Category archive: Chicago Cubs

DEWITT TO START AT SECOND FOR DODGERS (10:31 p.m. ET)

The Dodgers have chosen Blake DeWitt as their Opening Day second baseman and knuckleballer Charlie Haeger as their No. 5 starter.

Manager Joe Torre delivered the news to both players when they reported to Dodger Stadium on Thursday for the first of the team's final three exhibition games.

Before Torre and general manager Ned Colletti let DeWitt know he had made the club, they played an April Fool's joke.

DeWitt said Torre told him he was being sent to Triple-A Albuquerque. After DeWitt admitted he didn't know the date, Torre told him it was April 1.

Ronnie Belliard and newly acquired Jamey Carroll will serve as infield backups.

-- The Associated Press

PEAVY SAYS HE FEELS AS GOOD AS '07 (9:53 p.m. ET)

Jake Peavy declared he feels as good as he did in his 2007 Cy Young Award season despite giving up two home runs in four innings in his final spring start as the White Sox lost to Triple-A Charlotte 4-3.

Peavy gave up three runs and four hits with seven strikeouts and no walks. Peavy struck out six through three scoreless innings before surrendering home runs to Stefan Gartrell and Josh Kroeger on cut fastballs. He left after throwing 68 pitches.

Mark Kotsay and Carlos Quentin homered for Chicago, which played its regulars four innings before finishing the game with many players from Class A Winston-Salem.

Jeff Marquez allowed two runs and five hits in five innings for the Knights.

-- The Associated Press

REDS DELAY ROSTER CUTS (9:03 p.m. ET)

The Reds' plans to slash their spring training roster have been pushed back another day.

The Reds made two moves, optioning right-hander Carlos Fisher to Triple-A Louisville and reassigning catcher Corky Miller to their minor league camp. They're left with 38 players in camp -- 13 over the limit for Opening Day.

General manager Walt Jocketty had indicated the club would substantially reduce the roster on Thursday. However, the team wasn't able to tell some of the players about its plans before they left the training complex following a 7-6 win over Texas, so the rest of the moves were put off for another day.

-- The Associated Press

ANDERSON TO TRY TO BECOME PITCHER (8:57 p.m. ET)

Outfielder Brian Anderson is going to give pitching a try.

Anderson signed a one-year, $700,000 free-agent contract with the Royals in the offseason after finishing 2009 with the Red Sox. But instead of taking a minor league assignment as an outfielder, the former first-round draft pick opted to go to the low minors and work his way back as a pitcher.

Royals manager Trey Hillman says he's not sure how the transition will work "but it's going to start at the very bottom."

Anderson last pitched in college for Arizona, where he appeared in 17 games and had a 5.40 ERA in 21 2/3 innings.

Selected by the White Sox with the 15th overall pick in the 2003 amateur draft, Anderson has a .227 average in five major league seasons with 22 homers and 80 RBIs.

-- The Associated Press

CUETO STRUGGLES THROUGH BACK PROBLEMS (7:53 p.m. ET)

Right-hander Johnny Cueto had trouble getting his back loose and struggled through four innings, but Scott Rolen hit a homer and sacrifice fly that rallied the Reds to a 7-6 victory over the Rangers.

Cueto hasn't had any issues with his back this spring and didn't think the problem was serious. He gave up 10 hits and five runs in four innings. He also hit two batters.

Rolen hit a two-run homer off closer Frank Francisco, who started the game and gave up four hits in his one inning. Reds minor leaguer Daniel Dorn singled home a run in the seventh and hit a two-out solo homer in the ninth off left-hander Richard Bleier to win it.

-- The Associated Press

SORIANO SPOILS FRANCIS' BEST OUTING THIS SPRING (6:33 p.m. ET)

Jeff Francis, who missed last season after undergoing shoulder surgery, pitched five scoreless innings for Colorado before Alfonso Soriano's two-run homer in the sixth lifted the Cubs to a 2-0 victory over the Rockies.

Francis entered with a 7.27 ERA but Colorado's No. 2 starter held the Cubs to three singles and three walks in his best outing. The left-hander won 17 games in 2007 before going 4-10 the next year as his shoulder became problematic.

Soriano, who slumped most of March, capped his three-hit day with a homer off Matt Daley. Coming off his worst season -- .241 with 20 HRs and 55 RBIs -- Soriano has only two homers and five RBIs this spring.

Cubs starter Carlos Silva allowed six hits over five scoreless innings.

-- The Associated Press

WHITE SOX'S ELARTON OUTDUELS MARINERS' SNELL (6:28 p.m. ET)

Scott Elarton pitched two scoreless innings in his first start since 2008 and a squad of White Sox minor leaguers roughed up Ian Snell in a 9-4 win over the Mariners.

Elarton, who hasn't pitched in the majors since the Indians placed him on the disabled list in July 2008 for what the club then called a non-baseball medical condition, signed a minor league deal this week. He gave up one hit and struck out one.

Snell, the Mariners' No. 2 starter, gave up six runs and 10 hits while striking out five.

The White Sox's big league roster left Thursday morning for exhibition games in Charlotte, N.C., and Atlanta.

-- The Associated Press

LACKEY WALKS FIRST BATTER OF SPRING (5:58 p.m. ET)

John Lackey walked his first batter in 20 innings this spring and gave up a run in the Red Sox's 5-3 win over the Twins.

The Red Sox scored two runs in the eighth inning off Twins reliever Ron Mahay. Scott Schoeneweis pitched a scoreless eighth for the Red Sox.

Lackey went five innings and gave up six hits, including a homer to Jim Thome. He walked six and struck out two.

"I thought he got on some fastballs," manager Terry Francona said. "I think like [Jon] Lester and [Josh] Beckett, he's ready for the season. I think he's raring to go. I think he was chomping at the bit a little bit today even."

-- The Associated Press

MOYER, PHILLIES CLOSE OUT SPRING SCHEDULE (4:58 p.m. ET)

Jamie Moyer pitched six strong innings and the Phillies closed out their spring training schedule with a 4-2 win over the Pirates.

Moyer, who was named the fifth starter two days earlier, gave up solo home runs to Ryan Church and Ryan Doumit but held Pittsburgh in check the rest of the way. The 47-year-old left-hander scattered six hits while striking out three and walking none.

Moyer, who underwent three offseason operations, enters his 24th major league season healthy and coming off a strong spring. In six starts, including three B games, Moyer had a 2.02 ERA while striking out 23 and walking just one in 26 2/3 innings.

-- The Associated Press

ROBERTSON DEBUTS WITH MARLINS (4:34 p.m. ET)

Newly acquired Nate Robertson allowed one earned run on two hits in seven innings and even drove in a run in the Marlins' 3-1 victory over the Cardinals.

"I got here yesterday with a full car, my family is back in Detroit and I'm pitching seven innings in the final game of the Grapefruit League," Robertson said. "But I'm excited to be here. If there was a team to go to, it's definitely the team that drafted me and got me going into my professional career."

Robertson, acquired in a trade with the Tigers on Wednesday, surrendered a run in the fifth when Ryan Ludwick led off with a double to left, stole third and scored on David Freese's groundout to short.

"What I saw today I liked," Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He threw a lot of strikes. I think he went seven innings and didn't get to 90 pitches."

-- The Associated Press

ASTROS' JOHNSON HITS SEVENTH SPRING HOMER (4:31 p.m. ET)

Chris Johnson hit his team-leading seventh home run of the spring, but the Astros dropped a game to a Tigers split-squad 4-2.

Houston reliever Brandon Lyon allowed three runs on four hits in one inning.

-- The Associated Press

TEIXEIRA RETURNS AFTER TWO-GAME ABSENCE (4:05 p.m. ET)

Mark Teixeira doubled and singled after missing two games with a sore elbow as the Yankees beat the Blue Jays 5-2.

Teixeira wore a protective shield on his right elbow, which was bruised when he was hit by a pitch Monday against Baltimore. Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher each had a pair of singles for New York.

Right-hander A.J. Burnett allowed two runs on five hits in 4 2/3 innings for the Yankees, including Jose Bautista's home run on his second pitch.

New York's Joba Chamberlain pitched in consecutive games for the first time this spring.

-- The Associated Press

MAINE GIVES UP SIX HITS TO NATS (3:18 p.m. ET)

Mets right-hander John Maine pitched through stomach problems and allowed four runs in 4 2/3 innings as the Washington Nationals defeated New York 9-3 Thursday.

Maine, who will pitch second in the Mets' rotation, gave up six hits and walked four.

