Category archive: Pittsburgh Pirates

HINCH NAMES LOPEZ AS DIAMONDBACKS' FOURTH STARTER (7:52 p.m. ET)

Arizona Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch has picked Rodrigo Lopez as the team's fourth starter.

Lopez, a non-roster invitee to spring training, outpitched Billy Buckner and Kevin Mulvey for the job. The 34-year-old right-hander underwent Tommy John elbow surgery in 2007.

Buckner and Mulvey were optioned to Triple-A Reno, as were first baseman Brandon Allen and outfielder Cole Gillespie. Catcher Sean Coughlin was reassigned to the minor league camp.

Lopez is 1-0 with a 2.35 ERA in 15 1/3 innings this spring. He has one more start Friday night against the Chicago Cubs at Chase Field in Phoenix. Lopez has a 68-66 major league career record with San Diego, Baltimore, Colorado and Philadelphia.

Arizona will begin the season with four starters because a fifth won't be needed until mid-April.

-- The Associated Press

PEREZ STRUGGLES; METS TO KEEP AN EYE ON PROGRESS (6:32 p.m. ET)

Oliver Perez isn't concerned about a rough outing in his last spring training game.

The New York Mets, however, will be keeping a close eye on him as the season starts next week.

The St. Louis Cardinals ripped three home runs off Perez in Tuesday's 9-4 win over the Mets, and the left-hander lasted 2 1/3 innings.

Perez, who is coming back from Sept. 1 knee surgery, surrendered seven runs, six hits and two walks, while fanning three.

Ryan Ludwick hit a two-run homer in the first inning, and Matt Holliday immediately followed with the first of two homers on the day.

Mets manager Jerry Manuel said Perez, who is 0-1 with an 8.66 ERA this spring, might be going through a dead-arm period, and it wouldn't be fair to say he is on a short leash based on results that don't count.

"Obviously you would like to see better going into the season, so he's just a guy we have to watch carefully," Manuel said. "I sense that he is healthy. I don't think there are any issues there, so hopefully when the lights come on, he shows us a little better stuff."

-- The Associated Press

AMBIDEXTROUS VENDITTE THROWS FOR YANKEES (6:23 p.m. ET)

Ambidextrous pitcher Pat Venditte threw with both arms for the New York Yankees on Tuesday, giving up one run in 1 1/3 innings during a 9-6 split-squad loss to the Atlanta Braves.

Making his first appearance for the Yankees, Venditte took over for CC Sabathia with two outs in the fifth inning and tossed four warmup pitches with each hand. Venditte switched back and forth, depending on whether he was facing a righty or lefty, and gave up two hits and a walk.

The 24-year-old reliever, who uses a six-finger glove, pitched for two teams in Class A last season and went a combined 4-2 with 22 saves and a 1.87 ERA. He is scheduled to begin the season at Class A Tampa.

Sabathia said he knew the Yankees had an ambidextrous pitcher in their organization, but did a double take when Venditte took the mound.

"I've never seen anything like that," Sabathia said. "I felt like we kept changing pitchers before I figured out what was happening."

-- The Associated Press

WILLIS STRUGGLES, BUT EARNS SPOT IN TIGERS' ROTATION (6:11 p.m. ET)

Dontrelle Willis just completed his worst outing of spring training when Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland stepped to the mound and told the left-hander something that made him feel much better: Willis will open the season as part of Detroit's opening rotation.

Despite struggling Tuesday in a 10-9 win over the Baltimore Orioles, Willis will be the No. 3 man in the rotation. His position became solidified earlier in the day, when the Tigers traded left-hander Nate Robertson to Florida.

Willis gave up five runs, seven hits and four walks in 4 1/3 innings. The performance lifted his ERA from 1.20 to 3.26, but Leyland said the lefty wasn't nearly as erratic as his pitching line would indicate.

"I thought he was very good today. I don't think that was anything like we've seen in the past," Leyland said. "He was missing down, he was missing close."

"I was actually very pleased with it. I was very encouraged," he said.

-- The Associated Press

BASEBALL LEAVING TUCSON BEHIND (6:07 p.m. ET)

The cradle of the Cactus League says goodbye to major league baseball this week.

The Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies, the final two teams with spring training in Tucson, are moving north to swanky new digs near a Scottsdale-area casino. They will leave behind empty fields of manicured grass and a history that stretches back 64 years.

On March 8, 1946, the first spring training game in Arizona was played at Tucson's Hi Corbett Field between Bill Veeck's Cleveland Indians and Horace Stoneham's New York Giants. Bob Lemon pitched the Indians to a 3-1 victory.

That venerable stadium, built in 1937, will host Tucson's final spring game, between the Diamondbacks and Rockies, on Wednesday. The Diamondbacks played their last game at their Tucson Electric Park home on Tuesday.

"I feel a little sad because we're not going to have this here," said 78-year-old Lefty Provencio, one of the legion of mostly older folks who help out at the ballparks for nothing each spring. "It's been something I've been volunteering for since I retired."

