Category archive: Arizona Diamondbacks


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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

And his swing?

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


Right-hander Ian Kennedy is making a strong case to join the Arizona Diamondbacks' rotation.

Kennedy struck out eight in five scoreless innings and the Arizona Diamondbacks earned a 5-4 win in 10 innings over the San Diego Padres on Monday.

Kennedy lowered his ERA to 2.70. He allowed two hits -- a two-out double by Will Venable in the first inning, and a single by Chris Denorfia in the third inning. Kennedy then picked off Denorfia at first.

"I really don't go out for strikeouts from the get-go," said Kennedy, who could follow Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson in the rotation. "If they come, that's awesome. [Catcher Chris Snyder called a great game. We worked really well together."

Arizona manager A.J. Hinch said Kennedy threw one of the best outings of the spring by a Diamondbacks starter.

"Excellent. Ian was really, really good. He had good rhythm. He had good command," Hinch said. "He had swing-and-miss pitches."

Hinch said the Diamondbacks will likely begin the season with four starting pitchers, as Brandon Webb is expected to miss the start of the season. He has yet to pitch in a Cactus League game.

Arizona is allowing Webb to build his arm strength through long toss. No date is set for his next bullpen.

-- The Associated Press


Justin Duchscherer put up a string of zeros while facing another team for the first time in 19 months. He then declared himself ready for the start of the season -- and past all of his troubles in 2009.

Duchscherer allowed four hits over four innings to help the Oakland Athletics beat the Seattle Mariners 7-2 on Monday.

"I was nervous, very anxious anticipating getting out there for the first time against big league guys," he said. "It's been a while."

Duchscherer missed all of last season because of elbow surgery and depression. The 32-year-old right-hander last pitched in a big league game Aug. 18, 2008.

Even though he only threw about 50 pitches -- he went to the bullpen for 10 pitches after he was finished -- Duchscherer said he expects to be in Oakland's rotation at the beginning of the season.

"As long as I'm ready to go five or six innings, I think that's kind of the plan," he said. "As the season goes, my second, third, fourth start I can progress back up to the 100, 100-pitch count range and hopefully get in seven, eight, nine innings like I feel like I'm supposed to."

Manager Bob Geren said Duchscherer should be ready to start the season in the rotation if he progresses with each spring outing.

Duchscherer was an All-Star in 2005 and '08 before the problems with his back, elbow and depression. He's still on an amended training schedule designed to preserve his back.

-- The Associated Press


Gil Meche pitched three innings Monday before leaving the Kansas City Royals' 9-5 victory over the Chicago White Sox with a sore right shoulder.

Meche allowed three runs and four hits, struck out one and walked one. He threw 31 of his 56 pitches for strikes.

"The reason I came out was because I felt some stiffness in my shoulder," Meche said. "I didn't want to push it with the season coming up. It's nothing serious. I did all the tests. They checked me out. The shoulder is strong, but the tightness is there."

"There's no pain going on, so I'm not worried about it. After the third, I told Mac [pitching coach Bob McClure], 'Look, I don't feel like I'm getting anywhere. I'm just going through the motions, let's just shut it down and save it for later."

Meche was limited to 23 starts and 129 innings because of shoulder and back problems in 2009.

"Last year I did push through things and I know where that got me," Meche said. "I want to make sure I feel 100 percent when the season starts. It's a matter of me being smart right now. If I have it now, it's OK, but I'm just going to make sure I do the right things, so it goes away."

"When you get stiff on the mound, the next thing you know your neck is bothering you because you're not throwing normal. I felt a little stiffness in my neck coming on, too," he said. "I was like it's not going to be worth it. I'm only going to make myself worse by staying out here trying to pitch."

Meche was scheduled to throw five innings or about 70-75 pitches with only two more starts left in spring training.

"If I go out there throwing two more innings and not being free and easy, who knows what could happen?" he said. "I know I need to get a pitch count up, but if you don't throw correctly that's when injuries happen. The trainers agreed it was a good idea to come out."

-- The Associated Press


Oakland center fielder Coco Crisp homered as a designated hitter in his return to the Athletics' lineup against Seattle after being sidelined for nearly two weeks with a sore hamstring.

Crisp is scheduled to play the outfield for the first time this spring Wednesday.

He signed a $5.25 million, one-year contract with the A's in December, six months after undergoing operations on both shoulders. A tender hamstring sidelined the 30-year-old crisp for 12 days before his return Monday.

Batting leadoff, Crisp struck out in his first at-bat then hit a three-run homer in the second inning off Seattle starter Ian Snell.

-- The Associated Press


Wearing a new set of contact lenses, Nate McLouth has been able to see the ball better than ever this spring.

That doesn't mean, however, that the Atlanta center fielder has been able to hit it.

Mired in a 0 for 28 slump with 12 strikeouts, McLouth batted in every inning of a rain-shorted minor league game Sunday in hopes of getting on track with the start of the season two weeks away.

McLouth got three hits -- two more than he's had in real spring games. Maybe the move worked. Finally, he had something positive to build on.

"I just needed to step away," said McLouth, batting .029. "Hitting is a funny thing. It can wear on you, even in spring training when numbers don't matter -- because they do.

"Not necessarily numbers, but feeling well and making good contact matters. And when that's not happening, regardless of whether it's spring training or not, that's frustrating."

Frustrating for McLouth and worrisome for the Braves. They are counting on him to be their leadoff hitter.

How bad has McLouth been this spring? His one hit in 35 at-bats came on March 6 and he has 14 strikeouts and three walks, striking out twice in five of his past eight games.

-- The Associated Press


Brian Tallet has been working on his changeup this spring, and he's still trying to get a feel for it.

Tallet decided to keep the pitch out of the dirt while facing Brandon Inge in the first inning of the Toronto Blue Jays' 8-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Monday, and the third baseman connected for a three-run homer.

"I just told myself, 'I'm not going to bounce them anymore. It's not going to get any better by bouncing it,'" Tallet said. "I've got to be able to get that pitch in the zone. So we were working on getting it up a little bit and got that one up just too much."

Tallet, expected to be Toronto's fifth starter, allowed five runs and eight hits in five innings.

"You take that one [changeup] away and it's a whole different ballgame," he said.

"I don't think he would've thrown it in a [regular-season] game, especially 1-1, kind of a contact situation," catcher John Buck said. "Probably the cutter or that good sinker, his go-to pitches in that situation, two runners on. But I wanted him to throw that in a pressure situation."

-- The Associated Press


Jaime Garcia is making a strong bid for a spot in the St. Louis Cardinals' rotation.

Garcia threw four crisp innings, David Freese and Joe Mather hit their first spring homers and a Cardinals split-squad beat the Houston Astros 6-4 on Monday.

