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Indians hope Gonzalez can return for Opening Day

Cleveland Indians: Juan Gonzalez's sore right hamstring kept
him off the field for the third straight game, raising concerns
that he might not be ready for Opening Day.

Gonzalez was on the club's travel roster Wednesday, but didn't
make the trip from Winter Haven because his hamstring isn't ready.
Gonzalez's latest injury -- he earlier missed eight days of training
camp with a strained left hamstring -- surfaced less than 24 hours
after Indians manager Eric Wedge announced that the two-time AL MVP
had beaten out Grady Sizemore for the starting job in right field.

Gonzalez hasn't played more than 82 games since 2001 because of
a variety of injuries. He signed an incentive-rich free agent
contract with the Indians in January and was promised only $600,000
if he made the team.

Players had to be on the roster by 2 p.m. on Wednesday for their
contracts to be guaranteed. Gonzalez has the money, but the Indians don't have any
assurances he'll be on the field for Monday's opener in Chicago.

"It's been bad timing," Wedge said of Gonzalez's setback.
"But he's a veteran guy who knows his body and we've just got to
help him with it. The guy came in early and stays late and is doing
everything he can do."

Wedge hopes to get Gonzalez some playing time in the next few
days. After playing their exhibition finale on Thursday, the
Indians will play weekend games in Atlanta.

Colorado Rockies: Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver had three
Colorado Rockies players tossed from Monday night's game between
the Denver Nuggets and the Suns, a Rockies official said.

Outfielder Matt Holliday and pitchers Shawn Chacon, Brian Fuentes and Javier Lopez took in the game, Colorado spokesman Jay
Alves said. Three were ejected, but he wasn't sure who they were.

"We're aware of the situation and we're looking into it,"
Alves said.

The Rocky Mountain News identified two of the three as Chacon
and Fuentes.

Sarver was not available for comment before Wednesday night's
game with Philadelphia, but he told The Arizona Republic earlier
that the trio violated standards of fan behavior.

"When they violate that policy and don't adhere to a number of
warnings, they need to leave," he said.

The Phoenix newspaper said Sarver warned the men, who were
seated directly behind him, several times before ordering security
personnel to escort them out. George Bevans, the Suns' vice president of arena security and
risk management, said the players caused no problem on the way out.

Detroit Tigers: Trade talks between the Marlins and Tigers about outfielder Bobby Higginson remain stalled, with a Tiger official saying he doesn't expect anything to break in the next few days, the Miami Herald reported.

Higginson doesn't have a spot in the Tigers' starting lineup, and the team would like to move him, but no one is willing to take on his $8.85 million salary. Detroit has until midnight Saturday to set its regular-season roster. Between now and then, the club could get a trade proposal it likes or an outfielder could get hurt, opening a spot for Higginson, at least temporarily.

If neither of those things happen, the Tigers could designate Higginson for assignment, giving them 10 days to work out a deal before they must release him. That could work to the Marlins' favor because it gives them additional time to see if outfielder Jeff Conine is fully healed from offseason shoulder surgery and to determine when outfielder Juan Pierre will be ready to play.

If a trade cannot be worked out and Higginson is released, the Tigers would have to pay his salary because the outfielder's contract is guaranteed.

Houston Astros: The Astros officially
placed injured outfielder Lance Berkman on the 15-day disabled
list.

Less than two weeks after signing him to a six-year, $85 million
contract, the Astros made formal the fact that their best
offensive player will not be ready for the start of the season.

The 28-year-old Berkman tore the ACL in his right knee while
playing flag football during the offseason and is expected to be
sidelined until at least mid-April. Despite showing some
surprising mobility this spring, doctors have ruled out Berkman
returning until April 12, at the earliest.

Berkman batted .316 with a team-leading 30 home runs and 106 RBI
in 2004, winning the club's Most Valuable Player honors for the
third time in four seasons.

The franchise leader in career batting average (.303) and
slugging percentage (.563), he was the first Astros outfielder
to record three 30-homer seasons and is tied with Moises Alou
for the most 100-RBI campaigns among Houston outfielders with
three.

Berkman has 156 homers and 535 RBI in 775 career games with
Houston. The 16th overall pick in 1997 made his major league
debut two years later and has appeared in three All-Star Games.

