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Monday, March 30, 2009


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CHAVEZ SAYS HE'S READY (9:34 p.m. ET)
Eric Chavez says he's ready for Opening Day.

Chavez, who is rehabbing from shoulder surgery, started and played third in the Athletics' 9-5 victory over the Dodgers, his first back-to-back games in the field this spring.

Chavez was limited to designated hitter duties early in the spring, and then he had a setback that cost him about two weeks. On Monday, Chavez had a double and a walk in three trips to the plate. He is 3-for-17 this spring, but he's 2-for-6 since he returned to the lineup following his setback.

"Timing feels good," Chavez said. "I've just got to get used to getting in there every day and back-to-back days. It's always different playing in a game with the adrenaline. For some reason there are different parts that work when you have adrenaline versus when you don't."

Meanwhile, left-fielder Manny Ramirez dropped a fly ball on the warning track, then fell down while trying to make a running catch, drawing an error, during the A's four-run second inning. "My gold glove is in jeopardy," Ramirez said.

BENSON ON BOARD? (9:06 p.m. ET)
Kris Benson believes he has done enough to nail down the final spot in Texas' rotation, and manager Ron Washington agrees.

"He's one of mine," Washington said when asked if Benson is one of the Rangers' five best starters. "It's more than me making the decision."

Benson pitched six strong innings and the Rangers beat the Giants 7-5. He gave up three runs and six hits, struck out two and walked none.

Benson, who has a 4.76 ERA in 17 innings this spring, hasn't pitched in the major leagues since 2006 after rotator cuff surgery.

"I feel like every time I step on the mound and face hitters it's an audition," said Benson, who missed the 2007 season, pitched 11 Triple-A games last year and signed a minor league deal with the Rangers in February.

HARDEN BACK ON MOUND (8:24 p.m. ET)
Rich Harden returned to the mound for the first time since March 15 because of food poisoning and gave up three homers and five runs in the Cubs' 8-8, 10-inning tie with the Royals.

"I'm feeling good and got my strength back," said Harden, who gave up four hits in 4 2/3 innings while walking two and striking out four. "I threw 80 pitches and was still feeling just as strong at the end of it, which is good. We'll extend it a little more next time. My body is as strong as it's going to be. I'm ready to go."

Harden lost seven pounds after eating tainted chicken salad.

"I'm starting to put some weight back on," he said. "I'm still down a couple of pounds, but that's it. I'm definitely feeling a whole lot stronger now and it's back to normal, back to where I was before. My shoulder is feeling really strong, which is good."

Harden's next start will be Saturday at the new Yankee Stadium in the Cubs' final exhibition game.

"It's going to be nice being in Yankee Stadium, a big game like that," Harden said. "It will be like regular season. It will be packed there."

BAEK SIDELINED (8:15 p.m. ET)
Cha Seung Baek will miss his final Cactus League start and possibly the start of the season for the Padres because of a strained right forearm.

Baek left a start Sunday after four innings, complaining of soreness. The Padres are uncertain if the right-hander will be put on the disabled list.

Baek is 2-4 with a 9.27 ERA in seven starts this spring. Kevin Correia, who started for San Diego on Monday, is likely to take Baek's rotation spot should the injury linger into the season.

YANKS WATCHING CHAMBERLAIN (7:52 p.m. ET)
Joba Chamberlain needs to show Yankees manager Joe Girardi two things in his next-to-last spring training start for it to be considered a success.

"Efficency and location," Girardi said before leaving for Monday's road game against Toronto in Dunedin. "I'd like to get six innings if we could."

Chamberlain, the Yankees' No. 5 starter, is 3-0 with a 3.68 ERA in five major league spring training starts. However, the right-hander has pitched just 14 2/3 innings during the stretch, with a long of 4 1/3 innings.

Girardi feels it is "fairly important" that Chamberlain have a longer outing before spring training ends. His last scheduled preseason start is in a minor league intrasquad game Sunday in Florida.

Chamberlain split time last season between the bullpen and a starting role.

"As a reliever, it doesn't matter if you throw 25 pitches in an inning," Girardi said. "You do that as a starter, and you're not going to be deep into games. That's what we want all our starters to do."

JAYS WORRIED ABOUT RYAN (6:55 p.m. ET)
Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston expressed concern about closer B.J. Ryan after he pitched a shaky eighth inning in Toronto's 3-1 loss to the Yankees.

Ryan gave up one run and two hits, including Angel Berroa's RBI double to left-center. The left-hander, who skipped the World Baseball Classic to work on his mechanics, has a 9.00 ERA this spring.

