Category archive: Houston Astros


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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


Outfielder Brian Anderson is going to give pitching a try.

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

Spring Training Blog: Feb. 21

February, 21, 2010
The Pittsburgh Pirates plan to be more careful with pitcher Paul Maholm this season.

Maholm went 8-9 with a 4.44 ERA last year, not what the Pirates expected from their ace.

But there were times, pitching coach Joe Kerrigan said, when Maholm insisted on taking his regular turn in the rotation despite a sore left knee and illness. Kerrigan went along, and Maholm paid the price with awful outings.

"This guy pitched with a whole bunch of injuries last year," Kerrigan said. "Some of it was our fault. There were a couple of times when we shouldn't have let him pitch with that knee."

"But he'll convince you -- he'll lie to you. He's a real good liar. We're going to have to be more forceful, I think, if we see that knee swell up a little bit. We've got to be smarter. We've got to be stubborn about it," he said.

-- The Associated Press

The A's currently expect Ben Sheets, Justin Duchscherer, Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson to slot in as the top four starters in the rotation. That leaves Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Vin Mazzaro to compete for the fifth spot.

Cahill, one of Oakland's top prospects, posted a 10-13 record with a 4.63 ERA in 32 starts last season. The A's want him to work on his slider and improve his performance against left-handed hitters, who batted .286 against him with a .558 slugging percentage in 2009.

It's possible that one of the losers in the fifth starter derby will assume a long relief role, but manager Bob Geren isn't thinking that far ahead.

"Right now I'm just going to treat them all like starters and stretch them out and see how the next few weeks progress,'' Geren said.

-- Jerry Crasnick,

In his first three seasons after Tommy John surgery, Minnesota Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano lost touch with his slider, once one of the most feared and unhittable pitches in the big leagues.

In his fourth offseason since the procedure, Liriano was finally able to rear back and let it fly. For the first time in a long time, the bite was in the slider and not in his elbow.

While pitching in winter ball in his native Dominican this offseason, Liriano started to feel like the All-Star power pitcher he was in 2006, not the wayward youngster of the past three seasons who looked lost without his favorite pitch. He went 3-1 with a 0.49 ERA in seven postseason appearances for Leones del Escogido, including a one-hit, 10-strikeout, five-inning masterpiece in the championship game.

As the Twins' pitchers and catchers report for spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., the team and Liriano hope his winter ball performance was a sign of things to come.

"You just have to wait and see how he carries it up to here," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It's one thing pitching down there and it's another thing pitching up here. But the reports are that he's really throwing the ball well. He could be one of those ace in the holes if he can come back and bounce back, keep his arm up and the ball down."

-- The Associated Press

Yankees right-hander Javier Vazquez threw 35 pitches during his first spring training bullpen session Sunday.

Vazquez was acquired in an offseason trade with Atlanta to be the fourth starter behind CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte.

"The first time out, I feel OK," Vazquez said.

Vazquez had pitched off a mound several times -- the last being a week and a half ago -- at home in Puerto Rico. After working 219 1/3 innings last season, the Yankees had originally planned to keep him off the mound until Wednesday.

Jorge Posada caught Vazquez. The pair were Yankees teammates in 2004.

-- The Associated Press

Roy Oswalt will be counting innings more than victories this season.

The Houston Astros' ace said on Sunday that if he can make 35 starts and reach 200 innings, he'll have a successful season.

Oswalt is coming off the most frustrating year of his career, when he went 8-6 and set a dubious franchise record with 16 no-decisions. He strained his lower back in July, then sat out the last two weeks of the season with a bulging disk.

The 32-year-old Oswalt says his back is healed and he's been reinvigorated by new manager Brad Mills and pitching coach Brad Arnsberg.

Oswalt is confident he can put up numbers like he did when he won 20 games in 2004 and '05, and helped Houston reach unprecedented postseason success.

-- The Associated Press

Former Detroit Tigers left-hander Kenny Rogers is returning to spring training as a special pitching instructor.

Rogers spent the last three years of his 20-year career with the Tigers, leading them to an American League pennant in 2006. He'll be working with the Tigers at their spring training facility in Lakeland, Fla., on March 2-5, the team said.

Another former Tigers great will not be at camp, however. Lou Whittaker, who has been a special instructor at spring training since his 1995 retirement, will not be reprising that role this spring.

-- news services

Jorge Posada says he never took it personally when he was benched for A.J. Burnett's four postseason starts. And now that a new season has begun, the veteran Yankees catcher is looking forward to catching Burnett again, saying he enjoys that Burnett brings the same intensity to the game that Roger Clemens did, the New York Daily News reported.

"Last year I really got up when he pitched. You can't be passive back there," Posada said, according to the report. "His stuff is so good, he's electrifying. It's a real challenge, but it's fun. It's unfortunate what happened last season, but I'm looking forward to catching him again. I really am."

During the 2009 playoffs, Jose Molina started on days Burnett pitched, as Burnett seemed to pitch better when Molina was behind the plate. Now Molina is with the Blue Jays.

"I wasn't happy to sit down [during the playoffs]," Posada said, according to the report. "But you look back and you see we won, it makes it easier to accept. I know A.J. didn't ask for it, and he expressed that, so it's not as if we have a problem.

"Joe [Girardi] felt he and Jose had a good connection, and I don't blame him. You want to win. Looking ahead now, there's nothing to be addressed."

-- news services

Athletics starter Justin Duchscherer says he's feeling great mentally after getting treatment for what he described as a mental breakdown last season, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. But his body is not cooperating as spring training begins.

Duchscherer says he has an irritated SI joint -- the joint connecting the base of the spine to the hip bones -- and has had three cortisone shots to fight the irritation, including one last week, the Chronicle reported. But the right-hander also said the issue is minor and that there's a simple fix that would keep him off the field only a few days.

A's manager Bob Geren said Duchscherer, who is penciled in as the A's No. 2 starter, had lingering back soreness after throwing on Friday and will be re-evaluated on Sunday, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

"He's had it off and on for a week or two," Geren said, according to the Mercury News. "He felt good [Friday]. He threw a 20-pitch bullpen. But he woke up this morning, and it was a little bit stiff."

-- news services


March, 31, 2009
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Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun is day to day with a right thumb contusion after leaving in the second inning of Tuesday night's game against the Padres.

The 2007 National League rookie of the year was struck by a first-inning line drive off the bat of the Padres' Brian Giles when he lost the ball in the lights. X-rays of Braun's thumb were taken but showed no significant damage.

Braun, who drove in a run in his only at-bat, was making only his sixth Cactus League appearance after playing for the United States in the World Baseball Classic. Last season, he hit .285 with 37 homers and 106 RBIs.

Brett Myers had a strong outing in his final spring appearance and earned the Opening Day start for the Phillies for the third straight year.

Myers held Toronto to one run on three hits in four innings, leading the Phillies to a 9-1 win over the Blue Jays on Tuesday night. He struck out four while walking none.

After the game, Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel announced that the 28-year-old right-hander will start the opener. Cole Hamels, originally scheduled to start the first game, was officially ruled out a day earlier as he battles back from elbow tightness.

"Once Cole couldn't start, the way we keep the rotation, [Myers] follows Cole and then [Jamie] Moyer and [Joe] Blanton," Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said. "That's how we've had it when we won."

Myers' lone mistake came in the second inning when he gave up a two-out, solo homer to Travis Snider on a 3-2 pitch.

"I'm ready to pitch whenever, as long as they give me the chance," Myers said before Manuel announced he would start the opener. "Whenever they give me the green light, I'll be ready."

PUTZ EXITS EARLY (10:54 p.m. ET)
Setup man J.J. Putz left the Mets' 9-2 victory over the Marlins on Tuesday night after irritating the fingernail on his right middle finger.

Putz struck out Alejandro De Aza looking and Andy Gonzalez swinging in the eighth inning. He then walked off the mound and was greeted by manager Jerry Manuel near the first-base line.

"Nothing serious," Manuel said. "We figured it would be best just to get him out of there and get it taken care of."

Putz was a key offseason acquisition for the Mets, who overhauled their bullpen in one day when they obtained Putz from Seattle in a three-team, 12-player trade hours after signing closer Rodriguez.

Astros first baseman Lance Berkman missed his fourth consecutive game with biceps tendinitis in his left shoulder.

Berkman said Monday that he planned to DH on Tuesday, but Houston manager elected not to use a DH against the Braves in order to give Berkman another day of rest.

Berkman is expected to play Wednesday against Cincinnati.

Los Angeles reliever Will Ohman gave up a homer and showed rust while making his spring debut. The veteran left-hander, signed on Monday to a one-year minor league contract, was playing catch-up after not being in camp.

"Obviously signing so late I wanted to bring as much attention to myself as possible. I thought I would go up there and give up a dinger to the first guy," Ohman said, with a laugh.