-- The Associated Press

KARSTEN AMONG PIRATES' CUTS (12:10 p.m. ET)

Right-handers Jeff Karstens and Brian Bass were among seven players reassigned by the Pittsburgh Pirates to their minor league camp, leaving 30 players with the major league club.

Also sent down were right-handers Vinnie Chulk, Steven Jackson, Jeremy Powell and Anthony Claggett and catcher Luke Carlin.

Karstens started last season in the Pirates' rotation, going 4-6 with a 5.42 ERA in 39 games, including 13 starts. Bass pitched 86 1/3 innings last season for Baltimore -- second among AL relievers -- and was 5-3 with a 4.90 ERA.

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

BEIMEL PASSES PHYSICAL, SIGNS MINOR LEAGUE DEAL (10:33 p.m. ET)

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

RAMIREZ RETURNS TO CUBS (8:57 p.m. ET)

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

EDMONDS' COMEBACK CONTINUES WITH FIVE RBIS (8:11 p.m. ET)

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

ANDERSON SHARP AGAINST MINOR LEAGUERS (7:29 p.m. ET)

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

CAIN HELPS GIANTS IMPROVE TO 16-6 (7:27 p.m. ET)

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

ROYALS HOPEFUL MECHE'S SHOULDER IS OK (6:31 p.m. ET)

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

METS RENAME SPRING TRAINING HOME (5:50 p.m. ET)

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

HOWARD, VICTORINO CONNECT IN WIN (5:46 p.m. ET)

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

METS' PEREZ STRUGGLES WITH COMMAND (5:04 p.m. ET)

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

PAULINO CLOSER TO LOCKING UP ROTATION SPOT? (4:31 p.m. ET)

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

GARLAND THROWS IN 'PEN, WILL START FOR PADRES (3:35 p.m. ET)

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

PIRATES CLOSER DOTEL GETS BACK TO WORK (9:51 a.m. ET)

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

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

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

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

-- ESPN.com news services

MANUEL BACKS MURPHY DESPITE HITTING WOES (9:33 a.m. ET)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- ESPN.com news services

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

-- ESPN.com news services

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

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

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

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

-- ESPN.com news services

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

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

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

-- ESPN.com news services

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

THAT'S A GOOD HEAD ON KURODA's SHOULDERS (7:34 p.m. ET)
Dodgers manager Joe Torre has been impressed with pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, especially with his resiliency. Kuroda spent just 21 days on the disabled list last year after getting hit on the front right side of his head by a comebacker and suffering a concussion.

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

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

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

FANS, AND A LEGEND, LINE UP FOR LINCECUM (7:08 p.m. ET)
San Francisco Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum, the NL Cy Young Award in back-to-back seasons, had a not-so-Cy outing in his spring debut against the Seattle Mariners.

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

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

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

HUDSON, HEYWARD LOOK SHARP (5:09 p.m. ET)
Tim Hudson pitched two sharp innings and rookie Jason Heyward doubled and scored as the Atlanta Braves beat the New York Mets 9-5 in a Grapefruit League game.

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

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

BONDERMAN SIGHT FOR SORE TIGERS EYES (4:42 p.m. ET)

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

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

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

HARANG TO START OPENING DAY FOR REDS (2:01 p.m. ET)
For the fifth straight season, right-hander Aaron Harang will be the Cincinnati Reds' Opening Day starting pitcher.

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

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

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

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

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

JAYS' MARCUM, MCGOWAN PROGRESSING (12:29 p.m. ET)
The Blue Jays appear to be very encouraged by the progress of two injured pitchers from 2009, Shaun Marcum and Dustin McGowan.

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

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

COMPETITION GOOD IN PIRATES CAMP (12:25 p.m. ET)
The Pirates have a lot of competition in camp, "and competition is good," said manager John Russell.

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

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

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

GIANTS' SANCHEZ DOUBTFUL FOR OPENING DAY (10:27 a.m. ET)
San Francisco Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez is not expecting to pick up a baseball bat for another week or two as he recovers from shoulder surgery, making it unlikely that he will be ready for Opening Day.

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

Manager Bruce Bochy agrees with that assessment.

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

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

CABRERA OPENS UP ABOUT ALCOHOL USE (10:16 a.m. ET)
Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera says an inability to handle stress or communicate with those who care about him led him to use alcohol.

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

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

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

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

Spring Training Blog: Feb. 24

February, 24, 2010
02/24/10
11:50
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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

Spring Training Blog: Feb. 21

February, 21, 2010
02/21/10
10:16
AM ET
PIRATES TO BE CAREFUL WITH MAHOLM (3:25 p.m. ET)
The Pittsburgh Pirates plan to be more careful with pitcher Paul Maholm this season.

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

PITCHING DEPTH A PLUS IN OAKLAND (2:52 p.m. ET)
The A's currently expect Ben Sheets, Justin Duchscherer, Dallas Braden and Brett Anderson to slot in as the top four starters in the rotation. That leaves Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Vin Mazzaro to compete for the fifth spot.

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

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

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

-- Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.com

LIRIANO'S SLIDER IS BACK? (2:47 p.m. ET)
In his first three seasons after Tommy John surgery, Minnesota Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano lost touch with his slider, once one of the most feared and unhittable pitches in the big leagues.