Josh Willingham hit a two-run homer for Washington in the fourth off Maine to make it 3-2, and the New York pitcher couldn't get through the fifth.

He walked two to start the fifth. Adam Dunn followed with an RBI single and Willingham drove in another run on a ground-rule double to take the lead.

-- The Associated Press

SWEENEY LIKELY PART OF MARINERS' ROSTER (2:28 p.m. ET)

Five-time All-Star and camp long shot Mike Sweeney has likely made the Seattle Mariners as a pinch-hitter and backup first baseman.

The news came as part of the Mariners' announcement infielder Ryan Garko was claimed off waivers by Texas. Left-hander Garrett Olson was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma.

The 36-year-old Sweeney has kept his spring batting average well above .500. He also has picked up where he left off last season by mentoring young players, and has been a popular clubhouse leader.

-- The Associated Press

INDIANS NAME HUFF FIFTH STARTER (12:48 p.m. ET)

David Huff is the Cleveland Indians' No. 5 starter.

Right-hander Carlos Carrasco, who was in competition for the job, was optioned to Triple-A Columbus.

Huff gave up one run and five hits in seven innings to the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday in his final spring audition. The 25-year-old led Cleveland with 11 wins a year ago as a rookie after making his major-league debut on May 17.

Carrasco, 23, was one of four players acquired from Philadelphia in the trade that sent 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee to the Phillies in July. He had a 12-inning scoreless stretch earlier this spring and compiled a 4.60 ERA overall in four outings.

-- The Associated Press

BRADEN ON ANTIBIOTICS AS PRECAUTION (10:13 p.m. ET)

Oakland Athletics left-hander Dallas Braden possibly has a staph infection on his left shin but isn't expected to miss any time.

Braden woke up Friday morning with a lump on his leg and after being checked out by team trainers, was sent to see a doctor, just hours before he was scheduled to pitch against the Cubs. Although no firm diagnosis was made, Braden was given antibiotics as a precaution.

Braden, slated second in Oakland's starting rotation behind ace Ben Sheets, missed the final two months of last season because of nerve damage in his left foot. The condition left him with a tingling sensation in his entire foot -- and no feeling at all in about half of it. Earlier this week, a neurologist told him the numbness never would subside.
-- The Associated Press

STAUFFER WILLING TO HELP PADRES AS NEEDED (10:04 p.m. ET)

After pitching four shutout innings to help a Padres split-squad beat the Reds 3-2, Tim Stauffer thinks he can help San Diego, even if it's out of the bullpen.

Stauffer, a 2003 first-round pick who is out of options, is pushing hard for the final spot in the Padres' rotation but is open to a reliever role. The right-hander allowed two hits and struck out four in his first appearance since last Saturday.

"During the season relievers have to go that long or longer so I guess if that's something that's a possibility I need to get used to it," Stauffer said after a seven-day layoff. "That wouldn't be a hard transition to make."

Stauffer went 4-7 with a 3.58 ERA in 14 starts last season after missing all of 2008 with a shoulder injury. He lowered his spring ERA to 2.57.
-- The Associated Press

JOBA THE RELIEVER JOTS DOWN SAVE (7:57 p.m. ET)

Joba Chamberlain's first relief outing since he was sent back to the bullpen was a bit of an adventure -- he allowed two hits and struck out one during a scoreless ninth inning, earning the save in the New York Yankees' 2-1 victory over Detroit. It was his first game since manager Joe Girardi announced on Thursday that Phil Hughes had won the competition for the team's fifth starter spot, beating out Chamberlain and three other candidates.

"A lot of guys came in and worked hard, and we didn't make anybody's decision easy," Chamberlain said. "That was our goal as guys coming in. I'm excited about being able to get the opportunity to help this team. We'll go from there."

Chamberlain is in the mix for the eighth-inning setup role before closer Mariano Rivera. The right-hander made 31 starts and one relief appearance during the regular season last year, but pitched out of the bullpen during the playoffs.
-- The Associated Press

HOMER A SPRING FIRST FOR FIELDER (7:52 p.m. ET)

Prince Fielder hit his first home run of the spring and Randy Wolf outdueled C.J. Wilson, leading the Milwaukee Brewers to a 3-1 victory over Texas. Wolf allowed only Julio Borbon's two-out single in the third over six shutout innings. He walked one, struck out seven and faced only three batters over the minimum.

Wilson was nearly as untouchable, scattering two hits over his first five innings before tiring and giving up Fielder's two-run, two-out home run just over the left-field fence in the sixth.
-- The Associated Press

PUJOLS SCHEDULED FOR DAY OFF (7:38 p.m. ET)

Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols, who rested Friday, struck out twice in a 3-2 win over Florida. Manager Tony La Russa plans to use the NL MVP on Sunday and Monday before giving him a day off Tuesday.

Brad Penny, projected to be the Cardinals' No. 3 starter, allowed one run and five hits while lowering his spring ERA to 6.10.

Penny had a scary moment in the sixth, when Hanley Ramirez's hard groundout struck him on the inside of his left thigh. He was examined on the mound by trainers and left after retiring the next two batters.

"Hit me in the muscle, good spot again," Penny said. "If it had been a knee, it might have been a problem."
-- The Associated Press

MARLINS' JOHNSON TO THROW; HENSLEY STILL SHINING (7:30 p.m. ET)

Florida Marlins right-hander Josh Johnson, who was scratched from his scheduled start on Friday because of the flu, threw on flat ground Saturday morning.

Florida's ace is scheduled to throw off the mound Sunday. If that goes well, he should make his next start on Wednesday, which would allow him to start the season opener April 5 in New York against the Mets.

Johnson, 26, won 15 games in 33 starts last year and struck out 191 in 209 innings.

Meanwhile, Clay Hensley pitched six innings in a 3-2 loss to St. Louis, yielding three runs, one earned, and three hits. He dropped his spring ERA to 0.55 in 16/3 innings, making a strong case for a rotation spot.

"I thought he did outstanding," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He's getting closer to being on the team."
-- The Associated Press

TWINS TO SEND JONES TO MINORS (5:51 p.m. ET)

Jacque Jones has been told that he will not make the Minnesota Twins' Opening Day roster.

Jones hit .344 this spring with two home runs and three doubles. But manager Ron Gardenhire told him Saturday that there wasn't enough room for the veteran outfielder on a loaded Twins roster.

Jones will finish out spring training with the team and travel to Minnesota to play in an exhibition game against the Cardinals. After that, he will report to Triple-A Rochester.

After playing in the independent Atlantic League in 2009, Jones signed a minor league deal with the Twins in February. He spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Twins before leaving in 2006 for the Cubs. He also played for Detroit and Florida in
-- The Associated Press

RANGERS ACQUIRE BLANCO FROM CUBS (5:35 p.m. ET)

The Texas Rangers have acquired second baseman Andres Blanco from the Chicago Cubs for a player to be named or cash.

Blanco was unlikely to make Chicago's 25-man roster and he was out of options. In 2009, his 10th professional season and first with the Cubs, Blanco batted .252 with one homer and 12 RBIs in 123 at-bats. He sprained his knee early in spring training and was limited to nine at-bats.

Rangers manager Ron Washington says he still needs a utility infielder to spell Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus.

In 131 career major league games, including 78 during three short stints with the Royals, Blanco batted .252 with one homer and 31 RBIs.
-- The Associated Press

CHAPMAN AMONG 3 VYING FOR REDS' LAST SPOT (5:09 p.m. ET)

The only opening in the Cincinnati Reds' rotation has produced the biggest surprise of camp.

There was a glut of veterans trying to win the fifth starting spot when camp opened. With a week left, it's down to three youngsters who have never thrown a pitch in the majors.

Right-hander Mike Leake and left-handers Travis Wood and Aroldis Chapman are the last three standing. The 23-year-old Wood has the most experience -- five years in the minors. Leake was the Reds' top pick last June. Chapman is a 22-year-old Cuban defector whose sore back has hurt his chances.

The final decision likely will come down to one more head-to-head audition next week and front-office rumination about which one fits best at the moment.

Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey have the other spots.
-- The Associated Press

PADRES PUSH BACK LATOS' SCHEDULED START (11:47 p.m. ET)

The Padres have pushed back right-hander Mat Latos' scheduled Saturday start because of a sore elbow.

Manager Bud Black says Latos, one of several pitchers battling for two spots in the rotation, will instead throw in the bullpen and that he's already improving.