Garcia, who missed last season after undergoing reconstructive left elbow surgery, allowed one run and two hits in relief of Kyle Lohse. He has yielded two runs while striking out 15 in 12 2/3 innings over four outings this spring.

"My arm feels awesome," he said. "It feels better than it has ever felt. I did everything I could in the offseason. Finally now I feel like everything is paying off. It's feeling good and everything is going the way it's supposed to go."

Garcia is competing with non-roster invitee Rich Hill and Kyle McClellan for the final spot in the rotation behind Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Lohse and Brad Penny.

Garcia was thought to be a long shot for the spot because of the surgery, but his success has put him in a close race with McClellan while Hill has struggled.

-- The Associated Press


James Shields was solid for 5 2/3 innings and Evan Longoria hit two of Tampa Bay's seven home runs Monday in an 11-9 win over a split squad of Boston Red Sox.

Shields recently was picked by Rays manager Joe Maddon to start on Opening Day for the third straight year. The right-hander gave up one run and five hits.

Kelly Shoppach homered twice for Tampa Bay and drove in four runs. Ben Zobrist, Sean Rodriguez and Hank Blalock also homered for the Rays.

Boof Bonser was hit hard in his first start for the Red Sox, giving up five runs and six hits in two-plus innings.

Mike Cameron had two hits for Boston and is batting .423 this spring.

-- The Associated Press


Ryan Zimmerman and Josh Willingham each hit two homers off Mets starter Mike Pelfrey, leading the Washington Nationals to a 7-5 victory over New York on Monday.

Zimmerman hit a towering, wind-aided solo drive in the first inning, and a two-run shot in the fifth. Willingham had a solo shot in the second and a two-run homer in the fourth.

Pelfrey was charged with six runs, five earned, and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings.

Jason Marquis pitched 4 2/3 innings for the Nationals, yielding three runs and seven hits.

-- The Associated Press


For the first time in two years, Travis Hafner, the Cleveland Indians' easygoing, hard-swinging designated hitter, is looking like himself again. Now almost 18 months removed from shoulder surgery, the man nicknamed "Pronk" -- part project, part donkey -- by teammates years ago, is driving the ball and turning on pitches the way he once did.

In the past week, Hafner has hit a pair of homers -- one a tape-measure shot to center field -- that has given the Indians hope he can anchor the middle of Cleveland's lineup the way he did in 2006, when he hit a career-high 42 homers with 117 RBIs.

"It's starting to get close to where it was," said Hafner, who has studied nuances of his swing on video. "You can notice a pretty big difference in my swing in '08 and '09. But this year, I've been able to do some things and hopefully get back to where I was."

Last season, he batted .272 with 16 homers and 49 RBIs in 94 games. He had opened the season feeling fine, but wound up on the disabled list in late April with shoulder soreness and didn't return until June. The statistics aside, what was more troubling was Hafner appeared lost at the plate.

Hafner isn't making excuses. "I didn't swing the bat the way I wanted to," he said. "I just didn't see the ball the same as I used to. I swung at bad pitches. Hitting is all about consistency."

-- The Associated Press


Right-hander Shaun Marcum will be Toronto's Opening Day starter.

It will be the first time in eight years that Roy Halladay won't take the mound to open the Blue Jays' season. Now that Halladay has been traded to Philadelphia, manager Cito Gaston said Monday it was an easy decision because of the way Marcum has pitched this spring. In two starts covering five shutout innings, he has allowed one hit and one walk while striking out four.

Gaston has not decided on the rest of the rotation for the opening series against Texas.

"I think he's earned it from what he's done in the past," Gaston said of Marcum, 12-9 in 2007, his first full season with the Blue Jays, and 9-7 in 2008 before a sore elbow ended his season.

Marcum missed half of the 2008 season and all of 2009 recovering from elbow surgery. He says "it never even crossed my mind that I'd be in this position."

-- The Associated Press


Joba Chamberlain made a big start in an empty ballpark.

Bidding for the fifth spot in the New York Yankees' rotation, Chamberlain allowed two runs and six hits over five innings in an intrasquad game on Monday. The contest at Steinbrenner Field was not open to the public, which meant only a handful of people were in the 11,076-seat stadium.

"I felt like I was back in the Florida State League where it all started," said Chamberlain, who pitched for Single-A Tampa of the FSL in 2007. "That was kind of the mindset I took out of it and I think that was good for me. Why I got to where I'm at with the hard work and everything."

Chamberlain had one strikeout, one walk and induced three double plays.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi and other team officials will meet Wednesday to discuss the final rotation spot. The winner could be announced Thursday or Friday.

-- The Associated Press


The Nationals have reassigned outfielder Chris Duncan to minor league camp, the team announced Monday.

Duncan had been trying to make the Nationals as a non-roster invitee. He spent parts of five years with the St. Louis Cardinals, including the team's run to a World Series title in 2006. But injuries limited Duncan's effectiveness the past three seasons. He was traded to the Red Sox in July and released after he hit less than .200 in 92 minor-league at-bats.

The Nationals also reassigned infielder Pete Orr to minor league camp and optioned right-handed pitcher Shairon Martis to Triple-A Syracuse.

The moves trimmed the Nationals' big-league roster to 36 players.

-- news services

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

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

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.

-- news services

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

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

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

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. senior MLB writer Jayson Stark

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

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

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]."

-- news services

Michael Cuddyer homered, reigning AL MVP Joe Mauer had two hits and the Twins beat the Orioles 8-3.

The game was called in the top of the ninth inning because of rain.

Kevin Millwood, in line to be Baltimore's Opening Day starter, was hit hard again. He was charged with five runs and nine hits over 2 2/3 innings and has a 29.70 ERA this spring.

Scott Baker, slated to start on Opening Day for Minnesota, worked three effective innings. He limited Baltimore to five hits, including Robert Andino's homer in the third.

-- The Associated Press

Francisco Cervelli is choosing safety over style.

The Yankees' backup catcher will begin wearing a bulky protective helmet similar to one briefly worn last season by Mets star David Wright after he sustained a concussion.

Cervelli talked about the change before Thursday night's game against the Braves was canceled due to rain.

Like Wright last summer, Cervelli was hit in the helmet by a 94 mph pitch that gave him a concussion -- Cervelli's second since November. Cervelli was injured Saturday and was cleared by a neurologist Monday. He is scheduled to play his first game Friday, when the Yankees travel to Viera to face the Nationals.

-- The Associated Press

The Rays have optioned left-handed pitcher Jake McGee to the minor leagues and reassigned shortstop Tim Beckham and catcher Nevin Ashley to minor league spring training camp.

The team announced the moves after Thursday's 4-1 split-squad victory over the Blue Jays.

The Rays did not say which affiliate McGee will be assigned to.

