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Wednesday, March 18, 2009


WHITE SOX ON LOOKOUT FOR LEADOFF (9:20 p.m. ET)
The Chicago White Sox are still looking for their leadoff batter.

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Manager Ozzie Guillen said he and his staff spent "hours" discussing the subject before DeWayne Wise went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in that spot for the White Sox in a 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday.

"I wish I had the answer right now," Guillen said. "You'll see a lot of teams struggle looking for leadoff guys. Not many people in baseball have the ideal leadoff guy, the igniter, the guy who can make things happen."

Other than Wise, the White Sox are considering Jerry Owens for the top spot in the lineup. Both players are also competing for the starting center field job. Another possibility is second baseman Chris Gets, who went 2-for-3 to raise his average to .364.

Wise, who got off to a great start but has faded a bit lately, said he is trying to be more selective at the plate so he can draw walks. But he says "it's kind of tough to do that," because he's not yet an established player who can afford to pass up good pitches.

"It's tough because I'm not like a Jermaine Dye or a Jim Thome Those guys know they're going to be here," Wise said. "I know I got to go up there and hit. At the same time, I want to be able to get on base and draw walks."

HERNANDEZ TAKING CHARGE (8:52 p.m. ET)
Livan Hernandez strengthened his grip on the No. 5 spot in the New York Mets' rotation with five strong innings in a 7-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves.

Hernandez scattered five hits and allowed just one run, striking out three. The right-hander lowered his ERA to 3.07 in 14 2/3 innings this spring.

"[Hernandez] was pretty good," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. "He has a good presence about him on the mound, and in the dugout he brings a different energy. He's put himself in a good position."

Relying primarily on his sinker, Hernandez came nowhere close to his pregame pitch count of 85 before handing a 2-1 lead to Freddy Garcia in the sixth.

Hernandez credited former Dodgers and Giants pitching coach Ron Perranoski with teaching him the sinker while he was with San Francisco in 2003.

Garcia (0-3) struggled again, allowing five runs and seven hits in two innings, raising his spring ERA to 16.71.

"[Garcia's] in a tough spot," Manuel said. "But the good thing is he's healthy and you're happy to see that."

Hernandez's consistency this spring seems to be distancing him from the competition in the race for the final spot in the rotation.

Tim Redding, the only candidate in camp on a major league contract, will start the season on the disabled list, while rookie Jonathan Niese, who is 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA, and Garcia have yet to pitch to the level of Hernandez.

DAVIS CRUISES IN RETURN (8:23 p.m. ET)
Arizona's Doug Davis cruised in his return to the mound after missing a start with tightness in his biceps.

He held the Brewers without a hit in 2 1/3 scoreless innings in Arizona's 4-1 loss to Milwaukee. The left-hander struck out two, walked one and hit a batter.

"I felt really good out there, sometimes too good, overthrowing a little bit," Davis said.

Davis said he did not completely test his biceps muscle because "I wasn't real confident in snapping off the curveball as of right now." He said he's sure that his confidence in the arm will improve in the coming starts.

"All in all it was a great day," Davis said.

Arizona manager Bob Melvin said OF Eric Byrnes will make his spring debut Friday in center field against the Los Angeles Angels in Tempe.

Byrnes, recovering from hamstring injuries, played left field and went 1-for-4 with a homer in a minor league game on Tuesday.

GALLARDO GOING STRONG (8:19 p.m. ET)
The loss of CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets to free agency might be a little less painful for Milwaukee with the way Yovani Gallardo is pitching this spring.

The 23-year-old right-hander held Arizona hitless through five innings in the Brewers' 4-1 victory over the Diamondbacks.

Arizona managed just one hit the entire game.

Gallardo, who missed virtually all of last season with knee injuries, faced only 16 batters, one more than the minimum. He struck out three and walked three. Two of the base runners were erased, one on a rundown and the other on a double play.

"It felt great. I think all my pitches were working for me," Gallardo said. "I was able to mix and match every pitch and get ahead of the hitters."

Gallardo has held opponents without a run in four of his five starts this spring. His second shutout performance gives him a string of nine consecutive scoreless innings.

GRIFFEY TO START IN LEFT (7:30 p.m. ET)
Ken Griffey Jr. will make his first start of the spring in left field when the Seattle Mariners play the San Diego Padres on Thursday.