Latos is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA in four appearances this spring. In 14 innings, Latos has allowed nine hits and walked three while striking out 11 batters.

Last season, Latos was 4-5 with a 4.62 ERA in 10 starts until the Padres shut him down in early September to reduce the wear and tear on his arm. Latos had pitched a combined 123 innings between the major and minor leagues after throwing 56 combined innings in 2008.

The Padres have said Latos won't throw more than 150 innings this year.

-- The Associated Press

ROBERTS RETURNS FOR ORIOLES (9:59 p.m. ET)

Second baseman Brian Roberts tested his ailing back in a game Friday night for the first time this spring. Although he showed no sign of injury, his swing still apparently needs some work.

Roberts went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts in Baltimore's 4-3 loss to the Twins. Roberts spent the previous six weeks at camp receiving treatment and doing exercises to ease the pain of a herniated disc in his lower back.

"My body, it felt pretty good," he said after his six-inning stint.

And his swing?

"Obviously not stellar," Roberts said. "My last at-bat, actually I started to finally feel a lot more comfortable in the box. My first two, I was pretty clueless."

-- The Associated Press

MOYER BOLSTERS BID FOR STARTING SPOT (9:56 p.m. ET)

Jamie Moyer bolstered his bid to win Philadelphia's fifth starter spot by giving up one hit over 6 2/3 innings in the Phillies' 3-0 victory over the Yankees.

The 47-year-old left-hander is competing with Kyle Kendrick, who has a 1.37 ERA in 19 2/3 innings over five games. Moyer struck out six and hit one batter with a pitch.

"Pretty good," Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said. "Threw good quality strikes down. Even when he missed, he was close. Got a little yo-yo on it every now and then. Back door. Up and down."

Moyer underwent two major offseason surgeries. He had a sports hernia operation in October and underwent another procedure on his left knee in January.

"I really didn't know what to expect because I haven't been through his kind of thing in the past," Moyer said. "So, go wing it and see what happens. Being in this clubhouse with this group of guys, it's a winning environment, it's a winning situation. It's really hard to walk away from."

-- The Associated Press

GRIFFEY HITS GRAND SLAM OFF FORMER TEAM (8:38 p.m. ET)

Junior's still got it. Ken Griffey Jr. hit a grand slam off Kip Wells in the bottom of the ninth inning to give his Mariners a 6-5 victory over his former team, the Reds.

Asked the last time he had hit a game-ending slam in any game -- spring training, during any of his 24 professional seasons, at Cincinnati Moeller High School -- Griffey said, "Never."

Griffey, who has hit 630 home runs in his career, had swung wildly and missed with the count 3-0, looking anxious. On 3-1, he again looked antsy chasing a low pitch.

Then he drove a belt-high fastball from Wells into right-center field. Griffey was grinning as he approached the plate. All the Mariners were waiting with high-fives and back slaps but spared him the joyous pummeling that he got a couple times last season for late-game hits.

"Just one of those things," Griffey said. "It's spring training. Everyone's working on something. I'm starting to be able to do some things [like wait on pitches]. And I happened to get a ball up into the wind tunnel."

-- The Associated Press

JACKSON HAS BEST OUTING OF SPRING TRAINING (8:36 p.m. ET)

After struggling in his last two starts, Diamondbacks right-hander Edwin Jackson had his best outing of spring training. Jackson threw six scoreless innings, allowing five hits with three walks and two strikeouts in Arizona's 10-1 victory over the White Sox.

"His delivery was significantly better," Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch said. "He wasn't jumpy or out of control like he had been his last couple of outings. He was very much in control of the game."

Jackson has worked on his mechanics after allowing seven runs in 2 1/3 innings against the Reds and four runs in 4 2/3 innings against the Giants.

He said he shook off few signs from catcher Chris Snyder.

"I was just finding a rhythm, going out there and keeping a nice tempo, making adjustments from pitch to pitch instead of waiting until the inning snowballed to make an adjustment," said Jackson, Arizona's No. 2 starter behind Dan Haren.

-- The Associated Press

MARMOL MELTS DOWN IN CUBS LOSS (8:33 p.m. ET)

It was a wonderful day of pitching for both the Cubs and Athletics -- until Carlos Marmol took the mound.

"You can't have a perfect day in spring training," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said after a ninth-inning meltdown by his closer helped an A's split squad to a 5-2 victory.

Oakland starter Dallas Braden was outstanding, Chicago's Carlos Zambrano was even better and several relievers excelled, too. Then Marmol, anointed the Cubs' bullpen ace after spending most of three seasons as the primary setup man, served up Travis Buck's tiebreaking homer on his third pitch.

He followed that by hitting Michael Taylor with a pitch and giving up Landon Powell's single. After Cliff Pennington's run-scoring grounder, Marmol yielded pinch-hitter Shane Peterson's RBI single.

In his previous game, Marmol blew a save by allowing a two-run homer. He has hit a batter in three straight outings.

"His mechanics are off," Piniella said. "He was really flat with his pitches and we were wondering why. I think we found something on the tape. He's coming almost sidearm ... and you lose that good snap. It's something to work on. That's why it's called spring training."

-- The Associated Press

LINCECUM LEAVES GAME EARLY (8:21 p.m. ET)

Tim Lincecum left early with a small cut on the middle finger of his pitching hand in the Giants' 5-3 win over the Angels.

The two-time defending NL Cy Young winner had hoped to pitch about six innings but lasted only four, leaving the game with the Giants trailing 1-0. Lincecum threw 84 pitches, giving up a run on six hits while walking two and striking out seven.

The right-hander didn't mention the cut to reporters afterward, but manager Bruce Bochy said it was a combination of the dry Arizona air with Lincecum's grip. Bochy said the same situation also surfaced last spring.

Bochy doesn't expect Lincecum to miss his final start of the spring on March 31, and his ace remains on target to start the season opener at Houston on April 5.

-- The Associated Press

EDMONDS HITS SECOND HOMER OF SPRING (7:53 p.m. ET)

Jim Edmonds hit a two-run homer and an RBI double in the Brewers' 9-4 loss to the Padres. Edmonds' drive off Jon Garland in the second inning was his second homer of the spring. The Gold Glove center fielder made the team Thursday when the Brewers purchased his minor league contract.

Garland pitched five innings, yielding two runs and three hits. He missed his last scheduled start with a balky right shoulder.

Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee's leading candidate to start on Opening Day, had a far less successful outing, allowing six runs and eight hits in three innings.

Gallardo had allowed four runs in 14 innings over his previous four spring appearances.

-- The Associated Press

WESTBROOK WALKS FIVE IN WIN (7:12 p.m. ET)

Opening Day starter Jake Westbrook walked five over four-plus innings during the Indians' 5-4 victory over the Rockies.

Westbrook was charged with two runs and seven hits. He left with a 3-1 lead and the bases loaded. Saul Rivera got out of the jam, allowing one run.

Westbrook is eagerly awaiting his Opening Day assignment -- which will be his first game for Cleveland since May 28, 2008. The right-hander spent all of 2009 recovering from Tommy John surgery.

-- The Associated Press

WRIGHT CONTINUES SOLID SPRING TRAINING (5:56 p.m. ET)

David Wright homered and drove in three runs, continuing his solid spring training for the Mets. Wright hit a solo drive in the third inning for his fourth homer as the Mets and Marlins played to an 8-8 tie, calling it off after neither team scored in the 10th.

Nelson Figueroa had his worst outing of the spring for New York, allowing seven runs and eight hits in 2 2/3 innings.

Wright's shot made it 5-0 but Florida scored eight runs in the bottom half of the third.

-- The Associated Press

LESTER, RED SOX BULLPEN STRONG (5:03 p.m. ET)

Jon Lester pitched six strong innings in his fifth spring start, helping the Red Sox beat a Blue Jays split-squad 3-2.

Lester allowed two unearned runs and six hits, struck out five and walked two. Jonathan Papelbon, Hideki Okajima and Ramon Ramirez finished up with a scoreless inning apiece.

-- The Associated Press

MARCUM HIT HARD; OVERBAY LEAVES (4:57 p.m. ET)

Shaun Marcum, Toronto's scheduled Opening Day starter, was hit hard in the Blue Jays' 14-10 loss to the Rays. Marcum allowed nine runs and nine hits over five innings, raising his spring ERA to 8.10.

Blue Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay departed with a left knee contusion in the top of the first inning after he made contact with Carl Crawford. He is day to day.

