to come back last season.

But Westbrook made four starts in winter ball in Puerto Rico, and the Indians don't plan to coddle him this spring.

"I expect Jake Westbrook to be good the way he was before,'' manager Manny Acta said Sunday. "I don't understand why there is so much uncertainty around him when just about every staff has a guy or two who's had Tommy John surgery. Why do we have to be so cautious or negative about Jake? Tommy John [surgery] is as common as your everyday dentist's visit in baseball now.''

The Indians are looking at Westbrook, Fausto Carmona and Justin Masterson as their top three starters. Aaron Laffey, David Huff, Mitch Talbot and Carlos Carrasco are the prime candidates for the final two spots in the rotation. Jeremy Sowers is currently rehabbing from a shoulder injury.

-- Jerry Crasnick,

Blue Jays left-hander Brett Cecil says he will make his spring debut Wednesday, one week after he cut his left thumb while "chopping up chickens."

Cecil says he will pitch against the Phillies when they travel to Dunedin, Fla., to face Toronto. Cecil went 7-4 with a 5.30 ERA in 18 games, 17 starts, last year as a rookie and is trying to earn a spot in the Blue Jays' rotation.

Cecil, 23, was scheduled to debut Thursday against Detroit. He has been playing catch since shortly after the injury and is expected to throw a bullpen session Monday.

-- The Associated Press

The Kansas City Royals got a glimpse of their future Saturday and had to like what they saw.

Aaron Crow, a 2009 first-round pick, and Edgar Osuna, a Rule 5 draft pick from the Atlanta Braves, combined to throw three scoreless innings in their debuts as the Royals defeated the Texas Rangers 2-1 on Saturday.

The 23-year-old Crow struck out three in two innings. He allowed one hit, a Chris Davis double in the fourth. Crow threw 17 strikes in 23 pitches, with his fastball at 95-97 mph. He struck out Craig Gentry, the first batter he faced, with a 95 mph fastball.

"I expect myself to do well," Crow said. "I did about how I expected myself to. I have faith in myself. I know if I locate my pitches, I have a chance to get guys out."

Osuna, a 22-year-old left-hander, has been primary a starter in the minors, but could open the season in the bullpen. He allowed only a bunt single to Elvis Andrus and then got Craig Gentry to ground into a double play.

"I was really impressed," Royals manager Trey Hillman said of Osuna. "The change-up played out plus again. It looks like a fastball. It's very effective." news services

Tim Redding, vying for a spot on Colorado's staff, started and allowed three hits and run in the Rockies' 8-6 victory against a Milwaukee Brewers' split-squad Saturday.

Redding is in camp on a minor league deal. The Rockies might be in need of a starter if Jeff Francis isn't ready to begin the regular season after missing all of 2009 following shoulder surgery.

Redding threw 15 of 30 pitches for strikes in two innings.

"I'll take it. I don't know if I'm happy with it," Redding said of his outing. "I wasn't able to pound the zone as much as I'm accustomed to. I got to be a little crisper than I was today."

Jody Gerut and Craig Counsell, were two of the more recognizable players in the Brewers' lineup and each had two hits. Counsell scored twice, and Gerut hit a windblown triple and double, reached base on his three plate appearances and drove in three runs.

-- Associated Press

Marlins ace Josh Johnson has started earning his $39 million contract.

Making his first start since signing his lucrative four-year deal in January, Johnson allowed two runs in two innings in Florida's 6-5 win over the Cardinals on Saturday.

Johnson, who'll be Florida's opening day starter after posting a 15-5 record in 2009, looked like an ace in a perfect first inning that ended with Albert Pujols looking at a called third strike.

But he was a little rusty in the second inning, which started with Colby Rasmus connecting on a 2-2 pitch for a long home run to right field.

Right-hander Kyle Lohse made his spring debut for the Cardinals and allowed one run on six hits in 2 2/3 innings.

-- Associated Press

Mike Pelfrey unveiled an effective split-finger fastball in his first spring start, Fernando Martinez had four hits and homered twice, and the New York Mets beat the Washington Nationals 14-6 on Saturday.

