Category archive: San Diego Padres

BRADEN ON ANTIBIOTICS AS PRECAUTION (10:13 p.m. ET)

Oakland Athletics left-hander Dallas Braden possibly has a staph infection on his left shin but isn't expected to miss any time.

Braden woke up Friday morning with a lump on his leg and after being checked out by team trainers, was sent to see a doctor, just hours before he was scheduled to pitch against the Cubs. Although no firm diagnosis was made, Braden was given antibiotics as a precaution.

Braden, slated second in Oakland's starting rotation behind ace Ben Sheets, missed the final two months of last season because of nerve damage in his left foot. The condition left him with a tingling sensation in his entire foot -- and no feeling at all in about half of it. Earlier this week, a neurologist told him the numbness never would subside.
-- The Associated Press

STAUFFER WILLING TO HELP PADRES AS NEEDED (10:04 p.m. ET)

After pitching four shutout innings to help a Padres split-squad beat the Reds 3-2, Tim Stauffer thinks he can help San Diego, even if it's out of the bullpen.

Stauffer, a 2003 first-round pick who is out of options, is pushing hard for the final spot in the Padres' rotation but is open to a reliever role. The right-hander allowed two hits and struck out four in his first appearance since last Saturday.

"During the season relievers have to go that long or longer so I guess if that's something that's a possibility I need to get used to it," Stauffer said after a seven-day layoff. "That wouldn't be a hard transition to make."

Stauffer went 4-7 with a 3.58 ERA in 14 starts last season after missing all of 2008 with a shoulder injury. He lowered his spring ERA to 2.57.
-- The Associated Press

JOBA THE RELIEVER JOTS DOWN SAVE (7:57 p.m. ET)

Joba Chamberlain's first relief outing since he was sent back to the bullpen was a bit of an adventure -- he allowed two hits and struck out one during a scoreless ninth inning, earning the save in the New York Yankees' 2-1 victory over Detroit. It was his first game since manager Joe Girardi announced on Thursday that Phil Hughes had won the competition for the team's fifth starter spot, beating out Chamberlain and three other candidates.

"A lot of guys came in and worked hard, and we didn't make anybody's decision easy," Chamberlain said. "That was our goal as guys coming in. I'm excited about being able to get the opportunity to help this team. We'll go from there."

Chamberlain is in the mix for the eighth-inning setup role before closer Mariano Rivera. The right-hander made 31 starts and one relief appearance during the regular season last year, but pitched out of the bullpen during the playoffs.
-- The Associated Press

HOMER A SPRING FIRST FOR FIELDER (7:52 p.m. ET)

Prince Fielder hit his first home run of the spring and Randy Wolf outdueled C.J. Wilson, leading the Milwaukee Brewers to a 3-1 victory over Texas. Wolf allowed only Julio Borbon's two-out single in the third over six shutout innings. He walked one, struck out seven and faced only three batters over the minimum.

Wilson was nearly as untouchable, scattering two hits over his first five innings before tiring and giving up Fielder's two-run, two-out home run just over the left-field fence in the sixth.
-- The Associated Press

PUJOLS SCHEDULED FOR DAY OFF (7:38 p.m. ET)

Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols, who rested Friday, struck out twice in a 3-2 win over Florida. Manager Tony La Russa plans to use the NL MVP on Sunday and Monday before giving him a day off Tuesday.

Brad Penny, projected to be the Cardinals' No. 3 starter, allowed one run and five hits while lowering his spring ERA to 6.10.

Penny had a scary moment in the sixth, when Hanley Ramirez's hard groundout struck him on the inside of his left thigh. He was examined on the mound by trainers and left after retiring the next two batters.

"Hit me in the muscle, good spot again," Penny said. "If it had been a knee, it might have been a problem."
-- The Associated Press

MARLINS' JOHNSON TO THROW; HENSLEY STILL SHINING (7:30 p.m. ET)

Florida Marlins right-hander Josh Johnson, who was scratched from his scheduled start on Friday because of the flu, threw on flat ground Saturday morning.

Florida's ace is scheduled to throw off the mound Sunday. If that goes well, he should make his next start on Wednesday, which would allow him to start the season opener April 5 in New York against the Mets.

Johnson, 26, won 15 games in 33 starts last year and struck out 191 in 209 innings.