-- The Associated Press

LOWE OUTDUELS VERLANDER IN BATTLE OF OPENING DAY STARTERS (4:34 p.m. ET)

Derek Lowe pitched six effective innings to help the Braves beat the Tigers 5-3. Lowe allowed two runs, one earned, and eight hits. Atlanta's scheduled Opening Day starter struck out four and walked none.

Brian McCann raised his average to .500 by going 2-for-3 for the Braves. Nate McLouth had two hits and two RBIs and is 4-for-9 in his past three games after a 1-for-35 start.

Justin Verlander, scheduled to start on Opening Day for Detroit, gave up three runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings.

Brandon Inge and Gerald Laird each had two hits for the Tigers.

-- The Associated Press

INDIANS' ROTATION BECOMING NIGHTMARE (2:46 p.m. ET)

Russell Branyan's dream has turned into an Indians nightmare.

Signed to a $2 million free-agent deal in February and immediately made the starting first baseman by new manager Manny Acta, the 34-year-old Branyan has yet to play this spring with less than two weeks until the season opens.

"It's frustrating," said Branyan, sidelined by a herniated disk in his back. "This was my dream come true, to come back to the Indians and play every day. I've never really had that -- maybe for half of last year. I was pretty excited. This wasn't in the plans."

Acta's lineup plans are on hold as he awaits word on Branyan's progress. Until then, two of the Indians' prized prospects, Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley, also are in limbo. Both were acquired in the blockbuster trade that sent 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner CC Sabathia to Milwaukee in July 2008.

If Branyan is healthy enough to play first base, LaPorta will go to left field and Brantley most likely back to Triple-A Columbus. Right now, LaPorta, coming off left hip and big toe surgery in October, is playing first base.

-- The Associated Press

CALERO AIMING FOR PROBLEM-FREE SEASON (11:42 a.m. ET)

Kiko Calero is coming off what he calls the best year of his career. Now the Mets' right-handed reliever wants to improve on it by getting through a whole season without shoulder problems.

New York signed Calero to a minor league deal at the beginning of March despite concerns about a right shoulder that has given the 35-year-old trouble since he had shoulder surgery in 2007.

He was 2-2 with a 1.95 ERA for the Marlins last season, striking out 10.35 hitters per nine innings with the help of a biting, 80 mph slider, but he missed 18 games before the All-Star break with shoulder inflammation.

A candidate for the eighth-inning setup role, Calero said on Friday that he is healthy and expects to be ready for the season.

-- The Associated Press

BEIMEL PASSES PHYSICAL, SIGNS MINOR LEAGUE DEAL (10:33 p.m. ET)

Joe Beimel rejoined the Rockies and set his sights on Opening Day. The club just wants the left-hander to concentrate on getting ready.

Beimel passed his physical Tuesday and signed a minor league contract, adding to Colorado's depth in the bullpen. Whether he can be ready in time for Opening Day is still in question.

"Maybe that turns out to be," general manager Dan O'Dowd said before the Rockies lost 9-6 to the Padres, "but that's not what we're going into this for. We're trying to win a World Series. We're not just trying to get a major league pitcher. We want him to be right to help us -- put him in the best position to help our club and help ourself."

The Rockies are off Wednesday and manager Jim Tracy expects to meet with Beimel on Thursday. Tracy isn't planning on Beimel breaking camp with the Rockies but didn't rule it out.

"I won't sit here and 100 percent tell you that won't happen," Tracy said, "but I don't how feasible that is."

Beimel, who turns 33 on April 19, said he has been throwing daily since December and throwing off a mound every other day, up to 50 to 55 pitches.

-- The Associated Press

RAMIREZ RETURNS TO CUBS (8:57 p.m. ET)

Aramis Ramirez, who had not played since March 13 because of a right triceps injury, returned as the Cubs designated hitter and went 2-for-3 with an RBI in Chicago's 5-5 tie with the Royals. Ramirez is hoping to play third base by Friday.

"Soon as I can," he said. "I don't want to waste any more time. We're only a couple weeks away. As soon as I'm ready to try it the first time, I'm going to be playing third base."

Cubs manager Lou Piniella said Ramirez could have played third if this were a regular-season game.

"Probably," Ramirez said. "Right now, I don't want to take a chance, but I'll be ready. I don't need 30 more at-bats. I need five more and I'll be ready to go."

-- The Associated Press

EDMONDS' COMEBACK CONTINUES WITH FIVE RBIS (8:11 p.m. ET)

Jim Edmonds' comeback took another positive step as the 39-year-old drove in five runs to lead the Brewers to a 10-2 win over the Indians.

Edmonds hit a three-run homer off Jeremy Sowers in a four-run first inning and a two-run single off Jensen Lewis in a five-run second.

Edmonds, a 16-year veteran outfielder with 382 career homers and eight Gold Gloves, is on a minor league contract after sitting out last season.

"A guy who hasn't played for a year needs at-bats and I'm trying to get him some," Milwaukee manager Ken Macha said. "He went the other way off that lefty for the double. That was good to see because he's been pulling [the ball] too much."

Macha said Edmonds is still a good outfielder. The Brewers also have veteran outfielders Ryan Braun, Corey Hart and Jody Gerut along with Carlos Gomez, acquired in an offseason trade from Minnesota -- further limiting possible at-bats if Edmonds does make the team.

-- The Associated Press

ANDERSON SHARP AGAINST MINOR LEAGUERS (7:29 p.m. ET)

Left-hander Brett Anderson pitched five simulated innings against minor leaguers Tuesday after a stiff neck forced him to miss his scheduled start a day earlier.

Anderson threw 80 pitches during the hour-long workout, mixing his fastball and curve with an increasingly efficient changeup that impressed A's pitching coach Curt Young.

"From the view I had you can't throw the baseball much better for executing," said Young, who watched Anderson while standing near second base. "It was a great day for him. The one thing he needs to work on, and he knows he needs to work on, is his changeup factor."

Anderson was supposed to start Monday's game against Seattle but was pushed back because of a stiff neck that first began bothering the 22-year-old over the weekend.

Oakland had a day off Tuesday, so Anderson got his work in at the team's minor league camp less than a mile away from the A's spring training facilities. He had seven strikeouts and walked one and allowed three hits.

"I felt good, really good today," Anderson said. "I was trying to feature my changeup a little bit. My last couple of outings I want to incorporate more of my breaking balls like I would throw in a game, so my next outing will be key in that aspect."

-- The Associated Press

CAIN HELPS GIANTS IMPROVE TO 16-6 (7:27 p.m. ET)

Matt Cain pitched into the seventh inning in an impressive start, leading the Giants to a 6-1 victory over the White Sox.

Cain yielded three hits and an unearned run in 6 2/3 innings, helping San Francisco improve to a majors-best 16-6 this spring.

Pablo Sandoval and Bengie Molina each had two doubles and drove in a run for the Giants, who finished with seven doubles.

-- The Associated Press

ROYALS HOPEFUL MECHE'S SHOULDER IS OK (6:31 p.m. ET)

The Royals are hoping Gil Meche's stiff right shoulder won't cause him to miss any starts. Meche was scheduled to throw 75 pitches and go five innings Monday but left early. He came out after 56 pitches and three innings because of stiffness in his shoulder and neck.

Manager Trey Hillman says it's doubtful that Meche will have his normal bullpen session Wednesday. While the Royals' rotation is thin, Hillman says there are no plans to look outside the organization for another starter.

Meche is in the fourth year of a five-year, $55 million contract. He was limited to 23 starts and 129 innings last season because of shoulder and back problems. He started only four games after the All-Star break with an 8.14 ERA.

Meche is slated to be the Royals' No. 2 starter behind 2009 American League Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke, but that is in jeopardy to begin the season.

If Meche were healthy, Brian Bannister, Luke Hochevar and Kyle Davies would probably fill out the final three rotation slots, but they were a combined 22-34 last season.

Kyle Farnsworth, who has not started since 2000 with the Cubs, and Robinson Tejeda, who made six starts in September after spending most of the year in the bullpen, are rotation candidates.

-- The Associated Press

METS RENAME SPRING TRAINING HOME (5:50 p.m. ET)

The Mets are losing their tradition. Tradition Field, the team's spring training home, was renamed Digital Domain Park.

The ballpark was known as Thomas J. White Stadium when it opened in 1988, named after a local politician, and was renamed Tradition Field in February 2004 under a 10-year agreement with Core Communities. That company operates Tradition, a 16,000-home community in the area.