Pelfrey allowed four runs -- three earned -- on seven hits in the first two innings he worked, finishing with a 1-2-3 third. The right-hander took a Cristian Guzman liner off the outside of his right knee in the second, sustaining a minor bruise.

Washington is winless in four exhibition games and has been outscored 50-21.

Left-hander John Lannan, the Nationals' likely opening day starter April 5, gave up two runs, two hits and a walk in two innings of his first spring outing. He struck out two.

-- Associated Press

Roy Oswalt threw two rocky, yet scoreless innings in his spring debut and the Houston Astros beat the Atlanta Braves 3-0 Saturday.

Oswalt walked three and loaded the bases in the first. He allowed just one hit and struck out two while throwing 44 pitches.

Outfield prospect Jason Heyward singled in the fifth inning and has reached base at least once in all five of the Braves' spring games. He's now 4 for 10 with four walks.

Carlos Lee doubled and scored in his spring debut for the Astros and Lance Berkman made his first start of the spring at first base, going 0 for 1.

Braves starter Kris Medlen gave up one hit and two walks in two scoreless innings.

-- Associated Press


Reigning MVP Albert Pujols sat courtside Thursday for the Lakers-Heat game in Miami and had a "prep" talk of sorts before tipoff with past MVP Kobe Bryant, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

"What got him so successful is what got myself so successful," the Cardinals slugger told the newspaper. "[Basketball is a] different sport, but to be successful and be the best like he is the best, you have to prepare yourself and do those things."

Pujols, who had bone chips removed from his right elbow in the offseason, told the Post-Dispatch that he's taking 150 swings a day and also doing work off a tee to prepare himself for another long season.

"I'm able right now to use the tee where last spring I wasn't able to do as much because I felt [the elbow]," Pujols told the paper. "In part, I would say my struggles in spring last year was that ... I couldn't take as many swings. ... There's nothing that I am concerned about."

-- news services


Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Edwin Encarnacion will not make his spring debut for at least a few days -- until his surgically repaired left wrist can handle at-bats.

Encarnacion, who hit .225 with 13 homers and 39 RBIs in 85 games with Cincinnati and Toronto in 2009, said he feels pain when he hits the ball off the end of the bat.

"Hopefully, I will be able to play next week," Encarnacion said, according to the Toronto Sun.

-- news services


Willie Randolph's right arm is feeling better these days. The Milwaukee Brewers bench coach underwent offseason surgery on a torn right flexor tendon.

According to The New York Times, Randolph wore out his arm from throwing batting practice last season, something he did only occasionally while Mets manager from 2005-2008.

"I'm 55 years old, and I've never had a sore arm in my life," Randolph told The New York Times. "So I went back last year and threw every single day. These kids love to just hit, hit, hit, hit. The heart was willing, but my body said, you're an old man, what are you doing?"

Randolph told The Times he hopes to be throwing BP sometime in May.

-- news services

Dodgers manager Joe Torre has been impressed with pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, especially with his resiliency. Kuroda spent just 21 days on the disabled list last year after getting hit on the front right side of his head by a comebacker and suffering a concussion.

"For him to come back as quickly as he did -- and he did have some testers during rehab with a line drive through the middle and a broken bat that came toward him -- I thought he recovered from that well," Torre said.

Kuroda figures to be the Dodgers' No. 3 starter this season behind Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley as he enters the final year of a three-year $35.3 million contract. On Thursday, he will have an extended throwing session before making his debut in a spring game Tuesday.

"I just have to keep moving forward. I can't give up," Kuroda said. "This game is my destiny so I just have to move forward."
-- The Associated Press

San Francisco Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum, the NL Cy Young Award in back-to-back seasons, had a not-so-Cy outing in his spring debut against the Seattle Mariners.

Lincecum gave up three runs -- two earned -- on two hits while throwing 33 pitches in one inning. But fans didn't care about the numbers. They just wanted to see him pitch and get an autograph from the 25-year-old who signed a two-year, $23 million contract just days before reporting to camp.

Lincecum obliged for dozens of fans on his way to the visitors' clubhouse at the Peoria Sports Complex. Later he sat on a stool in front of his corner dressing stall in the clubhouse, where he was surrounded by a large group of reporters. A member of the Mariners infiltrated the group, extended his arm and shook Lincecum's hand.

