Category archive: Philadelphia Phillies

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

Outfielder Brian Anderson is going to give pitching a try.

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

PADRES PUSH BACK LATOS' SCHEDULED START (11:47 p.m. ET)

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

ROBERTS RETURNS FOR ORIOLES (9:59 p.m. ET)

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

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

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

And his swing?

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

-- The Associated Press

MOYER BOLSTERS BID FOR STARTING SPOT (9:56 p.m. ET)

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

GRIFFEY HITS GRAND SLAM OFF FORMER TEAM (8:38 p.m. ET)

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

JACKSON HAS BEST OUTING OF SPRING TRAINING (8:36 p.m. ET)

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

MARMOL MELTS DOWN IN CUBS LOSS (8:33 p.m. ET)

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

LINCECUM LEAVES GAME EARLY (8:21 p.m. ET)

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

EDMONDS HITS SECOND HOMER OF SPRING (7:53 p.m. ET)

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

WESTBROOK WALKS FIVE IN WIN (7:12 p.m. ET)

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

WRIGHT CONTINUES SOLID SPRING TRAINING (5:56 p.m. ET)

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

LESTER, RED SOX BULLPEN STRONG (5:03 p.m. ET)

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

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

-- The Associated Press

MARCUM HIT HARD; OVERBAY LEAVES (4:57 p.m. ET)

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

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

-- The Associated Press

LOWE OUTDUELS VERLANDER IN BATTLE OF OPENING DAY STARTERS (4:34 p.m. ET)

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

INDIANS' ROTATION BECOMING NIGHTMARE (2:46 p.m. ET)

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

CALERO AIMING FOR PROBLEM-FREE SEASON (11:42 a.m. ET)

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

Giants closer Brian Wilson recorded his second save.

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

-- ESPN.com news services

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

-- Richard Durrett, ESPNDallas.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

ROCKIES PITCHERS BATTERED AND BRUISED (9:21 p.m. ET)
All morning, Rockies reliever Randy Flores took part in a drill designed to improve the dexterity and reflexes of the pitchers.

Still, the exercise couldn't prepare him for the liner off the bat of Cleveland's Chris Gimenez. Before Flores even had time to flinch, the ball caught him squarely on the left forearm, leaving behind quite a bruise.

Following the Rockies' 6-3 win over the Indians on Wednesday, Flores walked out with his pitching arm wrapped in white gauze.

Just another member of Colorado's battered and bruised bullpen.

The knot on Flores' arm comes on the heels of the news concerning Huston Street, who could miss the season opener after experiencing tightness in his right shoulder during a recent throwing session. Street will find out the results of an MRI in the next day or so.

Should Flores' arm remain tender in the morning, he could be next in line for an MRI.

"When I came in, they did the test that would indicate if they thought it was broke -- if I shrieked or something," Flores said. "I passed. So, it basically feels like a monkey bump times 100. ... Looks like just a bruise."

Street and Flores aren't the only ones banged up in the bullpen. Set-up man Rafael Betancourt has an inflamed pitching shoulder -- although he had an encouraging pitching session Wednesday -- and Jimmy Gobble recently strained his groin.

The health of the bullpen remains a question mark with Opening Day in Milwaukee looming on April 5.

-- The Associated Press

ROYALS-PADRES SLUGFEST INCLUDES 30 RUNS, NO HOMERS (9:15 p.m. ET)
The Padres put together three five-run innings as they outslugged the Kansas City Royals 16-14 on Wednesday. Tony Gwynn and Lance Blanks each drove in three runs for the Padres.

The game included 31 hits, 10 doubles, three triples, 11 walks, a wild pitch, five errors, a passed ball and 12 unearned runs -- and lasted 3 hours and 27 minutes. The Padres led 16-4 entering the seventh, but the Royals scored 10 unanswered runs to make it interesting.

"I don't like the result," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "I was proud the way we came back."

San Diego left-hander Clayton Richard watched San Diego score five runs in the second and five in the fourth. In both innings, the Padres sent 10 men to the plate.

"You wish there was a way for your team to score a lot of runs and do it quick," Richard said. "I've been thinking of that for a long time on how to make that happen. You love to see the offense do well, but it's tough to sit for so long and go back out there. But you'd definitely rather have that than your team not scoring runs."

-- The Associated Press

FORMER ALL-STAR TURNBOW RELEASED (6:28 p.m. ET)
The Marlins released former All-Star closer Derrick Turnbow, who was set to have his troublesome right shoulder examined by a doctor in Miami later Wednesday. Turnbow said Tuesday he knew his chances of making the Marlins were "over" after he left Tuesday's game with severe shoulder pain.