-- The Associated Press

Aaron Cook was hit hard in his second spring start, allowing nine hits and nine runs, five earned, in 2 2/3 innings, as the Rockies were pounded by the Rangers 16-3.

Cook hit Ian Kinsler with a 1-2 pitch during a four-run first when he gave up three hits, including a two-run homer to first baseman Chris Davis, who went 4-for-4 with 3 RBIs. Michael Young was 3-for-3 and Taylor Teagarden knocked in three runs for the Rangers, who had 23 hits.

Cook was hoping to throw 40 pitches or less but ended up throwing 73, leaving after a double by Young during a five-run second inning for Texas. Four of those runs were unearned because of a throwing error by third baseman Ian Stewart on an attempted force play.

-- The Associated Press

Carlos Silva threw three scoreless innings after making an adjustment during a bullpen session, helping the Cubs beat the Padres 8-7.

ilva, acquired from Seattle for Milton Bradley and cash in December, allowed four hits, walked one and struck out none.

Starlin Castro, one of Chicago's top prospects, had two hits and scored three times. The shortstop hit his first homer of the spring in the fifth.

-- The Associated Press

Joey Votto homered for his first hit of spring training, leading the Reds to a 3-1 victory over a Brewers split-squad.

Votto hit a solo shot off left-hander Chris Capuano, who is trying to resume his career after reconstructive elbow surgery. Votto was 0-for-9 before he homered in the sixth inning.

Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto pitched three scoreless innings, a big improvement over his first spring outing.

-- The Associated Press

Russ Ortiz pitched three scoreless innings and Andre Ethier and Casey Blake homered as the Dodgers beat the Royals 6-4.

Ortiz, a veteran right-hander who is a non-roster invitee, gave up two singles, struck out three and walked none. He has worked five scoreless innings and yielded four hits in his bid to make the Dodgers' rotation.

Ethier hit a three-run homer in the third off Gil Meche, while Blake homered in the fifth off rookie left-hander Edgar Osuna.

-- The Associated Press

Tim Lincecum, the two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, doesn't quite look like himself yet at spring training and struggled through 2 2/3 innings in the Giants' sloppy 6-2 loss to the Mariners. He isn't one bit worried.

He is finding his balance, his rhythm -- acknowledging perhaps that he's even thinking about a few too many things at once when it comes to mastering his mechanics. He's not concerned with results this early.

"Stuff-wise I felt like everything was good," Lincecum said. "I think right now everything is just location. I just try to take something positive from each outing. My curveball was breaking really well, the slider was doing well. The changeup when it was down was good, same with the fastball. The only time I really got hurt was Ichiro's hit. ... The key for me is rhythm. My mechanics kind of follow that."

The 25-year-old right-hander had his second subpar outing in as many appearances against the team he once hoped to play for as a kid growing up in Seattle. Lincecum was tagged for six hits, struck out four and walked two in his 59-pitch day. He lowered his spring ERA by nearly half, from 18.00 to 9.82.

-- The Associated Press

Dioner Navarro and the Rays were hoping for the best after a simple pickoff play in the third inning. Navarro was struck by a pickoff throw during the Rays' 16-15 victory over the Pirates and departed with an injured left thumb.

Navarro was hit when Jack Taschner threw over to first. It was diagnosed as a contusion, and he returned to the Rays' complex in Port Charlotte for further evaluation.

Navarro described the ball as pushing his thumb backward.

"I've been hit so many times that I don't even know when my bone is broken," he said. "This one, maybe because I wasn't catching, hurt more than when I'm behind the plate. Hopefully, it's OK."

-- The Associated Press

With the uncertain status of Brandon Webb, newcomer Edwin Jackson's performance thus far this spring must be comforting for the Diamondbacks.

The right-hander, acquired in a trade with the Tigers in the offseason, blanked the Angels on one hit through three innings in Arizona's 4-1 victory. The right-hander has yet to give up a run in five innings this spring.

Jackson, an All-Star with the Tigers last year, will start the season as the Diamondbacks' No. 2 starter behind Dan Haren.

-- The Associated Press

John Lackey is off to a nice start with the Red Sox. The right-hander threw three shutout innings in Boston's 8-2 victory over Jason Bay and the Mets.

Lackey allowed three hits in his second spring outing and has yet to allow a run since he finalized an $82.5 million, five-year contract with the Red Sox in December.

After Lackey was finished on the field, he got some work done in the bullpen before showers caused a 30-minute delay after the fourth inning.

Bay, playing in his first game against his former team, went 0-for-2 before leaving during the delay.

-- The Associated Press

The Marlins got another strong start from ace Josh Johnson but a bad ending from their closer. Johnson struck out four in three scoreless innings before the Cardinals beat up on closer Leo Nunez during a five-run ninth for a 5-3 win.

Nunez, who saved 26 games last season, allowed four hits before leaving with two outs and runners at second and third. He was charged with five runs, three earned.

Johnson, the Marlins' Opening Day starter, struck out the side in the first inning, mixing in a changeup with a fastball that hit 94 mph.

-- The Associated Press

Ace Mark Buehrle won't have his second start of spring training until next Monday as the White Sox seek to keep him rested before the regular season begins.

Buehrle made his first start on March 5 against the Dodgers, allowing an unearned run on three hits with two strikeouts over two innings.

Jake Peavy starts Friday against the Angels in a split-squad game. Gavin Floyd and John Danks, the next two pitchers in the White Sox's projected rotation, get the call Saturday and Sunday against the Brewers and Reds.

Closer Bobby Jenks is also scheduled to pitch on the same day as Buehrle.

-- The Associated Press

Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda and Gaylord Perry gathered for a little reunion and some good-natured ribbing.

Mays, often the instigator with his gentle jabs, razzed Perry and then got it right back. It's not every day these guys turn up together at spring training. On Thursday, they spent the morning leading a team meeting for the San Francisco Giants -- something that has become a spring tradition of sorts for these old greats.

Players took turns greeting the guys before the meeting began.

-- The Associated Press

Third baseman Mike Moustakas, the second overall pick in the 2007 draft, was among seven players reassigned to minor league camp Thursday by the Kansas City Royals.

Also sent down were outfielder David Lough, who hit .325 last season and was the Royals' 2009 minor league player of the year, and left-hander Danny Duffy, who pitched in the Futures All-Star Game and was 9-3 with a 2.98 ERA with Single-A Wilmington.

Other players sent to the minor league camp were outfielder David Robinson, first baseman Ernest Mejia, infielder Mario Lisson and catcher Steve Lerud.

All seven players were non-roster invitees. The Royals have 58 players left in camp.

-- The Associated Press

Left-handers Eddie Guardado and Shawn Estes have been released by the Washington Nationals in the first round of spring training cuts.

The Nationals also reassigned six players to their minor league camp.