Ohman got ahead of Chad Tracy for an 0-2 count before allowing a two-run homer to right field. It was the first batter he faced in the fifth inning. The longtime reliever, who has a career 10-9 record in 303 games, walked Conor Jackson before striking out Miguel Montero to end the frame.

"This is a building block. They are looking for me to refine my stuff and get in a position where I am locked in," Ohman said. "All I am looking for and I think all the club is looking for is a general progression so it gets better each and every time."

Ohman, who was 4-1 with a 3.68 ERA in 83 games with Atlanta last year.

The Nationals gave outfielder Wily Mo Pena his unconditional release Tuesday and reassigned reliever Gary Glover to minor league camp.

The moves left the Nationals with 34 players in their spring camp.

Pena refused an assignment to the minor leagues after being waived Saturday.

He hit .205 with only two homers and 10 RBIs in 195 at-bats in 2008 before having an operation on his left shoulder in July. In October, the Nationals rejected their $5 million option for 2009 on Pena, but he exercised his $2 million option.

The Nationals acquired Pena from Boston in July 2007, one of a long series of deals in which former Washington general manager Jim Bowden acquired players he knew from his days working for the Reds. The Red Sox got first baseman Chris Carter in what was a three-team deal that involved Washington sending Emiliano Fruto to the Diamondbacks.

Marlins newcomer Emilio Bonifacio won a starting job at third base, and Jorge Cantu will move to first.

The lineup was solidified Tuesday when the Marlins optioned rookie first baseman Gaby Sanchez to Triple-A New Orleans.

Bonifacio was acquired from the Nationals to add depth. A natural second baseman, he impressed the Marlins with his speed and defense.

"I like him in that lineup some place," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He has made unbelievable improvement at third base, a position he didn't play. He's been learning under the gun a little bit."

Cantu played mostly third last season for Florida, but he started 23 games at first and is better there defensively. Before joining the Marlins last year he was primarily a second baseman.

Emmanuel Burriss is San Francisco's starting second baseman.

The Giants optioned Kevin Frandsen to Triple-A Fresno on Tuesday, giving the job to Burriss after a strong competition in spring training.

"[Burriss'] all-around play was very solid," Giants general manager Brian Sabean said. "It was a unanimous opinion from all involved -- front office, coaching staff, scouts. He had a tremendous spring."

Burriss, 24, was hitting .357 with four doubles, four stolen bases and nine RBIs entering the Giants' game against Texas in Surprise on Tuesday. Frandsen hit .274 with a homer and six RBIs.

"Every day is a learning day," Burriss said earlier in camp. "I want to say I'm pretty comfortable [at second], but I have to get better. There is always room for improvement."

Frandsen, 26, missed all but one game in 2008 after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon in spring training on March 24. He made one pinch-hit appearance, against Los Angeles on Sept. 28.

A's right-hander Justin Duchscherer underwent elbow surgery on Tuesday morning.

It was an arthroscopic cleanup and manager Bob Geren said everything went well.

Geren said the A's still won't know how much time Duchscherer will miss until he starts throwing. He is expected to miss at least six weeks, though.

Sidney Ponson didn't do much to help his bid for a spot in the Royals' rotation.

Ponson gave up seven runs in five innings in the Royals' 7-2 loss to the Athletics on Tuesday, hours after Luke Hochevar was optioned to Triple-A Omaha, eliminating one of the contenders for the final spots in the Kansas City rotation.

"It wasn't good at all," said Ponson, who threw three scoreless innings but also gave up two runs in the first and five in the fourth. "I gave up seven runs today. That's not what I wanted to do. That fourth inning I was behind everybody and everything was over the plate. I didn't throw the way I wanted to throw. I kept giving up hits, and everything went downhill."

The Royals signed the 32-year-old veteran after his performance for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. In two outings this spring, he has allowed 11 earned runs in 10 1/3 innings.

"I'm not disappointed," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "I didn't like the results, but I'm not disappointed in what he brings to table. ... We still saw stuff, pitchability."

Ponson is still likely to win one of the final spots in the Royals' rotation. Gil Meche, Zack Greinke and Kyle Davies are the top three starters. Ponson, Horacio Ramirez and Brian Bannister are the candidates for the fourth and fifth spots.

The Mets reassigned right-hander Elmer Dessens and outfielder Bobby Kielty to their minor league camp and waived right-hander Fernando Nieve on Tuesday, leaving 25 players in the major league camp.

Dessens pitched three innings in the spring, giving up four hits and two walks. Kielty batted .296 with one home run and 10 RBIs in 24 games. Nieve posted a 3.00 ERA in six innings, allowing two runs on four hits and three walks.

Outfielders Marlon Anderson and Jeremy Reed earned the final bench spots, and right-handers Darren O'Day and Bobby Parnell secured spots in the bullpen.

Also, the Mets released veteran infielder Jose Valentin, pitcher Tony Armas Jr. and second baseman Junior Spivey from the minor league camp.

BAKER BOUNCED (5:20 p.m. ET)
Reds manager Dusty Baker was ejected by plate umpire D.J. Reyburn following a heated argument in the sixth inning. It was an unusual outburst by Baker, who was ejected only once last season.

The blowup came after someone in the Reds dugout yelled something at Reyburn, who turned and said something back. Baker, who was seated next to the dugout on a folding chair, got into an animated exchange with the umpire and was ejected.

Instead of leaving the field immediately -- Baker would have had to walk along the right-field foul line and leave through a gate -- he told crew chief Charlie Reliford that he was going to watch the rest of the inning from the dugout.

"I said, 'Hey, man, I ain't leaving right now because I ain't walking down there,'" Baker said. "It's a long walk. I wasn't going to hold up the game. I told Charlie I'll leave after the inning."

Joba Chamberlain pitched into the sixth inning Tuesday, a step forward in his development as a starter, and the Yankees took advantage of four Cincinnati errors in a 6-3 victory over the Reds.

The Yankees wanted Chamberlain to pitch six innings for the first time this spring, and he came close. The right-hander allowed five hits and two runs in 5 1/3 innings, leaving after the Reds scored twice.

"Good," Chamberlain said. "It's still got to get better. Velocity and attacking the [strike] zone, I felt good. It was something to build on."

The Yankees' fifth starter hadn't lasted longer than 4 1/3 innings in any of his five previous games this spring, going a total of 14 2/3 innings. It was Chamberlain's final chance to pitch deeper into a game, and he did what the Yankees wanted, striking out six along the way.

"It's what we wanted to see from him," manager Joe Girardi said. "A good step. He was pretty good today. He was anywhere between 90-96 [mph] today."

Meanwhile, Yankees DH Hideki Matsui was limited in drills by a stiff neck. Girardi said Matsui could play on Wednesday. Right fielder Xavier Nady said he was OK after being hit on the left elbow by a pitch in the sixth. He left the game with a bruise.

Philadelphia named Chan Ho Park its fifth starter. The veteran right-hander beat out lefty J.A. Happ for the final spot in the starting rotation.

Park had an outstanding spring after signing a $2.5 million, one-year contract with the Phillies in January. He came into camp competing with incumbent No. 5 starter Kyle Kendrick, rookie prospect Carlos Carrasco and Happ.

Park, a former All-Star, was 4-4 with a 3.40 ERA in 54 appearances for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season. He was 1-0 with a 2.16 ERA as a starter and 3-4 with a 3.84 ERA in relief.

Jeff Keppinger was packing his gear when he got a call saying manager Dusty Baker wanted to talk to him. The reserve shortstop thought he was about to be released.

Instead, the Reds traded him to the Astros on Tuesday for a player to be named, giving him a chance to play for his fifth major league organization. He batted only .140 in 21 games this spring and knew it was likely that he wouldn't make the team.

"I'm just glad they didn't release me," Keppinger said. "I was going to ask if they were going to release me just because of my spring numbers."

Keppinger bailed the Reds out last season, when starting shortstop Alex Gonzalez was sidelined by a fractured knee. Keppinger started 101 games at shortstop, batting .266 with three homers and 43 RBIs.

Gonzalez is back from the injury this season, although a strained hamstring has held him back recently. He played in a minor league game for the second day in a row Tuesday and reported no problems.

Joey Devine will start the season on the disabled list because of a recurring elbow problem, leaving the Athletics without one of their two closers.

Devine, who had to come out of Monday's game because of elbow pain, said Tuesday morning he will see noted orthopedist Dr. James Andrews next week. With Devine out, the A's will use right-hander Brad Ziegler as their lone closer.

Devine, 25, has had the same problem in his right elbow throughout the past few years, including a two-month stint on the DL last season. He missed about two weeks this spring. During his second big league exhibition game after his return, he said he felt more pain.

"It's been a roller coaster," he said. "I've have some ups but I've had more downs. I try to tell myself it will be fine, but there is only so much you can do. I've got to get it diagnosed and get it fixed. Whether that's sitting out and rehabbing it or going from there [to have surgery]."

Devine was 6-1 with an 0.59 ERA in 42 innings last season, the lowest ERA in major league history for a pitcher with at least 25 innings.

