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Wednesday, March 4, 2009


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MEXICO ROUGHS UP WEBB (11:25 p.m. ET)
Good thing for the Arizona Diamondbacks that Mexico isn't in the NL West.

Fueled by a chanting, flag-waving crowd, Team Mexico roughed up Arizona ace Brandon Webb in a 19-4 rout of the Diamondbacks on Wednesday night.

Webb allowed six runs, five earned, in 1 1/3 innings in his spring debut. He gave up four hits, walked two and struck out one.

Webb had been scratched from his first start with a sore forearm. But he said his arm "felt pretty great" and that his main problem was rushing his delivery.

"You just get out of your rhythm and out of your comfort zone trying to do too much, and that's probably where I was at today," Webb said.

Jerry Hairston hit a three-run homer and knocked in four runs, his brother Scott Hairston added a two-run shot and Jorge Cantu hit a grand slam and drove in six runs in a rousing tuneup for the World Baseball Classic. Alfredo Amezaga added a solo shot for Mexico.

The Hairstons were born in the U.S., but they're eligible to play for Mexico because their mother is from Hermosillo, Mexico.

PUERTO RICO ON ROLL (11:19 p.m. ET)
The way Puerto Rico is pitching and hitting, manager Jose Oquendo likes his club's chances of making a strong showing in the World Baseball Classic.

Jonathan Sanchez worked three scoreless innings, Alex Rios went 2-for-3 with a double and triple, and Ivan Rodriguez and Ramon Vazquez each drove in a run Wednesday night to pace a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

"I think it's coming along good," Oquendo said after the second of three exhibitions Puerto Rico is playing in preparation for its WBC opener against Panama.

With a potent lineup that also includes Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran, Geovany Soto and Bernie Williams, Team Puerto Rico is hoping to improve on its 2006 fifth-place WBC finish.

"We have more experience now. Delgado was hurt the last time and only had one at-bat," Oquendo said. "We definitely have a good ballclub that we can do a lot of things with. The key is you've got to pitch, you've got to play defense and also do the little things. I think we have the club to do that."

GONZALEZ BACK FROM KNEE INJURY (9:48 p.m. ET)
Alex Gonzalez was relieved to be back on the field.

Gonzalez singled in two at-bats as the designated hitter after missing all of last season with a knee injury, and the Cincinnati Reds beat the Netherlands 4-3 in 10 innings on Wednesday night.

He felt some tightness in the left knee, which was packed in ice after he was removed.

"Finally, almost a year since I played. My first at-bat I felt good," Gonzalez said. "I'm looking forward to playing shortstop and being 100 percent to help my team. If I keep doing what I've been doing. I'll be ready for the start of the season."

The game was Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker's first look at Gonzalez. He was pleased with his batting, but said he ran tentatively.

"It feels good to have him in there," Baker said. "If he feels good, he'll be back at DH tomorrow, then we'll get him in the field next week. I want to just see natural movement. The hardest thing about recovering from an injury is realizing that you're over it."

In other news, the Reds have invited President Barack Obama to throw out the first pitch at this year's Civil Rights Game at Great American Ball Park.

The game is June 20 against Obama's favorite team, the Chicago White Sox.

Reds chief executive Bob Castellini says the White House has not responded to the invitation.

The Civil Rights Game has been played in Memphis, Tenn., since 2007 as an exhibition at the end of spring training. The Reds bid and won the right to host the game in 2009 and 2010.

PEDRO STILL A FAN FAVORITE (9:19 p.m. ET)
Pedro Martinez hasn't landed a major league contract as a free agent, in part because he's 37 and has struggled through three consecutive injury-riddled seasons. Yet the right-hander is still a favorite of baseball fans and is appreciated by his teammates on the Dominican Republic squad, which is preparing for the World Baseball Classic.

As he approached the mound in the fourth inning of an exhibition game Wednesday against the Baltimore Orioles, Martinez was showered by chants of "Pedro! Pedro!" from the pro-Dominican crowd.

The first batter he faced, Ty Wigginton, hit a popup that traveled about 10 feet in front of the plate but dropped untouched -- a tainted double. Martinez then gave up an RBI double to Felix Pie and a run-scoring single to Gregg Zaun.

But in the fifth, after walking the leadoff hitter, Martinez struck out two of the next three batters, ending his outing by blowing a called strike past Wigginton.

Martinez went 5-6 with a 5.61 ERA in 20 starts for the New York Mets last year, but he looked sharp against the Orioles, considering he had not pitched in a game since Sept. 25.