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

VAZQUEZ HAS FIRST BULLPEN SESSION (2:33 p.m. ET)
Yankees right-hander Javier Vazquez threw 35 pitches during his first spring training bullpen session Sunday.

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

OSWALT SETS GOALS FOR 2010 REBOUND (12:03 p.m. ET)
Roy Oswalt will be counting innings more than victories this season.

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

ROGERS TO VISIT TIGERS CAMP AS INSTRUCTOR (11:17 a.m. ET)
Former Detroit Tigers left-hander Kenny Rogers is returning to spring training as a special pitching instructor.

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

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

-- ESPN.com news services

POSADA LOOKING FORWARD TO CATCHING BURNETT (11:06 a.m. ET)
Jorge Posada says he never took it personally when he was benched for A.J. Burnett's four postseason starts. And now that a new season has begun, the veteran Yankees catcher is looking forward to catching Burnett again, saying he enjoys that Burnett brings the same intensity to the game that Roger Clemens did, the New York Daily News reported.

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

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

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

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

-- ESPN.com news services

DUCHSCHERER FIGHTING BACK SORENESS (10:40 a.m. ET)
Athletics starter Justin Duchscherer says he's feeling great mentally after getting treatment for what he described as a mental breakdown last season, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. But his body is not cooperating as spring training begins.

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

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

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

-- ESPN.com news services

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February, 20, 2010
02/20/10
9:04
AM ET
ASTROS WORK OUT FOR FIRST TIME UNDER MILLS (9:18 p.m. ET)
First-time Astros skipper Brad Mills ran his first workout Saturday, when Houston's pitchers and catchers reported to the club's spring training complex near Orlando.

The 53-year-old Mills is a major league manager for the first time after spending the last six seasons as Terry Francona's bench coach in Boston. Mills inherits a team with veteran talent in Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee, but also wants to incorporate young players into prominent roles this season.

Mills was hired in October to replace Cecil Cooper, who was fired with 13 games left in the season.

-- The Associated Press

GAGNE OPTIMISTIC ABOUT CHANCE WITH DODGERS (7:18 p.m. ET)
Eric Gagne is pretty sure this is his last shot at a major league comeback, and he's glad to be getting it with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The 2003 NL Cy Young Award winner, who rejoined the Dodgers when he agreed to a minor league contract Friday, thinks making the team this spring shouldn't be a problem as long as he's healthy.

On his first day back inside the Dodgers' clubhouse, Gagne pulled on a fresh, blue cap Saturday and tugged at the bill. He said it was perfect.

He could have been referring to more than just the fit. Gagne has pitched for three big league teams since leaving the Dodgers after the 2006 season. But it was in Los Angeles where he became a star closer, and he says the Dodgers never left his heart.

-- The Associated Press

ROCKIES' COOK FINDS STRENGTH THROUGH WEIGHT LOSS (7:04 p.m. ET)
Colorado Rockies right-hander Aaron Cook cut out fried foods and sodas. He stopped eating desserts and avoided late night snacks.

The result was startling.

Cook reported to spring training at 200 pounds, down from 220 at the end of the 2009 season. He expects to gain between five and 10 pounds during camp but should enter the upcoming season carrying less weight.

Colorado catcher Chris Iannetta and pitching coach Bob Apodaca noticed a difference right away when Cook threw his first bullpen session of the spring Saturday. Iannetta says he had a lot more extension on his pitches and Apodaca says Cook looked "really healthy and athletic."

Cook went 11-6 with a 4.16 ERA in 158 innings last year.

-- The Associated Press

SLIMMER STAIRS AIMS FOR SPOT ON PADRES' BENCH (6:27 p.m. ET)
Matt Stairs says he pushed himself hard during his offseason conditioning program just in case any teams had interest in his services.

At the same time, however, the veteran pinch-hitter put the thought in the back of his mind that he might have to retire.

But sometime after he secured a job as a hitting coach for the University of Maine, Stairs received an invitation to spring training from the San Diego Padres. Stairs, who signed a minor league deal in January after losing 32 pounds this offseason, officially checked into spring training on Saturday.

Stairs, who began his career with the Montreal Expos in 1992 and is playing for his 12th team, weighs 198 pounds. He finished the 2009 season with the NL champion Phillies weighing 230 pounds. Stairs attributed the weight loss to a diet and playing for two senior league hockey teams in Bangor, Maine. He also was a coach for the varsity hockey team at John Baptist Memorial High School in Bangor this winter.

"I feel great right now," Stairs said. "We'll see how it goes. If I can't hit any home runs, I'll start throwing some burgers in me."

-- The Associated Press

RED SOX CATCHER VARITEK IN ODD POSITION: BACKUP (4:14 p.m. ET)
For the first time in 12 years, Jason Varitek is starting spring training as a backup.

The Boston Red Sox catcher is the No. 2 man behind Victor Martinez.

"This isn't necessarily new for me," Varitek said after the first official workout for pitchers and catchers. "Is it different? Of course, it's different. But I think that in that role that it was last year toward the end that probably got me prepared for this.

"For the most part, I'm here to support Vic as much as possible and take the load off him when he needs it."