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

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

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

-- ESPN.com news services

MARQUIS TRYING TO GET FEEL FOR PITCHES (4:57 p.m. ET)
Jason Marquis allowed eight runs on eight hits over 3 1/3 innings in his second start of the spring, and the Houston Astros beat the Washington Nationals 11-2 on Wednesday.

Marquis allowed the first four batters to reach base during a five-run first inning. He gave up eight total hits and struggled with his command, walking four. His ERA rose to 21.94.

"None of my pitches worked," he said. "I just didn't have a feel for anything."

Marquis, who signed a two-year, $15 million deal in December, went 15-13 with a 4.04 ERA with Colorado last season. He logged more than 200 innings for the third time in his career and appeared in his first All-Star Game.

The Nationals hope that either Marquis or John Lannan will anchor their rotation.

Marquis said he plans on throwing two bullpen sessions before his next outing. He is confident he can get himself right by the time the regular season rolls around.

Cristian Guzman started for the Nationals at shortstop for the first time this spring. He's recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and had missed some time earlier this spring after his wife gave birth to their daughter. He went 1-for-4 with a triple, showing off some blazing speed on the basepaths.

-- The Associated Press

HART STRUGGLING WITH CONTROL (4:43 p.m. ET)
Kevin Hart might be walking his way out of the Pittsburgh Pirates' starting rotation.

Hart walked six of the 12 batters he faced, failing to make it out of the second inning in the Pirates' 6-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday.

Hart came into spring training as the favorite to win the No. 5 spot in the rotation, but the right-hander has struggled with his control. He threw 53 pitches, only 19 for strikes, and reached three-ball counts on nine batters -- even hitting Ramon Santiago with a 3-0 pitch.

"My fastball had good life and my sinker had good movement," Hart said. "When I made pitches in the zone, I was able to get guys out. It's the 34 I threw out of the zone that got me into trouble."

In four outings this spring, Hart has pitched 4 2/3 innings and walked 13 of the 30 batters he's faced. His ERA is 15.43.

Hart has one minor league option remaining, so it's possible he could begin the season at Triple-A Indianapolis.

"We're still in the evaluation process," manager John Russell said. "We still like what Kevin can bring, but at some point he's got to get it done."

-- The Associated Press

HANSON 'SHARP' OVER FIVE INNINGS (4:41 p.m. ET)
Tommy Hanson pitched like he was in midseason form Wednesday for the Atlanta Braves.

Hanson allowed one run on six hits in five innings in Atlanta's 4-2 win over the Marlins. It was the longest outing of the spring for Hanson, projected to be Atlanta's No. 3 starter.

"Really sharp. Best he's looked all spring," said manager Bobby Cox.

Hanson gave up a leadoff single in the first inning to Chris Coghlan, who was bunted to second before scoring on Hanley Ramirez's single. But the Marlins didn't do much else against Hanson, who effectively mixed in 10 changeups out of his 76 pitches.

"I think that's the best I've thrown my changeup, ever," said Hanson, who used the pitch to strike out Coghlan swinging in the third inning.

Hanson is 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA -- two runs in 9 1/3 innings -- with one walk and 10 strikeouts in three games this spring.

-- The Associated Press

LIDGE TO THROW THURSDAY (3:37 p.m. ET)
The Phillies said Wednesday that closer Brad Lidge will pitch in a game for the first time Thursday. The team is off, but Lidge will start a minor league game at the Carpenter Complex and throw one inning.

Lidge is recovering from offseason elbow and knee surgery. The team hasn't ruled out the possibility that he could be ready Opening Day.

Left-handed reliever J.C. Romero, also recovering from elbow surgery, threw live batting practice for the first time Wednesday but is viewed as unlikely to be ready by Opening Day.

--ESPN.com senior MLB writer Jayson Stark

DIAMONDBACKS AGREE WITH BENSON (2:27 p.m. ET)
The Arizona Diamondbacks agreed to terms with pitcher Kris Benson on a minor league contract Wednesday.

The right-hander has compiled a 69-74 record with a 4.41 ERA in eight seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Mets, Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers. The Pirates selected him No. 1 overall in the 1996 first-year player draft.

Benson missed the entire 2007 season after having rotator cuff surgery on his right shoulder. He signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in February 2008 and went 1-4 with a 5.52 ERA in 11 starts at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Benson was on the Rangers' 2009 opening day roster as a starter. After a short stint on the disabled list, he went to the bullpen and was 1-1 with an 8.46 ERA in eight games.