Kansas City Royals: Calvin Pickering won the camp-long battle with former All-Star Ken Harvey, who was optioned to Triple-A Omaha.

"The thing we see in Pickering," manager Tony Peña told the Kansas City Star, "is that he's willing to be a threat. He works the count better than anybody and puts himself in position to hit. Plus, he supplies power."

Pickering's spring performance was far heavier on threat than actual production, but that threat was sufficient for him to beat out Harvey.

"Deep down," Pickering told the newspaper, "I thought I was going down. I know the situation. Harvey was an All-Star last season, and he had been here the year before. He's shown he can do well up here.

"It's crazy. That's how baseball is. You don't know what's going to happen."

Los Angeles Angels: The Angels will have to wait to
see whether Dallas McPherson can be their everyday third baseman.

The Angels assigned McPherson and right-hander Chris Bootcheck
to their minor league camp, leaving the third base
assignment to Robb Quinlan when they open the season next week.

The Angels thought enough of McPherson to allow power-hitting
Troy Glaus to sign a free-agent contract with the Arizona
Diamondbacks during the offseason. But McPherson has been limited
this spring by a protruding disk in his lower back.

McPherson hit 43 homers last year -- 20 each in minor league
stops at Double-A Arkansas and Triple-A Salt Lake, and three in 16
late-season games with the Angels. He played in his first
exhibition game Tuesday, hitting a triple and a double and driving
in two runs against Kansas City. Angels manager Mike Scioscia had hoped McPherson would be able to play in six or seven exhibition games so he'd be ready by
opening day, but also said he didn't want to rush the 24-year-old
rookie.
Quinlan set an Angels rookie record with a 21-game hitting
streak and hit .344 while filling in for Glaus last season. He's
had a rocky spring defensively, and was hitting .268 through
Tuesday.

The Angels also announced Wednesday they had agreed on a
contract with infielder Andy Fox, who was released by the Minnesota
Twins earlier this week. Fox has a lifetime batting average of
.239. He hit .174 in 16 exhibition games with the Twins.

New York Yankees: Jason Giambi was held out of Tuesday's game against the Red Sox and won't travel to face the Reds on Wednesday due to a tight left hamstring.

"I did it [Monday] running the double out and [manager Joe Torre] wanted to make sure there is no problem for Opening Day," Giambi was quoted as saying in the New York Post. "It shouldn't be a problem. It's up high and it's just tight."

Giambi took batting practice and ran lightly Tuesday. His next game will likely be Thursday night at home against the Devil Rays.

Oakland A's: Shortstop Bobby Crosby left the Athletics' 6-1 win over
the Milwaukee Brewers in the fourth inning with a bruised left hand
after being hit by a pitch from Gary Glover.

Then in the seventh, A's outfielder Hiram Bocachica left the
game after he was hit by a pitch on the right wrist by Matt Wise.
Both players will have X-rays Thursday back in the Bay Area.

"Right now they both have bruises," trainer Larry Davis said.
"There's not a lot of flesh between the ball and the bone, so it's
always a concern."

Crosby, the reigning AL Rookie of the Year, grimaced and jumped
back afterward, then slowly made his way to first base. Manager Ken
Macha and a trainer hustled out to check on him, and Crosby was
lifted for pinch-runner Marco Scutaro.

"I can move my fingers and arm around," Crosby said. "I'm
just hoping it's not broken. Until I get X-rays that are negative,
I'm not too pleased. It's pretty sensitive to the touch."

Macha said he didn't want to speculate on the severity of the
injuries. "Let's not jump to conclusions," Macha said. "Let's wait and
see. Injuries are part of the game."

A's option left-hander Dan Meyer: The team optioned left-hander Dan
Meyer to Triple-A Sacramento in a move anticipated for
weeks.

The A's want Meyer, who came to the team in the trade that sent
Tim Hudson to Atlanta, to work on his breaking ball and get his
confidence back. Oakland also reassigned catcher Jeremy Brown to minor league
camp late Tuesday and he will begin the year at Double-A Midland.

Manager Ken Macha and pitching coach Curt Young believe the
23-year-old Meyer put too much pressure on himself this spring, and
they expect he will probably be back in the majors before long.

"I feel he really hasn't been himself," Young said.
"Sometimes you want it too bad. He's a hard worker and has done
everything we've asked of him this spring. ... I only see an upside
for this kid."