"What's up?" center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. said.
-- The Associated Press

Tim Hudson pitched two sharp innings and rookie Jason Heyward doubled and scored as the Atlanta Braves beat the New York Mets 9-5 in a Grapefruit League game.

Hudson missed most of the 2009 season after recovering from Tommy John surgery. The right-hander said he threw pain-free against the Mets and went to the bullpen for more tossing after facing only six batters.

Heyward, a 20-year-old outfielder considered by many the best prospect in baseball, walked twice, singled and stole a base Tuesday against the Mets in their exhibition opener.
-- The Associated Press


Jeremy Bonderman pitched two shutout innings in the Tigers' 7-6 exhibition win over the Blue Jays after missing most of the last two seasons because of a blood clot in his right shoulder that required surgery.

"I was just all over the place. The adrenaline got me out of sync a little bit," Bonderman said. "I was able to get out of it and (in) the second inning I just kind of tried to stay within myself and work on using the mechanics I've been working on, just trying to stay on top of the ball and let my arm catch up."

Bonderman, a 14-game winner in 2005 and again in 2006, and winner of 11 in 2007 before having surgery in June '08, struck out three and allowed one hit. He allowed a single and a walk to the first two batters he faced before striking out Adam Lind and, after a double steal, striking out Vernon Wells and getting Lyle Overbay on a routine grounder. He had a 1-2-3 second inning.
-- The Associated Press

For the fifth straight season, right-hander Aaron Harang will be the Cincinnati Reds' Opening Day starting pitcher.

Manager Dusty Baker said he wrestled with the decision, but chose Harang instead of Bronson Arroyo after talking it over with both pitchers. The Reds open at home on Monday, April 5 against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The honor ties Harang with Pete Donahue (1923-27) and Mario Soto (1982-86) for the most consecutive Opening Day starts in team history. Soto holds the club record with six Opening Day starts overall.

Harang was excited about the news, but said he believed Arroyo deserved the honor. Opening Day is a big annual event in Cincinnati, with a downtown parade and on-field pregame ceremonies.

"You have to have a different approach with all the hoopla," Harang said. "After you've done it once, you know how to do it."

Harang is 1-3 in his previous four Opening Day starts. He got the win over the Cubs in 2007, and took losses against the Mets in 2009, the Diamondbacks in 2008 and the Cubs in 2006.
-- news services

The Blue Jays appear to be very encouraged by the progress of two injured pitchers from 2009, Shaun Marcum and Dustin McGowan.

The ball "is really coming out of Marcum's hand," said manager Cito Gaston. And McGowan, at times this spring, has shown some of the dominant stuff that he had two years ago.

The Jays have three potential closers in camp with Kevin Gregg, Jason Frasor and Scott Downs. Gaston said spring training will determine who will close, but said he could mix and match with all three of them in the late innings.
-- Tim Kurkjian, ESPN The Magazine

The Pirates have a lot of competition in camp, "and competition is good," said manager John Russell.

Jeff Clement will be given the first shot to win the job at first base, but if he doesn't play well enough, the Pirates can play Ryan Church in right field and move Garrett Jones from right field to first, which is his most natural position.

Lastings Milledge is scheduled to be the everyday left fielder, but only if he takes the job this spring. He came to camp in better shape, and said he is taking nothing for granted.

Several positions could change if 23-year-old third baseman Pedro Alvarez continues to progress. He has one year in pro ball, and has never played at Triple-A, but he could be up sometime this summer.
-- Tim Kurkjian, ESPN The Magazine

San Francisco Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez is not expecting to pick up a baseball bat for another week or two as he recovers from shoulder surgery, making it unlikely that he will be ready for Opening Day.

"I would agree with that because I'm missing a lot of time," Sanchez said Tuesday, according to the San Jose Mercury-News. "The closer we get, the harder it is to [envision] getting back by then."

Manager Bruce Bochy agrees with that assessment.

"I'd go with very doubtful," Bochy said, according to the report. "As much as he's moving along, that would be rushing him. We'd have concerns about that. And besides, we're covered. We have experienced guys to help out there."