Varitek is starting his sixth season as the Red Sox captain and said he might be a better leader when he doesn't play and can devote more attention to communicating with teammates instead of the details of the game.

-- The Associated Press

ANGELS' SHIELDS SAYS REHAB ON TRACK (3:50 p.m. ET)
Angels' reliever Scot Shields says that his recovery from season-ending knee surgery last June is on track and that Los Angeles' bullpen has never been better.

The Angels longest-tenured player said on Saturday that the Angels' relief corps is among the best since he joined the team in 2001.

Shields has been a bullpen mainstay as the right-handed setup man, spanning the tenures of closers Troy Percival, Frankie Rodriguez and Brian Fuentes.

But he made a career-low 20 appearances last season before opting for left knee surgery in mid-June. He admitted to pitching in pain while compiling a career-worst 6.62 ERA over 17 2/3 innings.

The Angels are bringing Shields along slowly this spring, and he says that was the plan all along.

-- The Associated Press

MARLINS LOOKING AT PLAYOFF BERTH (3:48 p.m. ET)
As the first spring training workout begins, the Florida Marlins are already swinging for the fences by talking optimistically about making the playoffs.

Pitchers and catchers took the field for drills Saturday with high expectations, from team president David Samson on down.

The Marlins have climbed from 71 wins in 2007 to 84 in 2008 and 87 last year, when they finished six games behind league champion Philadelphia in the NL East. The core of the team returns intact, and payroll will top $40 million for the first time in five years.

More improvement likely will be needed to crack the postseason for the first time since the Marlins won the World Series in 2003.

-- The Associated Press

DEMPSTER DRAWS INSPIRATION FROM AILING DAUGHTER (3:43 p.m. ET)
Ryan Dempster has inspiration every time he gets in a tight situation on a baseball field with the Chicago Cubs. It comes from his 10-month-old daughter, Riley, who's been fighting DiGeorge syndrome all her young life.

Riley Dempster, who was born on April 1, 2009, has undergone numerous procedures, including the insertion of feeding and tracheal tubes as she fights the disorder caused by a defect in a chromosome.

Symptoms and conditions of DiGeorge syndrome vary in different patients and with different degrees of severity. In Riley's case, she's been unable to swallow. Early on, she underwent another procedure in which a portion of the stomach is wrapped around the esophagus to promote healing and reduce acid backup.

"She's doing well. She's still unable to swallow but she's doing well. She's a tough little fighter," Dempster said this week from the Chicago Cubs' spring training complex.

Dempster said his daughter must learn how to swallow on her own and it's a difficult process for someone so small and young.

"She inspires us," Dempster said. "You know, watching. If you're going through that, I can do anything. I really feel that way."

-- The Associated Press

CARDS GROOMING BACKUP OPTIONS FOR CLOSER FRANKLIN (3:23 p.m. ET)
Ryan Franklin was one of the National League's top closers last year, even with an awful final month, a first-time All-Star for St. Louis whose ERA hovered around one until early September.

The Cardinals have faith that a pitcher who'll be 37 next month and isn't a strikeout machine can do the job again, but not enough that they're not trying to develop a backup this spring.

"It doesn't matter to me," Franklin said Saturday. "I've got a couple of years, maybe three years left, and I want to win. Whatever that takes, whatever they think, is totally fine with me as long as I'm a part of it."

Among the potential fill-ins are Jason Motte, who began last year as the closer, and Mitchell Boggs. Both throw in the high 90s, more of a typical closer template than Franklin, who is a ground-ball pitcher.

"You always want a succession plan, and if something doesn't work you want to look for something internally first," general manager John Mozeliak said. "It's just natural."

-- The Associated Press

WAKAMATSU GIDDY ABOUT MARINERS' ROTATION (3:18 p.m. ET)
A starting rotation with Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee at the top is giving the Seattle Mariners plenty of optimism for 2010.

Lee, who still has strips of athletic tape covering the area of the surgery, is scheduled to take part in pitchers' fielding practice Monday and is expected to toss a bullpen session on Wednesday. Heavy rain at the Mariners' spring training complex prevented Lee from taking part in fielding practice on Saturday.

"It would be good to get him back on the mound. That's our first step," Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. "Get him feeling comfortable with the club."

Yet little can douse the Mariners' excitement about having Lee, who came to Seattle in a December trade with the Phillies in exchange for three prospects.

"I joke. I said back in our winter meetings in October, I said 'Cliff Lee is the guy I'm targeting," Wakamatsu said. "That whole process was pretty amazing. At winter meetings his name got brought up and everybody got giddy in the room, and the second part is, 'Can we really do this?' and [general manager] Jack [Zduriencik] made it happen, which was pretty special."

-- The Associated Press

REDS' VOLQUEZ HAPPY IN CAMP DESPITE INACTION (3:08 p.m. ET)
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Edinson Volquez was home in the Dominican Republic when he went to a baseball game just to see teammate Francisco Cordero throw in the winter league.

Volquez couldn't throw after season-ending Tommy John surgery, but he said he missed his teammates more than pitching. So he caught up with Cordero after the game and the veteran told Volquez to keep his head up, that spring training was just around the corner.

