March, 25, 2009
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Chicago Cubs right-hander Rich Harden pitched four innings in a minor league game Wednesday.

Harden was scratched from his March 20 start because of a stomach ailment, which he attributed to food poisoning. He threw 63 pitches against Sacramento, the Oakland Athletics' Triple-A affiliate.

"I felt pretty good," he said. "I think I'm going to be feeling better five days from now."

Harden is scheduled to start Monday against Kansas City and next Saturday in an exhibition game against the New York Yankees at new Yankee Stadium. He is on track to start the fourth game of the regular season, April 10 at Milwaukee.

Harden has a history of shoulder problems, and the Cubs have been easing him into action this spring. He has pitched in only two Cactus League games, going 0-0 with a 5.79 ERA.

RED SOX GET CHERRY (10:33 p.m. ET)
The Boston Red Sox have signed right-hander Rocky Cherry to a minor league contract.

The 29-year-old Cherry was 0-3 with a save and a 6.35 ERA in 18 relief appearances for the Baltimore Orioles last year. He spent most of the season at Triple-A Norfolk, where he was 0-1 with a 2.89 ERA in 28 relief appearances.

The Florida Marlins traded right-hander Eulogio De La Cruz to the San Diego Padres on Wednesday.

The Marlins said they would get a player to be named or cash in the deal, while the Padres' release just mentioned a player to be named.

De La Cruz was acquired by the Marlins in an eight-player trade with the Detroit Tigers in December 2007. He made his major league debut last season and had no record with an ERA of 18.00 in six games.

The Marlins also optioned right-hander Tim Wood to Double-A Jacksonville and reassigned infielder Chris Coghlan to their minor league camp.

A stiff wind blowing out to center field made things difficult for the pitchers Wednesday. Torii Hunter had it worse, though

The Angels center fielder had a ball deflect off his nose in the first inning, turning a drive by Jeff Baker into a two-run inside-the-park homer, but Los Angeles beat the Colorado Rockies 18-11.

Hunter tried to make a leaping catch at the wall but the ball hit the padding and struck him in the face. He had to leave the game. X-rays were negative.

Jered Weaver was hit hard again, giving up seven hits, six runs -- five earned -- and three homers in 4 1/3 innings.

Jason Marquis allowed 10 hits, 12 runs -- 11 earned -- with four walks over 3 1/3.

Bartolo Colon took a big step toward making the Chicago White Sox's starting rotation Wednesday, pitching two-hit ball into the fifth inning of a 5-4 win over the Oakland Athletics.

Colon, coming back from offseason elbow surgery, struck out four in 4 1/3 innings and did not walk a batter. He threw 33 of 43 pitches for strikes.

Also for the White Sox, Jose Contreras gave up four runs -- three earned -- in four innings, while striking out three and walking one. Contreras is coming back from a ruptured Achilles tendon. He originally wasn't expected back until midseason.

John Parrish and Brad Hennessey, minor league invitees who were competing for spots in the starting rotation before getting hurt, were among eight cuts made by the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday.

Parrish will return to Baltimore this week to undergo diagnostic arthroscopic left shoulder surgery to determine the cause of soreness. Hennessey injured his right elbow in the Orioles' Grapefruit League opener and hasn't appeared in an exhibition game since.

Both were reassigned to the team's minor league camp in Sarasota along with infielders Donnie Murphy and Justin Turner, and outfielder Justin Christian.

Carl Pavano rebounded from a rough outing with six strong innings Wednesday, and the Cleveland Indians beat the San Diego Padres 8-4.

Pavano, who appeared in only 26 games in four seasons for the Yankees after signing a $39.95 million contract in 2005, has had his share of struggles this spring. He entered the game with a 9.82 ERA, but threw 53 of 77 pitches for strikes Wednesday and was the first Indians pitcher to go six innings this spring. He gave up six runs over four innings in his last start.

Right-hander Danny Graves has been granted his release by the Houston Astros.

The club announced the move Wednesday.

The move makes Graves, an 11-year-veteran, a free agent.

He began spring training with the major league club, posting a 6.43 ERA in seven relief appearances. He was reassigned to minor league camp on Sunday and was given permission to talk to other teams.