Geoff Jenkins, who had a key hit for Philadelphia in the resumption of Game 5 of last year's World Series, is no longer a Phillie.

The Phillies released Jenkins on Tuesday, giving them 29 players as Saturday's deadline approaches for the team to set its 25-man roster.

Philadelphia owes Jenkins $8 million on his contract: $6.75 million for this season plus a $1.25 million buyout of his 2010 option.

The 31-year-old outfielder hit .246 with nine home runs and 29 RBIs last season for the Phillies. His double in the first at-bat of the resumption of Game 5 of the World Series led to the go-ahead run.

The Tampa Bay Rays later tied the game, but the Phillies went on to win and secure their first World Series title in 28 years.

Jenkins is a career .275 hitter with 221 home runs and 733 RBIs in 12 seasons.

FOGG HAS TO MOVE ON (4:07 p.m. ET)
Josh Fogg, who signed a minor league deal Feb. 2 with the Rockies, wasn't able to make his way back onto the team that he played with in 2006 and 2007. Fogg was reassigned to Triple-A Colorado Springs on Monday.

"I will look for another job. If not, then I will head to the Springs and start there," Fogg said, according to the Denver Post. "Hopefully I can get stretched out, start, and wait for an opportunity."

Outfielder Matt Murton was optioned to Colorado Springs, though manager Clint Hurdle expected he will be called up this season at some point, according to the Post.

Jonathan Albaladejo has won the competition for the final spot in the Yankees' bullpen, beating three long-relief candidates, who were sent to the minors on Tuesday.

Alfredo Aceves and Dan Giese were optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and Brett Tomko was reassigned to the Triple-A club. Catcher Kevin Cash also was reassigned to New York's top farm team.

Tomko had been considered the front-runner for the spot but the Yankees opted to keep Albaladejo. Albaladejo and Phil Coke can throw multiple innings and fill the long-reliever void.

"I'm extremely disappointed," Tomko said. "I respect their decision. I feel like I pitched my way onto this team. They said they wanted to go with a short-[inning] guy and not a long man. I can do that. That's what the frustration comes from."

No big surprise here: Mets manager Jerry Manuel said on Monday that RHP Livan Hernandez will be the team's fifth starter.

Before the Mets-Orioles game Monday night, Manuel said he was favoring left fielder Daniel Murphy as the No. 2 batter in the lineup, with second baseman Luis Castillo eighth.

The Mets also signed LHP Ken Takahashi to a minor league contract. Takahashi, 39, appeared in one game this spring with the Blue Jays, allowing four hits and two runs in 1 2/3 innings.

The Twins optioned Jose Mijares to their Triple-A Rochester team after the left-handed reliever had a rocky spring training.

He gave up 18 hits, walked nine and struck out seven in 10 innings. His ERA stands at 9.90.

Mijares started last season in Double-A, but took over as the main set-up man in late September and posted an 0.87 ERA with only three hits allowed in 10 1/3 innings.

The team also sent catcher Drew Butera to Triple-A. Catcher Jeff Christy and infielder Alejandro Machado were assigned to minor league camp. The Twins now have 30 active players remaining in camp, including 14 pitchers.

After being informed Sunday that he was the Angels' fifth outfielder, Gary Matthews Jr. took a day to reflect on the development, then returned Monday and went 2-for-3 with two RBIs in a 13-3 victory against the White Sox.

"I want to play every day," Matthews said Monday, according to the Los Angeles Times. "I would like to do that here ... But if it's not going to happen, we need to explore different options."

Matthews declined to say if he had asked the team for a trade. "It's kind of obvious what the subject was," he said of Sunday's meeting with Angels management. But complicating any movement would be the fact he has three years and $33 million left on his deal.

Matthews is coming back from offseason knee surgery, which repaired the patellar tendon. He was not expected to play until May, but he has appeared in 13 games this spring, and was hitting. 294 with two home runs and 11 RBIs.

"Based on how I recovered from surgery and how I've performed this spring, my opinion is that I'm an everyday player," Matthews said, according to the Times. "I discussed this [with manager Mike Scioscia and general manager Tony Reagins]. We agree to disagree at this point."

Dewayne Wise officially has been handed Chicago's starting center fielder's job, and the career journeyman will be the leadoff hitter as well.

"[Manager] Ozzie [Guillen] came to me, told me congratulations, whatever," Wise said. "He told me he was going to put me in that leadoff spot, see what happens. He told me he was proud of the way I played this spring, and best of luck to me."

Wise, who has been with the Blue Jays, Braves and Reds, has never played more than 57 games a season in the majors.

"This is a great feeling," Wise said in the Chicago Tribune. "This is something I wanted my whole career. Now at 31 I get the opportunity. I just go out and have fun, do whatever it takes to help the team win."

Wise won the spot over Jerry Owens, whom the White Sox have been grooming the past three seasons. But Owens, who was placed on waivers on Monday, disappointed them with his lackluster efforts this spring. Unless another team picks him up, he will be outrighted to Triple-A Charlotte.

"I was a little disappointed," Guillen said, according to the Tribune. "We've been waiting for him for three years, and we gave him the job for three years. Last year he got hurt. It's unfortunate and a shame this kid didn't get it done."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


March, 30, 2009
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Eric Chavez says he's ready for Opening Day.

Chavez, who is rehabbing from shoulder surgery, started and played third in the Athletics' 9-5 victory over the Dodgers, his first back-to-back games in the field this spring.

Chavez was limited to designated hitter duties early in the spring, and then he had a setback that cost him about two weeks. On Monday, Chavez had a double and a walk in three trips to the plate. He is 3-for-17 this spring, but he's 2-for-6 since he returned to the lineup following his setback.

"Timing feels good," Chavez said. "I've just got to get used to getting in there every day and back-to-back days. It's always different playing in a game with the adrenaline. For some reason there are different parts that work when you have adrenaline versus when you don't."

Meanwhile, left-fielder Manny Ramirez dropped a fly ball on the warning track, then fell down while trying to make a running catch, drawing an error, during the A's four-run second inning. "My gold glove is in jeopardy," Ramirez said.

BENSON ON BOARD? (9:06 p.m. ET)
Kris Benson believes he has done enough to nail down the final spot in Texas' rotation, and manager Ron Washington agrees.

"He's one of mine," Washington said when asked if Benson is one of the Rangers' five best starters. "It's more than me making the decision."

Benson pitched six strong innings and the Rangers beat the Giants 7-5. He gave up three runs and six hits, struck out two and walked none.

Benson, who has a 4.76 ERA in 17 innings this spring, hasn't pitched in the major leagues since 2006 after rotator cuff surgery.

"I feel like every time I step on the mound and face hitters it's an audition," said Benson, who missed the 2007 season, pitched 11 Triple-A games last year and signed a minor league deal with the Rangers in February.

Rich Harden returned to the mound for the first time since March 15 because of food poisoning and gave up three homers and five runs in the Cubs' 8-8, 10-inning tie with the Royals.

"I'm feeling good and got my strength back," said Harden, who gave up four hits in 4 2/3 innings while walking two and striking out four. "I threw 80 pitches and was still feeling just as strong at the end of it, which is good. We'll extend it a little more next time. My body is as strong as it's going to be. I'm ready to go."

Harden lost seven pounds after eating tainted chicken salad.

"I'm starting to put some weight back on," he said. "I'm still down a couple of pounds, but that's it. I'm definitely feeling a whole lot stronger now and it's back to normal, back to where I was before. My shoulder is feeling really strong, which is good."

Harden's next start will be Saturday at the new Yankee Stadium in the Cubs' final exhibition game.

"It's going to be nice being in Yankee Stadium, a big game like that," Harden said. "It will be like regular season. It will be packed there."

Cha Seung Baek will miss his final Cactus League start and possibly the start of the season for the Padres because of a strained right forearm.

Baek left a start Sunday after four innings, complaining of soreness. The Padres are uncertain if the right-hander will be put on the disabled list.

Baek is 2-4 with a 9.27 ERA in seven starts this spring. Kevin Correia, who started for San Diego on Monday, is likely to take Baek's rotation spot should the injury linger into the season.

Joba Chamberlain needs to show Yankees manager Joe Girardi two things in his next-to-last spring training start for it to be considered a success.

"Efficency and location," Girardi said before leaving for Monday's road game against Toronto in Dunedin. "I'd like to get six innings if we could."

Chamberlain, the Yankees' No. 5 starter, is 3-0 with a 3.68 ERA in five major league spring training starts. However, the right-hander has pitched just 14 2/3 innings during the stretch, with a long of 4 1/3 innings.

Girardi feels it is "fairly important" that Chamberlain have a longer outing before spring training ends. His last scheduled preseason start is in a minor league intrasquad game Sunday in Florida.

Chamberlain split time last season between the bullpen and a starting role.