Guardado had pitched in two exhibition games and had an ERA of 18.00 in two innings. Estes had made one appearance, pitching one inning to an ERA of 18.00. Both veterans had been signed to minor league contracts with invitations to major league camp.

Right-handers Logan Kensing, Joel Peralta, Ryan Speier, left-hander Victor Garate, outfielder Jerry Owens and catcher Derek Norris were reassigned to the minor league camp.

-- Associated Press

The last time Garret Anderson played first base, he was a 21-year-old prospect playing for the Los Angeles Angels' Triple-A team in Vancouver.

Now he's a 37-year-old veteran in Dodgers camp on a minor-league deal, facing a roster logjam in the outfield and no guarantees manager Joe Torre will keep a left-handed bat on the bench. So Anderson, a longtime outfielder, is digging out his first baseman's glove and headed back to the infield, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Anderson, who signed last week and has yet to appear in a spring training game, says he's doing his best to learn the position, according to the report.

"It wouldn't be instinctive," Anderson said, according to the Times. "As an outfielder, I have an idea of where the infielders are going to be when I throw a ball in. I know where the first baseman is going to be. But to actually have that point of view of it and do it, it's going to be different. I'm going to have to learn some stuff."

-- news services

In years past, when Chris Duncan wanted a pregame word with his father, longtime St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan, he simply walked into his dad's office. On Wednesday, they had to chat outside the batting cage when the Nationals went to play the Cardinals.

Chris Duncan, who is in Nationals camp as a non-roster invitee, spent parts of five years with St. Louis, hitting .293 with 22 home runs in 90 games during the Cardinals' World Series title run in 2006. But injuries limited Duncan's effectiveness the past three seasons. He was traded to the Red Sox in July and released after he hit less than .200 in 92 minor-league at-bats.

"It was kind of tough at the end," Duncan said. "I remember the last game I started at home I was getting booed. The bottom line was that I was not playing well and we were competing for a pennant."

Washington manager Jim Riggleman expects Duncan to compete for a reserve spot on the Opening Day roster. Riggleman has liked what he's seen so far from Duncan, who went 0 for 5 with an RBI on Wednesday, including two strikeouts in the late innings with runners in scoring position.

"In your idle time as a manager when you are scribbling out lineups and rosters on napkins, there are some scenarios where he is there and there are some where he is not," Riggleman said prior to the game. "He's competing and he's going to make it a tough decision for us."

-- The Associated Press

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

General manager Alex Anthopoulos says McGowan looked great Tuesday.

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


February, 20, 2010
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

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

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

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

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' 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

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

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

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

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

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

After watching Takashi Saito's first throwing session of spring training, Braves manager Bobby Cox had one word to sum it all up:


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,

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,

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

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

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

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

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.

-- news services

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

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."



March, 18, 2009
The Chicago White Sox are still looking for their leadoff batter.

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Manager Ozzie Guillen said he and his staff spent "hours" discussing the subject before DeWayne Wise went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in that spot for the White Sox in a 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday.

"I wish I had the answer right now," Guillen said. "You'll see a lot of teams struggle looking for leadoff guys. Not many people in baseball have the ideal leadoff guy, the igniter, the guy who can make things happen."

Other than Wise, the White Sox are considering Jerry Owens for the top spot in the lineup. Both players are also competing for the starting center field job. Another possibility is second baseman Chris Gets, who went 2-for-3 to raise his average to .364.

Wise, who got off to a great start but has faded a bit lately, said he is trying to be more selective at the plate so he can draw walks. But he says "it's kind of tough to do that," because he's not yet an established player who can afford to pass up good pitches.

"It's tough because I'm not like a Jermaine Dye or a Jim Thome Those guys know they're going to be here," Wise said. "I know I got to go up there and hit. At the same time, I want to be able to get on base and draw walks."

Livan Hernandez strengthened his grip on the No. 5 spot in the New York Mets' rotation with five strong innings in a 7-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves.

Hernandez scattered five hits and allowed just one run, striking out three. The right-hander lowered his ERA to 3.07 in 14 2/3 innings this spring.

"[Hernandez] was pretty good," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. "He has a good presence about him on the mound, and in the dugout he brings a different energy. He's put himself in a good position."

Relying primarily on his sinker, Hernandez came nowhere close to his pregame pitch count of 85 before handing a 2-1 lead to Freddy Garcia in the sixth.

Hernandez credited former Dodgers and Giants pitching coach Ron Perranoski with teaching him the sinker while he was with San Francisco in 2003.

Garcia (0-3) struggled again, allowing five runs and seven hits in two innings, raising his spring ERA to 16.71.

"[Garcia's] in a tough spot," Manuel said. "But the good thing is he's healthy and you're happy to see that."

Hernandez's consistency this spring seems to be distancing him from the competition in the race for the final spot in the rotation.

Tim Redding, the only candidate in camp on a major league contract, will start the season on the disabled list, while rookie Jonathan Niese, who is 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA, and Garcia have yet to pitch to the level of Hernandez.

Arizona's Doug Davis cruised in his return to the mound after missing a start with tightness in his biceps.

He held the Brewers without a hit in 2 1/3 scoreless innings in Arizona's 4-1 loss to Milwaukee. The left-hander struck out two, walked one and hit a batter.

"I felt really good out there, sometimes too good, overthrowing a little bit," Davis said.

Davis said he did not completely test his biceps muscle because "I wasn't real confident in snapping off the curveball as of right now." He said he's sure that his confidence in the arm will improve in the coming starts.

"All in all it was a great day," Davis said.

Arizona manager Bob Melvin said OF Eric Byrnes will make his spring debut Friday in center field against the Los Angeles Angels in Tempe.

Byrnes, recovering from hamstring injuries, played left field and went 1-for-4 with a homer in a minor league game on Tuesday.

The loss of CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets to free agency might be a little less painful for Milwaukee with the way Yovani Gallardo is pitching this spring.

The 23-year-old right-hander held Arizona hitless through five innings in the Brewers' 4-1 victory over the Diamondbacks.

Arizona managed just one hit the entire game.

Gallardo, who missed virtually all of last season with knee injuries, faced only 16 batters, one more than the minimum. He struck out three and walked three. Two of the base runners were erased, one on a rundown and the other on a double play.

"It felt great. I think all my pitches were working for me," Gallardo said. "I was able to mix and match every pitch and get ahead of the hitters."

Gallardo has held opponents without a run in four of his five starts this spring. His second shutout performance gives him a string of nine consecutive scoreless innings.

Ken Griffey Jr. will make his first start of the spring in left field when the Seattle Mariners play the San Diego Padres on Thursday.

Griffey has been relegated to DH for Seattle while recovering from offseason knee surgery. The 39-year-old has said he hopes to play in the outfield regularly once the season begins.

Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu says the plan is to play Griffey three consecutive games, first in left then DH then back in left field.

