Category archive: Tampa Bay Rays


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


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

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

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

-- Associated Press


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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press


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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press


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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press


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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press


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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday says he expects to return to the team's starting lineup on Monday for a spring training game against the Boston Red Sox, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported.

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

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

-- news services

Third baseman Jorge Jimenez, a Rule 5 draft pick, has been offered back to the Red Sox, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.

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

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

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

-- news services

Athletics right-handed reliever John Meloan says he has a torn elbow ligament and expects he will have season-ending surgery, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

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

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

-- news services


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

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

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

-- Associated Press


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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press


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

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

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

-- Associated Press


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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press


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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press


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

Vintage Pettitte.

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press


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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press


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

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

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

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

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

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

-- news services


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press


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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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


February, 17, 2010
The Mets plan to proceed with caution as reliever Kelvim Escobar experiences discomfort in his right shoulder, according to multiple media reports.

Mets spokesman told The Star-Ledger Wednesday that the team had planned to move slowly all along with Escobar.

Escobar, an 18-game winner in 2007, missed nearly all of the past two seasons with the Los Angeles Angels because of shoulder trouble. Escobar signed a one-year deal with the Mets in late December. If healthy, he would likely work out of the bullpen for the Mets, who are looking for setup help for All-Star closer Francisco Rodriguez.

The 33-year-old Escobar has extensive relief experience from his days in Toronto. He came up with the Blue Jays in 1997 and saved 38 games in 2002.

-- Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

The Tampa Bay Rays are reconsidering plans to change the name of their spring training stadium.

The team announced Wednesday that it has decided to "defer pursuit" of a deal for naming rights to Charlotte Sports Park.

Under a proposed 15-year partnership with The Mosaic Company, the ballpark would have been called Mosaic Field at Charlotte Sports Park.

The proposed arrangement drew opposition from some local residents.

-- The Associated Press

Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke has missed his first scheduled bullpen session for the Kansas City Royals because he had to get two teeth pulled.

Greinke left camp Wednesday with puffiness in his right jaw after he said he had a wisdom tooth and a broken tooth extracted.

Greinke said he would play catch Thursday and, if all goes well, resume throwing off the mound Friday. Greinke went 16-8 with a 2.16 ERA last season and has been named the Opening Day starter.

Jose Guillen was among the few players who did not check into camp. General manager Drayton Moore says he expects the veteran outfielder to arrive by Monday, when all position players are scheduled to report.

-- The Associated Press

Left-hander Ron Villone is staying with the Washington Nationals, agreeing to a minor league contract.

The 40-year-old would get a $900,000, one-year contract if added to the 40-man roster and would have the chance to earn an additional $700,000 in performance bonuses.

Villone agreed to a minor league deal before the 2009 season and went 5-6 with one save and a 4.25 ERA in a team-leading 63 games. He has a 61-65 record with a 4.73 ERA in 15 big league seasons.

-- The Associated Press

Getting ready for Friday's start to his final spring training as a major league manager, Atlanta's Bobby Cox insists he will not attempt to savor this visit to Florida more than any other.

"I think I did it the right way. Now I've got to do it and there's no looking back," he said while relaxing in his office at Turner Field this month.

Cox is entering his 21st consecutive season as Braves manager -- the longest tenure of any active manager -- and 25th overall. During two stints with the Braves and four seasons with Toronto, Cox has won 15 division titles -- including 14 straight with Atlanta -- five pennants and one World Series.

Now, Cox says a return to the playoffs would be the best reason to celebrate in 2010.

"It's no different," he said. "We still have a job to do. Just because I'm retiring, you're expected to win and give everything you've got."

-- Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

The Orioles begin 2010 with a new spring training home in Sarasota, Fla., and a commitment to ending 12 consecutive years of losing. Manager Dave Trembley and team president Andy MacPhail say they're done blaming youth and inexperience for results like last season's 64-98 finish.

"There needs to be improvement on a more consistent basis from everybody, and I think we have enough guys that we'll do that," Trembley said.

The additions include third baseman Miguel Tejada, first baseman Garrett Atkins, closer Mike Gonzalez and starting pitcher Kevin Millwood.

But the new additions come with questions. Can Tejada make the switch from shortstop to third? Can Atkins bounce back from an awful season that cost him a starting job in Colorado? And can young pitchers including Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz, Jason Berken, Chris Tillman and Dave Hernandez make progress?