Griffey has been relegated to DH for Seattle while recovering from offseason knee surgery. The 39-year-old has said he hopes to play in the outfield regularly once the season begins.

Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu says the plan is to play Griffey three consecutive games, first in left then DH then back in left field.

Griffey did not play in the Mariners' road game against Kansas City on Wednesday and is batting only .143 this spring. He has yet to hit his first home run since re-signing with his first team just before the start of camp and hasn't driven in a run.

HAMMEL MAKING STRIDES (7:02 p.m. ET)
Jason Hammel is making strides toward earning a spot in Tampa Bay's rotation, and injured outfielders B.J. Upton and Matt Joyce are closer to getting back on the field for the Rays.

Hammel settled down after a shaky start to pitch four innings in the Rays' 7-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds. Upton and Joyce saw limited action in a Class A game.

Hammel, competing with Jeff Niemann and David Price for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, allowed three runs and five hits, including Edwin Encarnacion's second-inning homer, and sacrifice flies to Joey Votto and Ryan Hanigan.

"I liked how he came back the last two innings," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He went from 50 pitches for the first two to 19 over the last two innings. I liked the way he settled in and pitched well after that."

Upton, recovering from offseason surgery on his left (nonthrowing) shoulder, played three innings on defense but did not bat.

Maddon said the 24-year-old center fielder, who hit seven homers to tie an AL record for one postseason, will bat and play in the field during another minor league game Thursday.

There's no timetable for him to play in a major league exhibition.

Joyce, sidelined most of spring training by right leg tendinitis, went 1-for-2 with a walk and played three innings in the field.

"It felt really good," said Joyce, obtained this winter in a trade that sent right-hander Edwin Jackson to the Detroit Tigers.

"Just getting your legs back into it. That's the biggest thing, running on and off the field," Joyce said. "You'll be surprised at how quick it fades. How your body has to adjust. [Upton] said the same thing."

RAMIREZ RESTS; PROCTOR OUT (6:37 p.m. ET)
All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez was scratched from the Florida Marlins' lineup for a second straight game because of discomfort in his right shoulder.

Ramirez hasn't played since Saturday, when he served as the designated hitter. The Marlins were hoping that he'd be ready after skipping Monday's game and the team's off day Tuesday.

Ramirez told manager Fredi Gonzalez he couldn't play about 10 minutes before the team bus left the Marlins' complex in Jupiter for the drive to Viera to play the Nationals.

Also, the Marlins are preparing to start the season without right-hander Scott Proctor, who hasn't pitched since Feb. 27 because of discomfort from scar tissue in his right elbow.

BARD'S SECOND STINT WITH RED SOX OVER (5:55 p.m. ET)
The Boston Red Sox have released Josh Bard, 2 months after signing the backup catcher.

Bard will receive $262,295 in termination pay rather than a $1.6 million salary this year. After Wednesday, players with nonguaranteed contracts put on waivers receive 45 days' termination pay rather than 30.

General manager Theo Epstein says the move was made as a testament to the performance of the team's other young catchers, especially George Kottaras, who spent last season at Triple-A Pawtucket and was a September call-up.

Kottaras would move into the backup role behind Jason Varitek. His, primary responsibility will be to catch knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.

Bard played seven games with the Red Sox in 2006. He was signed to catch Wakefield's knuckleball, but struggled and was traded to San Diego along with reliever Cla Meredith for catcher Doug Mirabelli.

Bard batted .202 with a homer and 16 RBIs in 178 at-bats for the Padres last season. His career batting average is .265, with 28 home runs and 168 RBIs in 431 games with the Indians, Red Sox and Padres.

He was hitting .429 in six major league appearances during spring training.

EATON TRYING TO MAKE HIS CASE (5:54 p.m. ET)
Adam Eaton's bid to join the Orioles' rotation ended better than it started in St. Louis' 3-2 win over the Baltimore. Eaton issued a four-pitch walk to Skip Schumaker to start the first inning then gave up a single to Chris Duncan.

Schumaker scored on Ty Wigginton's errant throw attempting to double-up Albert Pujols. Pujols scored on Ryan Ludwick's single.