While he still doesn't take part in all the same activities as his teammates, and rehab is expected to take a full year, Volquez said Saturday he's happy to be around his teammates at spring training in Arizona.

"I'm still here on the team, I feel like I'm part of the team," he said. "I'm with my teammates. You get time with guys in here, you say hello to everyone, they make you happy."

-- The Associated Press

COX CONFIDENT IN SAITO, WAGNER (3:04 p.m. ET)
After watching Takashi Saito's first throwing session of spring training, Braves manager Bobby Cox had one word to sum it all up:

"Wow."

The former Dodgers closer turned 40 last week. But the Braves expect him to serve as Billy Wagner's primary set-up man. That's health permitting, of course. But Cox said he has no health worries whatsoever about Saito, whose Dodgers career was cut short by a sprained elbow in 2008, or Wagner, who missed most of last season following Tommy John surgery.

"Saito was never in the trainer's room once last year in Boston," Cox said. "And Wags has a new arm. So right now, I don't have any thoughts about those guys breaking down."

-- Jayson Stark, ESPN.com

COX ON JURRJENS, PROCTOR (3:02 p.m. ET)
On the first day that pitchers and catchers worked out, the only Braves dealing with any sort of health issue were starter Jair Jurrjens, who has a sore shoulder, and former Yankees reliever Scott Proctor, who had Tommy John surgery 11 months ago.

An MRI this week on Jurrjens' shoulder showed nothing alarming. But the Braves want Jurrjens to take it slowly at first.

"According to the MRI, he's great," Cox said. "But let's see."

Cox said Proctor is "about two weeks" behind the other pitchers. But the 33-year-old right-hander threw 50 pitches off the mound in the bullpen Saturday and "looked really good," Cox said. "He's still on a rehab schedule, but you'd never know it."

Proctor is viewed as a long shot to make the club out of spring training. But Cox won't rule it out.

"He's going to have plenty of time," the manager said. "I think he'll be ready coming out of camp. But if not, it will be real close."

-- Jayson Stark, ESPN.com

PIRATES WANT TO LESSEN DUKE'S WORKLOAD (2:58 p.m. ET)
The Pittsburgh Pirates are looking to cut down on All-Star pitcher Zach Duke's workload this season.

Duke has made at least 30 starts in three of his first four full seasons in the majors. The exception was 2007, when shoulder problems limited him to 19 starts.

Duke didn't miss a start last season but faded over the final two months. On Saturday, pitching coach Joe Kerrigan said the amount of work Duke put in between starts might have been the culprit.

"We'll have to take a look at that," Kerrigan said. "Maybe that has something to do with the wear and tear in August and September."

Last season, Duke was injury-free and pitched 213 innings, tops on the team and 12th in the National League. The left-hander also was tied for third in the NL with three complete games, the most by a Pirates pitcher since Jeff Suppan had three in 2003.

-- The Associated Press

WILPON OPTIMISTIC FOR METS' 2010 SEASON (2:00 p.m. ET)
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Coming off a season he said was "torture" for him, New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon is optimistic about the 2010 season.

"[It is difficult] when you have all those injuries and a bad season, and the fans were disappointed -- but not anymore than I was because I am probably their biggest fan," Wilpon said. "Now that's last year. It's 2010, it's 70 degrees in Florida and the sun is shining, so I have a great feeling of optimism."

After an injury-filled, 92-loss season, Mets fans have higher demands this year. Wilpon has them in mind, especially as the organization tries to fill the stands at Citi Field.

The need to produce likely is putting some pressure on management and coaches, but Wilpon declined to talk about whether any jobs within the organization were on the line, saying, "Those are things of the future."

-- The Associated Press

FELIZ WANTS SPOT IN RANGERS' ROTATION (1:34 p.m. ET)
Right-hander Neftali Feliz was mainly a starter in the minors before being called up to the Texas Rangers' bullpen in August. He struck out four of his first six batters and finished with a 1-0 record, 1.74 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 31 innings.

"When he joined us we saw lightning in a bottle," Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "What did we learn? That it wasn't an accident."

Should the Rangers have Perez start as he has done throughout his minor-league career or are they better off with his power fastball in the bullpen? Feliz, the team's top-rated prospect, is clear on his preference.

"I think I would be a better starter than reliever in the long run," Feliz said through an interpreter. "I'm confident. I feel like I can do better as a starter. I get a lot of questions about it and I tell them that it's up to the team to decide."

Washington said Feliz's future is as a starter. But consistent with the team's mantra this season of making decisions based on what the team needs most to win, a rotation spot isn't guaranteed.

"All the guy's done all his career is start and we want to make sure we use his assets," Washington said. "But he's not going to be given anything. By the middle of spring training we'll determine whether his spot is in the bullpen or in the rotation."

-- The Associated Press

RANGERS' LHP HOLLAND INJURES KNEE (12:56 p.m. ET)
Texas Rangers left-hander Derek Holland injured his right knee during agility drills in a light rain Saturday.

Holland walked off the field under his own power and was examined in the clubhouse by Rangers team doctor Keith Meister. An MRI was scheduled to be performed as soon as a machine becomes available.