"You're not going to win in any division without pitching. If you can build it through your own system, then you're a step ahead," Millwood said. "It's going to be a lot cheaper and you have control of your guys for a lot longer. Getting it done the way they're getting it done is definitely the way to go."

-- Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

All the motivation Jonathan Papelbon needed in the weight room this offseason was on tape -- the footage of his blown save against the Los Angeles Angels in Game 3 of the American League Division Series. The loss ended the Boston Red Sox's 2009 season and his streak of 26 scoreless postseason innings pitched.

"I've got it on tape and I watched it 100 times in my weight room,'' Papelbon told reporters on Tuesday. "I used it as motivation when I was feeling tired and weak. I'd pop it on, and kind of go over and say, 'There's still work to be done.' ''

The footage has also reminded Papelbon to be more mindful of pitch selection. Last season, he came to rely heavily on his fastball, using his split-fingered fastball less. Sometimes that worked; sometimes, opposing hitters adjusted to the heat.

"I think when you're successful at one certain aspect of your game, and mine was being able to locate my fastball, towards the end of the season, I tended to really rely on that a lot," Papelbon told reporters. "And until I got hurt with it ... I went with it. Hindsight's 20/20 now, but obviously I'm going to take that in consideration and try to be a little bit more selective with my [pitches]."


April, 1, 2009
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The Kansas City Royals traded first baseman Ross Gload and cash to the Florida Marlins on Wednesday for a player to be named.

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Glavine passed his final spring test Wednesday.

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

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

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

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

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

Athletics' manager Bob Geren finally announced the team's rotation after Wednesday's 8-8 tie with the Cubs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top Tigers pitching prospects Rick Porcello and Kyle Perry found out Wednesday they made the opening day roster. Porcello, selected in the first round of the 2007 draft, and Perry, Detroit's first-round pick last year, haven't pitched above Class A.

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

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

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

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

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

Although Rays manager Joe Maddon has not officially set the roster, several important decisions were made Wednesday.

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

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

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

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

Right-hander Kris Benson, who last pitched in the majors in 2006, has made the Texas Rangers' starting rotation.

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

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

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

The Yankees got a major scare in Opening Day starter CC Sabathia's final spring training start. The left-hander had Jason Ellison's line-drive RBI single go off his glove in the second inning of New York's 8-5 win over the Phillies.

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

Third baseman Troy Glaus is expected to miss at least two months following a setback in his rehabilitation from arthroscopic shoulder surgery in January. Glaus was originally expected to miss only a few weeks of the regular season. But on Wednesday, the Cardinals said Glaus will be re-evaluated around June 1.

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

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

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

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

The Seattle Mariners have placed Cesar Jimenez on the 15-day disabled list and optioned Garrett Olson to Triple-A Tacoma, leaving the team without a left-hander in the bullpen to start the season.

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

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

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

The Baltimore Orioles have acquired infielder Roberto Andino from the Florida Marlins for pitcher Hayden Penn.

The Orioles announced the trade Wednesday.

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

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

Chan Ho Park and J.A. Happ both wanted to be the Philadelphia Phillies' fifth starter. But only one could have the job, and the Phillies chose Park on Tuesday.

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

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

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

Boston right-hander Clay Buchholz had a strong spring training. Whether he starts the season with the Red Sox is now out of his hands.

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

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

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

The Cleveland Indians have traded right-hander Edward Mujica to the San Diego Padres on Wednesday for future considerations or cash.

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

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

Right-hander Jeff Karstens has won the final spot in the Pittsburgh Pirates' starting rotation.

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

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

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harden lost seven pounds after eating tainted chicken salad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ryan said he's moving in the right direction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rays released former All-Star Morgan Ensberg.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pirates have 35 players remaining in camp.

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

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

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

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

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

--'s Jayson Stark

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

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

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

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

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

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


March, 28, 2009
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Tim Lincecum got in some work on the mound in a minor league warmup against the Los Angeles Angels.

The NL Cy Young winner, trying to improve his mechanics, allowed one run on five hits and struck out six in five innings Saturday night for the San Francisco Giants.

San Francisco held Lincecum out of the team's game against San Diego because he could face the Padres twice in the first three weeks of the regular season. Lincecum is scheduled to start the first game of the Bay Area series against Oakland on Thursday before facing Milwaukee in the Giants' regular-season opener April 7 at AT&T Park.