"Pedro threw well," Dominican Republic manager Felipe Alou said. "It was amazing that a guy who hasn't pitched in a real game for so long can come back and be in the strike zone. Some of the fastballs were good, some of the breaking balls were good."

SAUNDERS PITCHES PAIN-FREE (9:03 p.m. ET)
Joe Saunders pitched two scoreless and pain-free innings in the Los Angeles Angels' 13-6 exhibition victory over South Africa's World Baseball Classic team on Wednesday.

He allowed two hits and struck out three in his first spring training start. Saunders had felt some shoulder soreness when he played long toss at the beginning of camp, but he said it's gone now.

Saunders is coming off a breakthrough season in which he went 17-7 with a 3.41 ERA and earned his first All-Star berth.

Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia rested his regular lineup against a South African team that featured several players just out of high school.

DH HAFNER TO RETURN FRIDAY (9:02 p.m. ET)
The Indians are expecting designated hitter Travis Hafner to make his first start Friday. He had surgery on his right shoulder in October, an injury that limited him to 57 games last season when he batted .197 with five homers and 24 RBIs.

Outfielder Dave Dellucci is also expected to appear in his first game. He slammed the trunk of his car on his left thumb a few days before camp and needed several stitches to close the cut.

BRADLEY BACK IN CUBS LINEUP (9:01 p.m. ET)
Milton Bradley was back in the Cubs lineup for the first time in nearly a week and had a double in three at-bats during Chicago's split-squad, 5-4 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday.

Bradley walked in his first at-bat for the Cubs on Feb. 26 but was removed for a pinch runner because of tightness in his quadriceps. He was the designated hitter Wednesday.

"I felt good today," Bradley said. "I'm just going to pace myself. In my first game I really didn't feel like I played because I knew I would only get one at-bat."

The Cubs were without manager Lou Piniella and several of their regulars, who are in Las Vegas for a two-game series against the White Sox. Second baseman Aaron Miles, first baseman Derrek Lee and Bradley were the only everyday players in the lineup.

HAMELS BACK ON MOUND, CARRIES PHILLIES (6:38 p.m. ET)
Cole Hamels returned to the mound for the first time since helping the Philadelphia Phillies win the World Series and pitched two scoreless innings in a 9-2 win over Canada on Wednesday.

"It was nice to get out there against a team that's competitive," said Hamels, who went 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in five postseason starts in October. "These hitters are getting ready for the world classic and they want to be in prime hitting shape. [So it was about] knowing how to bear down, finding the location and throwing your pitch."

Hamels, the World Series MVP, last pitched on that rainy night in October, when Game 5 against the Tampa Bay Rays was suspended in the sixth inning. Against Canada, the 25-year-old lefty breezed through his outing with 24 pitches.

The Phillies held Hamels back earlier this spring because he threw a career-high 262 1/3 innings in the regular season and playoffs combined last season, more than any other pitcher in baseball.

"I just wanted him to get his feet on the ground, get his delivery in, his reps in," Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "This is his first whack, he's got five more outings [down here] and today was great. ... it was good to see him on the mound, compete under control and get the required work in that he needed."

On April 5 against the Atlanta Braves, Hamels will take the mound in the first Opening Day start of his career, hoping to live up to the hype he produced in the postseason last fall.

BLUE JAYS RALLY BY U.S. (6:15 p.m. ET)
Strong pitching by Brad Mills and Matt Clement allowed the Toronto Blue Jays to rally against the United States.

Mills and Clement combined for six one-hit innings and minor leaguer Brien Dopirak's two-run single in the ninth gave the Blue Jays a 6-5 victory Wednesday.

Mills pitched two perfect innings before a walk to Mark DeRosa, Chris Iannetta's single and Curtis Granderson's grounder gave the United States a run.

The right-handed Clement, who hasn't pitched in the majors since rotator cuff surgery in September 2006 while with Boston, would have had three perfect innings had it not been for first baseman Kevin Millar's two-out error in the sixth.

"Both of them did a good job for us against a tough team," Toronto manager Cito Gaston said. "[Mills] is a tough kid out there. He has the right makeup for it. He doesn't rattle out there at all."

DOMINICANS PUNCHLESS WITHOUT A-ROD (5:39 p.m. ET)
Playing without Alex Rodriguez, the Dominican Republic was rendered punchless by Koji Uehara and three far less notable pitchers for the Baltimore Orioles.

Uehara pitched three scoreless innings and the Dominican squad preparing for the World Baseball Classic managed only one extra-base hit -- a double by Jose Guillen -- in a 6-1 exhibition loss Wednesday.