The 23-year-old was 8-13 with a 6.02 ERA in 33 appearances and 21 starts as a rookie for the Rangers last season.

-- The Associated Press. For more on this story, go to ESPNDallas.com.

HAREN GETS OPENING DAY NOD FOR ARIZONA (12:49 p.m. ET)
Dan Haren was given the Opening Day start for the Arizona Diamondbacks over Brandon Webb, who is expected to return after shoulder surgery.

"I think it's a great reward for Dan Haren," Arizona manager A.J. Hinch told the Arizona Republic.

Hinch plans on starting new addition Edwin Jackson in the second game, and bringing Webb out for the third game.

The Diamondbacks open the season April 5 against the San Diego Padres at Chase Field.

-- ESPN.com news services

MARINERS PITCHER STILL IN VENEZUELA (11:36 a.m. ET)
Mariners pitcher Yusmeiro Petit is dealing with personal matters in his native Venezuela and is not expected to join the team until next week.

A team spokesman declined to discuss the issues Saturday, although he said they are not related to Petit obtaining a visa to work in the United States.

Petit is the only pitcher not present at Mariners spring training, where pitchers and catchers have arrived ahead of the rest of the team.

The 25-year-old Petit went 3-10 with a 5.82 ERA in 23 games -- including 17 starts -- for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season. He was claimed off waivers by Seattle in November.

-- The Associated Press

PETTITTE ON TIGER'S APOLOGY (9:19 a.m. ET)
Andy Pettitte, who had his own very public apology two years ago after admitting he used HGH, shared his opinions on Tiger Woods' statement.

"I think it will be good," Pettitte told 1050 New York's Andrew Marchand when asked what he thinks the apology will do for Woods' future. "Fans are very forgiving. People are very forgiving. For me, it was amazing. You know you have been following this team, I'm sure, and have been around this team. The fans, everywhere I went, have been unbelievable to me. I thank the Good Lord for that.

"I think my situation was a lot different. I stood and answered every question until you guys didn't have any more questions to ask and I think maybe, in my situation, made things a lot different, but I can't speak on Tiger's behalf or whatever he is going through."

In the end, an apology is only effective if it's sincere. Pettitte said that the public can detect insincerity.

"People know," Pettitte said. "People can tell if someone is sincere or not. I think people know me also. I've been around a long time. I've always been open to people and to being able to talk to people my whole career also. I think people know who I am and what I'm about."

-- ESPN.com

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February, 19, 2010
02/19/10
1:20
PM ET
ROCKIES' JIMENEZ THROWS FIRST BULLPEN SESSION (6:20 p.m. ET)
Ubaldo Jimenez is hoping a couple of minor adjustments will allow him to go deeper into games for the Colorado Rockies.

Jimenez threw his first bullpen session of spring training Friday, and pitching coach Bob Apodaca was pleased with what he saw.

"Today is absolutely how I'd hoped he'd come here," Apodaca said.

Jimenez went 15-12 last year, and his 3.47 ERA was the lowest in franchise history for a starting pitcher. He ranked sixth in the National League in innings (218) and strikeouts (198).

But the 26-year-old right-hander had some problems with his command when he was pitching out of the stretch. That forced him out of some games early because of a high pitch count.

Apodaca said Jimenez was quicker to the plate when he pitched out of the stretch during the bullpen session and his improved alignment led to better command.

-- Associated Press

PADRES' YOUNG FEELS GOOD AFTER PEN SESSION (6:20 p.m. ET)
San Diego Padres right-hander Chris Young says he felt good after participating in a bullpen session during the team's first workout on Friday morning.

Young, who had arthroscopic shoulder surgery on Aug. 17, says he spent all offseason strengthening his right arm and shoulder in order to be ready for spring training. He threw 40 pitches in 10 minutes.

Young was 4-6 with a 5.21 ERA in 14 starts last season and hasn't pitched since leaving early from a June 14 game against the Los Angeles Angels.

"It was a standard first day," Young said with a laugh. "Everybody was healthy. Nobody got lost. I think it's a good day."

"Being ready was the goal. The [doctors] had kind of gone over the rehab timetable and that was the goal. But you never know, one what they'd find once they got in there, or if you'd ever have any setbacks during the rehab. Fortunately I haven't had any."

Young began his rehab in November. Manager Bud Black has constantly been monitoring Young throughout the offseason at Petco Park. Prior to Friday's session, Young had thrown off a mound several times without incident.

-- Associated Press

BONDERMAN BACK TO BUSINESS WITH TIGERS (6:35 p.m. ET)
The Detroit Tigers appear content to go about business with Jeremy Bonderman as if the past two seasons never happened.

That'd be fine with him, too.

"My arm feels good, it's just a matter of building strength," said Bonderman, who didn't win a game last year after shoulder surgery in June 2008. "It's been two years and I need to work really hard in the next two weeks to get my mechanics back."

Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he has the 27-year-old right-hander penciled into the rotation. Bonderman has been throwing freely and without pain since early February.

"Bonderman, in my opinion, is back to a normal spring training and we're going to see what he looks like," Leyland said Friday. "I think he is OK. I mean we'll find out, you never know for sure."