"As a reliever, it doesn't matter if you throw 25 pitches in an inning," Girardi said. "You do that as a starter, and you're not going to be deep into games. That's what we want all our starters to do."

Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston expressed concern about closer B.J. Ryan after he pitched a shaky eighth inning in Toronto's 3-1 loss to the Yankees.

Ryan gave up one run and two hits, including Angel Berroa's RBI double to left-center. The left-hander, who skipped the World Baseball Classic to work on his mechanics, has a 9.00 ERA this spring.

Gaston said he might consider making Scott Downs the closer and putting Ryan "somewhere else for a while and go from there." He said he wants to see how Ryan does in his final two spring appearances.

Ryan said he's moving in the right direction.

"The runs are just [from] pitching behind," he said. "Pitch behind in counts and you get in predictable counts. Aside from that there were some good things that came out of today."

Zach Jackson will open the season as the final pitcher on the Indians' staff.

The left-hander was told by manager Eric Wedge that he will be with the team when Cleveland opens the season in Texas against the Rangers on April 6.

"I'm excited, actually close to speechless right now," said Jackson, who was one of four players acquired by Cleveland in the July trade that sent CC Sabathia to the Brewers.

"We had discussions this morning and we're going with Zach," Wedge said, adding that veteran right-handers Matt Herges and Vinnie Chulk will be sent to Triple-A Columbus.

"Zach is a guy who is going to help us and I think sooner than later. He's had a very good camp."

Jackson began spring training in a competition for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, but Wedge liked the way the 25-year-old worked in relief. In six outings over 18 1/3 innings, he had a 6.87 ERA, but had a good walks-to-strikeouts ratio of four to 11.

The Rays released former All-Star Morgan Ensberg.

The infielder agreed to a minor league deal with the Rays in February. He hit .227 with four RBIs this spring.

Rays manager Joe Maddon said he appreciated Ensberg's efforts, but Tampa didn't have a place for him with the Triple-A club.

Ensberg, an All-Star with Houston in 2005, appeared in 28 games for the Yankees last season, batting .203 with one homer and four RBIs. He spent parts of the previous six seasons with the Astros and Padres, and is a career .263 hitter with 110 home runs.

DICE-K VS. KAWAKAMI (6:23 p.m. ET)
Kenshin Kawakami relished the opportunity to match up against fellow countryman Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Matsuzaka allowed two hits and an earned run over five innings in his return to the Red Sox from the World Baseball Classic. Kawakami gave up a two-run homer to Rocco Baldelli for his only runs, and the Braves rallied to beat the Red Sox 4-3 in 10 innings on Monday.

More than 30 Japanese media members in the press box made the game a bit more intense for the starters.

"With so many media, I guess I felt a little more excited," Kawakami, who signed with the Braves this winter after starring in Japan, said through an interpreter. "If I was in Japan, I'd probably enjoy [the matchup] also."

Matsuzaka, who was the MVP of the tournament, liked the timing of the pitching pairing as he adjusted from the pressure of the WBC to spring training.

"Luckily today, going up against Kenshin-san on the other side gave me a change to get revved up," Matsuzaka said through an interpreter. "When I'm going up against any Japanese player, whether pitcher or position player, I'm always keeping an eye out on what kind of game they're going to pitch or how they're doing in the batter's box."

Twins All-Star catcher Joe Mauer likely won't travel with his team when it heads north to Minnesota next week.

Mauer, who is battling lingering pain and inflammation in his lower back, will consult with doctors and Twins officials in the next few days to evaluate his progress.

Manager Ron Gardenhire said there is no timetable for Mauer's return but that he seemed to be improving.

"He's moving around really good," Gardenhire said. "That's kind of nice. He has a smile on his face, which he hasn't had in a long time."

Mauer told reporters Sunday: "I feel the best I've felt all spring." The catcher said he hopes to engage in baseball activity this week but he's unsure when that will be.

"This week, I'm going to try to do more baseball stuff," Mauer said, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "When, I don't know. But it'll be good to get out there. I can't wait. It's been a long spring. But I'll put it all behind me when I get back on the field."

John Smoltz was back in the Braves' clubhouse Monday, visiting his old team before heading off for a round of golf with Tiger Woods.

"It was good to see everybody," Smoltz, who ended his 20-year tenure with the Braves by signing with the Red Sox in January, said before Boston's spring game against Atlanta. "It was different. There are a lot of memories. ... You miss it. But it's time to move on."

Braves manager Bobby Cox said the clubhouse hasn't been nearly as loud this spring without Smoltz.

"You always heard him," Cox said. "[But] players move up."

During Smoltz's later years with the Braves, a golf date with Woods was always part of spring training. This round came a day after Woods' victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at nearby Bay Hill.

"I didn't see his [winning] putt, but I'll tell him I did," Smoltz said prior to leaving for Isleworth Country Club.

The Cardinals reassigned Chris Perez to the minor leagues following their 2-1 victory over the Marlins on Monday, clearing the way for Jason Motte to get the bulk of the work as their closer.

Perez, a first round pick in 2006, experienced arm trouble earlier this spring. He entered Monday's game having made eight one-inning appearances and allowed only two earned runs.

"He's got 100 innings in minor league baseball," manager Tony La Russa said. "He's really such a young pitcher. He needs to work. He needs to work regularly. He can be the closer in Memphis and get valuable experience."

Perez's departure means Motte will get first crack at saving games, though La Russa will probably give opportunities to other relievers as well.

"We are going to use whoever is available but I would believe that Motte is going to get a chance to close games," La Russa said.

The Rockies have optioned outfielders Carlos Gonzalez and Matt Murton and left-handed pitcher Greg Smith to Triple-A Colorado Springs.

Colorado also reassigned catchers Edwin Bellorin and Paul Phillips and left-handed pitcher Randy Flores to their minor league camp.

The Rockies now have 34 players on their major league spring training roster, including eight non-roster invitees.

The Detroit Tigers have acquired outfielder Josh Anderson in a trade with the Atlanta Braves.

The Tigers sent minor league pitcher Rudy Darrow to Atlanta in Monday's deal.

Anderson hit three home runs and stole 10 bases in 40 games with the Braves last year.

Darrow played at Double-A Erie and Class A West Michigan last year. The 25-year-old right-hander finished 1-1 with a 2.63 ERA in 14 appearances at Erie and went 4-2 with a 1.85 ERA in 33 games with West Michigan.

The 26-year-old Anderson was a fourth-round draft pick in 2003.

The Cleveland Indians have placed outfielder Dave Dellucci on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left calf.

Dellucci hit .240 (6-for-25) with two homers and five RBIs in eight spring games for Cleveland. This is his sixth trip to the DL since reaching the majors in 1997 with the Baltimore Orioles.

The 35-year-old signed a three-year contract as a free agent before the 2007 season.

The Indians also recalled outfielder Trevor Crowe from Triple-A Columbus on Monday. Crowe, 25, batted .289 with one homer, three RBIs and went 6-for-6 in stolen-base attempts this spring before being optioned out on Saturday.

Bronson Arroyo is having a flare-up of the carpal tunnel syndrome that has bothered him from time to time over the last few years. This bout is especially nasty, along with the timing. The season starts in less than one week.

"I don't know what it's from, man," Arroyo said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I can't write. I can't do anything with my pointer finger and thumb without it being irritated. I had it back in '04 in the playoffs [with Boston] pitching against the Yankees. I've had it for years."

So far, Arroyo has been able to overcome the problem, which bothers him much more when he holds a pen or a guitar pick. It returned last May and gave him problems for about three months. Arroyo finished 15-11 with a 4.77 ERA last season, when he was the only Reds pitcher who didn't miss a start. He led the staff with 200 innings. The right-hander can pitch with the problem. He'd rather not have to try.

Arroyo hasn't done very well in his last two starts during spring training. He gave up 11 hits in five innings of a game against minor leaguers on March 24 and was pounded for 14 hits and 10 runs -- three earned -- in only 4 2/3 innings against Tampa Bay on Sunday. The Rays took advantage of his inability to throw a breaking ball, something he passed off as just a bad day. There's more to it, though.

Asked if the carpal tunnel bothers his hand when he's pitching, Arroyo said, "Yeah. It's almost like taking a 220 [volt] line of electricity and pinching it off and you're only getting about two-thirds of it. You feel like you don't have much power, and you don't have much command. So I've got about another week to try to get it out of there. We'll see."

Lance Berkman was diagnosed with biceps tendinitis Sunday after seeing the team's doctor.

The Astros slugger will sit out the next few days but he doesn't appear to be in jeopardy of missing Opening Day. He was scratched from the Astros' lineup Saturday.

"I don't think Lance feels it's anything of great significance," Astros GM Ed Wade said, according to the Houston Chronicle. "[Athletic trainer] Nate [Lucero] didn't want him to make the trip [Saturday] because if he went over there with orders to swing the bat X number of times he would have swung the X times one hundred times. We wanted to keep him from being tempted to do too much."