Meanwhile, Clay Hensley pitched six innings in a 3-2 loss to St. Louis, yielding three runs, one earned, and three hits. He dropped his spring ERA to 0.55 in 16/3 innings, making a strong case for a rotation spot.

"I thought he did outstanding," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He's getting closer to being on the team."
-- The Associated Press

TWINS TO SEND JONES TO MINORS (5:51 p.m. ET)

Jacque Jones has been told that he will not make the Minnesota Twins' Opening Day roster.

Jones hit .344 this spring with two home runs and three doubles. But manager Ron Gardenhire told him Saturday that there wasn't enough room for the veteran outfielder on a loaded Twins roster.

Jones will finish out spring training with the team and travel to Minnesota to play in an exhibition game against the Cardinals. After that, he will report to Triple-A Rochester.

After playing in the independent Atlantic League in 2009, Jones signed a minor league deal with the Twins in February. He spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Twins before leaving in 2006 for the Cubs. He also played for Detroit and Florida in
-- The Associated Press

RANGERS ACQUIRE BLANCO FROM CUBS (5:35 p.m. ET)

The Texas Rangers have acquired second baseman Andres Blanco from the Chicago Cubs for a player to be named or cash.

Blanco was unlikely to make Chicago's 25-man roster and he was out of options. In 2009, his 10th professional season and first with the Cubs, Blanco batted .252 with one homer and 12 RBIs in 123 at-bats. He sprained his knee early in spring training and was limited to nine at-bats.

Rangers manager Ron Washington says he still needs a utility infielder to spell Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus.

In 131 career major league games, including 78 during three short stints with the Royals, Blanco batted .252 with one homer and 31 RBIs.
-- The Associated Press

CHAPMAN AMONG 3 VYING FOR REDS' LAST SPOT (5:09 p.m. ET)

The only opening in the Cincinnati Reds' rotation has produced the biggest surprise of camp.

There was a glut of veterans trying to win the fifth starting spot when camp opened. With a week left, it's down to three youngsters who have never thrown a pitch in the majors.

Right-hander Mike Leake and left-handers Travis Wood and Aroldis Chapman are the last three standing. The 23-year-old Wood has the most experience -- five years in the minors. Leake was the Reds' top pick last June. Chapman is a 22-year-old Cuban defector whose sore back has hurt his chances.

The final decision likely will come down to one more head-to-head audition next week and front-office rumination about which one fits best at the moment.

Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey have the other spots.
-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

And his swing?

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

Giants closer Brian Wilson recorded his second save.

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

-- ESPN.com news services

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

-- Richard Durrett, ESPNDallas.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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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
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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

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April, 1, 2009
04/01/09
11:23
AM ET
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ROYALS DEAL GLOAD TO MARLINS (10:31 p.m. ET)
The Kansas City Royals traded first baseman Ross Gload and cash to the Florida Marlins on Wednesday for a player to be named.

Kansas City also optioned right-hander Brian Bannister to Triple-A Omaha and released right-hander Joel Peralta. Left-hander John Bale, who is recovering from thyroid surgery, was placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 27.

Manager Trey Hillman said Sidney Ponson would be the fourth starter and work the home opener April 10 against the New York Yankees. Left-hander Horacio Ramirez will be the No. 5 starter but also would work out of the bullpen.

Gload hit .280 in 22 games for the Royals in spring training. He was acquired from the White Sox in 2006 and hit .273 in a career-high 122 games last season.

"As long as there is a uniform on the other side there's an opportunity," Gload said. "I think I can fit in well with a National League ballclub. Ideally, I would have liked to been here. I wish there was a spot."

Kansas City agreed to pay most of Gload's $1.9 million contract. General manager Dayton Moore said the Royals would receive a minor leaguer in the deal.

GLAVINE IMPRESSES FOR BRAVES (8:38 p.m. ET)
Tom Glavine passed his final spring test Wednesday.

The left-hander tossed five innings in Atlanta's 9-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers and will pitch in two minor league games before making his season debut for the Braves on April 18.

"He threw great," manager Bobby Cox said. "That's what he does. He's at the top of his game and when the 18th rolls around, he'll be ready to go."

Glavine gave up three runs and seven hits, including Curtis Granderson's two-run homer in the third inning. Glavine made only 13 starts a year ago for Atlanta, going 2-4 with a 5.54 ERA before his season was cut short by an elbow injury.