The new naming-rights deal is with Digital Domain Holdings Corp., the parent of the Digital Domain visual effects studio in Venice, Calif. It includes provisions for programming at New York's Citi Field and its scoreboard on some dates.

Digital Domain is planning to open a studio in Port St. Lucie.

-- The Associated Press

HOWARD, VICTORINO CONNECT IN WIN (5:46 p.m. ET)

Ryan Howard is ready to break camp. The big first baseman hit a pair of solo drives off Matt Garza to help the Phillies beat the Rays 4-3.

"I'm pretty anxious to get up north and get things started," Howard said.

Howard and Shane Victorino connected in the fourth inning to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead. Howard went deep again in the sixth to put Philadelphia ahead 3-2. The All-Star slugger is batting .356 with three homers and eight RBIs in 16 games this spring.

"I put a couple of good swings on the ball today," Howard said. "That's what you work for all spring training, you just take things in stride and try to peak at the right time going into the season."

Jimmy Rollins and Greg Dobbs each had two hits for the Phillies, and Brian Schneider had a game-ending sacrifice fly. Rollins is hitting .313 (15-for-48) in 16 games this spring.

Joe Blanton pitched 5 1/3 innings for the Phillies, yielding two runs and four hits. The right-hander hasn't thrown his slider in a game yet but expects to incorporate it during his last two exhibition starts.

-- The Associated Press

METS' PEREZ STRUGGLES WITH COMMAND (5:04 p.m. ET)

Oliver Perez was pulled after walking consecutive batters in the fifth inning, part of a shaky outing in the Mets' 7-6 victory over the Braves.

Perez allowed three runs and five hits in 4 1/3 innings. The erratic left-hander struggled with his command at times, walking four batters.

New York is counting on Perez to bounce back this season after struggling last year.

-- The Associated Press

PAULINO CLOSER TO LOCKING UP ROTATION SPOT? (4:31 p.m. ET)

Felipe Paulino made progress toward locking up the fifth spot in the Astros' starting rotation, pitching five strong innings in an 11-1 win over the Pirates. Paulino gave up one run and seven hits. He struck out six and walked just one.

"That's what I'm looking for," he said. "All spring training, my mechanics have been getting better. All the work I've done is coming together. The ball was coming real smooth out of my hand."

The 26-year-old Paulino and veteran Brian Moehler are vying for the last rotation spot. Astros management would seem to prefer that Paulino, who is younger and has a livelier arm, wins the battle, but his control issues this spring have made them think twice. He came into the game with a 6.00 ERA in three outings, with six walks in six innings.

Paulino has been working on staying closed as he delivers the ball, which helps boost his velocity. He's also been trying to maintain a consistent release point.

"Last year, I just used my slider and fastball in spring training," Paulino said. "This year, it's been different. I've tried to use all my pitches -- my two-seamer, my four-seamer, my curveball, my slider, my changeup. That's made me a better pitcher. All my pitches were working today."

"I'm just trying to do the best I can," he said. "It's not my decision. The Astros have waited for me the last two years, so I know I have to do something better this year."

-- The Associated Press

GARLAND THROWS IN 'PEN, WILL START FOR PADRES (3:35 p.m. ET)

Jon Garland has thrown 30 pitches in a bullpen session and is set to start for the San Diego Padres in an exhibition game Friday.

Garland hasn't pitched in a game since March 16 because of what manager Bud Black calls a cranky shoulder. The Padres gave him four days off before he resumed playing catch over the weekend.

"I threw all the pitches. My last five or six, I cut the fastball, let it loose," Garland said. "Everything feels good. That's just something we'll have to keep an eye on and make sure it doesn't get like that and it'll be good for another 200 innings."

Garland went a combined 11-13 in 33 starts for the Dodgers and Arizona last year. The right-hander is 117-102 lifetime.

Also, outfielder Scott Hairston said his sore left calf was improving and he hoped to be back in the Padres' lineup by Wednesday. He fouled a pitch off his calf on March 11 and has been limited to minor league duty since.

-- The Associated Press

PIRATES CLOSER DOTEL GETS BACK TO WORK (9:51 a.m. ET)

Pirates closer Octavio Dotel, who has missed much of spring training with a strained oblique muscle, threw an inning against a Phillies minor league squad on Monday. He's confident he'll get enough work in the next two weeks and be ready for the start of the season.

"I will be ready for Opening Day," Dotel said, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I don't think I'll have any problems with that. I don't think there will be any setbacks. I'm going to be fine."

Dotel threw 18 pitches, 14 for strikes, and recorded three strikeouts and a fly out (a fourth out was added to the inning so he could reach his pitch count). He's expected to throw again Wednesday against the Red Sox.

"Everything feels good," Dotel said, according to the report. "We've just got to get going with the next step."

-- ESPN.com news services

MANUEL BACKS MURPHY DESPITE HITTING WOES (9:33 a.m. ET)

Although Daniel Murphy has struggled at the plate this spring, he still has New York Mets manager Jerry Manuel's confidence.

Murphy is hitting just .133 in 30 at-bats with less than two weeks left before the start of the season. Still, Manuel remains optimistic the 24-year-old can be an effective first baseman for the team. And he still sees Murphy as the frontrunner in a competition that also includes Mike Jacobs, who is in camp on a minor-league contract.

Murphy, who was charged with 10 errors in 101 games at first base last season, focused on improving his defense during the offseason. He came to spring training early to work with former Mets star Keith Hernandez, an 11-time Gold Glove winner at first.

"[Murphy] has looked extremely well at first base -- very active, very aggressive," Manuel said. "For him now, it's just a matter of him getting back to using the whole field as a hitter and becoming the offensive player we think he should be or can become."

Offensively, Jacobs is off to a slow start as well, hitting just .174 in 23 at-bats.

Despite praising both players, Manuel said he isn't any closer to deciding who will start at first Opening Day.

"We're still a ways away," Manuel said. "Once we get down to maybe the last four or five ballgames, everybody, we feel, is very close to being major league ready, and then we'll probably put a little bit more into the evaluation process at that time."

-- ESPN.com news services

SILVA SOLIDIFIES PLACE IN CUBS' ROTATION (6:30 p.m. ET)
Carlos Silva solidified his claim on a spot in the Cubs' rotation with four shutout innings and Xavier Nady had a two-run double Tuesday, leading Chicago to a 4-1 victory over the Texas Rangers.

Silva allowed two singles, hit a batter and struck out three in his sharpest outing. Acquired from Seattle for Milton Bradley with two years and $25 million left on his contract, the righty has pitched seven scoreless innings since getting hit hard in his first game.

Nady's RBIs were his first since signing a $3.3 million contract to back up all three outfield positions. He has been limited to DH duties while recovering from Tommy John surgery on his throwing arm. He doubled again in the eighth.

-- The Associated Press

TURNBOW SUFFERS SHOULDER PAIN, SAYS MARLINS SHOT 'OVER' (5:57 p.m. ET)
Former All-Star closer Derrick Turnbow says his chances of making the Florida Marlins are "over" after he left Tuesday's game with severe shoulder pain.

Turnbow said he was sure he would "be shut down for a while." He exited Florida's 12-3 victory against the Nationals in the eighth inning.

Turnbow walked one batter and hit another before walking off the mound with the team trainer. He will undergo an MRI on Wednesday and said surgery was a possibility.

The hard-throwing right-hander had 39 saves in 2005 for the Brewers and pitched in the 2006 All-Star Game. He hasn't pitched in the majors since 2008.

He threw 10 pitches Tuesday. As he threw a pitch that hit Danny Espinosa, Turnbow buckled on the mound.

-- The Associated Press

YANKEES HIRE FORMER PADRES GM TOWERS AS SCOUT (4:12 p.m. ET)
Former San Diego Padres general manager Kevin Towers has been hired as a special assignment scout by the New York Yankees.

Towers was fired by the Padres during the final weekend of the 2009 season after 14 years as their GM.

Towers will scout both professional leagues and amateur players, and evaluate the Yankees' minor league system.

-- The Associated Press

MARINERS PROSPECT ACKLEY HEADED TO DOUBLE-A (3:04 p.m. ET)
The Seattle Mariners have sent second overall draft choice Dustin Ackley to Double-A West Tennessee, where the impressive 22-year-old will likely begin his first full professional season.

Last August, the Mariners and Ackley agreed on a five-year major league contract worth $7.5 million. Seattle has since tried the sweet-swinging former first baseman and outfielder at North Carolina at second base.

He had three hits in 19 at-bats (a .158 batting average) with three RBIs and one error in 10 spring games.

