Category archive: Kansas City Royals

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

Outfielder Brian Anderson is going to give pitching a try.

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- ESPN.com news services

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- ESPN.com news services

KENNEDY CONTINUES TO IMPROVE (9:11 p.m. ET)

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

DUCHSCHERER DECLARES HIMSELF READY FOR SEASON (8:58 p.m. ET)

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

MECHE LEAVES GAME WITH SORE SHOULDER (8:41 p.m. ET)

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

CRISP SLATED TO PLAY OUTFIELD THIS WEEK (8:03 p.m. ET)

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

MCLOUTH LOOKING TO OVERCOME STRUGGLES (7:41 p.m. ET)

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

TALLET GETTING FEEL FOR CHANGEUP (6:27 p.m. ET)

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

GARCIA MAKES CASE FOR ROTATION SPOT (6:21 p.m. ET)

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

RAYS HIT SEVEN HOMERS OFF RED SOX (4:51 p.m. ET)

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

NATIONALS TEE OFF ON METS' PELFREY (4:23 p.m. ET)

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

HAFNER FEELING LIKE HIMSELF AGAIN (4:19 p.m. ET)

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

MARCUM GETS OPENING DAY START FOR BLUE JAYS (3:31 p.m. ET)

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 THROWS IN YANKEES INTRASQUAD GAME (2:12 p.m. ET)

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

NATIONALS SEND DUNCAN TO MINOR LEAGUE CAMP (9:22 a.m. ET)

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.

-- ESPN.com news services

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- Associated Press

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

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

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

-- ESPN.com news services

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

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

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

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

-- ESPN.com news services

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

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

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

-- ESPN.com news services

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

-- ESPN.com news services

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

--ESPN.com senior MLB writer Jayson Stark

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- ESPN.com news services

INDIANS BEING CAUTIOUS WITH WOOD'S MUSCLE SORENESS (6:21 p.m. ET)
Kerry Wood insists everything is fine and there's no reason to worry. The Cleveland Indians aren't taking any chances.

Wood, bothered by soreness in a muscle under his shoulder, did not throw a scheduled bullpen session on Monday so he could get more rest. Cleveland's closer was scratched from a scheduled exhibition appearance on Saturday against Texas because of soreness in the lat muscle in his upper back.

He had been expected to throw on Monday at the club's complex in Goodyear, Ariz., but the Indians decided against it.

The 32-year-old Wood says the injury isn't serious and if it was the regular season, he'd be pitching. But the Indians aren't willing to take the risk and manager Manny Acta hasn't decided when Wood will pitch again. Wood had been penciled in to appear on Wednesday in an exhibition against Cincinnati.

"We'll put together a plan for him," Acta said before the Indians played the Milwaukee Brewers. "It's nothing to worry about, it's just we want to be cautious. He's our closer. He's fine. We've got plenty of days to go before the season starts. There's no need to rush him back out there."

-- The Associated Press

VOLSTAD HURTS SHOT AT MARLINS ROTATION WITH POOR START (6:16 p.m. ET)
Chris Volstad hurt his chances at solidifying a spot in the Florida Marlins' rotation, allowing four runs in 2 1/3 innings in Florida's 5-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Monday.

Volstad allowed five hits and four walks. He has given up eight runs on 11 hits and five walks in his last two outings.

"The first few innings were good. After that a couple of pitches were up, the breaking stuff was not quite as good," Volstad said. "I just need to finish it a little more.

"That's what happened last outing. I need to keep remembering to finish everything."

The right-hander was one of six candidates for three spots in the Marlins' rotation behind Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco. One of those spots, though, appears filled by Anibal Sanchez after his four scoreless innings against the Mets on Sunday.

-- The Associated Press

CUBS LATE AFTER BUS BREAKS DOWN ON WAY TO GAME (6:11 p.m. ET)
The Chicago Cubs showed up for their exhibition game against Colorado about an hour later than expected after their bus broke down on the highway because of engine trouble.

The Cubs chose to skip batting practice when they got to Hi Corbett Field in Tucson on Monday. They decided to just stretch instead.

The Cubs were making a two-hour drive south when the bus broke down. Starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano was lucky -- his cousin was following in a car, so they drove with catcher Koyie Hill to the park.

Cubs manager Lou Piniella wasn't with the team on the bus. He was driving separately with pitching coach Larry Rothschild.

-- The Associated Press

NATIONALS RELEASE LHP VILLONE (4:38 p.m. ET)
Left-handed reliever Ron Villone has been released by the Washington Nationals.

The Nationals signed Villone to a minor league contract last month and invited him to spring training. But Villone had a 16.20 ERA in three relief appearances covering 1 2/3 innings.

The Nationals also sent five pitchers to their minor league camp Monday, including righty Collin Balester.