The Giants could use Juan Uribe or Mark DeRosa at second until Sanchez is ready to return.
-- news services

Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera says an inability to handle stress or communicate with those who care about him led him to use alcohol.

Cabrera, who sought help and gave up drinking after an embarrassing alcohol-related incident at the end of last season, told reporters that he held things inside instead and was ill-prepared to handle the pressures of the game.

"Everything was built up inside of me," Cabrera said. "I was angry at everybody."

"I would talk to nobody," Cabrera added. "But now, I go talk with my wife and my dad and go into everything. But I would talk to nobody, and so most people didn't know me.

"Now, I have conversations and I feel better. I communicate better. People can get to know me, and what's inside of me," he said.
-- news services

There was a time when two hits by a player named Kaline wouldn't have been so unusual in a Detroit Tigers game. This time the hits came against the Tigers in Tuesday's 13-1 exhibition victory over Florida Southern.

Colin Kaline, a switch-hitting junior third baseman and the grandson of Tigers Hall of Famer Al Kaline, made an impression with two singles and a walk.

"He looked good," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.

Rookies Ryan Strieby and Casper Wells each homered and drove in three runs for the Tigers. Two-run doubles by Carlos Guillen and Eric Roof were among Detroit's 16 hits. Don Kelly went 2 for 2 with a sacrifice fly.

Johnny Damon played for Detroit for the first time. The Tigers' new left fielder went 0 for 1.

-- The Associated Press

Longtime Atlanta manager Bobby Cox got two scoreless innings from Tommy Hanson, but the New York Mets spoiled Cox's last spring training opener with a 4-2 victory over the Braves on Tuesday.

Cox announced last September that he plans to retire after his 21st consecutive season in Atlanta's dugout -- the longest tenure of any active manager -- and 25th overall. He has agreed to serve as a consultant for the team after he steps down.

On a damp day in Florida, the 68-year-old Cox seemed happy to be off and running with another round of spring games.

"Just getting ready," he said. "It's business as usual and nothing has changed. I don't look at it that way. It'll hit me the last week or so."

Hanson allowed a leadoff single to Feliciano before retiring six straight batters. The right-hander struck out three.

-- The Associated Press

This is supposed to be a joyous occasion for Madison Bumgarner.

Many around the San Francisco Giants' camp say the fifth spot in the starting rotation is his to lose. The 20-year-old left-hander is due to follow starter Tim Lincecum in Wednesday's spring opener against the Seattle Mariners in Peoria.

But he will be pitching with his family on his mind after the death last week of his half-sister, Dena Byrd, in North Carolina. He left the team to attend the funeral on Sunday, returned to camp Monday morning and went right to work, throwing a bullpen session.

"I feel good about the chance to pitch in that first game," he said. "I know I still have to go out and earn the job. I'm not guaranteed anything. All I can do is ask for a shot, and I have it. I just want to do whatever I can to help us win."

Since hearing his name called as the 10th overall pick by the Giants in the 2007 draft, Bumgarner has had a meteoric rise through the minor leagues. He has a 27-5 record, a 1.65 ERA and 256 strikeouts in 273 innings, starting 48 of his 49 games.

-- The Associated Press

Dan Uggla did everything but pack. He accepted the likelihood he would be traded this winter by the Marlins. He embraced the notion of a fresh start with a new team. And he worked out like crazy.

"I was trying to prepare myself as best I could if I was going to be with a new organization, so I could be in shape and not be the guy who comes into spring training out of shape," Uggla said. "So I'm in that much better shape than I was last year."

The team benefiting will be the Marlins. Unable to swing a deal for the slugging second baseman, the Marlins brought him back and gave him a $7.8 million, one-year contract.

"I was a little surprised when we got the deal done," Uggla said. "Pleasantly surprised. Very happy to be back. I thought there was a strong, strong possibility I was going to be traded."

Uggla will be in his familiar No. 5 spot in the batting order when the Marlins open their exhibition season Wednesday against the University of Miami. Manager Fredi Gonzalez says he would take the season Uggla had in 2009 again this year, and he's willing to live with the high strikeout total as a tradeoff for Uggla's run production.

