Spring Training Blog: March 24

March, 24, 2010

Hiroki Kuroda is back on track and making a late bid to be the Los Angeles Dodgers' Opening Day starter for a second straight year.

Kuroda gave up one hit over 5 1/3 innings in his most impressive outing of the spring, striking out two and walking two to help the Dodgers to a 3-3 tie with the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday night.

Los Angeles manager Joe Torre is expected to announce his Opening Day starter this week and Kuroda is among four pitchers being considered.

"Kuroda was really smooth," Torre said. "I don't think he tried to rush. He just kept his composure and eventually he was able to do what he needed to do."

The A's didn't get a hit until Jack Cust's one-out single to center in the fifth. Kuroda, who is entering the final year of a three-year contract with Los Angeles, retired Adam Rosales and Cliff Pennington to end the inning then got Crisp on a comebacker to open the sixth.

The effort could earn Kuroda a second straight Opening Day start. Torre will choose from a group that also includes lefty Clayton Kershaw and right-handers Chad Billingsley and Vicente Padilla.

-- The Associated Press


The Padres' 2-1 comeback on Wednesday took a victory away from Mariners starting pitcher Jason Vargas, who helped his chances of making the rotation with five shutout innings.

Vargas, who was 3-6 with a 4.91 ERA in 23 appearances for the Mariners in 2009, limited the Padres to six hits and struck out four.

He could wind up as the Mariners' fourth or fifth starter depending upon Cliff Lee's health. The effort lowered Vargas' spring ERA to 2.89 and he said the key has been repeating his delivery and keeping the ball down in the strike zone.

"I felt good," said Vargas, who threw 80 pitches. "It's been going well as far as carrying over what we've been working on into games. I like the road that we're on."

The road for Lee, who is battling a strained abdomen, isn't as clear but the left-hander is scheduled to throw off flat ground again on Thursday.

Lee, who was acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies in a three-team trade in December, said he felt better after a throwing session on Tuesday morning though he could "still feel it."

-- The Associated Press


Reds left-hander Aroldis Chapman took treatment on his lower back Wednesday morning and had a meeting with Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker, who told him to communicate his injuries.

"In Cuba guys are taught not to complain," Baker said.

Chapman left after the meeting to get a social security card, then returned for treatment.

The Cuban defector left Monday's game early because of a stiff lower back, which had been bothering him for several days.

The 22-year-old Chapman has been the talk of the Reds' camp with a fastball that has been clocked at 100 mph. His strong showings made him a candidate for the fifth starter's spot.

The back problems could change that equation. After an examination Monday, the Reds said he was having back spasms.

-- ESPN.com news services


Torii Hunter hit his first two homers of spring, Hideki Matsui connected for the first time and Mike Napoli for his fifth, and the Los Angeles Angels beat a split squad of Kansas City Royals 8-6 on Wednesday using what will likely be their Opening Day lineup.

"This is a lineup you'll see at some point in the season," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "This is a lineup we're excited about. These next eight to 10 days we'll get a little idea of the continuity in the workings. If we don't juggle it from here it's a lineup that makes sense."

The lineup Wednesday had Erick Aybar batting leadoff hitter and Brandon Wood starting at third base, with Maicer Izturis in a utility role.

The loss of Chone Figgins to Seattle via free agency left the leadoff spot and third base open. Izturis figured to compete with Aybar for the leadoff spot and was a candidate to start at third.

-- The Associated Press


Playing in a minor league game on Wednesday, Cubs OF Xavier Nady had an uneventful day in right field in his first defensive appearance this spring. He did get hit in the right hand by a pitch but was OK.

Nady, a free-agent acquisition, is recovering from his second Tommy John surgery and will be limited in the early part of the season.

-- The Associated Press

SANTANA 'READY TO GO' (6:51 p.m. ET)

Johan Santana looks ready for the regular season.

The left-hander gave up two runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings, stretching beyond the fourth for the first time this spring, and the New York Mets beat the Houston Astros 5-2 Wednesday.

It was Santana's fourth appearance since undergoing elbow surgery to remove bone spurs in September.

"I'm pretty much ready to go," Santana said. "I was able to throw my changeups down. A couple I missed, and they stayed up, but for the most part everything was down. Being able to go out a sixth inning and work, that was fun."

Manager Jerry Manuel said Santana will pitch in a minor league game for his last start of spring training because the Mets are playing teams from the National League East around the time his next turn comes up. He is not concerned about getting Santana more innings against major leaguers before the season starts.