He went on the disabled list for the first time in his 22-year career, undergoing surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon and clean up his shoulder.

"I feel better than I did last week," said Glavine, who leads all active pitchers with 305 wins. "I had some uncertainty about what was left but I feel a lot better now. I just made one mistake. I tried to throw it too hard on a fastball to Granderson and he homered. It happens."

A'S ANNOUNCE ROTATION (8:27 p.m. ET)
Athletics' manager Bob Geren finally announced the team's rotation after Wednesday's 8-8 tie with the Cubs.

Dallas Braden, who gave up six runs in five innings, will be the Opening Day starter, as expected. He'll be followed by Trevor Cahill, Dana Eveland, Brett Anderson and Josh Outman.

Sean Gallagher, who began the season penciled into the No. 2 spot, is now "competing for a bullpen spot," Geren said.

"What I'm looking for from him this spring was to attack the strike zone a little better," Geren said. "I'm looking for his stuff to be a little crisper."

Cahill and Anderson, the A's highly touted pair of 21-year-olds, will each be making their big league debuts. Neither has pitched a regular season game above Double-A. Cahill will start the second game in Anaheim, about an hour from his home in the San Diego area.

"It's awesome," Cahill said. "I'm still shaking. All my friends are already asking me for tickets."

Braden said the news that he was going to get the Opening Day start took some of the sting out of a poor performance against the Cubs.

"When you think about it you've been given a go ahead from an entire organization, a front office, to try and get the season off on the right foot, to try to set the tone," Braden said. "And you know what? I think we're all ready to have this spring come to an end and kind of get it crackin' for real."

TOP TIGERS PROPECTS MAKE CUT (7:09 p.m. ET)
Top Tigers pitching prospects Rick Porcello and Kyle Perry found out Wednesday they made the opening day roster. Porcello, selected in the first round of the 2007 draft, and Perry, Detroit's first-round pick last year, haven't pitched above Class A.

Both were impressive all spring and manager Jim Leyland, who is in the final year of his contract, said he had no choice but to keep them.

"They were better than everyone else we had," he said. "They deserved the job."

Leyland said he had no doubts and it was an unanimous decision between the organization and coaches that the two were ready for the big leagues.

"If people say we rushed them, I will take the blame," Leyland said. "All you have to do is look at them and know they are ready."

Porcello earned a spot in the rotation and Perry will pitch out of the bullpen.

ISRINGHAUSEN TO START SEASON ON DL (6:42 p.m. ET)
Although Rays manager Joe Maddon has not officially set the roster, several important decisions were made Wednesday.

Reliever Jason Isringhausen will begin the season on the disabled list, giving him additional time to build arm strength following elbow surgery. The move won't be made until Sunday, when injured outfielders B.J. Upton and Fernando Perez and reliever Chad Bradford also will go on the DL.

"I only had six innings since elbow surgery, and we all agreed I need a few more innings to get to where I want to be with my mechanics and my arm strength and stuff, so this is the right thing to do," said Isringhausen, who spent the past seven seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals and has 293 career saves.

Meanwhile, second baseman Adam Kennedy, first baseman Chris Richard, infielder Ray Olmedo, catcher Michel Hernandez and outfielders Jon Weber and Ray Sadler have been told they will not make the team and will be reassigned to minor league camp after Saturday's exhibition in Philadelphia.

Matt Joyce, obtained in an offseason trade that sent starting pitcher Edwin Jackson to the Detroit Tigers, beat out Justin Ruggiano for a spot as the fourth outfielder -- even if it may wind up being until the April 13 home opener, when Upton hopes to be fully recovered from shoulder surgery.

BENSON MAKES ROTATION (5:14 p.m. ET)
Right-hander Kris Benson, who last pitched in the majors in 2006, has made the Texas Rangers' starting rotation.

General manager Jon Daniels said Wednesday that Benson will be a starter, a move that pushes right-hander Scott Feldman to the bullpen. Benson is 2-0 with a 4.76 ERA in five spring games.

Benson, the No. 1 overall pick by Pittsburgh in 1996, missed 2007 after surgery to repair a torn right rotator cuff. He was 1-4 with a 5.52 ERA in 11 starts last year for Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia's Triple-A team, before the Phillies released him Aug. 30.

Jason Jennings, a starter plagued by elbow problems the last two seasons, will start the season in the bullpen.