The Mariners have said they expect Ackley to reach the major leagues soon, though he was expected to begin this season in the minors.

Seattle also optioned outfielder Ezequiel Carrera to Triple-A Tacoma on Tuesday.

-- The Associated Press

NATIONALS' DUNN LEAVES GAME WITH BACK SPASM (2:56 p.m. ET)
Washington Nationals first baseman Adam Dunn left Tuesday's split-squad game against the Florida Marlins after two innings because of a spasm in his lower back.

Dunn made an error in the second inning when he bobbled a grounder in the hole by Logan Morrison. Dunn flied out in the bottom half of the inning and left the game.

A team spokesman said the slugger was day-to-day.

-- The Associated Press

DOMBROWSKI TALKS TIGERS TOPICS (1:54 p.m. ET)
Detroit Tigers CEO, president and general manager Dave Dombrowski weighed in on several Tigers topics on Tuesday morning. Among the highlights:

• Dombrowski called pitcher Dontrelle Willis (7 innings, 5 hits, 1 run, 4 walks, 4 strikeouts this spring) "a pleasant surprise."

Why? "Because he's thrown strikes more consistently. He worked very hard this winter. And his stuff is fine. ... But the best part is, he's throwing the ball over the plate on a consistent basis."

• Dombrowski said rookie center fielder Austin Jackson (.429 average, .515 on-base percentage) "looks like an every-day player on the big league level. He can go get the ball. He's a quality guy. He works very hard. And offensively, if he keeps doing this all year, we'll be in good shape."

• Dombrowski said Magglio Ordonez "is swinging the bat as well as I've ever seen him swing it in the past. He's driving the ball. But he's done that since the very first day he reported. ... I think the ball has a different sound coming off the bat now, like it has in the past."

-- ESPN.com senior baseball writer Jayson Stark

INDIANS OBTAIN PITCHER FROM BREWERS (12:44 p.m. ET)
The Cleveland Indians have acquired right-hander Omar Aguilar from the Milwaukee Brewers.

In return for the 25-year-old, the Brewers are keeping left-hander Chuck Lofgren. Milwaukee selected him in the Rule 5 Draft in December. To send Lofgren to their minor league system, the Brewers had to work out a deal with Cleveland or offer him back to the Indians for half the $50,000 they paid in the draft.

The 24-year-old Lofgren went a combined 9-11 with a 4.15 ERA between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus in the Indians' system in 2009.

Aguilar split 2009 between Class A Brevard County and Double-A Huntsville. He went 3-1 with a 4.72 ERA and 14 saves. He will report to the Indians' minor league camp.

-- The Associated Press

WHITE SOX CLOSER JENKS DOWNPLAYS BULLPEN SESSION (9:22 a.m. ET)
Chicago White Sox closer Bobby Jenks, coming off a calf muscle injury that shut him down last September, threw a 50-pitch bullpen session on Monday night.

Jenks had been scheduled to throw an inning against the Kansas City Royals. But he says there should be no cause for alarm over the decision to throw in the bullpen instead.

''It's the reason we went out there,'' Jenks told reporters. ''It was necessary to get to the point where we could make sure there was nothing wrong."

''I'm excited about where I am physically and mentally, being able to locate and being down with the ball," Jenks said. ''Where I am now, with a few more sessions like this, the game will become not easy but easier.''

-- ESPN.com news services

ORIOLES CONSIDERING PLAN B AT SECOND (9:09 a.m. ET)
The Baltimore Orioles are facing the possibility that second baseman Brian Roberts might not be ready for Opening Day, due to a herniated disk in his lower back.

Roberts was expected to return to Orioles camp in Sarasota on Monday after undergoing an exam from a back specialist and receiving an epidural injection to help address the discomfort, The (Baltimore) Sun reported. He has yet to play in a spring training game and the team is waiting to see how he responds to treatment.

The team is considering possible trades to fill the position until Roberts returns, though there have not been extensive talks, Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said, according to the report.

Manager Dave Trembley says Ty Wigginton, Robert Andino and Justin Turner could fill the void at second base until Roberts returns.

"We need to do what we can with what we have right here in camp," Trembley said, according to The Sun. "If something happens from outside the camp, we'll deal with it then. We still like to believe that Roberts will be our guy, but we're at the point now where we have to start thinking about the possibility and what we can do elsewhere."

-- ESPN.com news services

INDIANS BEING CAUTIOUS WITH WOOD'S MUSCLE SORENESS (6:21 p.m. ET)
Kerry Wood insists everything is fine and there's no reason to worry. The Cleveland Indians aren't taking any chances.

Wood, bothered by soreness in a muscle under his shoulder, did not throw a scheduled bullpen session on Monday so he could get more rest. Cleveland's closer was scratched from a scheduled exhibition appearance on Saturday against Texas because of soreness in the lat muscle in his upper back.

He had been expected to throw on Monday at the club's complex in Goodyear, Ariz., but the Indians decided against it.

The 32-year-old Wood says the injury isn't serious and if it was the regular season, he'd be pitching. But the Indians aren't willing to take the risk and manager Manny Acta hasn't decided when Wood will pitch again. Wood had been penciled in to appear on Wednesday in an exhibition against Cincinnati.

"We'll put together a plan for him," Acta said before the Indians played the Milwaukee Brewers. "It's nothing to worry about, it's just we want to be cautious. He's our closer. He's fine. We've got plenty of days to go before the season starts. There's no need to rush him back out there."

-- The Associated Press

VOLSTAD HURTS SHOT AT MARLINS ROTATION WITH POOR START (6:16 p.m. ET)
Chris Volstad hurt his chances at solidifying a spot in the Florida Marlins' rotation, allowing four runs in 2 1/3 innings in Florida's 5-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Monday.

Volstad allowed five hits and four walks. He has given up eight runs on 11 hits and five walks in his last two outings.

"The first few innings were good. After that a couple of pitches were up, the breaking stuff was not quite as good," Volstad said. "I just need to finish it a little more.

"That's what happened last outing. I need to keep remembering to finish everything."

The right-hander was one of six candidates for three spots in the Marlins' rotation behind Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco. One of those spots, though, appears filled by Anibal Sanchez after his four scoreless innings against the Mets on Sunday.

-- The Associated Press

CUBS LATE AFTER BUS BREAKS DOWN ON WAY TO GAME (6:11 p.m. ET)
The Chicago Cubs showed up for their exhibition game against Colorado about an hour later than expected after their bus broke down on the highway because of engine trouble.

The Cubs chose to skip batting practice when they got to Hi Corbett Field in Tucson on Monday. They decided to just stretch instead.

The Cubs were making a two-hour drive south when the bus broke down. Starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano was lucky -- his cousin was following in a car, so they drove with catcher Koyie Hill to the park.

Cubs manager Lou Piniella wasn't with the team on the bus. He was driving separately with pitching coach Larry Rothschild.

-- The Associated Press

NATIONALS RELEASE LHP VILLONE (4:38 p.m. ET)
Left-handed reliever Ron Villone has been released by the Washington Nationals.

The Nationals signed Villone to a minor league contract last month and invited him to spring training. But Villone had a 16.20 ERA in three relief appearances covering 1 2/3 innings.

The Nationals also sent five pitchers to their minor league camp Monday, including righty Collin Balester.

-- The Associated Press

ROYALS STILL LOOKING FOR FIFTH STARTER (3:54 p.m. ET)
Manager Trey Hillman is still looking for a fifth starter for the Kansas City Royals rotation.

Some of his leading candidates have had rocky beginnings in spring training. Right-hander Kyle Davies, who has made 99 big league starts and 54 for the Royals the past 2 1/2 seasons, has a 15.26 earned run average after three starts.

Robinson Tejeda, who moved into the rotation at the end of last season because of injuries, has a 9.95 ERA after three appearances.

Kyle Farnsworth, who has not started since 2000 with the Chicago Cubs, is another rotation candidate.

-- The Associated Press

WHITE, TOP PICK IN '09, AND GRILLI AMONG INDIANS' CUTS (3:28 p.m. ET)
Alex White, the Cleveland Indians' first-round draft pick in 2009, is among four pitchers being sent to the minors in the club's initial roster cuts of spring training.

White and fellow right-handers Zach Putnam and Jason Grilli were reassigned to the minor league camp. Left-hander Kelvin De La Cruz was optioned to Double-A Akron.

Grilli is out for the season. The veteran, signed to a minor league contract in December, tore his right quadriceps during a running drill on March 5 and is scheduled for surgery this week in Vail, Colo., by Dr. John Steadman.