Gaston said he might consider making Scott Downs the closer and putting Ryan "somewhere else for a while and go from there." He said he wants to see how Ryan does in his final two spring appearances.

Ryan said he's moving in the right direction.

"The runs are just [from] pitching behind," he said. "Pitch behind in counts and you get in predictable counts. Aside from that there were some good things that came out of today."

JACKSON EARNS SPOT WITH TRIBE (6:40 p.m. ET)
Zach Jackson will open the season as the final pitcher on the Indians' staff.

The left-hander was told by manager Eric Wedge that he will be with the team when Cleveland opens the season in Texas against the Rangers on April 6.

"I'm excited, actually close to speechless right now," said Jackson, who was one of four players acquired by Cleveland in the July trade that sent CC Sabathia to the Brewers.

"We had discussions this morning and we're going with Zach," Wedge said, adding that veteran right-handers Matt Herges and Vinnie Chulk will be sent to Triple-A Columbus.

"Zach is a guy who is going to help us and I think sooner than later. He's had a very good camp."

Jackson began spring training in a competition for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, but Wedge liked the way the 25-year-old worked in relief. In six outings over 18 1/3 innings, he had a 6.87 ERA, but had a good walks-to-strikeouts ratio of four to 11.

RAYS RELEASE ENSBERG (6:27 p.m. ET)
The Rays released former All-Star Morgan Ensberg.

The infielder agreed to a minor league deal with the Rays in February. He hit .227 with four RBIs this spring.

Rays manager Joe Maddon said he appreciated Ensberg's efforts, but Tampa didn't have a place for him with the Triple-A club.

Ensberg, an All-Star with Houston in 2005, appeared in 28 games for the Yankees last season, batting .203 with one homer and four RBIs. He spent parts of the previous six seasons with the Astros and Padres, and is a career .263 hitter with 110 home runs.

DICE-K VS. KAWAKAMI (6:23 p.m. ET)
Kenshin Kawakami relished the opportunity to match up against fellow countryman Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Matsuzaka allowed two hits and an earned run over five innings in his return to the Red Sox from the World Baseball Classic. Kawakami gave up a two-run homer to Rocco Baldelli for his only runs, and the Braves rallied to beat the Red Sox 4-3 in 10 innings on Monday.

More than 30 Japanese media members in the press box made the game a bit more intense for the starters.

"With so many media, I guess I felt a little more excited," Kawakami, who signed with the Braves this winter after starring in Japan, said through an interpreter. "If I was in Japan, I'd probably enjoy [the matchup] also."

Matsuzaka, who was the MVP of the tournament, liked the timing of the pitching pairing as he adjusted from the pressure of the WBC to spring training.

"Luckily today, going up against Kenshin-san on the other side gave me a change to get revved up," Matsuzaka said through an interpreter. "When I'm going up against any Japanese player, whether pitcher or position player, I'm always keeping an eye out on what kind of game they're going to pitch or how they're doing in the batter's box."

MAUER LIKELY TO STAY BEHIND (6:18 p.m. ET)
Twins All-Star catcher Joe Mauer likely won't travel with his team when it heads north to Minnesota next week.

Mauer, who is battling lingering pain and inflammation in his lower back, will consult with doctors and Twins officials in the next few days to evaluate his progress.

Manager Ron Gardenhire said there is no timetable for Mauer's return but that he seemed to be improving.

"He's moving around really good," Gardenhire said. "That's kind of nice. He has a smile on his face, which he hasn't had in a long time."

Mauer told reporters Sunday: "I feel the best I've felt all spring." The catcher said he hopes to engage in baseball activity this week but he's unsure when that will be.

"This week, I'm going to try to do more baseball stuff," Mauer said, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "When, I don't know. But it'll be good to get out there. I can't wait. It's been a long spring. But I'll put it all behind me when I get back on the field."

FULL DAY FOR SMOLTZ (5:36 p.m. ET)
John Smoltz was back in the Braves' clubhouse Monday, visiting his old team before heading off for a round of golf with Tiger Woods.

"It was good to see everybody," Smoltz, who ended his 20-year tenure with the Braves by signing with the Red Sox in January, said before Boston's spring game against Atlanta. "It was different. There are a lot of memories. ... You miss it. But it's time to move on."

Braves manager Bobby Cox said the clubhouse hasn't been nearly as loud this spring without Smoltz.

"You always heard him," Cox said. "[But] players move up."