Griffey did not play in the Mariners' road game against Kansas City on Wednesday and is batting only .143 this spring. He has yet to hit his first home run since re-signing with his first team just before the start of camp and hasn't driven in a run.

Jason Hammel is making strides toward earning a spot in Tampa Bay's rotation, and injured outfielders B.J. Upton and Matt Joyce are closer to getting back on the field for the Rays.

Hammel settled down after a shaky start to pitch four innings in the Rays' 7-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. Upton and Joyce saw limited action in a Class A game.

Hammel, competing with Jeff Niemann and David Price for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, allowed three runs and five hits, including Edwin Encarnacion's second-inning homer, and sacrifice flies to Joey Votto and Ryan Hanigan.

"I liked how he came back the last two innings," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He went from 50 pitches for the first two to 19 over the last two innings. I liked the way he settled in and pitched well after that."

Upton, recovering from offseason surgery on his left (nonthrowing) shoulder, played three innings on defense but did not bat.

Maddon said the 24-year-old center fielder, who hit seven homers to tie an AL record for one postseason, will bat and play in the field during another minor league game Thursday.

There's no timetable for him to play in a major league exhibition.

Joyce, sidelined most of spring training by right leg tendinitis, went 1-for-2 with a walk and played three innings in the field.

"It felt really good," said Joyce, obtained this winter in a trade that sent right-hander Edwin Jackson to the Detroit Tigers.

"Just getting your legs back into it. That's the biggest thing, running on and off the field," Joyce said. "You'll be surprised at how quick it fades. How your body has to adjust. [Upton] said the same thing."

All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez was scratched from the Florida Marlins' lineup for a second straight game because of discomfort in his right shoulder.

Ramirez hasn't played since Saturday, when he served as the designated hitter. The Marlins were hoping that he'd be ready after skipping Monday's game and the team's off day Tuesday.

Ramirez told manager Fredi Gonzalez he couldn't play about 10 minutes before the team bus left the Marlins' complex in Jupiter for the drive to Viera to play the Nationals.

Also, the Marlins are preparing to start the season without right-hander Scott Proctor, who hasn't pitched since Feb. 27 because of discomfort from scar tissue in his right elbow.

The Boston Red Sox have released Josh Bard, 2½ months after signing the backup catcher.

Bard will receive $262,295 in termination pay rather than a $1.6 million salary this year. After Wednesday, players with nonguaranteed contracts put on waivers receive 45 days' termination pay rather than 30.

General manager Theo Epstein says the move was made as a testament to the performance of the team's other young catchers, especially George Kottaras, who spent last season at Triple-A Pawtucket and was a September call-up.

Kottaras would move into the backup role behind Jason Varitek. His, primary responsibility will be to catch knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.

Bard played seven games with the Red Sox in 2006. He was signed to catch Wakefield's knuckleball, but struggled and was traded to San Diego along with reliever Cla Meredith for catcher Doug Mirabelli.

Bard batted .202 with a homer and 16 RBIs in 178 at-bats for the Padres last season. His career batting average is .265, with 28 home runs and 168 RBIs in 431 games with the Indians, Red Sox and Padres.

He was hitting .429 in six major league appearances during spring training.

Adam Eaton's bid to join the Orioles' rotation ended better than it started in St. Louis' 3-2 win over the Baltimore. Eaton issued a four-pitch walk to Skip Schumaker to start the first inning then gave up a single to Chris Duncan.

Schumaker scored on Ty Wigginton's errant throw attempting to double-up Albert Pujols. Pujols scored on Ryan Ludwick's single.

"It took me a little bit to get comfortable again," Eaton said. "After that I settled down and made some good pitches, but luck wasn't on my side and a couple balls found a hole."

Eaton, who was released by Philadelphia earlier this spring, allowed only one baserunner after the first inning and faced the minimum nine batters in his final three innings.

"I thought he was better," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley, comparing Wednesday's start to Eaton's first outing. "His changeup was better. His fastball for the most part, with the exception of the first hitter, was down."

With catcher Yadier Molina back, Chris Carpenter had his best outing of the spring.

Molina returned from the World Baseball Classic and caught six scoreless innings from Carpenter in the St. Louis Cardinals' 3-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles.

"Carp makes it look easy," said Molina, who went 1-for-3. "Anytime you catch a pitcher like Carp, it's easy."

Making his fourth start, Carpenter, who missed most of the last two seasons with arm and shoulder trouble, turned in the Cardinals' longest outing so far. He has thrown 14 scoreless innings this spring.

"As the game went on I started feeling better, which is nice," said Carpenter, who retired the final eight batters he faced. "I was able to get my delivery together and start making quality pitches."

While the rest of his Los Angeles Dodgers teammates took a day off, pitcher Chad Billingsley worked five innings in a minor league intrasquad game.

Billingsley, coming back from a broken left ankle, allowed five hits and three earned runs, including a two-run homer to Austin Gallagher, who batted .293 with 33 doubles and 55 RBIs in 78 games last year with Class A Inland Empire.

Billingsley threw 76 pitches and struck out five, allowing one walk and hitting a batter.

He broke his ankle last winter when he slipped on ice outside his home in Pennsylvania. The fracture required surgery.

When Billingsley pitched Wednesday, Hall of Famer Bob Gibson was among those watching the game. His son Chris is a first baseman who signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers last November.

Reliever Adam Miller is facing career-threatening reconstructive finger surgery if he is unable to find a new way to pitch effectively.

Indians trainer Lonnie Soloff said Miller, who underwent surgery on his right middle finger last year, will spend the next seven to 10 days throwing to see if he can command his pitches without pain. If Miller can't, he will have a procedure where a tendon will be taken from his wrist to reattach the tendon in his finger.

Soloff said the operation would cost Miller this season and perhaps end his career. Soloff said a buildup of scar tissue could make it impossible to pitch.

The hard-throwing 24-year-old Miller came to training camp with a chance to win a job in Cleveland's bullpen.

Giants left-hander Randy Johnson is scheduled to start against Seattle on Monday after skipping a turn because of soreness in his biceps.

Manager Bruce Bochy says Johnson's arm is healthy. He was held out of his start Wednesday against the Cubs for precautionary reasons. Johnson is scheduled to pitch a bullpen session Saturday.

The 45-year-old Johnson has a 1.08 ERA this spring, his first with the Giants. He has given up a run in 8 1/3 innings and has 12 strikeouts.

Left-handed reliever Jimmy Gobble was placed on waivers by the Royals and is expected to be released Friday.

The 27-year-old pitcher has been in the organization since 1999 and was 22-23 with a 5.23 ERA in 235 career games. He debuted with the major league club in 2003.