Berkman said his injury doesn't affect his swing. It only bothers him when he throws.

"I'm going to try to DH [Tuesday]," Berkman told "That's what I'd like to do, if they'll let me."

The Cubs released veteran catcher Paul Bako and left-hander Mike Stanton. Bako, 36, was hitting .364 this spring after signing a free-agent contract with Chicago on Jan. 30. Stanton, 41, who was out of baseball last season after being released by the Reds on April, has a career record of 68-63 with a 3.92 ERA in 1,178 games.

The Cubs also announced that catcher Koyie Hill and first baseman Micah Hoffpauir have made the Opening Day roster. Hill, who spent most of last season at Triple-A Iowa while recovering from a hand injury sustained after the 2007 season, was batting .381 this spring. Hoffpauir was batting .295 this spring, with a team-high five home runs and major league-leading 22 RBIs.

Rookie Ricky Romero pitched himself into the Blue Jays' starting rotation, manager Cito Gaston said Monday.

The 24-year-old left-hander was in a competition with Brad Mills and Scott Richmond for the final two spots in Toronto's rotation. Mills and Richmond are still battling for the fifth spot.

The Blue Jays' rotation is led by right-handed ace Roy Halladay. Left-hander David Purcey occupies the No. 2 slot and righty Jesse Litsch will start out of the No. 3 hole.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have sent center fielder Andrew McCutchen to minor league camp and optioned infielder Brian Bixler to Triple-A Indianapolis.

The 22-year-old McCutchen is one of the team's top prospects and was a first-round draft pick in 2005. This spring, he batted .318 with two home runs, seven RBIs, two stolen bases and a team-best 12 walks.

General manager Neal Huntington said he expects both McCutchen and Bixler will play for the Pirates at some point this season.

Bixler will be Indianapolis' starting shortstop, and will get some playing time at second base.

The Pirates have 35 players remaining in camp.

REDS' ROSTER DOWN TO 33 (11:47 a.m. ET)
The Cincinnati Reds got down to 33 players by sending outfielders Jacque Jones and Norris Hopper and right-hander Daryl Thompson to the minors.

The 33-year-old Jones signed with the Reds on Feb. 5, getting a chance to win a reserve spot. He went only 4-for-45 (.089) in spring training, and was reassigned to the minor league camp Monday.

The Reds optioned Hopper and Thompson to Triple-A Louisville. Hopper batted .132 this spring, costing him a shot at a reserve role. The 23-year-old Thompson jumped from Class A to Triple-A last season. The Reds want him to get more experience in the minors.

The Phillies released veteran infielder Marcus Giles on Monday. Giles was in camp as a nonroster invitee.

They also informed reliever Gary Majewski, utility infielder Pablo Ozuna and outfielder John Mayberry Jr. they won't be making the team, but they will go north with the club and play in exhibition games in Philadelphia this weekend against Tampa Bay.

--'s Jayson Stark

Gary Matthews Jr., who is in the third year of a five-year, $50 million contract, was told Sunday in a meeting with club officials that he will start the season as the Angels' fifth outfielder. He didn't take the news well.

Matthews did not travel with the team Sunday to play the Rangers. Instead, he requested and was granted a day off to cool off. He wasn't in a talking mood when approached by reporters.

"Just give me a day, guys, OK?" Matthews told reporters, according to the Los Angeles Times. "Thanks."

It is unclear if Matthews has requested a trade, but when asked by reporters if he was being dealt, he said "no."

Angels general manager Tony Reagins said that currently he has no plans to deal Matthews and wouldn't disclose details of the meeting.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


March, 29, 2009
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Jason Schmidt knows he won't be ready when the Los Angeles Dodgers open the season.

Schmidt threw 51 pitches, his most in a Cactus League game this spring, but allowed three runs, three doubles and three walks in 3 1/3 innings Sunday. San Diego beat the Dodgers 7-3 for its third straight victory after a 4-17-4 start.

Schmidt, who expects to begin the season making minor league rehab starts, struck out two in a perfect first inning before allowing a two-run double to Everth Cabrera in the second.

The right-hander began spring training hoping to be the Dodgers' No. 5 starter, but he's been unable to pitch full-tilt and has had trouble recovering from even short stints.

Mark DeRosa and Kerry Wood each had an excellent day against their former team.

DeRosa homered his first two times up, doubled and hit a sacrifice fly to lead the Cleveland Indians over the Chicago Cubs 7-5 on Sunday.

Wood, the Cubs' closer last season, had a solid outing for Cleveland. He worked a scoreless seventh inning, walking one and striking out one.

The Cubs traded DeRosa to the Indians on Dec. 31 for three minor league pitching prospects. He hit both home runs and the double against Chicago starter Ted Lilly.

It was another rough day for an Oakland Athletics starting pitcher.

Sean Gallagher gave up six runs and nine hits in five innings Sunday, and then was summoned into a meeting with general manager Billy Beane. Gallagher emerged a few minutes later and said that Beane had just wanted to "light a little fire under my butt."

"It wasn't a good day of executing pitches for me," the right-hander added.

Washington right-hander Daniel Cabrera was pulled because of neck spasms sustained Saturday while swinging in batting practice.

Nationals manager Manny Acta said he's not sure if the injury will affect Cabrera's ability to make his first scheduled start of the season April 8 against the Marlins.

Cabrera is day to day and hopes to get one more exhibition start this week.

"The plan is, we've got to wait and see how he is today and then try to plan accordingly," Acta said. "You can't plan on him throwing unless he's able to. He'll have another [exhibition] start. He's not a guy to worry about because he's a guy who pitched winter ball, so he's been stretched out and all that."

Brett Gardner has won the Yankees' starting center field job.

New York manager Joe Girardi announced Sunday that Gardner beat out Melky Cabrera this spring for the starting spot on Opening Day.

The speedy Gardner had a .228 batting average over 42 games in 2008, but was successful on 13 of 14 stolen-base attempts. He is hitting .385 with five stolen bases in 22 spring training games.

The Yankees plan to have Cabrera on the regular-season roster in a backup role.

PADRES' BAEK HURT (6:38 p.m. ET)
San Diego's starting pitching is thin to begin with and things didn't improve Sunday when Cha Seung Baek left his game against the Dodgers with a strained forearm flexor in his right arm.

"We'll re-evaluate it in 24 hours to see how significant an injury it is because right now its really hard to tell,'' Padres trainer Todd Hutcheson said. "Right now I'd say it's very mild but we have to see if there is any swelling and how sore it is when he comes in in the morning. Once we re-evaluate we'll see where we go. It doesn't look bad right now.''

Baek, who figures to be the No. 3 starter if healthy, entered the game with a 1-4 record and 9.95 ERA in six Cactus League starts. He gave up five hits and two runs, walked two and struck out two in 3 1/3 innings before the injury Sunday.

--'s Jim Caple

New Brewers closer Trevor Hoffman will still likely start the season on the disabled list, but he did make some progress on Sunday.

Hoffman played catch for the first time since March 20 when he was shut down with a strained muscle along his right side, according to The all-time saves leader and the Brewers trainer reportedly told manager Ken Macha that they were encouraged by the session.

"We still have a long way to go, but we're making progress," Macha said, according to

Although Hoffman will travel with the team when it breaks camp, he may still face a minor league rehabilitation assignment before making his Brewers debut.

"We're not even at step one," Macha said, according to the Web site. "Until he gets throwing on the mound, it's hard to do projections."

Randy Johnson thinks he's ready for the regular season despite some down time this spring.

Johnson, preparing for his first season with San Francisco, threw 80 pitches in a minor league camp game Sunday, giving up seven hits and two runs in his final Arizona appearance.

The Big Unit was 1-2 with a 2.38 ERA in four spring training starts. He faced minor leaguers twice and missed one start because of biceps tenderness.

"I feel good where I'm at now," said the 45-year-old lefty, five wins short of 300. Every pitcher goes through a tired arm, whether you are my age or 25. I'm not Nostradamus. I don't know if I'll have it again."

Johnson will make his last exhibition start Thursday against Oakland in the Bay Area series before pitching in the Giants' second regular-season game April 8 against Milwaukee.

Brandon Morrow will begin the season in the bullpen. Whether that's with the Seattle Mariners or in the minor leagues will be determined by his health.

Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu said Sunday morning that because of Morrow's lack of innings this spring, he'll begin work as a reliever rather than in the starting rotation as originally planned. Morrow has been limited to three spring appearances because of forearm stiffness.

This won't be a temporary move to build arm strength after Morrow missed much of spring training with forearm stiffness. Morrow said the move was determined a week ago, adding that he "feels at home" in the bullpen and doesn't envision returning to a starting role.

"There's no discussion about going back so far," said Morrow, taken with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2006 amateur draft and pegged since then as a starter. "I think that I'd be more useful as a bullpen pitcher than a starting pitcher."

He's scheduled to throw in games Tuesday and Wednesday if his arm is well enough.