-- The Associated Press

REPORT: METS, MARLINS TO PLAY IN PUERTO RICO (2:32 p.m. ET)
A three-game series between the New York Mets and Florida Marlins in June has been moved from Miami to Puerto Rico, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The shift to San Juan's Hiram Bithorn Stadium had been discussed for months pending an agreement between Major League Baseball and the players' association. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement was scheduled for Thursday.

Florida will remain the home team, and the games will be played June 28-30.

Hiram Bithorn hosted 22 Montreal Expos home games in each of the 2003 and 2004 seasons before the franchise relocated to Washington. The ballpark also hosted the 2001 season opener between Texas and Toronto, and it was the site of games during the World Baseball Classic in 2006 and 2009.

-- The Associated Press

CAPUANO SHUT DOWN WITH ELBOW FLARE-UP (7:55 a.m. ET)
Brewers starter Chris Capuano, attempting his second career comeback from Tommy John surgery, has been shut down for a few days with elbow inflammation.

The left-hander experienced lingering tightness in his elbow after pitching against the Reds last week.

"Rather than push through it, they just decided to shut it down for a few days and let it calm down," Capuano told reporters. "It's disappointing because I felt so good for the first few weeks of camp."

Capuano, 31, believes the amount of throwing he has done -- every day in spring training and four or five days a week in his offseason program -- finally caught up with him. But he's still aiming at returning to the team as a starter.

"I always knew I had to show the Brewers I could go take the ball every fifth day and throw seven or eight innings and be able to bounce back," he said. "If it gets pushed back a week or two weeks from wherever I start my season, it's not that big of a deal to me in the long run. I just hope it's that [and not more]."

-- ESPN.com news services

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

Vintage Pettitte.

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- ESPN.com news services

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

HALLADAY THROWS THREE SHUTOUT INNINGS (10:48 p.m. ET)
Roy Halladay pitched three shutout innings and struck out five in his second spring appearance as the Phillies downed the Braves 7-4.

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

-- The Associated Press

UPTON, D-BACKS ROUGH UP HARANG, REDS (7:51 p.m. ET)
Justin Upton hit a two-run homer and the Diamondbacks roughed up right-hander Aaron Harang in his first spring training start, pulling away to a 10-4 victory over the Reds.

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

MATSUI DEBUTS WITH ANGELS (7:15 p.m. ET)
Hideki Matsui made his spring debut for the Los Angeles Angels, getting a single in two trips to the plate during a 6-5 win over the San Diego Padres.

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

FRANCIS LOOKING FOR BETTER OUTING (5:10 p.m. ET)
Left-hander Jeff Francis is hoping his second spring start goes better than his first.

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

McGOWAN PITCHES IN SIMULATED GAME (4:52 p.m. ET)
Blue Jays right-hander Dustin McGowan is feeling good this spring as he tries to make it back from shoulder surgery. McGowan threw 30 pitches during a simulated game at Toronto's minor league complex while the rest of the team had the day off.

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

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

General manager Alex Anthopoulos says McGowan looked great Tuesday.

-- The Associated Press

KENDALL ASKS FOR PRIVACY (3:17 p.m. ET)
Royals catcher Jason Kendall has returned to spring training and says his divorce and child custody case won't be a distraction.

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

PELFREY BACK, AS IS K-ROD (3:07 p.m. ET)
Mets right-hander Mike Pelfrey returned to the mound Tuesday after being sidelined by a sore right leg.

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

ROBERTS' REHAB HITS A SNAG (1:21 p.m. ET)
Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts is feeling ill, hurting his rehabilitation for a back injury.

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

SANCHEZ ON TRACK, BUT STILL WILL START ON DL (12:59 p.m. ET)
Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez has begun taking swings off a tee and considers himself ahead of schedule as he recovers from a procedure on his non-throwing left shoulder.

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

CORDERO LEARNS TO APPRECIATE (9:45 a.m. ET)
Chad Cordero, who accepted a minor league offer from the Seattle Mariners last year, knows he might not stick with the big club right away, and is mentally prepared to pitch in the minors for a while.

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

BONDERMAN STRUGGLES WITH CONTROL (7:30 p.m. ET)
Jeremy Bonderman struggled with his control again, and this time it hurt him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

HAPP, AUMONT PITCH WELL FOR PHILLIES (7:10 p.m. ET)
J.A. Happ and Phillippe Aumont felt better after their second spring outings.