"I can't emphasize it enough, the rhythm thing," Lincecum said. "I just haven't found a consistent track to keep holding onto that rhythm. It's a little frustrating, but I'm glad I got a little bit more time before the season starts. [Spring training] is always a matter of trying to get everything back. It's a matter of getting your body used to the games, the grind, everything. Just taking all that in.

"Every year, it's trying to get that again and again."

Jason Hammel made his case to win a spot in Tampa Bay's starting rotation, tossing five scoreless innings in the Rays' 5-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday.

Hammel walked Willy Taveras to start the game, but picked him off first base for the first out. Hammel sailed from there, allowing just two hits and striking out four.

"I just went back to the aggressive approach that I was using early in camp," Hammel said. "It was basically just attack. I wasn't going to walk guys today. The one walk to Willy was pretty close."

Manager Joe Maddon was pleased with the way Hammel commanded his fastball, pounding it low in the strike zone. He also liked the way the right-hander was able to shake off his previous outing against the Pirates, in which he allowed four runs on six hits and walked five in four innings against the Pirates.

Hammel is competing with Jeff Niemann for the final spot with the runner-up headed to the bullpen as the long man.

John Lackey received a cortisone shot to hasten the healing process for his sore right elbow Saturday.

"It's difficult to quantify but I don't think it's anything major," said Dr. Lewis Yokum, who flew in to examine Lackey. "Obviously it's frustrating for him."

Yokum said the current elbow strain is unrelated to the elbow injury that caused Lackey to miss the first six weeks of last season. This strain is on the inside of the elbow while last year's was on the outside.

Lackey, who will almost certainly open the season on the disabled list, will rest the arm for at least three to four days. Yokum said it's a coin flip as to how long he'll need once he begins throwing again. "Hopefully we got the elbow quieted down. It could be a couple weeks. But if we didn't get rid of the inflammation, it could be longer.''

With Ervin Santana (elbow) and Kelvim Escobar (labrum) also likely to open the year on the d.l., Joe Saunders, Jered Weaver, Dustin Mosely, Nick Adenhart and Shane Loux are the probable rotation when the season opens.

Escobar threw 40 pitches and retired the first 10 batters he faced in a minor league game Saturday.

-- writer Jim Caple

Shairon Martis and Jordan Zimmermann have won the last two spots in the Washington Nationals' starting rotation.

Martis will start the year on the big league roster, but Zimmermann will start the year in the minors before his first start against Florida on April 19.

The Nationals also placed outfielder Wily Mo Pena on waivers Saturday, and reassigned infielder Jose Castillo and outfielder Corey Patterson to minor league camp.

Catcher Javier Valentin also was reassigned, but opted out to become a free agent. Pitcher Collin Balester also was reassigned to Triple-A Syracuse.


Catcher Ronny Paulino was traded Saturday for the second time in 24 hours and the third time since December, and he's now with the Florida Marlins.

The San Francisco Giants sent Paulino to Florida for minor-league right-hander Hector Correa. The deal was announced Saturday after Paulino was traded Friday night to the Giants from the Philadelphia Phillies for left-handed pitcher Jack Taschner.

Paulino is expected to share playing time with John Baker. Paulino was traded to the Phillies from Pittsburgh last Dec. 10 for catcher Jason Jaramillo. He had spent his entire career with the Pirates and hit .212 last year while being limited to 40 games because of a sprained ankle.

Derek Jeter bruised a knuckle on his left pinkie during a collision at first base in the first inning of the New York Yankees' game against Atlanta on Saturday, but remained in the game.

He played three innings in the field, and the team said Jeter is fine.

The Yankees captain ran into Braves first baseman Greg Norton, who moved along the first-base line to catch a throw from second baseman Martin Prado after Prado fielded Jeter's grounder.

Cincinnati Reds right-hander Aaron Harang got a quicker start on his offseason conditioning program.

The stocky starter lost 33 pounds in an effort to make sure last year's hideous 6-17 season didn't happen again.

The 6-foot-7 pitcher is noticeably thinner around the middle. During his career-worst season in 2008, he topped out at 284 pounds. He was hurt for nearly a month, with a strained right forearm disabling him from mid-July to early August.