SABATHIA HIT SCARES YANKEES (4:52 p.m. ET)
The Yankees got a major scare in Opening Day starter CC Sabathia's final spring training start. The left-hander had Jason Ellison's line-drive RBI single go off his glove in the second inning of New York's 8-5 win over the Phillies.

Sabathia remained in the game and wound up allowing two runs and six hits over 3 2/3 innings. He struck out five and walked one during a 70-pitch outing.

CARDS PUSH BACK TIMETABLE FOR GLAUS' RETURN (4:42 p.m. ET)
Third baseman Troy Glaus is expected to miss at least two months following a setback in his rehabilitation from arthroscopic shoulder surgery in January. Glaus was originally expected to miss only a few weeks of the regular season. But on Wednesday, the Cardinals said Glaus will be re-evaluated around June 1.

Glaus hit .270 last season with 27 homers and 99 RBIs.

David Freese is the top candidate to start at third with Glaus out. The 25-year-old rookie hit .306 with 26 homers and 91 RBIs at Triple-A Memphis last season.

Glaus traveled to California last week to consult with the doctor who performed the surgery.

Glaus will be in St. Louis for Opening Day on Monday before traveling to Phoenix to continue his rehab.

MARINERS PUT JIMENEZ ON DL, SEND DOWN OLSON (2:32 p.m. ET)
The Seattle Mariners have placed Cesar Jimenez on the 15-day disabled list and optioned Garrett Olson to Triple-A Tacoma, leaving the team without a left-hander in the bullpen to start the season.

The Mariners also sent right-hander Randy Messenger and infielder Chris Shelton, who hit .460 in 25 spring games, to their minor league camp.

Jimenez was placed on the DL with biceps tendinitis, retroactive to March 29. Manager Don Wakamatsu says the team wants Jimenez to be able to throw two innings out of the bullpen and he's not at that point yet.

Olson struggled in two of his last three spring relief appearances, including giving up two runs in two innings on Tuesday.

ORIOLES SWAP PENN TO MARLINS FOR ANDINO (1:49 p.m. ET)
The Baltimore Orioles have acquired infielder Roberto Andino from the Florida Marlins for pitcher Hayden Penn.

The Orioles announced the trade Wednesday.

Penn was 3-6 with a 9.31 ERA in 14 major league starts for the Orioles in 2005-06. The right-hander had 10 minor league starts in 2007 and spent 2008 at Triple-A Norfolk because of bone chips in his right elbow. He was 6-7 with a 4.79 ERA in 21 starts with Norfolk.

Andino has a .201 average (29-for-144) with two home runs and 12 RBIs in 79 games with the Marlins over four seasons. In 2008, Andino batted .206 (13-for-63) with two homers and nine RBIs.

PARK BEATS OUT HAPP AS PHILS' FIFTH STARTER (1:45 p.m. ET)
Chan Ho Park and J.A. Happ both wanted to be the Philadelphia Phillies' fifth starter. But only one could have the job, and the Phillies chose Park on Tuesday.

"J.A. Happ did not lose the job," general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Chan Ho Park won it. That does not mean that J.A. Happ pitched his way out of the rotation."

Park, the first Korean to appear in a major league game, wanted to start for the Phillies so he could provide some regular entertainment for fans in his country, which has been hard-hit by the recession. He won it by posting a 2.53 ERA this spring. "Probably [people back home] are very happy and excited about it," Park said, according to the report.

Happ said he would have rather remained in the majors as a reliever than begin the season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley as a starter. "I did all these things to be a big-leaguer," he said, according to the report.

BOSTON OR PAWTUCKET? BUCHHOLZ AWAITS DECISION (1:22 p.m. ET)
Boston right-hander Clay Buchholz had a strong spring training. Whether he starts the season with the Red Sox is now out of his hands.

Buchholz, who struggled in 2008, had been sharp in spring training up until Tuesday, when he let up nine hits and six earned runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Tampa Bay Rays. He must now wait and see how Brad Penny pitches on Thursday to determine whether he will start the season in Boston or with Triple-A Pawtucket. If Penny has a strong outing, he'll likely be Boston's fifth starter.

"I'm the next guy in line," Buchholz said, according to the Boston Herald. "So I'm just going to keep coming out every day and doing my work and then hopefully something good will come out of it. If Brad's healthy, he's definitely going to help the club, so I hope he has good health and goes out and does what he does. If not, I'll be there to back him up."