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

ROCKIES' KENNEDY STRONG IN APPEARANCE (6:56 p.m. ET)
Ian Kennedy has shown promise in the minor leagues. The Diamondbacks are hoping he can finally bring that success to the big league level.

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

METS' PEREZ, NATS' MARQUIS STRUGGLE IN FIRST STARTS (4:45 p.m. ET)
Oliver Perez looked shaky in his first spring start, but Omir Santos hit an inside-the-park grand slam to help the Mets beat the Nationals 6-5 on Sunday in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

PADRES' SCOTT HAIRSTON DAY TO DAY WITH BRUISED HAND (4:28 p.m. ET)
Padres outfielder Scott Hairston, who was hit on the hand by a pitch Saturday in a loss to the Mariners, is day to day with a bruised left hand.

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

RAYS GIVE DH BURRELL A SHIFT IN LEFT FIELD (4:11 p.m. ET)
The Tampa Bay Rays did something Sunday they did only once all last season: They played DH Pat Burrell in the outfield.

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

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

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

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

-- Jayson Stark, ESPN.com

SS WILSON, CF GUTIERREZ LIKELY BACK FOR MARINERS (2:40 p.m. ET)
Shortstop Jack Wilson and center fielder Franklin Gutierrez are expected to be back in the lineup when the Mariners play a pair of spring games Monday in Arizona.

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

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

-- The Associated Press

INDIANS WON'T BABY WESTBROOK (2:09 p.m. ET)
The Indians and Rangers were rained out Sunday, pushing Jake Westbrook's first spring training start back to Monday. He's scheduled to throw two innings or 30 pitches against the Diamondbacks in Tucson.

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

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

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

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

-- Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.com

BLUE JAYS LHP CECIL TO MAKE SPRING DEBUT WEDNESDAY (1:01 p.m. ET)
Blue Jays left-hander Brett Cecil says he will make his spring debut Wednesday, one week after he cut his left thumb while "chopping up chickens."

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

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

-- The Associated Press

HARDEN LOOKS GOOD IN RANGERS DEBUT (7:24 p.m. ET)
This is a pitcher-catcher partnership that Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Rich Harden could like.

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

MARINERS' AARDSMA TWEAKS GROIN (7:07 p.m. ET)
Seattle Mariners closer David Aardsma tweaked his groin during his one-inning outing Thursday against San Diego, but the Mariners do not believe he will miss much time.

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

MYERS STRUGGLES WITH CONTROL IN ASTROS DEBUT (6:11 p.m. ET)
Brett Myers showed off his new threads during the Astros' windy spring training opener.

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

BAY 0-2 WITH WALK, K IN METS DEBUT (4:50 p.m. ET)
Jason Bay's debut was low-key, but David Wright homered in his first at-bat and the New York Mets beat the St. Louis Cardinals 17-11 on Thursday.

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

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

-- The Associated Press

NEW A'S HURLER JENNINGS TO SEE ACTION SOON (2:59 p.m. ET)
Oakland right-hander Jason Jennings, who signed with the Athletics on Sunday, is scheduled to pitch in a game within a week.

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

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

-- The Associated Press

YANKEES DH JOHNSON SCRATCHED WITH STIFF BACK (2:41 p.m. ET)
New York Yankees designated hitter Nick Johnson was scratched from the starting lineup for Thursday's game against Philadelphia because of a stiff lower back.

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

RANGERS SIGN CRUZ, ANDRUS, 12 OTHERS (2:37 p.m. ET)
Outfielder Nelson Cruz and shortstop Elvis Andrus are among 14 Texas Rangers who signed one-year contracts Thursday before the team's first spring training game.

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

COMMERCIAL ORDEAL (10:30 a.m. ET)
Big leaguers Ken Griffey Jr., Torii Hunter, Ryan Braun, Orlando Hudson and Carl Crawford appear in a new TV commercial for Dick's Sporting Goods. The ad shows Griffey and Hunter racing through the store, and concludes with the other players arguing vehemently over whether Hunter was out on a tag play with Griffey at home plate.

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

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

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

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

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

-- Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.com senior baseball writer

THERE GOES MY HERO (8:47 a.m. ET)
Tim Lincecum has back-to-back National League Cy Young Awards and a two-year, $23 million contract in his back pocket to show for it. But that hasn't made him jaded about meeting a childhood hero.

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

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

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

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

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

Later, Lincecum acknowledged the experience took him by surprise.