During Smoltz's later years with the Braves, a golf date with Woods was always part of spring training. This round came a day after Woods' victory in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at nearby Bay Hill.

"I didn't see his [winning] putt, but I'll tell him I did," Smoltz said prior to leaving for Isleworth Country Club.

MOTTE THE MAIN MAN (5:26 p.m. ET)
The Cardinals reassigned Chris Perez to the minor leagues following their 2-1 victory over the Marlins on Monday, clearing the way for Jason Motte to get the bulk of the work as their closer.

Perez, a first round pick in 2006, experienced arm trouble earlier this spring. He entered Monday's game having made eight one-inning appearances and allowed only two earned runs.

"He's got 100 innings in minor league baseball," manager Tony La Russa said. "He's really such a young pitcher. He needs to work. He needs to work regularly. He can be the closer in Memphis and get valuable experience."

Perez's departure means Motte will get first crack at saving games, though La Russa will probably give opportunities to other relievers as well.

"We are going to use whoever is available but I would believe that Motte is going to get a chance to close games," La Russa said.

ROCKIES MAKE SOME MOVES (4:03 p.m. ET)
The Rockies have optioned outfielders Carlos Gonzalez and Matt Murton and left-handed pitcher Greg Smith to Triple-A Colorado Springs.

Colorado also reassigned catchers Edwin Bellorin and Paul Phillips and left-handed pitcher Randy Flores to their minor league camp.

The Rockies now have 34 players on their major league spring training roster, including eight non-roster invitees.

TIGERS DEAL FOR ANDERSON (3:31 p.m. ET)
The Detroit Tigers have acquired outfielder Josh Anderson in a trade with the Atlanta Braves.

The Tigers sent minor league pitcher Rudy Darrow to Atlanta in Monday's deal.

Anderson hit three home runs and stole 10 bases in 40 games with the Braves last year.

Darrow played at Double-A Erie and Class A West Michigan last year. The 25-year-old right-hander finished 1-1 with a 2.63 ERA in 14 appearances at Erie and went 4-2 with a 1.85 ERA in 33 games with West Michigan.

The 26-year-old Anderson was a fourth-round draft pick in 2003.

DELLUCCI PLACED ON DL (3:23 p.m. ET)
The Cleveland Indians have placed outfielder Dave Dellucci on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left calf.

Dellucci hit .240 (6-for-25) with two homers and five RBIs in eight spring games for Cleveland. This is his sixth trip to the DL since reaching the majors in 1997 with the Baltimore Orioles.

The 35-year-old signed a three-year contract as a free agent before the 2007 season.

The Indians also recalled outfielder Trevor Crowe from Triple-A Columbus on Monday. Crowe, 25, batted .289 with one homer, three RBIs and went 6-for-6 in stolen-base attempts this spring before being optioned out on Saturday.

CARPAL TUNNEL LIMITS ARROYO (2:35 p.m. ET)
Bronson Arroyo is having a flare-up of the carpal tunnel syndrome that has bothered him from time to time over the last few years. This bout is especially nasty, along with the timing. The season starts in less than one week.

"I don't know what it's from, man," Arroyo said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I can't write. I can't do anything with my pointer finger and thumb without it being irritated. I had it back in '04 in the playoffs [with Boston] pitching against the Yankees. I've had it for years."

So far, Arroyo has been able to overcome the problem, which bothers him much more when he holds a pen or a guitar pick. It returned last May and gave him problems for about three months. Arroyo finished 15-11 with a 4.77 ERA last season, when he was the only Reds pitcher who didn't miss a start. He led the staff with 200 innings. The right-hander can pitch with the problem. He'd rather not have to try.

Arroyo hasn't done very well in his last two starts during spring training. He gave up 11 hits in five innings of a game against minor leaguers on March 24 and was pounded for 14 hits and 10 runs -- three earned -- in only 4 2/3 innings against Tampa Bay on Sunday. The Rays took advantage of his inability to throw a breaking ball, something he passed off as just a bad day. There's more to it, though.

Asked if the carpal tunnel bothers his hand when he's pitching, Arroyo said, "Yeah. It's almost like taking a 220 [volt] line of electricity and pinching it off and you're only getting about two-thirds of it. You feel like you don't have much power, and you don't have much command. So I've got about another week to try to get it out of there. We'll see."

BERKMAN HAS BICEPS TENDINITIS (2:18 p.m. ET)
Lance Berkman was diagnosed with biceps tendinitis Sunday after seeing the team's doctor.