The Mariners also optioned catcher Jeff Clement to Triple-A Tacoma. Clement was Seattle's top pick and third overall in 2005. Clement has struggled at the plate after batting .295 in 66 big-league games last year with five home runs and 23 RBIs in 203 at-bats.

The Padres traded veteran infielder Chris Burke, who wasn't going to make the team's major league roster, to the Mariners on Sunday for cash considerations.

The trade of Burke all but guarantees that infielder Everth Cabrera, who was selected in the Rule 5 draft during the winter meetings, will make the Padres' Opening Day roster.

Burke hit .281 in 32 spring at-bats. He signed a non-guaranteed minor league contract with San Diego in the offseason.

"The bottom line is they like who they have. I think I've played well, but they like who they have. The reality is when you're a non-roster player, things could break that way," he said, according to "Unfortunately for me, they didn't think I was a good fit for them."

Left-hander reliever Will Ohman pitched a two-inning simulated game against minor leaguers for the Dodgers on Sunday.

Manager Joe Torre and most of the Dodgers' front office were in attendance to watch Ohman, who is the top available reliever still on the market. Los Angeles is in need of a left-handed setup man after Joe Beimel signed with the Nationals earlier this offseason.

Ohman is reportedly seeking a contract worth at least $2 million for the upcoming season.

The Astros are going to be without slugger Lance Berkman for the next few days as the first baseman struggles with a sore left shoulder.

And Berkman paints a grim picture of the pain he's having. The team hopes he'll be available to play a week from Monday in the team's regular-season opener.

"It's not a pending surgery, but let me say this -- it's more painful and worse than I initially thought," Berkman said, according to Berkman however, said he has no doubts he'll be able to play on Opening Day.

Berkman initially tweaked the shoulder early in camp and has since aggravated the shoulder with a diving play in a game against the Phillies on Friday and a recent batting practice session.

In other Astros moves, the team released utilityman David Newhan and assigned Chad Paronto to minor league camp.

New Braves ace Derek Lowe not only will start the team's opener against the Phillies on April 5, he'll also take the mound for the team's home opener on April 10 against the Nationals.

Lowe isn't taking the responsibilities lightly.

"There's nothing wrong with saying you're going to be nervous," Lowe said, according to "There's no doubt. It's not only my Opening Day. But it's my Opening Day for a new team and no matter where I would have pitched in the rotation, there would have been some nervousness and anxiousness because you want to get off to a good start."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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The Padres added two right-handers, agreeing to a minor league contract with Shawn Hill and acquiring Luke Gregerson from St. Louis to complete the deal that sent shortstop Khalil Greene to the Cardinals.

Hill was released by Washington on Wednesday. He went 1-5 with a 5.83 ERA in 12 starts for the Nationals in 2008.

Gregerson was 7-6 with a 3.35 ERA and 10 saves for Double-A Springfield last season.

Also, the Padres optioned six players to Triple-A Portland on Monday, including right-hander Josh Geer, who had been competing for a spot in the rotation.

Houston entertained a special guest Monday when former President George H.W. Bush visited its spring facility. Bush signed autographs and chatted with players before their game.

Bush, a close friend of Astros owner Drayton McLane, attends many early season home games and holds an annual lunch for McLane and select players.

"We love it," Bush said. "My only problem is we leave in the spring. We leave in May when we go to Maine for five months. So I miss a lot of the regular season, but I'll be there right behind the plate."

His wife, Barbara, who recently underwent heart surgery, was unable to attend.

"She was going to come when we scheduled this several weeks ago before her surgery," McLane said. "It's a great asset to have him here."

Brad Penny pitched three hitless innings in his spring training debut and the Red Sox hit four consecutive homers in a 7-6 win over the Tigers on Monday in front of a record crowd of 8,278 at City of Palms Park.

"It was nice. I felt good," said Penny, who is coming back from shoulder trouble that limited him to 19 outings and a 6.27 ERA for the Dodgers last year. "It has been awhile since I've gone out there and felt good. Last year I went out, and I was pitching but I didn't really feel like I had a lot behind it. Today was good. It was another step just allowing me to get my innings and my pitches. I don't know how many pitches I threw but I felt pretty good."

Penny, who was scratched from a scheduled start March 4 against Puerto Rico, walked one and struck out three.

Meanwhile, Mike Lowell, Jason Bay, Chris Carter, and Ivan Ochoa hit consecutive homers to left field off Brandon Lyon in the sixth inning for Boston.

"[It's] still fun to watch," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said of the home runs. "I know it won't help us during the season, but we'll take it."

Shortstop Alex Gonzalez is hurt again.

Gonzalez strained his right hamstring beating out an infield hit in the second inning of a 3-0 victory over the Blue Jays on Monday. He left the game to get treatment.

"When I saw the shortstop dive for the ball, I tried to go for some more," Gonzalez said. "That's when it grabbed me."

Gonzalez missed all of last season with a fracture in his left knee. He was cleared to start spring training with the team, but manager Dusty Baker has been careful not to let him do too much. Baker said the hamstring injury didn't appear to be serious.

"He tweaked it," Baker said. "There's no pull. We'll nurse him through it. We'll see Wednesday, but I doubt if he'll play Wednesday."

GLAUS OFF TRACK (5:25 p.m. ET)
It looks like Troy Glaus' return to the Cardinals will be delayed.

Glaus, who had aimed to be back by April following offseason shoulder surgery, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he has temporarily ceased baseball-related activities because his rehab has reached a plateau.

"I look at it like picking a scab," Glaus told the newspaper. "If you keep picking it, it will eventually get better. It's just going to take a lot longer. If you leave it alone, things tend to go quicker."

Glaus, who hasn't swung a bat or thrown in nearly a week, offered no timetable for his return.

"Who knows? In three or four days we may go out and throw and maybe it's fine and maybe not," Glaus told the newspaper. "I can't predict the future."

Livan Hernandez appears to be close to locking up the fifth spot in the Mets' rotation.

Hernandez pitched five solid innings in a minor league game Monday, allowing a run and five hits with seven strikeouts. His main competition, Freddy Garcia, meanwhile, was hit hard again.

"He has been very good," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said of Hernandez. "He's healthy. He knows how to pitch. I have no complaints about his stuff or his location."

Garcia, in camp on a minor league contract, gave up three runs on eight hits in four innings despite showing an increase in his velocity. The former All-Star, who missed most of the past two seasons with a shoulder injury that required surgery, might not have enough time to reach 100 percent because innings are tight at this point in spring training.

"We have to get together as a group and figure some things out," Manuel said. "We're running out of innings. We've got to make a decision here pretty soon, probably before the next turn."

Right-hander Felix Hernandez will make his Cactus League debut Thursday against Kansas City. Hernandez hasn't pitched in a game since he helped Venezuela beat Puerto Rico 2-0 on March 16 to advance to the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic. The 22-year-old threw 86 pitches over 4 2/3 innings in the win, raising a few eyebrows in the Mariners' organization.

But Hernandez erased any concerns about his health Monday, throwing 51 pitches in a bullpen session without any difficulties.

"I felt good, no problems," a smiling Hernandez said following his workout. "I just have to do my thing. I'm ready to pitch."

With pitching coach Rick Adair and bench coach John Wetteland watching, Hernandez threw primarily fastballs during the workout and got some work pitching out of the stretch. He also got a quick refresher course on the Mariners' signals from Adair. Afterward, Hernandez said he still needs to build up his arm strength and work on his changeup.

"We have to pitch the way that we pitched [in the WBC]," Hernandez said. "That's all we have to do, our thing. We have to do the little things and play baseball. We've been working over there like we were here, we did the same things. It was a lot of fun."

The Red Sox knocked four straight home runs off Detroit's Brandon Lyon in the sixth inning of their Grapefruit League game Monday in Fort Myers, Fla.

Mike Lowell, Jason Bay, Chris Carter and Ivan Ochoa all went deep to left field, according to MLB play-by-play.

Boston led 7-0 after six innings.

The Phillies sent right-hander Kyle Kendrick to their minor league camp Monday, likely leaving the fifth starter race to be decided between left-hander J.A. Happ and right-hander Chan Ho Park.

In 50 career starts, the 24-year-old Kendrick has a 21-13 career record with a 4.78 ERA.

Besides Kendrick, the Phillies also sent catching prospect Lou Marson and second-base prospect Brad Harman to their minor league camp.

-- Jayson Stark,

First baseman Derrek Lee said Major League Baseball officials tried to persuade him to play in the World Baseball Classic as a Team USA replacement for the injured Kevin Youkilis despite being slightly hobbled by an injury of his own.

"They started calling me," Lee said, according to the Chicago Tribune. "They needed a first baseman. But I couldn't go, not being 100 percent."

Lee missed five games with an injured right quadriceps before returning to spring training Sunday.

"I thought it was disrespectful, to be truthful," he said, according to the newspaper. "They knew I wasn't playing here [in camp]. How do they expect me to get off the trainer's table and start playing there?