-- The Associated Press

ROYALS STILL LOOKING FOR FIFTH STARTER (3:54 p.m. ET)
Manager Trey Hillman is still looking for a fifth starter for the Kansas City Royals rotation.

Some of his leading candidates have had rocky beginnings in spring training. Right-hander Kyle Davies, who has made 99 big league starts and 54 for the Royals the past 2 1/2 seasons, has a 15.26 earned run average after three starts.

Robinson Tejeda, who moved into the rotation at the end of last season because of injuries, has a 9.95 ERA after three appearances.

Kyle Farnsworth, who has not started since 2000 with the Chicago Cubs, is another rotation candidate.

-- The Associated Press

WHITE, TOP PICK IN '09, AND GRILLI AMONG INDIANS' CUTS (3:28 p.m. ET)
Alex White, the Cleveland Indians' first-round draft pick in 2009, is among four pitchers being sent to the minors in the club's initial roster cuts of spring training.

White and fellow right-handers Zach Putnam and Jason Grilli were reassigned to the minor league camp. Left-hander Kelvin De La Cruz was optioned to Double-A Akron.

Grilli is out for the season. The veteran, signed to a minor league contract in December, tore his right quadriceps during a running drill on March 5 and is scheduled for surgery this week in Vail, Colo., by Dr. John Steadman.

-- The Associated Press

BREWERS HOFFMAN EXPECTS TO DEBUT FRIDAY (3:24 p.m. ET)
Milwaukee Brewers closer Trevor Hoffman says he'll be ready for his exhibition debut on Friday, although the all-times saves leader isn't sure how many games he'll need to get ready for opening day.

The 42-year-old Hoffman faced hitters on Monday for the first time this spring, throwing 35 pitches to six batters. He's been limited to bullpen work so far in an effort to keep him fresh for the season.

"It felt good," Hoffman said. "It felt good to get a hitter in there and the next progression will have the umpire back there and no screen."

Hoffman has been working through some minor stiffness in his upper back and the Brewers don't want a repeat of last season's spring training when he strained his right oblique and missed the first month of the season on the disabled list.

Hoffman saved 37 games and had a 1.83 ERA in his first years with the Brewers last year, and in the offseason he signed an $8 million, one-year contract with a mutual option for 2011.

-- The Associated Press

TWINS' BLACKBURN COULD MISS NEXT START (3:08 p.m. ET)
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said right-hander Nick Blackburn has a sore right knee and could miss his next scheduled spring training start, The Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported.

Blackburn, who is scheduled to pitch on Tuesday against the Rays, had problems with the knee while in the minors, according to the report.

-- ESPN.com news services

FOGG, DICKEY AMONG METS SENT TO MINORS (12:41 p.m. ET)
Pitchers Josh Fogg and R.A. Dickey were among players the Mets sent down to minor league camp on Monday.

Fogg was competing to be the team's No. 5 starter, while Dickey was hoping his versatility and durability as a knuckleball pitcher would win him a roster spot.

Also sent down on Monday was catcher Josh Thole, one of six catchers the team brought to spring training. Thole was widely expected to start the season at Triple-A Buffalo, where he can gain experience, particularly on defense.

The other Mets players sent down, according to a New York Daily News report, were: Shawn Bowman, Eric Niesen, Jack Egbert, Travis Blackley, Bobby Livingston, Arturo Lopez, Eddie Kunz, Andy Green, Mike Hessman, Mike Cervenak, Jesus Feliciano, Luis Hernandez, Clint Everts and Kirk Nieuwenhuis.

-- ESPN.com news services

A'S CHAVEZ CONTINUES TRANSITION TO FIRST (8:23 p.m. ET)

Playing in two consecutive games for the first time since last April, Eric Chavez handled seven chances at first base flawlessly Sunday in Oakland's 10-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals.

Chavez, who was 0-for-3 at the plate, will sit out two days and then play in two consecutive games again. He said that will be his first real test of the spring.

"It was better than I thought and that's a good sign," Chavez said. "Obviously the next time I go back-to-back will be another hurdle. I'll let my body recover and get ready for two more."

The six-time Gold Glove third baseman is changing positions after season-ending back surgery last June. Chavez moved capably around first base Sunday in his fifth appearance there. He had made one regular-season appearance at first in 2001.

-- ESPN.com news services

PADRES' YOUNG SOLID IN SECOND START (8:19 p.m. ET)

Chris Young had his second straight solid start in his comeback from a shoulder injury in the San Diego Padres' 5-3 win over the Cleveland Indians on Sunday.

Young, whose season ended in June last year, allowed five hits and two runs over 3 2/3 innings.

A healthy Young is penciled in as San Diego's No. 1 starter.

"I liked Chris' increased stamina," said Padres manager Bud Black. "His pitch count was in the mid-60s, his fastball was consistently in the high 80s, which is good for him at this time of year, and he had his best stuff in his last 20 pitches.