Gobble was 0-2 with an 8.81 ERA and one save in 39 relief appearances last season. A stiff lower back forced him onto the disabled list from July to September, but he didn't allow a run in his final eight appearances after he returned.

By placing him on waivers Wednesday, Gobble will get $221,311 in termination pay instead of $1.35 million salary.

The Royals also signed right-hander Anthony Lerew to a minor league contract and invited him to big league camp.

John Lannan, a rookie in 2008 who started last season in the minors, will be the Nationals' Opening Day starter against the Marlins.

Lannan, 24, went 9-15 with a 3.91 ERA last season. In six innings over two starts this spring, he has not allowed a run.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thome expects to start Wednesday against the Angels.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


March, 16, 2009
Los Angeles manager Joe Torre said that Jason Schmidt, who made his second start of the spring, is no longer a candidate to begin the season in the rotation because there is not enough time for his rehab from shoulder surgery.

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Schmidt threw 42 pitches in two scoreless innings against the A's. With three weeks to go before Opening Day, Torre said there's not enough time to get Schmidt ready to take the No. 5 spot in the rotation.

"This is all about some time down the road, getting him back, but at this point I have no idea when that is," Torre said. "After what he's been through with the surgeries and the whole thing, I think we can look at it as continuing rehabbing."

Schmidt, 36, has not pitched in the majors since June 16, 2007. The three-time All-Star has undergone two shoulder operations since then.

"I'm just trying to get out on the mound," he said. "I'm not looking at opening day or five days from that. I just want to eventually pitch in a game in Los Angeles and pitch in the big leagues. I'm not setting a timetable."

Erik Bedard had a simple goal for his first outing since March 5.

"I was just trying to feel healthy," he said.

Bedard pitched one inning in the Mariners' 4-3 victory over the Dodgers on Monday, allowing one run and two hits. The left-hander, who had been sidelined with sore buttocks, also issued a walk.

"I was just throwing pitches, trying to get people out as I do usually," he said. "My [butt] feels good and that's that. Just warming up I knew it was fine."

Giants ace Tim Lincecum was scratched from Monday's scheduled start against the Angels because of the flu.

Lincecum said he's improving and manager Bruce Bochy said the right-hander is now set to start Wednesday against the Cubs. Lincecum will take Randy Johnson's place -- the Big Unit will skip a turn because of biceps soreness.

"Just precautionary," Bochy said. "It's just a little cranky. That's all normal spring training stuff."

Lincecum is scheduled to start the regular-season opener April 7 against Milwaukee.

The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner has not allowed an earned run while retiring 20 of the 22 batters he has faced in three exhibition starts. He has given up one hit and one walk.

One injury nearly led to another for right-hander Braden Looper.

Looper, who has been sidelined with a strained oblique muscle, took a glancing line drive off the back of his head while throwing the first of two innings in a simulated game. Looper said it didn't faze him and he finished the outing.

"I felt great today physically, even if I wasn't as sharp as you would like," Looper said.

Jeff Samardzija had one more start to prove he deserved serious consideration for the Cubs' starting rotation. He likely made manager Lou Piniella's decision easy.

Bill Hall hit a three-run homer off Samardzija, who gave up five runs in the first inning after getting the first two outs, and the Brewers beat Chicago 9-6 on Monday.

Piniella plans to begin revealing the Cubs' rotation later this week after giving everyone one more start and Samardzija most likely will be in the bullpen because of the emergence of left-hander Sean Marshall as the leading candidate to be the fifth starter.

Samardzija went 1-0 with a 2.28 ERA in 26 relief appearances last season for the Cubs and said he'd be happy in any role.

"I don't know what's going to be next for me, but obviously I'll be ready to pitch. I've said before I don't mind pitching whenever or wherever. I'll just be ready to go whenever they call my name," Samardzija said. "I really don't have a preference, like I said with my pitches and everything and where they're at, I'm pretty happy with them, so I feel like I'll leave it up to the upstairs to make a decision what they feel is best for the team."

Royals right-hander Julio Pimentel will be out at least six weeks with an elbow injury and possibly the season, if surgery is required.

The Royals say Pimentel has a nondisplaced bone spur fracture in his pitching elbow. The bone spur is close to the ulnar collateral ligament.

Manager Trey Hillman says the 23-year-old is waiting for a second opinion on whether he needs surgery.

Pimentel is one of Kansas City's top pitching prospects. He suffered the injury while throwing a pitch Friday against Hank Blalock of the Rangers.

Pimentel was acquired in a 2006 trade with the Dodgers.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa could go with Chris Perez, Jason Motte or Ryan Franklin, who had 17 saves in 25 chances last year when he took over from Jason Isringhausen, as closer. Or he could go with a mix of all three.

"I think we're all getting a little tired of people asking who's the closer," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said. "We've been pretty up front that we're going to use these three weeks."

Franklin believes La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan know whom they want. The manager, however, isn't tipping his hand.

"You just see how they pitch and the impression they give you, and if one guy emerges he becomes the closer," La Russa said. "If he doesn't, they all kind of share it."

Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano had an MRI Monday that found bursitis in his right shoulder and he could play the field on Friday.

Cano will pinch hit or be a designated hitter until then. He had a pinch-hit single during the sixth inning of New York's 12-0 win over the Phillies on Monday.

"It feels better," Cano said. "I'll be ready in a few days."

Cano has experienced tightness behind his right shoulder all spring training. He resumed playing catch before Monday's game.

Cano didn't tell the Yankees about his shoulder problem before joining the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. The Yankees told Cano, who is taking anti-inflammatory medication and performing strength-building exercises, that the next time he has any problem to let the training staff know.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland isn't sure whether injury-plagued reliever Joel Zumaya will be ready for Opening Day.

"I have no predictions," Leyland said Monday.

A day earlier, Leyland said Zumaya probably would not be ready for the start of the regular season on April 6.

Zumaya is a talented but injury-prone 24-year-old power-pitching right-hander who has missed much of the past two seasons. He was scratched from an intrasquad game Saturday because of a neck cramp.

By Monday, Zumaya apparently had improved.

"He feels better," Leyland said. "I'll leave it at that."

Eric Byrnes' return to the Diamondbacks' lineup has been delayed a few days.

Arizona manager Bob Melvin had thought about putting Byrnes in the lineup when the Diamondbacks play Oakland in Phoenix on Tuesday. Instead, the outfielder will play in a minor league game.

"He wanted to play, I wanted him to play, but it's probably the smart thing to do to make sure we cover all the bases before he gets out on the field," Melvin said before Arizona played Colorado on Monday.

The Diamondbacks have Thursday off, and Melvin said Byrnes, recovering from hamstring injuries that sidelined him for all but 52 games last season, could play Friday when they face the Los Angeles Angels in Tempe.