"At the same time, you understand they're trying to win, and I was the guy that was on the [provisional] roster, so I guess they figured they'd give it a shot. If I felt better, it'd be a different story."

Johan Santana, who missed the World Baseball Classic after offseason knee surgery, says the tournament would be better served coming in the fall, after the World Series.

"That will give you at least three weeks after the season is over to regroup and get everybody as a team, as a country, and put them all together," Santana said, according to The Star-Ledger of Newark. "Some guys will be tired, but at the same time, you will have a couple weeks to rest and to get together as a team, and I believe it will be better."

In 2006, Santana played for Venezuela, ousted on Saturday in the semifinals by Korea, which plays Japan in the final Monday night.

"It's tough because you cannot get ready in two weeks," he said. "It takes a little more time. And you can see that the teams that got together and they worked out, those are the teams that had a good chance to win."

Center fielder Lastings Milledge will start the season batting leadoff after filling the role for the past week in spring training.

"I think Lastings is better suited leading off right now than Cristian Guzman, because Lastings runs more," Nationals manager Manny Acta said, according to "Seeing Lastings run in front of Guzman is better than seeing him run in front of [Ryan] Zimmerman. Guzman [a switch-hitter] hits from the left side. He would be better suited to shoot through the hole behind Milledge."

Last season, Milledge moved around the lineup consistently, first batting second, then sixth, third and fourth. He hit .268 with 14 homers, 61 RBIs and 24 stolen bases in his first year with the Nationals.

"This year, I can be more of myself," Milledge said, according to "I thought being thrown in the cleanup spot, the three-hole or put in the position to carry the team may have been a little bit too much for me. Now I can put all my tools together. I can use my bunting skills and steal bases, which I stole quite a few last year."

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

He backed that up on Sunday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ivan Rodriguez looked right at home with the Houston Astros.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Peter Gammons, ESPN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


March, 17, 2009
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Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he is following the World Baseball Classic and wants to get his players back as soon as possible.

His entire starting outfield along with starting pitcher Armando Galarraga are playing in the WBC and he said he's disappointed that Carlos Guillen has been playing mostly designated hitter for Venezuela. Guillen is moving from first base to the outfield for the Tigers this season and Leyland hoped that would be Guillen's spot during the WBC.

"I don't want to stick my nose into it but I can't do anything about it," Leyland said.

John Lackey isn't letting his contract situation become a distraction this spring. The Angels' right-hander is keeping his focus on the field.

Lackey, who is set to become a free agent after this season, handled San Diego without much trouble, giving up one run on three hits over five innings in a 12-7 win over the Padres.

"I'm supposed to hear something back this week," Lackey said. "We'll see. I'm not worrying about it too much. I'm just trying to handle my business and get ready."

The Angels' likely Opening Day starter threw just 50 pitches in the game before going to the bullpen to get in some extra work.

More outings like the one he had Tuesday could drive up the asking price for the big right-hander, who has 91 career wins and the third-lowest ERA in the American League since 2005. Lackey was dominant on the mound and added a pair of sacrifice bunts at the plate. Both times the runner he moved over scored.

"Showing my skills for National League teams, too," Lackey joked.

Jim Thome, who has experienced tightness in his lower back, played in a simulated game.

"I probably got six or seven at-bats and worked on some things, did our work, and everything was great," he said.

Thome expects to start Wednesday against the Angels.

The Oakland Athletics released catcher Rob Bowen on Tuesday, likely opening the door for former first-round pick Landon Powell to back up Kurt Suzuki.

"We've got some internal options we feel good about, and it's also early enough in the spring for Rob to find a better opportunity," A's general manager Billy Beane said.

Bowen, 28, hit .176 in 37 games with the A's in 2008. This spring he was hitting .200 in six games. He heard reports last week that he had been placed on waivers, so he was not surprised to get the news that he'd been released.

"You always prepare for anything in this game," he said. "This isn't the first time I've switched teams and it probably won't be the last."

Powell, who will turn 27 on Thursday, was the A's top pick in the 2004 draft. His career has been slowed by knee problems, but he has been healthy this spring. He hit .230 with 15 homers in 88 games at Triple-A Sacramento last year.

Houston Astros players are raving about the pending addition of catcher Ivan Rodriguez as the team closes in on a $1.5 million, one-year contract with the 13-time Gold Glove winner.

"He's a veteran guy that knows how to play the game," Carlos Lee said. "He's one of the greatest catchers to ever play the game."

The Astros needed a veteran catcher to replace Brad Ausmus, who became a free agent and signed with the Dodgers. Last year, the Astros used Ausmus, Humberto Quintero and J.R. Towles behind the plate.

"I don't have any feelings about it," said Quintero, who had been the projected starter. "I'm going to keep working hard. I can't do anything about it. I'm happy for him to be here and help the team."

As a child, Astros right fielder Hunter Pence watched Rodriguez play for the Rangers. "He was one of my favorites growing up in Arlington," Pence said. "So I'm very excited about it. I watched a lot of Rangers games and I loved Pudge. He was an incredible catcher."

Rather than have Johan Santana ride a bus two hours to pitch against division rival Atlanta, the New York Mets had their ace pitch against their minor leaguers for four innings Tuesday in his second outing since knee surgery.

Santana allowed two runs and six hits in four innings, striking out five and walking none. He gave up three doubles and threw 40 of 56 pitches for strikes.

"I felt pretty good, because I was able to throw a lot of strikes," Santana said. "Even though they were swinging to a lot of them, they were aggressive, and that's what you want to see, what kind of approaches they take, and then try to slow the game down."

The two-time Cy Young Award winner had hoped to pitch for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. After being slowed by elbow tightness, he made his first spring training outing last Thursday against Florida, giving up three runs and four hits in 2 2/3 innings.

"I was able to locate all my pitches, and right at the end, we tried to work on the fastball inside, trying to establish that pitch right there, and I was able to do that, so I felt pretty good," Santana said of Tuesday's outing. "That tells you right there the command is there. I'm very pleased with the results."

Left-handed reliever Tyler Johnson helped the St. Louis Cardinals to a World Series title in his rookie season. But last winter he found himself auditioning for scouts in a high school gym and wondering if he could take up golf or music as a new career, since his baseball career appeared to be over at age 27.

"It definitely humbles you a little bit," he said of the experience, according to The Seattle Times. "At one point, I thought I might be done playing baseball."

Now, Johnson, who missed part of 2007 and all of 2008 with shoulder problems, is in the hunt to join the Seattle Mariners as a situational lefty. Injuries to Cesar Jimenez and Ryan Feierabend and the likelihood that Ryan Rowland-Smith will begin the season as a starter have opened the door for Johnson, who threw his third bullpen session on Monday. He's pegged to throw a simulated game later this week before joining the roster for Cactus League appearances, according to the report.

"If I'm healthy, I think I'm going to be there," he said, according to the Times. "I think it's just a matter of my health. I don't really look at that. I've been in eight big league spring trainings. It's not like it's my first, second or even third one. I know what to expect, and I know if I'm healthy, I'm going to be in the big leagues. That I'm pretty sure of."

Outfielder Brian Barton, a 2008 Rule 5 draft pick who spent all of last season with the St. Louis Cardinals, was among eight players the team cut from the spring training roster on Monday.

Barton and pitchers Mitchell Boggs, Matt Scherer and Charlie Manning were optioned to the team's minor league camp, while pitchers Clayton Mortensen, Jess Todd and Adam Ottavino and first baseman Allen Craig were reassigned to the minors.

Barton hit .268 in 153 trips to the plate last season, but got off to a slow start in spring training. He had just one hit and seven strikeouts in his 16 most recent at-bats.

Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Eric Byrnes is still playing in minor league games as he recovers from a torn hamstring and won't play with the D-backs until Friday at the earliest, manager Bob Melvin said, according to the Arizona Republic.

"I think the best thing is probably to listen to the trainers at this point," Byrnes said, according to the report.

Byrnes said he was clocked at 4.18 seconds running to first base in a minor league game on Sunday, the newspaper reported.

"It says a lot," he said, according to the report. "Look, I'm not one to get fixated on times. But to know that I consistently ran 4.2s when I was 100 percent healthy a couple of years ago when I stole 50 bases and I'm running 4.18s down there in my first game back shows me that it's there."

A little arm soreness was enough for the San Francisco Giants to have Randy Johnson skip his next scheduled spring training start on Wednesday.

Manager Bruce Bochy says the Big Unit has "a tiny touch of biceps soreness," but nothing that will require an MRI or a visit with Dr. James Andrews.

"It's nothing that drastic. It's just a little cranky, that's all, normal spring training stuff," Bochy said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. "We've got time to get him ready and get his pitch count up. We're not concerned right now. We expect him to be fine."

Johnson last pitched on Friday, going four innings in a minor league game. Tim Lincecum will start in his place on Wednesday against the Cubs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


March, 15, 2009
Cleveland Indians prospect Adam Miller will have his right middle finger examined by a doctor on Monday and manager Eric Wedge said the right-hander won't break camp with the team.