"That was a tough year on him last year," manager Dusty Baker said. "Different people handle those tough years in a different way. But I think he really dedicated himself over the winter. You don't lose that weight in a month. You dedicate yourself for three or four months. It's really tough to do that.

"It shows you how badly he wanted to return to excellence."

Once glance says it all.

The Cleveland Indians optioned outfielder Trevor Crowe and utility player Chris Gimenez to Triple-A Columbus of the International League on Saturday.

Crowe, drafted in the first round out of Arizona in 2005, lost a battle to veterans Tony Graffanino and Josh Barfield for the final position-player spot on the roster. The switch-hitter batted .289 with one homer and three RBIs in 17 spring exhibition games.

The 26-year-old Gimenez hit .357 with two homers and seven RBIs in 20 games at catcher, first base, third base, left field and right field.

"He's put himself on the radar," Wedge said of Gimenez, a 19th-round pick out of Nevada in 2004.

The Pirates reduced their spring training roster to 37 players Saturday by optioning outfielder Steve Pearce and catcher Robinzon Diaz to Triple-A Indianapolis and assigning infielder Anderson Machado to their minor league camp.

Diaz was sent down after the Pirates settled on Jason Jaramillo as catcher Ryan Doumit's backup. Jaramillo was acquired during the offseason from the Phillies for former Pirates starting catcher Ronny Paulino, was dealt by Philadelphia to San Francisco on Friday for reliever Jack Taschner.

Pearce was unable to break into a now-crowded outfield that added Eric Hinske and Craig Monroe during the offseason and is expected to play first base at Indianapolis. Pearce hit .212 this spring with no homers and three RBIs.

Don't count on seeing starter Jeremy Bonderman or reliever Joel Zumaya on Detroit's active roster when the Tigers start the regular season.

"In my personal opinion, it's highly unlikely that [Bonderman] will be ready to start the season," manager Jim Leyland said Saturday in Dunedin, Fla., where the Tigers were playing the Blue Jays.

Leyland said the same goes for Zumaya, who has yet to pitch in an actual game this spring. Zumaya threw in a minor-league intrasquad game on Saturday, but the team didn't disclose the results of that outing.

Bonderman is scheduled to start on Sunday in Lakeland and throw 50 pitches against the Braves.

Last season, the Tigers unsuccessfully tried to bring Bonderman and Zumaya back from injuries. It didn't work, and there won't be a repeat of that strategy this year, Leyland said.

"We've gotta use our brains [with Bonderman]," Leyland said. "The same goes for Zumaya. We're not going to rush them back. ... I've had enough of that. We don't want to go through that again."

If Bonderman isn't ready for Opening Day, Zach Miner is likely to wind up in the Tigers' rotation. And 20-year-old Rick Porcello, a highly-touted prospect, is still very much in the mix for a roster spot.

How much? Leyland, rather than take the bus from Lakeland to Dunedin on Saturday morning, stayed behind to watch Porcello throw a bullpen session, then drove to Dunedin on his own.

Leyland said he wanted to have a few words with Porcello. "I just wanted to talk to him. I wanted to make a few comments. I think that was really important," he said.

-- baseball writer Jayson Stark


John Lackey is doubtful to start for the Angels on Opening Day after an MRI revealed inflammation in his throwing elbow. Lackey was expected to start the season on the disabled list.

Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Friday that "right now, it's definitely unlikely" Lackey will be ready for the April 6 game against the Oakland Athletics, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Lackey joins Ervin Santana, out with a sprained elbow ligament, and Kelvim Escobar, who is rehabbing from shoulder surgery, as Angels starters recovering from injury.

"We have starting pitching depth, but right now we're stretching it as far as we're comfortable with," Scioscia said, according to the newspaper.

The Boston Red Sox will send Josh Beckett to the mound on Opening Day against the Tampa Bay Rays, manager Terry Francona said Saturday. James Shields will oppose Beckett in the opener, on Monday, April 6 at Fenway Park. On Wednesday, the Red Sox will start Jon Lester against the Rays' Scott Kazmir.

On Thursday, Daisuke Matsuzaka will go for Boston against Tampa Bay's Matt Garza.

Francona also said that Lester and Matsuzaka will start a pair of exhibition games April 3-4 against the New York Mets at their new home, Citi Field.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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

He backed that up on Sunday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ivan Rodriguez looked right at home with the Houston Astros.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Peter Gammons, ESPN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.


March, 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, 2 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.