"He used all his pitches -- fastball, curve, slider and change, especially working on the slider. He got a lot accomplished."

-- ESPN.com news services

KING FELIX GETS THROUGH SHAKY SPRING DEBUT (7:20 p.m. ET)

Although shaky at times, Felix Hernandez was sharp when he needed to be in his spring debut.

The Seattle ace pitched out of early trouble, allowing four hits over 2 2/3 innings in the Mariners' 5-4 loss to Colorado on Sunday.

This spring, the Mariners have been slowly bringing along Hernandez, who won 19 games last year and finished second in AL Cy Young Award voting.

Before Sunday, Hernandez had thrown just two simulated games. He was on a 50-pitch count against Colorado, but went three over as manager Don Wakamatsu allowed him to throw into the third.

-- ESPN.com news services

JAYS GM: NO AGREEMENT WITH 21-YEAR OLD CUBAN SS (6:00 p.m. ET)

Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos wouldn't deny he's interested in Cuban defector Adeinis Hechavarria, but he declined to comment on a published report that the team might be close to signing the shortstop for $10 million.

The New York Post reported Sunday the Jays were closing in on the talented 21-year-old prospect.

"If there's a report that says we have an agreement, then we don't have any agreement," Anthopoulos said. Asked about the accuracy of the report in the New York Post, he replied: "I don't want to lie and I don't want to comment."

Toronto has had six different opening day shortstops in the past eight seasons and last year's, Marco Scutaro, signed as a free agent with Boston.

-- The Associated Press

PORCELLO'S SPRING SCORELESS STREAK HITS 9 INNINGS (5:07 p.m. ET)

Rick Porcello pitched four scoreless innings and rookie Austin Jackson tripled twice as Detroit beat Tampa Bay 9-6 on Sunday.

Porcello, a 21-year-old right-hander who won 14 games in 2009 as a rookie, has yet to allow a run in nine exhibition innings.

"I felt pretty good," Porcello said. "I'm doing a better job of getting ahead. I'm trying to get a good mix of pitches in there and keep them off-balance."

Porcello faced 15 batters, giving up two hits while striking out one and walking two in an efficient, if not overpowering effort.

-- The Associated Press

TWINS' MAUER HELD OUT AGAIN (5:07 p.m. ET)

The Twins held catcher Joe Mauer out for the second game with a sore right shoulder.

Mauer missed the Twins 5-4 loss to the Phillies on Saturday with the same ailment. He said the injury is not a concern and that he would've played if this were the regular season. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire also scratched first baseman Justin Morneau from the lineup with general soreness.

"We decided to shut them down for a couple of days," Gardenhire said. "We're not going to push it. It's not going to happen."

-- ESPN.com news services

SICK BECKETT SITS OUT START (5:01 p.m. ET)

Boston Red Sox righty Josh Beckett did not make his scheduled start Sunday afternoon against the Minnesota Twins. A Boston spokesperson said he had been scratched due to illness.

Right-hander Ryne Miller, who finished last season with in Double-A Portland, was summoned from minor league camp to make the start in Beckett's place.

"He'll pitch again on his normal day," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said of Beckett. "It might cost him getting stretched out by one inning. He wasn't feeling well. He'll just stay right on his schedule. The biggest thing is for him to get himself better."

The Red Sox beat the Twins 6-4.

-- ESPN.com news services

ROYALS' ANKIEL (ANKLE) OUT AT LEAST A WEEK (3:52 p.m. ET)

Kansas City Royals outfielder Rick Ankiel will miss at least a week of spring training with a right ankle injury.

Manager Trey Hillman said Sunday he would hold Ankiel out of spring training games for another six to seven days with the sore right ankle. Ankiel was scratched from the lineup Friday with the injury and Hillman was optimistic Ankiel could return after a couple of days rest, but the Royals opted to give him additional time off.

"He doesn't know how it happened," Hillman said. "It was a little bit sore the day before [Friday]. That's a mystery to me. I don't think there is anything specific that triggered it."

The Royals signed Ankiel as a free agent on Jan. 25 to be the starting center fielder. He has hit .214 in six exhibition games with a home run, triple and four RBIs.

-- The Associated Press

BLUE JAYS' MCGOWAN THROWS SIMULATED GAME (3:34 p.m. ET)

Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Dustin McGowan has pitched his second simulated game, throwing 44 pitches over two innings.

Barring any right shoulder soreness in the next two days, he expects to throw 50-60 pitches Friday in a game against Blue Jays minor leaguers.

McGowan last pitched in a regular-season game July 8, 2008, before undergoing shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum. He sat out the 2009 season because of setbacks in rehabilitation, one requiring left knee surgery. He is likely to start the season on the disabled list.