The exhibition season starts March 2, and Bonderman is expected to take his turns in the rotation along with Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer.

-- Associated Press

GIANTS' RENTERIA PLAYED WITH BONE SPUR (6:20 p.m. ET)
San Francisco shortstop Edgar Renteria played all last season with a bone spur in his right elbow, about the size of a piece of pea gravel.

Such a seemingly minor problem to derail an entire season.

Renteria hit a career-low .250 with 19 doubles, five home runs and 48 RBIs in 124 games before the Giants turned to hot-hitting Juan Uribe as they fought for a playoff berth down the stretch. It was the fewest homers for Renteria since 1998 and resulted in a season that he called simply "embarrassing."

"I can play like Edgar Renteria again," he said after arriving in the Giants' camp Friday.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy had no trouble naming Renteria the starting shortstop this season.

-- Associated Press

GRIFFEY ARRIVES AT TRAINING CAMP (6:18 p.m. ET)
Sporting a bucket hat with sunglasses, Ken Griffey Jr. arrived at the Mariners' spring training complex Friday with the kind of reception reserved for a veteran and clubhouse leader.

Griffey embraced manager Don Wakamatsu and general manager Jack Zduriencik, and bellowed greetings to teammates from across the clubhouse.

Slated to be the Mariners' designated hitter, Griffey flew overnight from Florida after watching his daughter's basketball game. He took his physical Friday after proclaiming that he'd lost seven pounds through dieting and exercise.

Mike Sweeney, another team leader from last season, is expected Sunday after signing a minor league deal last week.

"When you get Griff in here, it kind of puts pressure on everyone else," Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. "I just called [Sweeney]. I said 'Griff's here, where you at?' He said, 'I got a late invitation. It wasn't my fault."

-- Associated Press

DICE-K REPORTS IN BEST SHAPE OF CAREER (5:58 p.m. ET)
Friday was conditioning day for the Boston Red Sox, which unlike last year, was an easy day, a great day for Daisuke Matsuzaka. He's in his best shape in his four years with the Red Sox.

Matsuzaka has a different looking body than the one he had when he was placed on the disabled list last June, and sent to the minor leagues, to rehabilitate his weak right shoulder, and get himself into much better shape. And now, he has. Matsuzaka spent five weeks in the Athletes' Performance facility in Phoenix in December, January and February.

"He had a great attitude, he was a pleasure to work with," said Mike Roberts, the director of baseball for Athletes' Performance. "He pushed himself in all areas, in the power area and the cardio area. He came to us like a minor league guy who was coming to big league camp for the first time. He was excited. He was like a rookie who was trying to make the club."

After going 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA in 2008, Matsuzaka dropped to 4-6 with a 5.76 ERA last year. When he was placed on the disabled list in late June, he was told by management that he had to get himself in better shape, as well as regain the strength in his shoulder. He came back in better shape in September, and pitched much better, but it was the off-season work with Athletes' Performance that prepared him for spring training.

Matsuzaka worked there for five weeks. For a two-week period, he did two workouts a day, which is rare for a pitcher given the workout regiment in that program. He didn't throw much off the mound, but threw a great deal during those five weeks. He displayed a great, tight spin on his breaking ball and, as always, tremendous balance over the rubber.

Matsuzaka had tightness in his back the first day of spring training, but it is nothing to worry about, several sources said. The Red Sox have Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey as their first three starters, leaving two spots for Matsuzaka, Clay Buchholz and Tim Wakefield. Most teams don't have five major league starters, the Red Sox have six. Matsuzaka, 29, is likely to be one of the five.

-- Tim Kurkjian, ESPN The Magazine

HARANG NOT ASSURED OF STARTING OPENER (5:11 p.m. ET)
Right-hander Aaron Harang isn't assured of making another opening day start for the Cincinnati Reds.

Manager Dusty Baker said Friday that he's open-minded about who will start the opener. Harang has started the past four, but has struggled to win the past two years, throwing the No. 1 spot open to competition.

"We're in a performance-based occupation, like most, but probably even more," Baker said. "It's a big responsibility to be a No. 1, you know?"

Harang's streak of four straight Opening Day starts is one shy of the club record. Harang has won six games each of the past two seasons, when injuries and an appendectomy held him back.

Bronson Arroyo led the staff in wins last season with 15.

-- The Associated Press

RANGERS' DOMINICAN PLAYERS JOIN CAMP (4:48 p.m. ET)
Omar Beltre and Alexi Ogando's five-year wait to attend their first major league spring training is over.

Beltre and Ogando arrived in the Rangers' camp on Thursday and took to the practice fields in Surprise, Ariz., on Friday afternoon.

The two right-handers admittedly were involved in a human trafficking ring in the Dominican Republic and were prohibited from entering the United States for five years, a ban that finally ended this year.

Their baseball careers had been limited winter ball, the domestic Dominican League and international tournaments.

-- The Associated Press

NEW ROLE FOR UEHARA (4:45 p.m. ET)
The Baltimore Orioles still believe that right-hander Koji Uehara can be a valuable member of their pitching staff.