Uehara, Baltimore's first Japanese-born player, gave up two hits and hit a batter in his second strong outing of the spring. Facing a lineup that included All-Stars David Ortiz, Miguel Tejada and Hanley Ramirez, the right-hander struck out two and threw strikes on 23 of 36 pitches.

"I understand there are a lot of big-name players. To get that kind of result, I'm happy with that," Uehara said through a translator.

The Dominican lineup was missing one important piece: Rodriguez, who left for Colorado for an exam by a hip specialist after an MRI last weekend revealed a cyst on his right hip.

DAMON NOT MIFFED AT A-ROD (3:05 p.m. ET)
Johnny Damon is taking Alex Rodriguez's latest remarks in stride, while Derek Jeter is staying silent. Rodriguez caused a stir after playing for the Dominican Republic on Tuesday, saying he would like to see Mets shortstop Jose Reyes at the top of the Yankees' batting order. Rodriguez said he wasn't disrespecting his Yankees teammates.

"Everything that comes out of Alex's mouth nowadays is going to be scrutinized," Damon said before the Yankees played the Braves on Wednesday. "I'm not going to let that bother me, and I hope Derek doesn't go that way either. We all know Jose Reyes is a great player, a great leadoff guy. He's a great player who might have 10 or 15 more years left in him. Yeah, I think there's probably 25 other teams who would want him to lead off and play short."

Jeter worked out at Steinbrenner Field before leaving to join the United States for a game Wednesday against Toronto.

"I've got nothing to say, man," Jeter said.

Damon joked that when Rodriguez rejoins the Yankees, he was going to "go out there and prove to Alex what I can do."

RANGERS SCRATCH MCCARTHY FROM START (2:30 p.m. ET)
Texas Rangers right-hander Brandon McCarthy has been scratched from his scheduled spring training start Friday because of tightness in his right shoulder, another setback for the pitcher plagued by injuries the past two seasons.

McCarthy felt tightness during a bullpen session Monday, two days after he threw two innings in his only spring start. He had planned to throw in the bullpen again Thursday before determining how he felt, but the Rangers instead said he wouldn't start Friday.

"He's had some stiffness and we certainly don't want him to hurt himself any further," manager Ron Washington said Wednesday. "We're just going to wait and see how it goes."

Since being traded from the Chicago White Sox for John Danks before the 2007 season, McCarthy has been on the disabled list four times. He made only five starts (22 innings) last season after missing four months because of right forearm inflammation.

YOUNG SAYS HE'S COMPLETELY RECOVERED (11:10 a.m. ET)
Padres starter Chris Young pitched two strong innings Tuesday, giving up only a solo home run to Dodgers left fielder Mitch Jones, and afterward he talked about his recovery from a frightening injury last spring.

On May 21, 2008, Young was hit in the face by an Albert Pujols line drive. The impact of the ball broke his nose and fractured his skull. Remarkably, Young returned to the mound last July, and he says now that he is all the way back.

"I feel really good," he said. "I've made, I'd say, a full recovery. I feel real fortunate to be back out there. There are really no ill effects."

Young knows how close he came to never seeing the mound again. "A little bit right or left, it's one of my eyes and could have ended my career," he said. "The severity of the cracked skull potentially could have caused some life-threatening infections. I'm extremely fortunate."

But he comes into this season with a real sense of resolve, and said he has put the injury behind him.

"I don't think I could jump back on the mound without thinking that it is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. It's happened once, I got through it. I might have line drives back at me. Hopefully they won't hit me in the face again ... I'd like to think it was just a freak, one-time thing."

-- Eric Neel, ESPN The Magazine

ROYALS' DAVIES A THROWBACK (10:58 a.m. a.m. ET)
Kyle Davies, an up-and-coming major league pitcher for the Kansas City Royals, had no need of extra cash last winter. He'd just been paid $427,000 for the 2008 season.

Yet, there he was, pouring concrete, digging ditches and operating a jackhammer under the Georgia sun on his dad's construction crew.

"What am I going to do, sit on the couch every day? You make yourself lazy," he said.

He's no stranger to construction work. Since he was about 12 or 13, Davies has spent most of his summers working for Davies General Contracting near Atlanta.

"It keeps you in shape, keeps you off the couch," said Davies, penciled in as the Royals' No. 3 starter. "The offseason can get really long. You can sit there and think about way too much. Instead of doing that, I just got up early in the morning and went to work."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.