Philadelphia Phillies: Jim Thome looked ready for the regular
season in his return from a back injury.

Thome had two hits in his first game since March 22, but Vernon
Wells hit an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning to give
the Toronto Blue Jays a 6-5 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies
on Wednesday.

Thome, who was out with a stiff back, went 2-for-3 with a walk
and played seven innings at first base.

"He's ready to go, he is fine," Philadelphia manager Charlie
Manuel said. "He moved around pretty good. He's ready, he will
play tomorrow and probably play the rest of the season, the whole
year."

Pittsburgh Pirates: Outfielder Ben Grieve, a former AL rookie of the year, and reliever Mark Corey were reassigned to Triple-A Indianapolis as the Pirates settled on their season-opening 25-man roster.

Right-handed reliever Rick White's contract was purchased from
Indianapolis in a procedural move after he beat out Corey for the
12th and final spot on the pitching staff. White, who pitched last
season for Cleveland, returns to the team he broke into the majors with in 1994.

The Pirates also acquired catcher David Ross from the Dodgers for cash.

Grieve hit .355 with no homers and nine RBI this spring as a non-roster outfielder, but had played sparingly of late as it became obvious he would not make the team. He asked the Pirates for some time to make up his mind about reporting to Indianapolis, since he has the option to become a free agent.

"I'd have to get readjusted to minor league life," he said. "I've been in the big leagues for seven years and no one wants to go back and play in the minor leagues again."

Grieve, 28, was the AL rookie of the year with Oakland in 1998, hitting .288 with 18 homers and 89 RBI, then hit 28 and 27 homers respectively each of the next two seasons. But he has had only 12 homers the last two seasons with Tampa Bay, Milwaukee and the Cubs, and he was criticized by Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella for his lack of aggressiveness.

San Diego Padres: Padres center fielder and leadoff hitter Dave Roberts could start the season on the disabled list because of a
troublesome groin injury.

Roberts was scratched from the Padres' split-squad game against
Texas in Surprise, Ariz., on Wednesday and was headed back to San
Diego to be examined on Thursday.

Manager Bruce Bochy hopes Roberts can play in the Padres' final
exhibition game, at Class-A Lake Elsinore on Saturday. But he also
didn't rule out Roberts ending up on the DL.

"I think when you have a setback at this stage, I think it's
going to come down to the evaluation tomorrow," Bochy said before
a Padres split squad played San Diego State at Petco Park. "I hope
not. I'm optimistic. But there's always a chance of that when it
involves your groin."

Roberts tweaked his groin March 12 against Arizona and missed
six straight games. He's been in and out of the lineup ever since.

Even if Roberts starts the season on the active roster,
super-sub Xavier Nady is expected to start in center field Monday
at Colorado.

Texas Rangers: Pedro Astacio probably will start the
season on the disabled list after being slowed by a groin injury
this spring, but he could still pitch in the Texas Rangers' fifth
game.

The Rangers have been cautious with Astacio, who has made just
one major league start since shoulder surgery in 2003. He gave up
one run over five innings in a minor league game Wednesday.

"He had to cover first on a play in the first inning. You knew
that was going to happen," manager Buck Showalter said. "We can
backdate him if he goes on the DL. I'll bet you it is going to
happen."
Another candidate for the starting rotation, Ricardo Rodriguez,
was optioned Wednesday to Triple-A Oklahoma after giving up eight
runs and eight hits -- five for extra bases -- over four innings in a
9-6 loss to San Diego.

Outfielder Jason Conti and infielders Manny Alexander and
Esteban German were reassigned to minor league camp. That left 37
players in camp for the Rangers, who play their final game in
Surprise on Thursday.

Without any setbacks, Astacio could make his Rangers debut April
9 at Seattle.

Rangers acquire Ransom from Cubs: The Rangers acquired infielder Cody Ransom from the Chicago Cubs for future considerations and assigned him to their minor league camp.

Ransom spent seven years in San Francisco's organization before
signing a minor league contract with the Cubs in January. He hit
.250 with one home run and 11 RBIs in 78 games last season for the
Giants, and had spent parts of the last four seasons with the team.

A ninth-round draft pick by the Giants in 1998, Ransom has
played in 731 minor league games, hitting .235 with 84 homers and
320 RBIs.

Information from The Associated Press and SportsTicker were used in this report.