-- The Associated Press

BREWERS HOFFMAN EXPECTS TO DEBUT FRIDAY (3:24 p.m. ET)
Milwaukee Brewers closer Trevor Hoffman says he'll be ready for his exhibition debut on Friday, although the all-times saves leader isn't sure how many games he'll need to get ready for opening day.

The 42-year-old Hoffman faced hitters on Monday for the first time this spring, throwing 35 pitches to six batters. He's been limited to bullpen work so far in an effort to keep him fresh for the season.

"It felt good," Hoffman said. "It felt good to get a hitter in there and the next progression will have the umpire back there and no screen."

Hoffman has been working through some minor stiffness in his upper back and the Brewers don't want a repeat of last season's spring training when he strained his right oblique and missed the first month of the season on the disabled list.

Hoffman saved 37 games and had a 1.83 ERA in his first years with the Brewers last year, and in the offseason he signed an $8 million, one-year contract with a mutual option for 2011.

-- The Associated Press

TWINS' BLACKBURN COULD MISS NEXT START (3:08 p.m. ET)
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said right-hander Nick Blackburn has a sore right knee and could miss his next scheduled spring training start, The Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported.

Blackburn, who is scheduled to pitch on Tuesday against the Rays, had problems with the knee while in the minors, according to the report.

-- ESPN.com news services

FOGG, DICKEY AMONG METS SENT TO MINORS (12:41 p.m. ET)
Pitchers Josh Fogg and R.A. Dickey were among players the Mets sent down to minor league camp on Monday.

Fogg was competing to be the team's No. 5 starter, while Dickey was hoping his versatility and durability as a knuckleball pitcher would win him a roster spot.

Also sent down on Monday was catcher Josh Thole, one of six catchers the team brought to spring training. Thole was widely expected to start the season at Triple-A Buffalo, where he can gain experience, particularly on defense.

The other Mets players sent down, according to a New York Daily News report, were: Shawn Bowman, Eric Niesen, Jack Egbert, Travis Blackley, Bobby Livingston, Arturo Lopez, Eddie Kunz, Andy Green, Mike Hessman, Mike Cervenak, Jesus Feliciano, Luis Hernandez, Clint Everts and Kirk Nieuwenhuis.

-- ESPN.com news services

CUDDYER, MAUER HELP TWINS POUND MILLWOOD (11:14 p.m. ET)
Michael Cuddyer homered, reigning AL MVP Joe Mauer had two hits and the Twins beat the Orioles 8-3.

The game was called in the top of the ninth inning because of rain.

Kevin Millwood, in line to be Baltimore's Opening Day starter, was hit hard again. He was charged with five runs and nine hits over 2 2/3 innings and has a 29.70 ERA this spring.

Scott Baker, slated to start on Opening Day for Minnesota, worked three effective innings. He limited Baltimore to five hits, including Robert Andino's homer in the third.

-- The Associated Press

CERVELLI TO WEAR SPECIAL HELMET (8:04 p.m. ET)
Francisco Cervelli is choosing safety over style.

The Yankees' backup catcher will begin wearing a bulky protective helmet similar to one briefly worn last season by Mets star David Wright after he sustained a concussion.

Cervelli talked about the change before Thursday night's game against the Braves was canceled due to rain.

Like Wright last summer, Cervelli was hit in the helmet by a 94 mph pitch that gave him a concussion -- Cervelli's second since November. Cervelli was injured Saturday and was cleared by a neurologist Monday. He is scheduled to play his first game Friday, when the Yankees travel to Viera to face the Nationals.

-- The Associated Press

RAYS MAKE FIRST SPRING CUTS (7:48 p.m. ET)
The Rays have optioned left-handed pitcher Jake McGee to the minor leagues and reassigned shortstop Tim Beckham and catcher Nevin Ashley to minor league spring training camp.

The team announced the moves after Thursday's 4-1 split-squad victory over the Blue Jays.

The Rays did not say which affiliate McGee will be assigned to.

-- The Associated Press

COOK HIT HARD IN SECOND SPRING START (7:07 p.m. ET)
Aaron Cook was hit hard in his second spring start, allowing nine hits and nine runs, five earned, in 2 2/3 innings, as the Rockies were pounded by the Rangers 16-3.

Cook hit Ian Kinsler with a 1-2 pitch during a four-run first when he gave up three hits, including a two-run homer to first baseman Chris Davis, who went 4-for-4 with 3 RBIs. Michael Young was 3-for-3 and Taylor Teagarden knocked in three runs for the Rangers, who had 23 hits.

Cook was hoping to throw 40 pitches or less but ended up throwing 73, leaving after a double by Young during a five-run second inning for Texas. Four of those runs were unearned because of a throwing error by third baseman Ian Stewart on an attempted force play.

-- The Associated Press

AFTER ADJUSTMENT, SILVA THROWS THREE SCORELESS INNINGS (7:00 p.m. ET)
Carlos Silva threw three scoreless innings after making an adjustment during a bullpen session, helping the Cubs beat the Padres 8-7.

ilva, acquired from Seattle for Milton Bradley and cash in December, allowed four hits, walked one and struck out none.

Starlin Castro, one of Chicago's top prospects, had two hits and scored three times. The shortstop hit his first homer of the spring in the fifth.

-- The Associated Press

VOTTO HOMERS FOR FIRST SPRING HIT (6:23 p.m. ET)
Joey Votto homered for his first hit of spring training, leading the Reds to a 3-1 victory over a Brewers split-squad.

Votto hit a solo shot off left-hander Chris Capuano, who is trying to resume his career after reconstructive elbow surgery. Votto was 0-for-9 before he homered in the sixth inning.

Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto pitched three scoreless innings, a big improvement over his first spring outing.

-- The Associated Press

ORTIZ CONTINUES BID TO MAKE DODGERS' ROTATION (6:22 p.m. ET)
Russ Ortiz pitched three scoreless innings and Andre Ethier and Casey Blake homered as the Dodgers beat the Royals 6-4.

Ortiz, a veteran right-hander who is a non-roster invitee, gave up two singles, struck out three and walked none. He has worked five scoreless innings and yielded four hits in his bid to make the Dodgers' rotation.

Ethier hit a three-run homer in the third off Gil Meche, while Blake homered in the fifth off rookie left-hander Edgar Osuna.

-- The Associated Press

LINCECUM ROUGHED UP VS. MARINERS (6:17 p.m. ET)
Tim Lincecum, the two-time reigning NL Cy Young Award winner, doesn't quite look like himself yet at spring training and struggled through 2 2/3 innings in the Giants' sloppy 6-2 loss to the Mariners. He isn't one bit worried.

He is finding his balance, his rhythm -- acknowledging perhaps that he's even thinking about a few too many things at once when it comes to mastering his mechanics. He's not concerned with results this early.

"Stuff-wise I felt like everything was good," Lincecum said. "I think right now everything is just location. I just try to take something positive from each outing. My curveball was breaking really well, the slider was doing well. The changeup when it was down was good, same with the fastball. The only time I really got hurt was Ichiro's hit. ... The key for me is rhythm. My mechanics kind of follow that."

The 25-year-old right-hander had his second subpar outing in as many appearances against the team he once hoped to play for as a kid growing up in Seattle. Lincecum was tagged for six hits, struck out four and walked two in his 59-pitch day. He lowered his spring ERA by nearly half, from 18.00 to 9.82.

-- The Associated Press

NAVARRO INJURES LEFT THUMB (5:58 p.m. ET)
Dioner Navarro and the Rays were hoping for the best after a simple pickoff play in the third inning. Navarro was struck by a pickoff throw during the Rays' 16-15 victory over the Pirates and departed with an injured left thumb.

Navarro was hit when Jack Taschner threw over to first. It was diagnosed as a contusion, and he returned to the Rays' complex in Port Charlotte for further evaluation.

Navarro described the ball as pushing his thumb backward.

"I've been hit so many times that I don't even know when my bone is broken," he said. "This one, maybe because I wasn't catching, hurt more than when I'm behind the plate. Hopefully, it's OK."

-- The Associated Press

JACKSON STEPS UP IN WEBB'S ABSENCE (5:54 p.m. ET)
With the uncertain status of Brandon Webb, newcomer Edwin Jackson's performance thus far this spring must be comforting for the Diamondbacks.

The right-hander, acquired in a trade with the Tigers in the offseason, blanked the Angels on one hit through three innings in Arizona's 4-1 victory. The right-hander has yet to give up a run in five innings this spring.