"It makes sense," Byrnes said. "I'm just anxious to be out there, but I think the best thing is to totally listen to the trainers at this point. It's been a nine-month process, so I put my trust in them and I have no problem with it."

Third baseman Pedro Alvarez, the Pirates' top draft pick last year, was among eight players sent back to their minor league camp.

Alvarez and right-hander Ron Uviedo were optioned to Class A Lynchburg. Right-hander Jimmy Barthmaier was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. Right-hander Jeff Sues and catcher Steve Lerud were optioned to Double-A Altoona.

Right-handers Juan Mateo and Daniel McCutchen and infielder Shelby Ford were reassigned to minor league camp as the Pirates trimmed the number of players in their major league camp to 45.

Alvarez signed a major league contract with Pittsburgh last fall, so he already was on the 40-man roster when he reported to his first spring training camp.

"It was a lot of fun," said the 22-year-old Alvarez, who was 8-for-18 (.444) with one homer, five RBIs and three strikeouts this spring. "I didn't really know what to expect. I took it all in, and it was great. It was a great thrill and I learned a lot."

Julio Franco is joining the Mets -- as a minor league manager, not as a player.

The 50-year-old, who had 2,586 hits during 23 major league seasons from 1982 to 2007, will manage the rookie-level Gulf Coast Mets. In addition, New York hired Mike DiFelice as manager of the Kingsport Mets.

Franco, who played for the Mets from 2006 to '07, will be joined at Gulf Coast by pitching coach Frank Fultz, hitting coach Tom McCraw and additional instructor Luis Rojas.

DiFelice spent 13 seasons in the major leagues and was with the Mets from 2005 to '07 before spending last year with Tampa Bay. He'll be assisted by hitting coach Ryan Ellis, pitching coach Jonathan Hurst and bench coach Juan Lopez.

In addition, New York agreed to a minor league contract with 34-year-old infielder Junior Spivey, who hasn't appeared in the major leagues since 2005. He played in two games with Boston during spring training last year, then was released.

All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez was held out of the Florida Marlins' lineup Monday against Washington because of discomfort in his right shoulder.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez said Ramirez should be all right after a couple of days. Florida is off Tuesday.

Ramirez has played two games since returning Friday from the World Baseball Classic after the Dominican Republic was eliminated. He went 1-for-2 with a double while playing shortstop on Friday and then 0-for-3 as the designated hitter on Saturday.

Right fielder Cody Ross was scratched because of tightness in his left calf.

Emilio Bonifacio was at shortstop and Alejandro De Aza played right field against the Nationals.

The Colorado Rockies have optioned pitcher Jason Hirsh and seven other players to the minor leagues.

The right-handed Hirsh, who was vying for the fifth spot in the rotation, is 0-1 with a 12.19 ERA in 10 1/3 innings this spring.

Colorado also optioned pitchers Samuel Deduno, Ryan Mattheus, Shane Lindsay and Steven Register to the minors, along with infielders Hector Gomez, Chris Nelson and Eric Young Jr.

The team reassigned pitchers Cedrick Bowers, Brandon Hynick and Matt Daley, catcher Michael McKenry and outfielder Matt Miller to minor league camp.

With the moves, the Rockies now have 43 players on the major league spring training roster.

Manager Terry Francona said Dustin Pedroia won't be allowed to participate in any baseball activities until Thursday, when he's expected to take batting practice after suffering his abdominal strain during the World Baseball Classic.

Asked if he'd heaved a sigh of relief that Pedroia's injury isn't more serious, Francona replied: "Yes, because originally, we thought it was an oblique [strain]. And we've all been around long enough to know they linger. You hope they're day to day, and they end up being week to week, if not month to month. So yeah, we were relieved."

In other Red Sox injury news, Francona said John Smoltz will throw his first bullpen session of the spring next Wednesday, March 25. Smoltz, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, has been doing his throwing off flat ground, but Francona said he's now making his last 15 pitches from the mound -- with the catcher standing, not squatting -- just to give him a feel for throwing off a mound again.

Francona also said Brad Penny would pitch "a couple of innings" in a minor league spring training game Wednesday.

-- Jayson Stark,

Jerome Williams, trying to return to the majors after his once-promising career was stalled by weight problems, was among eight players the Athletics sent to the minor leagues.

The 27-year-old Williams gave up four runs in nine innings in four games. He won 17 games for the Giants before his 23rd birthday, but he had been bouncing between organizations for four years, pitching in an independent league last season.

"Jerome has come a long way from where he was a year ago," manager Bob Geren said. "He put himself in the mix. Right now the innings just aren't there for him."

The A's also sent down right-hander Kevin Cameron, who had a 2.79 ERA in 48 games for the Padres in 2007. A non-roster invitee, Cameron allowed two earned runs in 3 2/3 innings this spring training

Oakland optioned right-hander Ryan Webb and infielders Jeff Baisley and Eric Patterson to Triple-A Sacramento. The A's reassigned right-hander James Simmons and infielders Joe Dillon and Sean Doolittle.

BRAVES' ROSTER DOWN TO 44 (1:11 p.m. ET)
The Atlanta Braves have optioned right-handers Steve Marek, James Parr, Todd Redmond and Luis Valdez to Triple-A Gwinnett.

Left-handers Francisley Bueno and Mariano Gomez and catchers Phillip Britton and Matt Kennelly were reassigned to the Braves' minor league camp.

Atlanta has 44 players left in its major league camp.

The Washington Nationals have optioned right-hander Tyler Clippard and outfielders Justin Maxwell to Triple-A Syracuse.

The moves trimmed the team's spring roster to 47 players.

Right-hander Marco Estrada and outfielder Leonard Davis also were optioned to Syracuse, while right-hander Luis Atilano and infielder Ian Desmond were optioned to Double-A Harrisburg.

The Nationals also reassigned right-hander Josh Towers, catcher Gustavo Molina, infielders Freddie Bynum and Joel Guzman, and outfielder Jorge Padilla to minor league camp.

All-Star outfielder Ryan Ludwick added extra muscle during the offseason in a quest for even bigger numbers than his 37 homers and 113 RBIs last season.

A 5-for-31 start in spring training wasn't what he had in mind, and he's convinced his upgraded physique isn't the root of his slump.

"I don't think so," Ludwick said Sunday in Jupiter, Fla. "I'm not too worried about it. I've got three weeks and I'm doing the things I need to do to get ready, and just taking it day by day."

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa thinks it's just a matter of the 30-year-old Ludwick settling into his swing. He noted Ludwick reported in great condition and weight trained as a baseball player, not as a bodybuilder.

"I think he lifted smart," the manager said. "He's not bound up at all. He's working every at-bat, tweaking it, searching for that good feeling."

Right fielder Corey Hart sizzled last summer before slumping in September.

This season, Hart hopes he can contribute at the plate when it counts.