Fifth-starter contender Jonathon Niese pitched two scoreless innings for the Mets on short rest after getting in one inning of work Sunday during a rainout against the Astros. He allowed just two hits and struck out two before Francisco Rodriguez closed the game, striking out the side in the ninth.

Niese, who finished with another 40 pitches in a side session, looks to be penciled into the No. 5 spot in the rotation with Fernando Nieve likely headed to the bullpen.

"The last time we called him up [last season], he was impressive, and we have not seen anything different from that," Manuel said. "I kind of see that might fit better for us as we speak here today."

-- The Associated Press


Tampa Bay's pitching rotation is set, with rookie Wade Davis settling into the fifth starter's spot.

Manager Joe Maddon made the call Wednesday, when the Rays also beat the Toronto Blue Jays 5-3 behind another solid pitching performance by Jeff Niemann.

Davis was one of three rookies, along with Niemann and David Price, who finished last season in the rotation.

The 24-year-old right-hander hasn't been as sharp this spring as Andy Sonnanstine. But with reliever J.P. Howell expected to be sidelined a month with a sore shoulder, Maddon feels Sonnanstine is better suited to fill a void in the bullpen.

"I think now that we've finally proclaimed him the fifth starter, he's going to settle in and start pitching like he's capable. I think he's been pressing a bit," Maddon said of Davis, who's allowed 11 earned runs and 17 hits in 9 2/3 innings this spring.

Davis, considered one of baseball's best pitching prospects, went 2-2 with a 3.72 ERA in six starts after being promoted from Triple-A Durham and making his major league debut last September.

-- The Associated Press


Boston right-hander Josh Beckett racked up nine strikeouts in five innings, fanning seven of nine batters in one stretch to lead the Red Sox past the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-4 on Wednesday. He gave up three hits and two walks.

"Every day's getting better and today was by far my best day in two weeks," Beckett said.

Beckett's strength no longer is an issue. After leaving the game, Beckett threw some extra pitches in the bullpen to get his pitch count past 95.

"I'd like to stick around 95 pitches [the rest of spring]," Beckett said. "The most important thing today was that I felt good and I finished all my pitches. I felt like I could throw any pitch in any count. That's the feel you want to get by the end of spring training."

Mike Lowell, who got a late start in spring training as he recovered from offseason thumb surgery, made his second straight start at second base for the Red Sox.

"He seems pretty comfortable there," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "He's always had the ability to get low and slow things down. He does pretty good."

-- The Associated Press


Pirates closer Octavio Dotel, who's been out due to a strained oblique, was a bit wild in his first appearance of the spring.

Dotel tossed one scoreless inning in the Pirates' 6-4 loss to the Red Sox on Wednesday. He issued a leadoff walk, hit a batter, got one strikeout and threw a wild pitch. Dotel threw 22 pitches, 12 of them balls.

-- The Associated Press


Marlins right fielder Brett Carroll left Florida's 4-1 loss to the Minnesota Twins in the middle of the first inning with a strained left oblique muscle and is expected to sit out for a few days.

Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said he anticipates Carroll missing at least two days. Carroll is competing for a bench role in the outfield.

"My first swing, I fouled a ball, and something didn't feel right," Carroll said. "I've never experienced anything like this before. It's just something mild. I wanted to keep playing, but they wouldn't let me. I had to come out. It's just one of those things you can't control."

-- The Associated Press


An injury in 2009 forced Kevin Slowey off the mound at midseason. This spring, the Minnesota right-hander has been pitching in midseason form.

Jacque Jones hit a two-run home run and Justin Morneau hit a solo shot for the Twins to support Slowey in a 4-1 victory over the Florida Marlins.

Slowey struck out five without a walk while giving up three hits in five scoreless innings, lowering his spring ERA to 0.56 against a Marlins team that fielded most of its regulars.

He said his right wrist is fully recovered from last summer's surgery.

"I feel like especially the last couple of outings, I have felt comfortable out there," Slowey said. "I didn't even think once about my wrist while out there. As far as I'm concerned, I'm done with it. I'm very thankful for that, too. You never know how you're going to come back from something like that. It took a lot of rehab."

-- The Associated Press


The Royals say left-handed pitching prospect Danny Duffy has left baseball.

The Royals announced Wednesday that Duffy left camp late Tuesday after telling the club he wanted to reassess his priorities. The team offered no further information on Duffy's decision.

Assistant general manager J.J. Picollo said in a statement that the team would be willing to discuss Duffy's return if he decides to come back to the game.

The 21-year-old Duffy went 19-10 with a 2.49 ERA in 52 games since he was drafted in 2007.

-- The Associated Press



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