Graves has a career record of 43-44 with 182 saves and a 4.05 ERA in 518 games with Cleveland, Cincinnati and the New York Mets.

Dennys Reyes made his debut in a St. Louis Cardinals uniform Wednesday, pitching a scoreless inning of relief in a 4-3 loss to the Houston Astros.

Reyes, who is with his 10th club after signing a two-year deal with the Cardinals earlier this month, showed little signs of rust after having not thrown since making three appearances for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. Mexico was eliminated in the second round March 16.

On Wednesday, he entered the game in the top of the eighth with the score tied at 3 and faced four batters, surrendering only a double to Hunter Pence.

Houston's starter Russ Ortiz is competing for the fifth spot in the starting rotation and had a two-hit shutout going into the fourth inning before giving up back-to-back, two-out doubles to Ryan Ludwick and Khalil Greene.

Ortiz left after the fifth inning, having allowed one run on five hits with two walks and four strikeouts. His delivery and routine on the mound were hampered because of a stomach illness.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa left before the game started to fly to Richmond, Va., for the visitation for his mother-in-law, Mozelle Coker, who died Monday. He also will miss Thursday's game against the New York Mets.

Oliver Perez's outing Wednesday alarmed his manager, not because he gave up six runs but because he walked six in 3 2/3 innings of the New York Mets' 10-6 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday.

Tigers starter Nate Robertson left the game with a sprained thumb on his pitching hand. Robertson, competing for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, was hit by a throw while trying to cover first base in the bottom of the first inning.

Mets manager Jerry Manuel said he will watch Perez, who gave up five hits, carefully in his next couple of outings.

"I think when you don't have command and you don't have that extra velocity, you're going to struggle and that's what happened today," Manuel said. "[Perez] had neither. We have some things to work out."

Tigers shortstop Adam Everett also left the game in the top of the first after spraining his ankle sliding into second base.

Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez and set-up man J.J. Putz saw their first game action since returning from the World Baseball Classic. Each tossed a scoreless inning in a minor league game Wednesday.

Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte threw 83 pitches over 5 1/3 innings in a minor league game on Wednesday.

Pettitte allowed five runs -- one earned -- and seven hits for Class A Tampa against Philadelphia's Clearwater team. All the runs came in the second, when Tampa committed three errors.

"I felt good with everything," Pettitte said. "Obviously you always wish you could have a little better command sometimes. All in all, it was good. Got through it. Stretched me out."

Pettitte struck out three and walk one. He had an aching left shoulder during the latter part of 2008, but has experienced no problems during spring training.

"It's been great," Pettitte said. "I didn't think it was going to be a concern going into the season. I'm hoping that I worked hard enough that I shouldn't have any problems."

Pettitte went 14-14 with a 4.54 ERA in 33 starts last year.

Veteran outfielder Trot Nixon was released by the Milwaukee Brewers, leaving three players competing for two outfield spots on the Opening Day roster.

Nixon, who will be 35 on April 11, was a non-roster invitee with four hits in 38 spring at-bats.

Brewers manager Ken Macha on Wednesday said the decision was tough because Nixon's career meant so much to him. Macha managed Nixon for four years in Boston's minor league system.

Macha asked general manager Doug Melvin to release Nixon now so he might catch on with another major league team. Nixon has 137 homers and 555 RBIs with a .274 average over 12 seasons, 10 with Boston.

Tony Gwynn Jr., Chris Duffy and Brad Nelson are the finalists for the two backup slots.

Left-hander Mark Buehrle will be held out of his scheduled start Thursday against Arizona, but the White Sox were hardly sounding an alarm.

"We're going to take care of Buehrle, meaning we're not going to pile up innings or pile up work," pitching coach Don Cooper told reporters Tuesday. "He'll be in line for the opener."

Rather than start against the D-backs, Buehrle is expected to throw a side session that day, rest for a few days, then make a final spring start next Tuesday. If he's fine in the coaching staff's eyes, he'll get a five-day respite before getting Chicago's Opening Day start at home against Kansas City on April 6.

"Buehrle is fine," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "We have a different schedule for him right now. I expect him to be ready for the start of the season. He's going to throw on the side the next couple of days and we'll see, but the one guy we have to worry about the least is him."



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