-- The Associated Press

MCPHERSON AMONG A'S REASSIGNED TO MINORS (2:50 p.m. ET)

Former major league infielder Dallas McPherson was among the 10 players the Oakland Athletics reassigned to their minor league camp on Sunday.

The team also reassigned right-handed pitchers Sam Demel and Matt Wright, left-handed pitcher Cedrick Bowers, catchers Joel Galarraga and Max Stassi, and infielders Grant Green, Jemile Weeks, Matt Whitney and Corey Wimberly.

The Athletics have 53 players remaining in camp with the 40-man roster and 13 non-roster invitees. The breakdown includes 27 pitchers, four catchers, 12 infielders and 10 outfielders.

"Right now [Kevin] Kouzmanoff is going to start to play a lot more and we're going to use Daric Barton and Eric Chavez at first more often, so we wanted Dallas to keep his at-bats up," A's manager Bob Geren said.

Chavez was scheduled to play in back-to-back games for the first time Monday when the A's host the Kansas City Royals. Geren said it was a planned progression but that it did signal a significant point in Chavez's recovery from shoulder and back issues.

Also, right-hander Justin Duchscherer was bumped back a day to give him a chance to throw a full bullpen session. He will throw in a minor league game on Wednesday.

-- The Associated Press

INDIANS CLOSER WOOD NOT WORRIED (1:27 p.m. ET)

Kerry Wood says he's not worried about missing any more time with the Cleveland Indians because of a sore back.

The veteran closer says missing an outing Saturday was just precautionary. He said the soreness would not have kept him from pitching in a regular season game.

Wood is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Monday and return to the mound Wednesday night against the Cincinnati Reds.

The 32-year-old right-hander missed a few days of spring training a year ago with some back soreness, but went through the 2009 season without a trip to the disabled list. Wood made 12 trips to the DL with various arm ailments and surgeries in 11 years with the Chicago Cubs. He signed a two-year, $20.5 million deal with Cleveland in 2008.

-- The Associated Press

CUDDYER, MAUER HELP TWINS POUND MILLWOOD (11:14 p.m. ET)
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

CERVELLI TO WEAR SPECIAL HELMET (8:04 p.m. ET)
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

RAYS MAKE FIRST SPRING CUTS (7:48 p.m. ET)
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

COOK HIT HARD IN SECOND SPRING START (7:07 p.m. ET)
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

AFTER ADJUSTMENT, SILVA THROWS THREE SCORELESS INNINGS (7:00 p.m. ET)
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

VOTTO HOMERS FOR FIRST SPRING HIT (6:23 p.m. ET)
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

ORTIZ CONTINUES BID TO MAKE DODGERS' ROTATION (6:22 p.m. ET)
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

LINCECUM ROUGHED UP VS. MARINERS (6:17 p.m. ET)
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

NAVARRO INJURES LEFT THUMB (5:58 p.m. ET)
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

JACKSON STEPS UP IN WEBB'S ABSENCE (5:54 p.m. ET)
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

LACKEY'S SHUTOUT STREAK CONTINUES (5:16 p.m. ET)
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

JOHNSON STARTS STRONG, BUT NUNEZ ENDS BADLY (4:50 p.m. ET)
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

WHITE SOX LOOK TO KEEP BUEHRLE WELL RESTED (2:54 p.m. ET)
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

GIANTS HALL OF FAMERS VISIT SPRING TRAINING (1:35 p.m. ET)
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

MOUSTAKAS AMONG SEVEN SENT DOWN BY ROYALS (1:30 p.m. ET)
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

GUARDADO, ESTES CUT BY NATIONALS (10:38 a.m. ET)
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

IF AT FIRST, TRY, TRY AGAIN (10:06 a.m. ET)
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."

-- ESPN.com news services

DUNCAN TRYING TO MAKE IT BACK WITH NATIONALS (9:52 a.m. ET)
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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

General manager Alex Anthopoulos says McGowan looked great Tuesday.

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- The Associated Press

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February, 17, 2010
02/17/10
9:25
AM ET
REPORTS: ESCOBAR HAS SHOULDER DISCOMFORT (11:52 p.m. ET)
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.

RAYS ABANDON NAMING RIGHTS DEAL (9:13 p.m. ET)
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

GREINKE MISSES WORKOUT FOR DENTIST TRIP (6:52 p.m. ET)
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

VILLONE AGREES TO MINOR LEAGUE DEAL (5:02 p.m. ET)
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

COX ON HIS LAST SEASON: NO LOOKING BACK (2:38 p.m. ET)
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.

NEW SPRING NEST, NEW ATTITUDE FOR ORIOLES (2:30 p.m. ET)
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.

PAPELBON USED BLOWN SAVE TO SPUR WORKOUTS (9:41 a.m. ET)
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]."