"I think, all spring, he set out to make decisions hard for us and he's done a terrific job," manager Terry Francona said of Buchholz, according to the report. "He's picked up his tempo, he's attacking with his fastball, his changeup is starting to have that old life to it, and he's thrown some good breaking balls. We're really pleased with him."

INDIANS DEAL MUJICA TO PADRES (1:02 p.m. ET)
The Cleveland Indians have traded right-hander Edward Mujica to the San Diego Padres on Wednesday for future considerations or cash.

Right-hander Jae Kuk Ryu, claimed on waivers by Cleveland from the Padres on Thursday, was returned to San Diego. The deal was voided by major league baseball, and the Indians would not comment on any injury concerns with the 25-year-old South Korean.

Mujica, a 24-year-old native of Venezuela, was out of options with Cleveland after pitching in relief in parts of the past three seasons for the Indians. In 53 games, he went 3-3 with a 6.04 ERA.

KARSTENS EARNS SPOT IN PIRATES' ROTATION (11:20 a.m. ET)
Right-hander Jeff Karstens has won the final spot in the Pittsburgh Pirates' starting rotation.

Karstens locked up the job Wednesday, when the team optioned right-hander Virgil Vasquez to Triple-A Indianapolis. That ended a five-week spring training battle in which neither pitcher dominated.

Karstens pitched in seven games, including three starts. He went 0-2 with a 6.17 ERA and allowed 30 hits and eight walks in 23 1/3 innings.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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March, 30, 2009
03/30/09
8:59
AM ET
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CHAVEZ SAYS HE'S READY (9:34 p.m. ET)
Eric Chavez says he's ready for Opening Day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HARDEN BACK ON MOUND (8:24 p.m. ET)
Rich Harden returned to the mound for the first time since March 15 because of food poisoning and gave up three homers and five runs in the Cubs' 8-8, 10-inning tie with the Royals.

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

Harden lost seven pounds after eating tainted chicken salad.

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

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

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

BAEK SIDELINED (8:15 p.m. ET)
Cha Seung Baek will miss his final Cactus League start and possibly the start of the season for the Padres because of a strained right forearm.

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

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

YANKS WATCHING CHAMBERLAIN (7:52 p.m. ET)
Joba Chamberlain needs to show Yankees manager Joe Girardi two things in his next-to-last spring training start for it to be considered a success.

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

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

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

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

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

JAYS WORRIED ABOUT RYAN (6:55 p.m. ET)
Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston expressed concern about closer B.J. Ryan after he pitched a shaky eighth inning in Toronto's 3-1 loss to the Yankees.

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

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

Ryan said he's moving in the right direction.

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

JACKSON EARNS SPOT WITH TRIBE (6:40 p.m. ET)
Zach Jackson will open the season as the final pitcher on the Indians' staff.

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

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

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

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

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

RAYS RELEASE ENSBERG (6:27 p.m. ET)
The Rays released former All-Star Morgan Ensberg.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MAUER LIKELY TO STAY BEHIND (6:18 p.m. ET)
Twins All-Star catcher Joe Mauer likely won't travel with his team when it heads north to Minnesota next week.

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

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

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

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

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

FULL DAY FOR SMOLTZ (5:36 p.m. ET)
John Smoltz was back in the Braves' clubhouse Monday, visiting his old team before heading off for a round of golf with Tiger Woods.

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

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

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

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

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

MOTTE THE MAIN MAN (5:26 p.m. ET)
The Cardinals reassigned Chris Perez to the minor leagues following their 2-1 victory over the Marlins on Monday, clearing the way for Jason Motte to get the bulk of the work as their closer.

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

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

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

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

ROCKIES MAKE SOME MOVES (4:03 p.m. ET)
The Rockies have optioned outfielders Carlos Gonzalez and Matt Murton and left-handed pitcher Greg Smith to Triple-A Colorado Springs.

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

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

TIGERS DEAL FOR ANDERSON (3:31 p.m. ET)
The Detroit Tigers have acquired outfielder Josh Anderson in a trade with the Atlanta Braves.

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

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

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

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

DELLUCCI PLACED ON DL (3:23 p.m. ET)
The Cleveland Indians have placed outfielder Dave Dellucci on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left calf.