It just won't be in the starting rotation.

Uehara will work out of the bullpen this season after making 12 starts in 2009 as a rookie. He ended his career in Japan as the closer for the Yomiuri Giants, but most of his experience has come in the rotation.

Uehara, the first Japanese player to sign with the Orioles, went 2-4 with a 4.05 ERA in 66 2/3 innings. He made two stops on the disabled list with hamstring and elbow injuries, and didn't pitch after June because of a slightly torn flexor tendon. He also struggled with his endurance and has hired a new personal trainer.

-- The Associated Press

HART HAS EDGE FOR ROTATION SPOT (3:58 p.m. ET)
Just two days into spring training, the Pittsburgh Pirates might already have settled one of their position battles.

Right-handers Kevin Hart and Daniel McCutchen were supposed to duel for the fifth spot in the starting rotation, and recent first-round draft pick Brad Lincoln was supposed to provide pressure while starting the season in Triple-A.

On Friday, all indications pointed to Hart as the frontrunner.

In discussing his pitching corps, manager John Russell mentioned Hart as one of the starters and McCutchen among the bullpen crew. But when pressed, Russell stopped short of confirming Hart has won the job.

-- The Associated Press

SANTO: CUBS WON'T MISS BRADLEY (3:44 p.m. ET)
The buzz in Chicago is that the Cubs' "team chemistry'' will be better now that disgruntled outfielder Milton Bradley has been traded to Seattle. Veteran broadcaster Ron Santo certainly didn't dispute that notion in a talk with reporters in Mesa on Friday.

Santo said the mood in the clubhouse changed for the better in September, when the Cubs suspended Bradley for comments critical of the team and its fan base. In December, the Cubs traded Bradley to Seattle for pitcher Carlos Silva.

"I'm a very strong believer in a good chemistry, and there's nobody better than Lou Piniella when it comes to chemistry,'' Santo said. "But this was a tough situation when you bring in [Bradley], who's hopefully going to change. I couldn't understand the way he is. He's just not a happy man.

"When you start talking about the fans and Wrigley Field and how you can't wait to get off [the field], it's not good. It wasn't like he'd get on anybody in the clubhouse. He was always just kind of mad. He'd walk right by you and not even look at you. But that's over with now.''

-- Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.com

CUBS HAVE SOME JOBS AVAILABLE (3:37 p.m. ET)
Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells and Ted Lilly -- who had offseason shoulder surgery and is taking things slowly because of some discomfort in his knee this spring -- are penciled in as the top four starters in the Cubs rotation. That leaves Sean Marshall, Carlos Silva, Tom Gorzelanny and Jeff Samardzija to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation in Mesa.

Manager Lou Piniella will also have to weed through a number of candidates to round out his bench. At the moment, it looks as if Xavier Nady will be the fourth outfielder, Koyie Hill will be the backup catcher and Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker will divvy up the at-bats at second base.

That leaves eight or nine players to compete for what might be two bench jobs. The list of candidates includes Micah Hoffpauir, Andres Blanco, Chad Tracy, Sam Fuld, Kevin Millar, Brad Snyder, Bryan LaHair, Tyler Colvin and Bobby Scales. The Cubs will also take a long look at shortstop Starlin Castro, the franchise's top prospect. But Castro is 19 years old and has only 111 at-bats above Class A, so he's likely to begin the season in the minors.

-- Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.com

HAMILTON'S BOLD PREDICTION (2:54 p.m. ET)

Outfielder Josh Hamilton arrived at Rangers camp Friday and said he learned from last year and is ready to put all of that behind him and have a strong 2010 season.

He also predicts the Rangers will have a big season, saying he believes the team will win 96 games in 2010.

For more, check out ESPNDallas.com's Rangers blog.

CHAMBERLAIN, HUGHES THROW OFF MOUND (2:46 p.m. ET)

Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, the front-runners for the Yankees' fifth starter spot, both threw 30 pitches during their first spring training bullpen sessions on Friday.

The pair had worked off a mound during early workouts last week.

Chamberlain loves the competition and said that pushing each other makes the team better

Chad Gaudin, Sergio Mitre and Alfredo Aceves are also under consideration for that role.

Manager Joe Girardi said the competition won't really begin until the start of spring training games next month.

-- The Associated Press

ESCOBAR SAYS SHOULDER IS WEAK (1:20 p.m. ET)
Reliever Kelvim Escobar said Friday that his shoulder is merely weak and any rumors that he is hurt are untrue.

The former starter signed a one-year, $1.25 million deal with the Mets in late December, despite pitching in only one major league game since 2007 because of shoulder surgery. He's expected to contend for the eighth-inning setup role.

"I am in a program that I have to stick with," Escobar said. "It's not true I am not going to pick up a ball and the things I heard. You have to take it easy. I don't want to rush. There is plenty of time to get my arm in better shape, and it should be fine."

The 33-year-old Escobar pitched winter ball in Venezuela, then didn't pick up a ball for almost 5 weeks. Although he's been doing arm exercises and other workouts, Escobar acknowledged he's behind schedule and isn't sure when he'll be able to pitch.

-- The Associated Press