"It took me a little bit to get comfortable again," Eaton said. "After that I settled down and made some good pitches, but luck wasn't on my side and a couple balls found a hole."

Eaton, who was released by Philadelphia earlier this spring, allowed only one baserunner after the first inning and faced the minimum nine batters in his final three innings.

"I thought he was better," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley, comparing Wednesday's start to Eaton's first outing. "His changeup was better. His fastball for the most part, with the exception of the first hitter, was down."

CARPENTER HAS SOLID OUTING (5:51 p.m. ET)
With catcher Yadier Molina back, Chris Carpenter had his best outing of the spring.

Molina returned from the World Baseball Classic and caught six scoreless innings from Carpenter in the St. Louis Cardinals' 3-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles.

"Carp makes it look easy," said Molina, who went 1-for-3. "Anytime you catch a pitcher like Carp, it's easy."

Making his fourth start, Carpenter, who missed most of the last two seasons with arm and shoulder trouble, turned in the Cardinals' longest outing so far. He has thrown 14 scoreless innings this spring.

"As the game went on I started feeling better, which is nice," said Carpenter, who retired the final eight batters he faced. "I was able to get my delivery together and start making quality pitches."

REHABBING BILLINGSLEY GOES FIVE INNINGS (5:48 p.m. ET)
While the rest of his Los Angeles Dodgers teammates took a day off, pitcher Chad Billingsley worked five innings in a minor league intrasquad game.

Billingsley, coming back from a broken left ankle, allowed five hits and three earned runs, including a two-run homer to Austin Gallagher, who batted .293 with 33 doubles and 55 RBIs in 78 games last year with Class A Inland Empire.

Billingsley threw 76 pitches and struck out five, allowing one walk and hitting a batter.

He broke his ankle last winter when he slipped on ice outside his home in Pennsylvania. The fracture required surgery.

When Billingsley pitched Wednesday, Hall of Famer Bob Gibson was among those watching the game. His son Chris is a first baseman who signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers last November.

TRIBE'S MILLER FACING SURGERY (5:19 p.m. ET)
Reliever Adam Miller is facing career-threatening reconstructive finger surgery if he is unable to find a new way to pitch effectively.

Indians trainer Lonnie Soloff said Miller, who underwent surgery on his right middle finger last year, will spend the next seven to 10 days throwing to see if he can command his pitches without pain. If Miller can't, he will have a procedure where a tendon will be taken from his wrist to reattach the tendon in his finger.

Soloff said the operation would cost Miller this season and perhaps end his career. Soloff said a buildup of scar tissue could make it impossible to pitch.

The hard-throwing 24-year-old Miller came to training camp with a chance to win a job in Cleveland's bullpen.

BIG UNIT HAS BICEPS SORENESS (4:08 p.m. ET)
Giants left-hander Randy Johnson is scheduled to start against Seattle on Monday after skipping a turn because of soreness in his biceps.

Manager Bruce Bochy says Johnson's arm is healthy. He was held out of his start Wednesday against the Cubs for precautionary reasons. Johnson is scheduled to pitch a bullpen session Saturday.

The 45-year-old Johnson has a 1.08 ERA this spring, his first with the Giants. He has given up a run in 8 1/3 innings and has 12 strikeouts.

ROYALS PLACE GOBBLE ON WAIVERS (3:55 p.m. ET)
Left-handed reliever Jimmy Gobble was placed on waivers by the Royals and is expected to be released Friday.

The 27-year-old pitcher has been in the organization since 1999 and was 22-23 with a 5.23 ERA in 235 career games. He debuted with the major league club in 2003.

Gobble was 0-2 with an 8.81 ERA and one save in 39 relief appearances last season. A stiff lower back forced him onto the disabled list from July to September, but he didn't allow a run in his final eight appearances after he returned.

By placing him on waivers Wednesday, Gobble will get $221,311 in termination pay instead of $1.35 million salary.

The Royals also signed right-hander Anthony Lerew to a minor league contract and invited him to big league camp.

LANNAN GETS OPENING DAY NOD (1:52 p.m. ET)
John Lannan, a rookie in 2008 who started last season in the minors, will be the Nationals' Opening Day starter against the Marlins.

Lannan, 24, went 9-15 with a 3.91 ERA last season. In six innings over two starts this spring, he has not allowed a run.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.