"My body was just drained and tired," Hart said Sunday in Phoenix. "I wasn't used to being out there that much. It's the most I'd played, 100 more at-bats than I'd ever had. I was worn down. Physically, I didn't prepare for that kind of season."

Hart hit .289 with 15 homers and 58 RBIs to make his first All-Star appearance after winning the fan vote for the final outfielder spot. He began to struggle soon after, culminating with a miserable final month of the season. In September, he hit .173 with no homers and 10 RBIs and struck out 21 times compared to just three walks.

"I was pressing," Hart said. "I was trying to find it and of course, I was a starter and didn't want to come out of the lineup. It's one of those things, you work in the offseason physically and mentally. I just didn't quite get it done last year."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


March, 12, 2009
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The closer-needy Seattle Mariners have signed veteran right-hander Chad Cordero to a minor league contact and invited him to the final weeks of their spring training camp.

The Mariners announced on Thursday evening they expect Cordero to report to camp Friday. He turns 27 next week.

Cordero has 128 career saves since 2003. He has been out since last May with a shoulder injury sustained while he was with the Washington Nationals.

He eventually had surgery in July and will continue rehabilitating in his first weeks with the Mariners.

Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik said the team will be cautious and patient with Cordero's recovery. He added the Mariners are optimistic Cordero can help them this season.

Dan Haren was excited to face his former team, and it showed. Haren walked three in three innings of the Diamondbacks' 6-1 loss to the Athletics.

Haren, who has allowed six runs in nine innings so far this spring, said he was a little wild because of the extra adrenaline of facing his former team. But he only gave up one run and one hit and struck out four.

"I felt really good," Haren said. "My arm felt really live. The first couple starts of the spring you are really working the kinks out, but today my arm felt great."

Troy Percival pitched a hitless inning in his first action of spring training in the Rays' 3-2 win over the Phillies. The 39-year-old closer is coming back from an injury-plagued season. He made three trips to the disabled list because of hamstring and knee injuries and missed most of September and the postseason because of a lower back injury that required surgery in November.

"It was a step," Percival said. "I was actually forcing myself to mentally throttle back and throw my pitches, but I'd let a couple go, so the next time I'll do a little bit more. I'm gonna take it a step at a time."

Percival, who is eighth in saves with 352, said he will be ready by Opening Day.

"There's not a doubt in my mind," he said.

Rays manager Joe Maddon is beginning to believe that.

"He looks very good to me," Maddon said. "I don't see any kind of hesitation or restriction. So, I think he's in really good shape."

Chris Carpenter's comeback remains solidly on track after four more scoreless innings. The Cardinals' oft-injured ace shrugged off a triple by Josh Reddick on his second pitch of the game then allowed just one more hit in his third spring start as St. Louis beat the Red Sox 4-2.

"It was another step forward," said Carpenter, who threw 46 pitches. "I definitely felt like I was locating better with my fastball and I felt like I was in a little better control of my body."

The 33-year-old Carpenter doubled the inning total from each of his first two spring starts. He hasn't allowed a run in eight innings, giving up only four hits.

"Results-wise, it's obviously been pretty good," Carpenter said. "I'm getting back into the game situations and trying to execute pitches, so it's gone the way I would have hoped so far."

Carpenter has missed virtually all the past two seasons, pitching only 15 1/3 innings last year coming off reconstructive elbow surgery. He underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery in September and had another procedure in November to transpose a nerve in his elbow.

Utility player Alfredo Amezaga has a sprained left knee that's expected to sideline him four to six weeks.

Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez didn't rule out Amezaga returning before the season opener April 6, but baseball operations president Larry Beinfest wasn't optimistic.

"It's doubtful right now," Beinfest said. "He's very valuable to this team. It's tough."

Amezaga, who signed a $1.3 million contract in January, is the team's most versatile player. He played 79 games in center field last year, 19 at shortstop, 15 at third base and 10 at second.

Boston Red Sox prospect Jonathan Van Every left an exhibition game against St. Louis after spraining his right ankle running the bases in the fifth inning.

Van Every, the ninth-place hitter, pulled up while going from first to third on Josh Reddick's two-out single Thursday.

The 29-year-old was batting .150 (3-for-20) after going hitless in two at-bats. He made his major league debut last year and had three stints with Boston, hitting .235 in 17 at-bats with five RBIs in 11 games.

Carlos Zambrano has been picked to make his fifth straight Opening Day start for the Chicago Cubs.

Manager Lou Piniella said Thursday he picked Zambrano over Ryan Dempster for the April 6 start against Houston after discussing the choice with pitching coach Larry Rothschild.

Zambrano was 14-6 with a 3.91 ERA in 30 starts last season. Dempster was 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA and made the NL All-Star team.

Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Fernando Perez will miss the next three months after dislocating his wrist.

Perez was injured in Tuesday's game against the Toronto Blue Jays when he dove to his left for a fly ball.

"That's a play I make all the time, usually once a month or so," Perez said, according to "The whole trick to it is making sure you keep your glove from catching on the ground. My glove has never caught on the ground [before], then that. I'm using a little bit longer of a glove than I have been using, and it got caught under there. So it really surprised me."

"It's a dislocation, and it's unfortunate," Rays manager Joe Maddon said, according to the report. "I talked to him after it had happened, obviously he was very disappointed. He's really coming on as a young player, so it's difficult. But it could have been worse, so three months, we can live with that."

Baltimore Orioles president Andy MacPhail said after Wednesday's spring training game that the team has no intention of contacting Pedro Martinez's representatives about bringing the veteran right-hander aboard, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Martinez pitched for the Dominican Republic in an exhibition game last week and had a solid outing in an appearance against the Netherlands during the World Baseball Classic. But that has yet to translate into offers from major league teams, including the New York Mets, for whom Martinez pitched the past four seasons.

The Orioles already have one veteran arm in camp in Adam Eaton. He has yet to appear in a spring game, but he is younger than Martinez -- and the Phillies are on the hook for all but $400,000 of Eaton's salary.

"Obviously, our pro scouts are out in other camps, looking at other pitchers," MacPhail said, according to the Sun, "but we would have to think it is a meaningful upgrade."

With Jose Reyes headed back to New York Mets camp from the World Baseball Classic, manager Jerry Manuel is once again faced with a lineup question: Should he continue tinkering with the lineup or put Reyes back at the top of the order?

The answer is it's "more than likely" that Reyes will lead off when the season starts next month in Cincinnati, Manuel said Wednesday, according to the New York Daily News.

"When push comes to shove, we have to get him back where he's comfortable," Manuel said, according to the report.

Reyes went 1-for-9 with two walks in the WBC, which he left earlier than expected thanks to the Netherlands' stunning upset of the Dominican Republic. Manuel will wait until Saturday to insert Reyes back into the lineup, according to the report.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.