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Sunday, February 25, 2007
Around the Cactus League

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Oakland Athletics: Bobby Crosby will be able to better gauge his health in the coming days when he faces live pitching for the first time in more than six months. On Sunday, he stood in against a real pitcher but didn't swing. Then Crosby headed for the batting cage to hit another round of soft toss.

"It gets old, but it's the smart thing to do," Crosby said Sunday. "Everything's been good. I won't know for sure until I take full hacks."

His fielding and throwing feel great, so hitting is the last step before the A's deem Crosby ready to play.

"No rush," assistant general manager David Forst said. "I don't even need him to play in the first spring training game. We're more anxious [to see]."

Elsewhere in the Cactus League:

Arizona Diamondbacks: A .281 batting average with 80 RBIs would be a good season for most major leaguers. Not Chad Tracy.

His 129 strikeouts last season -- 51 more than in 2004 -- has led him to alter his batting approach. He says he will let up on the big home run swing and go back to spraying the ball all over the outfield.

"I went the home run route for a couple of years," Tracy said after the Diamondbacks' workout on Sunday. "If that's all I try to do, I can do it, but I'm not as good a player when I do that. I'm a better player when I use the whole field, slap the ball around and not strike out so much, especially with runners in scoring position."

The six weeks of spring training, including a month of games, are a perfect opportunity for him to get his old stroke back.

Reigning NL Cy Young award winner Brandon Webb will start for Arizona in the Diamondbacks' spring training opener Thursday against the Chicago White Sox.

Livan Hernandez will go Friday and Doug Davis Saturday, both against the White Sox. Edgar Gonzalez will start Sunday's first split-squad game against Seattle. Dustin Nippert will go in the second split-squad contest against Colorado.

Colorado Rockies: Colorado outfielder Steve Finley is trying for a new start with the Rockies, even though he has already played in two World Series and has been in the major leagues for 18 seasons.

The Rockies are looking for his experience to enhance a young team. If they get an everyday outfielder after signing him to a minor league contract on Saturday, so be it.

"I'm excited about him being here," Colorado pitcher Jeff Francis said. "On a team with a core of guys that are really young, for a guy like that to come in here, he's a good guy to have around. He knows what to do."

Finley reported to camp Sunday and has a locker right next to projected starting center fielder Willy Taveras. Finley is a non-roster invitee -- this after making $7 million with San Francisco a year ago.

San Francisco Giants: Dave Roberts knelt beside Barry Bonds on the first day of spring training hoping to strike up a conversation with the slugger. Bonds spoke first with one message: Be aggressive and run.

"With Dave Roberts out there getting on base, he's going to create a lot of problems out there," said Bonds, ready to resume his chase of Hank Aaron's home run record. "I've had the opportunity to play against him for so many years and he's done it. This time it's having him on our side. We had a good talk earlier. I told him, 'Don't change your game -- run. The more runs you score, the more runs we have.' I just hope he runs and doesn't do anything different than he's done in the past."

Roberts appreciated Bonds taking the lead with the new guy. They have crossed paths as opponents but had rarely talked before.

"He initiated the conversation," said Roberts, who also could relieve Bonds in left field on occasion. "It was great because that is what I was hoping was going to happen and what I intended to do. I wanted to talk to him about it. It was nice that he understands it and realizes we're going to need everybody to be productive on offense."

Texas Rangers: Sammy Sosa stepped into the batter's box against live pitching for the first time Sunday. The slugger didn't even swing the bat.

Neither did Michael Young, Mark Teixeira or any of the other Rangers hitters. And that's exactly what manager Ron Washington expected.

"The hitters get some timing, seeing an arm come at them," Washington said. "That's what that's all about. Nothing more, nothing less. Get some timing, track the ball, see where you are."

There are plans for a couple of more "tracking" drills this week before letting the hitters finally take some cuts against pitchers. But they might not be swinging until the first Cactus League game Friday against Kansas City, which shares the same spring training complex.

Kansas City Royals: As an aging outfielder on a team going with youth, Reggie Sanders knows the Kansas City Royals could trade him before spring training ends.

"I don't know if I expect it to happen," Sanders said Sunday. "I can understand why that would be an issue. I have one year [left] under contract here. If I were to be traded, I wouldn't be shocked at all."

The Royals' tentative plans are to open the season with Mark Teahen moving from third base to right field, David DeJesus in center and Emil Brown in left.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.