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

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

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

CARPAL TUNNEL LIMITS ARROYO (2:35 p.m. ET)
Bronson Arroyo is having a flare-up of the carpal tunnel syndrome that has bothered him from time to time over the last few years. This bout is especially nasty, along with the timing. The season starts in less than one week.

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

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

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

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

BERKMAN HAS BICEPS TENDINITIS (2:18 p.m. ET)
Lance Berkman was diagnosed with biceps tendinitis Sunday after seeing the team's doctor.

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

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

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

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

CUBS CUT BAKO, STANTON (2:14 p.m. ET)
The Cubs released veteran catcher Paul Bako and left-hander Mike Stanton. Bako, 36, was hitting .364 this spring after signing a free-agent contract with Chicago on Jan. 30. Stanton, 41, who was out of baseball last season after being released by the Reds on April, has a career record of 68-63 with a 3.92 ERA in 1,178 games.

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

ROMERO WINS ROTATION SPOT (11:56 a.m. ET)
Rookie Ricky Romero pitched himself into the Blue Jays' starting rotation, manager Cito Gaston said Monday.

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

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

PIRATES DEMOTE TOUTED PROSPECT (11:49 a.m. ET)
The Pittsburgh Pirates have sent center fielder Andrew McCutchen to minor league camp and optioned infielder Brian Bixler to Triple-A Indianapolis.

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

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

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

The Pirates have 35 players remaining in camp.

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

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

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

PHILLIES CUT INFIELDER GILES (10:25 a.m. ET)
The Phillies released veteran infielder Marcus Giles on Monday. Giles was in camp as a nonroster invitee.

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

-- ESPN.com's Jayson Stark

MATTHEWS STEWS AFTER DEMOTION (9:34 a.m. ET)
Gary Matthews Jr., who is in the third year of a five-year, $50 million contract, was told Sunday in a meeting with club officials that he will start the season as the Angels' fifth outfielder. He didn't take the news well.

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

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

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

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

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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March, 29, 2009
03/29/09
1:55
PM ET
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SCHMIDT UPS WORKLOAD (9:57 p.m. ET)
Jason Schmidt knows he won't be ready when the Los Angeles Dodgers open the season.

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

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

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

WOOD, DEROSA GET TO CUBS (9:22 p.m. ET)
Mark DeRosa and Kerry Wood each had an excellent day against their former team.

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

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

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

A'S TALK TO GALLAGHER (9:20 p.m. ET)
It was another rough day for an Oakland Athletics starting pitcher.

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

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

NATS SCRATCH CABRERA (9:19 p.m. ET)
Washington right-hander Daniel Cabrera was pulled because of neck spasms sustained Saturday while swinging in batting practice.

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

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

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

GARDNER NAMED YANKS' CF (7:07 p.m. ET)
Brett Gardner has won the Yankees' starting center field job.

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- ESPN.com's Jim Caple

HOFFMAN PLAYS CATCH (5:33 p.m. ET)
New Brewers closer Trevor Hoffman will still likely start the season on the disabled list, but he did make some progress on Sunday.

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

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

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

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

BIG UNIT FEELS READY (5:26 p.m. ET)
Randy Johnson thinks he's ready for the regular season despite some down time this spring.

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

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

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

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

MORROW TO BEGIN AS RELIEVER (5:20 p.m. ET)
Brandon Morrow will begin the season in the bullpen. Whether that's with the Seattle Mariners or in the minor leagues will be determined by his health.

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

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

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

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

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

PADRES TRADE BURKE TO M's (4:37 p.m. ET)
The Padres traded veteran infielder Chris Burke, who wasn't going to make the team's major league roster, to the Mariners on Sunday for cash considerations.

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

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

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

OHMAN TRIES OUT FOR DODGERS (3:35 p.m. ET)
Left-hander reliever Will Ohman pitched a two-inning simulated game against minor leaguers for the Dodgers on Sunday.

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

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

SHOULDER BOTHERS BERKMAN (2:18 p.m. ET)
The Astros are going to be without slugger Lance Berkman for the next few days as the first baseman struggles with a sore left shoulder.

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

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

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

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

LOWE TO START BOTH BRAVES' OPENERS (2:01 p.m. ET)
New Braves ace Derek Lowe not only will start the team's opener against the Phillies on April 5, he'll also take the mound for the team's home opener on April 10 against the Nationals.

Lowe isn't taking the responsibilities lightly.

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

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.