It's another setback for Miller, whose development has been delayed by one injury after another. Despite an overpowering fastball when healthy, Cleveland's first-round draft pick in 2003 has never pitched in the majors.

"We're going to get a good look at him Monday and Tuesday just to find out if and how serious it is," Wedge said. "It is kind of a funky thing. We are not sure what it is right now. It is disappointing to everybody, especially Adam."

Miller was supposed to play catch Sunday, but rested instead.

"There's no pain, no swelling, but I can't bend the tip of the finger and it just doesn't feel normal," said Miller, who came to spring training seeking a spot in the bullpen.

Miller had missed 10 days of throwing with soreness in the finger before playing catch from 75 feet on Friday.

"Everything was OK then, until I felt just a little something on my last toss," he said. "So I'm going to see a physician in Scottsdale and then my surgeon from Baltimore will be here Tuesday."

Dr. Tom Graham operated on Miller's finger on May 27 and was scheduled to come out to Indians camp anyway.

"I had no problems during my throwing program in the fall and pitching winter ball," Miller said. "It feels like the same thing I had in 2007, but not to the same extent."

Seattle left-hander Erik Bedard will start Monday's split-squad game against the Los Angeles Dodgers and is expected to pitch one inning.

Bedard missed his last start and postponed two bullpen sessions because of sore buttocks. But he threw 30 pitches during a bullpen session Saturday and was cleared to resume pitching in games.

"I think Bedard's fine," manager Don Wakamatsu said Sunday. "If everything goes well and there's no other setbacks, I think he'll be fine."

Brandon Morrow, another ailing Seattle pitcher, is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Monday. The right-hander has been out with forearm stiffness.

If all goes well, Seattle will increase Morrow's workload before getting him back into a game. The Mariners are counting on the 24-year-old to be a member of their rotation, but so far he has appeared in only one Cactus League game this spring, on March 1.

"If we can stretch him out a little bit and there's no problems with his forearm, we'll see how fast we can take him along," Wakamatsu said.

It's been a busy week for Jose Contreras.

The Chicago White Sox right-hander left Arizona for Florida where he was formally sworn in as a United States citizen on Wednesday then returned to the desert to pitch two shutout innings against Seattle in his Cactus League debut.

White Sox beat the Mariners 15-5 on Sunday.

It's the first time Contreras has pitched in a game since rupturing his Achilles tendon last August.

"I feel good and strong," Contreras said, speaking without an interpreter. "It wasn't a surprise for me. I've been working hard for the last seven months, you know? I feel good."

Contreras struck out Seattle leadoff hitter Chris Woodward and got Ken Griffey Jr. looking. After giving up a leadoff single to Adrian Beltre in the second, Contreras fanned Russell Branyan and Mike Morse before getting Prentice Redman to ground out to end the inning.

"He should be fresh," Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said of Contreras. "He was throwing 93, 94, caught a couple corners. His arm is in as great shape as it can be."

The White Sox have kept Contreras on a controlled schedule this spring in hopes of avoiding a setback. He threw 50 pitches in batting practice on Thursday then started against Seattle.

Asked if he would be ready by April 10 when his spot in the rotation comes up, Contreras smiled.

"I'm ready," he said. "I'm ready right now."

Duaner Sanchez, released by the Mets earlier this week, agreed to a minor league contract with the San Diego Padres.

The right-hander will get a chance to make the team's bullpen out of spring training and could fill a specialty setup spot in front of closer Heath Bell.

Sanchez separated a shoulder in a taxi accident on July 30, 2006, and had season-ending surgery. He missed the 2007 season following a hairline fracture in the front of his shoulder during spring training and returned to the majors last April 15.

New York Mets outfielder Angel Pagan is planning to return to the field quickly after another disappointing injury.

Pagan had arthroscopic surgery Wednesday to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. The Mets estimate Pagan will be out for six to eight weeks but he feels he is on a faster track than that.

"I have pretty good motion in it right now," said Pagan, turning his bandaged arm inward and outward in the clubhouse Sunday morning.

Pagan had an MRI in New York last Monday, met with team doctors Tuesday in Port St. Lucie, then returned to New York for the operation. He hit .467 with two RBIs in five exhibition games.

The injury stalled the progress of the outfielder, who Mets manager Jerry Manuel said needed at-bats to showcase himself this spring.

Left-hander Mike Maroth has a decision to make after the Blue Jays designated him to their minor league camp Sunday.

Maroth, 31, is trying to return from a left shoulder injury and was hoping to snag one of the vacancies in Toronto's starting rotation.

He either can accept the minor league assignment or request his release so he can attempt to hook up with another team. He said he will talk to his agent before making a decision on his future.

"You're always in the mix until you get sent down or shipped out," Maroth said, according to "You don't think otherwise, but obviously you have to perform. This game is about performance. It's not about what you've done in your past or anything like that.

"You have to get outs, and obviously, I'm a much better pitcher than what I've shown in spring so far. I think that just comes with getting that repetition and getting back on the mound and getting some innings at this point."

As Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya undergoes treatment for a muscle cramp, the likelihood of him being available for Opening Day is diminishing.

"I doubt very much whether he's going to be ready for Opening Day unless something happens in a hurry," manager Jim Leyland said, according to "That's just the way it is."

Zumaya hasn't pitched in a game since March 2. The Tigers' medical staff has him on a medication pack that it hopes will resolve the cramp that Zumaya is experiencing between his neck and right shoulder.

Leyland said Zumaya's history of injuries make it unlikely the hard-throwing Zumaya will be ready in time to start the season.

"I only say that because he really hasn't pitched for two years," Leyland said, according to "If he had been pitching the last two years and then had a little setback like this, he might be able to get himself ready. But when a guy hasn't pitched for that long, let me put it this way: It's in the gray area now, unless something happens."

The Atlanta Braves have released right-handed reliever Phil Stockman.

The 6-foot-8 Aussie put up some impressive numbers during his tenure with the Braves, but wildness and persistent injuries plagued his development. Atlanta placed the 29-year-old Stockman on unconditional release waivers Sunday after he pitched only one inning in spring training.

Stockman got in 10 games for the Braves over the last three years. He had an ERA of 0.79 in 11 1/3 innings, allowing five hits and eight walks while striking out 13.

Last year at Triple-A Richmond, Stockman pitched in 19 games. He went 1-1 with two saves and a 2.10 ERA in 30 innings.

The Cleveland Indians have cut veteran right-hander Tomo Ohka and two other pitchers.

Ohka was in camp as a non-roster invitee. He and left-hander Ryan Edell were sent to Cleveland's minor league training camp on Sunday. Left-hander Rich Rundles was optioned to Triple-A Columbus.

The Indians now have 59 players in camp.

Ohka, who will turn 33 on Wednesday, made three spring training appearances. He allowed 14 hits and 10 runs, six of them earned, in 3 2/3 innings.

He was signed to a minor league deal in December after spending 2008 at Triple-A Charlotte in the Chicago White Sox' system, going 5-11 with a 4.18 ERA.

Phillies All-Star second baseman Chase Utley, who is recovering from offseason hip surgery, played in a minor league intrasquad game at Philadelphia's training complex Saturday.

He went 2-for-4 and struck out twice.

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said he couldn't predict when Utley would play in a major league game until he sees how he feels after playing on Saturday.

"It's great to have him back on the field," Amaro said. He knows Utley wants to get back quickly, but also doesn't want to rush back and cause more problems.

"Chase is smart enough to understand that this is something he has to be careful with," Amaro said.

In the past, Miguel Tejada has been hesistant to play any position but shortstop. But after playing third base for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, his stance has changed.

"Wherever they want me, I'll be there 100 percent," Tejada said, according to the Houston Chronicle. "If they want me to move to third, I'll do it. I just want to be here. I'm a free agent after this year, and the No. 1 thing for me is that I want to be here."

However, manager Cecil Cooper says he hasn't thought about switching Tejada to third base. The team's plan currently is to platoon Aaron Boone and Geoff Blum at the position.

"[Tejada is] my shortstop," Cooper said, according to the Chronicle. "Who am I going put at shortstop if I don't put him there? Who's my shortstop if he doesn't play? You can't even find one any better. He's one of the tops in the game. "

The Orioles have shut down right-hander Jim Johnson for at least a week while they try to determine the cause of discomfort in his right shoulder.

Johnson noticed it during the last couple of pitches of his last outing on Wednesday, and again when he was lifting weights after that game. He says the pain is identical to the impingement syndrome in his right shoulder that put him on the disabled list for the final five weeks of last season.

He will be limited to conditioning work for the next week or so, but believes he can be ready for opening day April 6.

Johnson was one of Baltimore's most reliable bullpen arms last season, going 2-4 with a 2.23 ERA in 54 games without allowing a home run as the team's primary setup man.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.