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

-- ESPN.com news services

HAMELS EXPERIMENTING WITH SINKER (8:11 a.m. ET)
Cole Hamels' bread-and-butter pitches have been his fastball and changeup. This spring, the Phillies starter has been working on sharpening his curveball and adding a cutter as well.

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

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

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

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

-- ESPN.com news services

I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW (7:51 a.m. ET)
A vision test during a team physical exam has confirmed what Brewers outfielder Corey Hart has suspected since last year -- he's nearsighted.

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

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

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

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

-- ESPN.com news services

Spring Training Blog: Feb. 27

February, 27, 2010
02/27/10
12:47
PM ET
CUBAN INFLUENCE FELT IN PHILLIES BULLPEN (6:16 p.m. ET)

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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

INGE CONFIDENT HE'LL BE READY (5:56 p.m. ET)
Detroit Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge says he's ahead of schedule in his return from offseason knee surgery and expects to be completely healthy by the time the regular season begins.

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

RANGERS' HOLLAND THROWS BULLPEN SESSION (5:46 p.m. ET)

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

METS HAVE ROTATION QUESTIONS BEHIND SANTANA (5:23 p.m. ET)

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

HENDERSON TO LEAD BASE-STEALING SEMINAR (12:52 p.m. ET)

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

Spring Training Blog: Feb. 24

February, 24, 2010
02/24/10
11:50
AM ET
GIAMBI REPORTS TO ROCKIES SPRING TRAINING (8:30 p.m. ET)
In a perfect world, Jason Giambi would be reporting to spring training as a designated hitter for a contender in the American League. Instead, Giambi returned to the Rockies in Tucson on Wednesday, where he will be an occasional fill-in for Todd Helton at first base and a pinch-hitter.

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

STRASBURG SLATED TO THROW MARCH 9 (6:58 p.m. ET)
Washington general manager Mike Rizzo said RHP Stephen Strasburg, the No. 1 pick in June's draft, would make his first exhibition start on March 9 against Detroit at Space Coast Stadium and will pitch every fifth day, regardless of where the game was to be played.

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

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

-- ESPN.com news services

TIGERS' ZUMAYA, FASTBALL BACK (5:38 p.m. ET)
Joel Zumaya's overpowering pitching sessions have attracted a lot of attention in the early days of spring training. Just six months ago, as he was preparing for a second major operation in less than two years on his aching right shoulder, he wondered whether his career might be over at the age of 24.

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

PHILS FEEL THEY HAVE 'UNFINISHED BUSINESS' (4:43 p.m. ET)
The Phillies say they have some "unfinished business" this year after falling two wins shy of repeating as World Series champions.

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

WELLS READY FOR LEADERSHIP ROLE WITH JAYS (3:31 p.m. ET)
Vernon Wells says he's finally prepared to assume the mantle of leadership for the youth-laden Toronto Blue Jays.

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

DOTEL OFF TO SLOW START (2:28 p.m. ET)
Pirates reliever Octavio Dotel is off to a slower start than he expected at spring training.

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

A'S ANDERSON WORKING ON CHANGEUP (1:36 p.m. ET)
Brett Anderson, who went 11-11 with a 4.06 ERA and finished sixth in American League Rookie of the Year balloting last season, is concentrating on improving his changeup. He went home to Stillwater, Okla., in the offseason and worked on the pitch with his father, Frank, the head baseball coach at Oklahoma State.

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

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

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

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

-- Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.com

SPLIT-FINGERED PITCH GIVES IGARASHI EDGE IN METS' PEN (1:18 p.m. ET)
This spring, Mets manager Jerry Manuel is looking for someone to pitch the eighth inning, and deliver the ball to closer Francisco Rodriguez. When asked which of the many candidates might have a slight edge, he pointed at 30-year-old right-hander Ryota Igarashi from Japan.

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

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

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

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

-- Tim Kurkjian, ESPN The Magazine

INFIELD SWAP: LOPEZ, FIGGINS TRADE PLACES (12:15 p.m. ET)
When the Mariners trotted out for infield drills on Tuesday, second baseman Jose Lopez went to third base and newly acquired third baseman Chone Figgins headed over to second.

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

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

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

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

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

-- ESPN.com news services

GREAT EXPECTATIONS FOR HEYWARD (11:56 a.m. ET)
The comparisons already are out of control for Atlanta Braves prospect Jason Heyward.

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

Eric Hinske says Heyward hits line drives like Cliff Floyd.

Leave it to manager Bobby Cox to trump those comparisons.

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

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

-- The Associated Press