The Astros slugger will sit out the next few days but he doesn't appear to be in jeopardy of missing Opening Day. He was scratched from the Astros' lineup Saturday.

"I don't think Lance feels it's anything of great significance," Astros GM Ed Wade said, according to the Houston Chronicle. "[Athletic trainer] Nate [Lucero] didn't want him to make the trip [Saturday] because if he went over there with orders to swing the bat X number of times he would have swung the X times one hundred times. We wanted to keep him from being tempted to do too much."

Berkman said his injury doesn't affect his swing. It only bothers him when he throws.

"I'm going to try to DH [Tuesday]," Berkman told MLB.com. "That's what I'd like to do, if they'll let me."

CUBS CUT BAKO, STANTON (2:14 p.m. ET)
The Cubs released veteran catcher Paul Bako and left-hander Mike Stanton. Bako, 36, was hitting .364 this spring after signing a free-agent contract with Chicago on Jan. 30. Stanton, 41, who was out of baseball last season after being released by the Reds on April, has a career record of 68-63 with a 3.92 ERA in 1,178 games.

The Cubs also announced that catcher Koyie Hill and first baseman Micah Hoffpauir have made the Opening Day roster. Hill, who spent most of last season at Triple-A Iowa while recovering from a hand injury sustained after the 2007 season, was batting .381 this spring. Hoffpauir was batting .295 this spring, with a team-high five home runs and major league-leading 22 RBIs.

ROMERO WINS ROTATION SPOT (11:56 a.m. ET)
Rookie Ricky Romero pitched himself into the Blue Jays' starting rotation, manager Cito Gaston said Monday.

The 24-year-old left-hander was in a competition with Brad Mills and Scott Richmond for the final two spots in Toronto's rotation. Mills and Richmond are still battling for the fifth spot.

The Blue Jays' rotation is led by right-handed ace Roy Halladay. Left-hander David Purcey occupies the No. 2 slot and righty Jesse Litsch will start out of the No. 3 hole.

PIRATES DEMOTE TOUTED PROSPECT (11:49 a.m. ET)
The Pittsburgh Pirates have sent center fielder Andrew McCutchen to minor league camp and optioned infielder Brian Bixler to Triple-A Indianapolis.

The 22-year-old McCutchen is one of the team's top prospects and was a first-round draft pick in 2005. This spring, he batted .318 with two home runs, seven RBIs, two stolen bases and a team-best 12 walks.

General manager Neal Huntington said he expects both McCutchen and Bixler will play for the Pirates at some point this season.

Bixler will be Indianapolis' starting shortstop, and will get some playing time at second base.

The Pirates have 35 players remaining in camp.

REDS' ROSTER DOWN TO 33 (11:47 a.m. ET)
The Cincinnati Reds got down to 33 players by sending outfielders Jacque Jones and Norris Hopper and right-hander Daryl Thompson to the minors.

The 33-year-old Jones signed with the Reds on Feb. 5, getting a chance to win a reserve spot. He went only 4-for-45 (.089) in spring training, and was reassigned to the minor league camp Monday.

The Reds optioned Hopper and Thompson to Triple-A Louisville. Hopper batted .132 this spring, costing him a shot at a reserve role. The 23-year-old Thompson jumped from Class A to Triple-A last season. The Reds want him to get more experience in the minors.

PHILLIES CUT INFIELDER GILES (10:25 a.m. ET)
The Phillies released veteran infielder Marcus Giles on Monday. Giles was in camp as a nonroster invitee.

They also informed reliever Gary Majewski, utility infielder Pablo Ozuna and outfielder John Mayberry Jr. they won't be making the team, but they will go north with the club and play in exhibition games in Philadelphia this weekend against Tampa Bay.

-- ESPN.com's Jayson Stark

MATTHEWS STEWS AFTER DEMOTION (9:34 a.m. ET)
Gary Matthews Jr., who is in the third year of a five-year, $50 million contract, was told Sunday in a meeting with club officials that he will start the season as the Angels' fifth outfielder. He didn't take the news well.

Matthews did not travel with the team Sunday to play the Rangers. Instead, he requested and was granted a day off to cool off. He wasn't in a talking mood when approached by reporters.

"Just give me a day, guys, OK?" Matthews told reporters, according to the Los Angeles Times. "Thanks."

It is unclear if Matthews has requested a trade, but when asked by reporters if he was being dealt, he said "no."

Angels general manager Tony Reagins said that currently he has no plans to deal Matthews and wouldn't disclose details of the meeting.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.