-- The Associated Press

After two weeks of daily drills and fundamentals at the team player development camp in Fort Myers, Fla., the Boston Red Sox are ready to start playing their Grapefruit League schedule. Tuesday, the major league team worked a shorter schedule, then packed for the move up Edison Avenue, to City of Palms Park.

"It's that time," said manager Terry Francona. "Everybody is packing up, so we'll get over to the stadium and get into that routine. A week from now you'll be asking if we're ready for the real games."

The Sox will play a doubleheader against Northeastern and Boston College on Wednesday. Francona is actually a big fan of playing the college teams. He says it's better than playing intrasquad games.

"I think [intrasquad games are] a waste of a lot of people's time," he said. "The guys who are pitching get a lot out of it, but everyone else is doing a lot of sitting around. Nobody likes facing a guy in the same uniform, so this is a really good way of getting into our games. I love them."

-- Joe McDonald, For more of's Red Sox blog, click here.

Left-hander Ricky Romero will start the Toronto Blue Jays' spring training opener. Starting the regular-season opener, he says, is the furthest thing from his mind.

"You've still got to go out there and prove yourself and continue to do good," he said Tuesday. "As long as I'm part of the rotation and I'm part of the 25 guys going out there and competing, I'm fine with that."

The Blue Jays play Detroit on Wednesday. For the first trip through the starting rotation, pitchers will be limited to two innings, manager Cito Gaston said.

Gaston still has time to decide on who will be Toronto's closer. Jason Frasor and Scott Downs combined for 20 of Toronto's 25 saves. On Feb. 5 the Blue Jays signed seven-year veteran Kevin Gregg to a one-year, $2.75 million contract to compete for the closer's role.

-- The Associated Press

New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain has had his bullpen session pushed back by at least one day because of flu-like symptoms.

If Chamberlain can't take the mound Wednesday, he would likely have his first spring training appearance delayed.

Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, who is set to start Friday against Tampa Bay, are the front-runners for the fifth spot in the rotation.

The World Series champions play their exhibition opener Wednesday against Pittsburgh. Chad Gaudin, Alfredo Aceves and Sergio Mitre, who are in the mix for the last spot in the rotation, are supposed to face the Pirates.

-- The Associated Press

For years, Yankees right-hander A.J. Burnett has been toying with adding a changeup to his repertoire. This time, it might finally stick.

Of the 30 pitches Burnett threw in batting practice on Monday, 12 were changeups.

"All winter, I really harped on it," Burnett told reporters. "Watching CC [Sabathia] throw last year, being a power guy and how much he uses it, it just kind of opened my eyes a little bit. Why not work on something, you know?

"It's going to be a big pitch. I think as [Jorge Posada] and I talk more, we'll figure out when to use it and not use it," Burnett said. "It's going to be key, especially those days when the hook isn't working. It gives me a second pitch."

Manager Joe Girardi, a catcher in his playing days, thinks it's a good idea.

"You can give them three different looks in three different at-bats, in a sense," Girardi said. "I think it's real important, and we've encouraged him to work on it."

-- news services

Carl Pavano will start the Minnesota Twins' first regular-season game at Target Field, pitching coach Rick Anderson said Monday, according to The (Minneapolis) Star Tribune.

Scott Baker will get the start on Opening Day against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim. But Pavano, penciled in as the Twins' No. 3 starter, will take the mound for the team's first outdoor home game since 1981, their last season at Metropolitan Stadium.

The Twins play their first seven on the road against the Angels and White Sox. Weather permitting, they'll host the Red Sox on Monday, April 12.

Pavano, who started the Montreal Expos' final home game at Olympic Stadium and what was expected to be the Twins' final game at the Metrodome (before a one-game playoff for the AL Central title), said getting the ball for the home opener was an honor, according to the report.

"It's obviously something to look forward to but I have a lot to accomplish before then," Pavano said, according to the report. "I don't want to get too far ahead of myself. But any time you get a chance [like this] -- especially with the tradition of sports in Minnesota and baseball specifically -- I'm excited."

-- 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