Jackson, an All-Star with the Tigers last year, will start the season as the Diamondbacks' No. 2 starter behind Dan Haren.

-- The Associated Press

LACKEY'S SHUTOUT STREAK CONTINUES (5:16 p.m. ET)
John Lackey is off to a nice start with the Red Sox. The right-hander threw three shutout innings in Boston's 8-2 victory over Jason Bay and the Mets.

Lackey allowed three hits in his second spring outing and has yet to allow a run since he finalized an $82.5 million, five-year contract with the Red Sox in December.

After Lackey was finished on the field, he got some work done in the bullpen before showers caused a 30-minute delay after the fourth inning.

Bay, playing in his first game against his former team, went 0-for-2 before leaving during the delay.

-- The Associated Press

JOHNSON STARTS STRONG, BUT NUNEZ ENDS BADLY (4:50 p.m. ET)
The Marlins got another strong start from ace Josh Johnson but a bad ending from their closer. Johnson struck out four in three scoreless innings before the Cardinals beat up on closer Leo Nunez during a five-run ninth for a 5-3 win.

Nunez, who saved 26 games last season, allowed four hits before leaving with two outs and runners at second and third. He was charged with five runs, three earned.

Johnson, the Marlins' Opening Day starter, struck out the side in the first inning, mixing in a changeup with a fastball that hit 94 mph.

-- The Associated Press

WHITE SOX LOOK TO KEEP BUEHRLE WELL RESTED (2:54 p.m. ET)
Ace Mark Buehrle won't have his second start of spring training until next Monday as the White Sox seek to keep him rested before the regular season begins.

Buehrle made his first start on March 5 against the Dodgers, allowing an unearned run on three hits with two strikeouts over two innings.

Jake Peavy starts Friday against the Angels in a split-squad game. Gavin Floyd and John Danks, the next two pitchers in the White Sox's projected rotation, get the call Saturday and Sunday against the Brewers and Reds.

Closer Bobby Jenks is also scheduled to pitch on the same day as Buehrle.

-- The Associated Press

GIANTS HALL OF FAMERS VISIT SPRING TRAINING (1:35 p.m. ET)
Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda and Gaylord Perry gathered for a little reunion and some good-natured ribbing.

Mays, often the instigator with his gentle jabs, razzed Perry and then got it right back. It's not every day these guys turn up together at spring training. On Thursday, they spent the morning leading a team meeting for the San Francisco Giants -- something that has become a spring tradition of sorts for these old greats.

Players took turns greeting the guys before the meeting began.

-- The Associated Press

MOUSTAKAS AMONG SEVEN SENT DOWN BY ROYALS (1:30 p.m. ET)
Third baseman Mike Moustakas, the second overall pick in the 2007 draft, was among seven players reassigned to minor league camp Thursday by the Kansas City Royals.

Also sent down were outfielder David Lough, who hit .325 last season and was the Royals' 2009 minor league player of the year, and left-hander Danny Duffy, who pitched in the Futures All-Star Game and was 9-3 with a 2.98 ERA with Single-A Wilmington.

Other players sent to the minor league camp were outfielder David Robinson, first baseman Ernest Mejia, infielder Mario Lisson and catcher Steve Lerud.

All seven players were non-roster invitees. The Royals have 58 players left in camp.

-- The Associated Press

GUARDADO, ESTES CUT BY NATIONALS (10:38 a.m. ET)
Left-handers Eddie Guardado and Shawn Estes have been released by the Washington Nationals in the first round of spring training cuts.

The Nationals also reassigned six players to their minor league camp.

Guardado had pitched in two exhibition games and had an ERA of 18.00 in two innings. Estes had made one appearance, pitching one inning to an ERA of 18.00. Both veterans had been signed to minor league contracts with invitations to major league camp.

Right-handers Logan Kensing, Joel Peralta, Ryan Speier, left-hander Victor Garate, outfielder Jerry Owens and catcher Derek Norris were reassigned to the minor league camp.

-- Associated Press

IF AT FIRST, TRY, TRY AGAIN (10:06 a.m. ET)
The last time Garret Anderson played first base, he was a 21-year-old prospect playing for the Los Angeles Angels' Triple-A team in Vancouver.

Now he's a 37-year-old veteran in Dodgers camp on a minor-league deal, facing a roster logjam in the outfield and no guarantees manager Joe Torre will keep a left-handed bat on the bench. So Anderson, a longtime outfielder, is digging out his first baseman's glove and headed back to the infield, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Anderson, who signed last week and has yet to appear in a spring training game, says he's doing his best to learn the position, according to the report.

"It wouldn't be instinctive," Anderson said, according to the Times. "As an outfielder, I have an idea of where the infielders are going to be when I throw a ball in. I know where the first baseman is going to be. But to actually have that point of view of it and do it, it's going to be different. I'm going to have to learn some stuff."

-- ESPN.com news services

DUNCAN TRYING TO MAKE IT BACK WITH NATIONALS (9:52 a.m. ET)
In years past, when Chris Duncan wanted a pregame word with his father, longtime St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan, he simply walked into his dad's office. On Wednesday, they had to chat outside the batting cage when the Nationals went to play the Cardinals.

Chris Duncan, who is in Nationals camp as a non-roster invitee, spent parts of five years with St. Louis, hitting .293 with 22 home runs in 90 games during the Cardinals' World Series title run in 2006. But injuries limited Duncan's effectiveness the past three seasons. He was traded to the Red Sox in July and released after he hit less than .200 in 92 minor-league at-bats.

"It was kind of tough at the end," Duncan said. "I remember the last game I started at home I was getting booed. The bottom line was that I was not playing well and we were competing for a pennant."

Washington manager Jim Riggleman expects Duncan to compete for a reserve spot on the Opening Day roster. Riggleman has liked what he's seen so far from Duncan, who went 0 for 5 with an RBI on Wednesday, including two strikeouts in the late innings with runners in scoring position.

"In your idle time as a manager when you are scribbling out lineups and rosters on napkins, there are some scenarios where he is there and there are some where he is not," Riggleman said prior to the game. "He's competing and he's going to make it a tough decision for us."

-- The Associated Press

PADRES INSPIRED BY ALI VISIT (7:48 p.m. ET)
The San Diego Padres are thrilled following a clubhouse visit by Muhammad Ali.

Dozens of players and coaches waited in a long line to shake hands and take pictures with the boxing great, who made a 45-minute appearance for the Athletes for Hope foundation on Monday.

Padres officials say Ali is only scheduled to meet with a few big league teams.

Outfielder Aaron Cunningham and reliever Mike Adams heard on Sunday that Ali might be visiting, so they each purchased a pair of boxing gloves just in case. Both walked away with autographs and a cherished memory.

Outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. says he usually isn't star-struck, but was by Ali's visit.

-- The Associated Press

WESTBROOK FINALLY BACK ON MOUND (6:38 p.m. ET)
Jake Westbrook pitched 1 2/3 innings in his first game against major league hitters in almost two years and the Cleveland Indians beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-2 on Monday.

Westbrook allowed one run and one hit, walked three and hit a batter in his first big league outing since undergoing Tommy John surgery in June 2008.

Westbrook pitched in just three minor league games last year. The right-hander is expected to be Cleveland's Opening Day starter on April 5 in Chicago.

Michael Brantley went 3 for 4 with an RBI for Cleveland.

Rodrigo Lopez, a candidate for the No. 5 spot in Arizona's rotation, allowed a run in two innings.

-- The Associated Press

BECKETT, CARPENTER BATTLE ON MOUND (5:16 p.m. ET)
Josh Beckett pitched three scoreless innings and struck out three, and Che-Shuan Lin hit a run-scoring single in the ninth inning to lead the Boston Red Sox to a 7-6 exhibition win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday.

Boston pitchers kept the Cardinals hitless into the seventh inning.

In five innings this spring, Beckett has given up just one run.

Chris Carpenter, making his first appearance of the spring, went two innings for St. Louis. He gave up a run on four hits with a strikeout and no walks.

Three-time National League MVP Albert Pujols did not make the cross-state trip because of discomfort in his back. He is not expected to play Tuesday against the Minnesota Twins.

--The Associated Press

TOP PROSPECT HEYWARD HITS BOMB (4:39 p.m. ET)
Jason Heyward homered during a five-run first inning Monday and the Atlanta Braves went on to a 12-4 exhibition victory over the Detroit Tigers.

The 20-year-old outfielder, considered one of the top prospects in baseball, blasted a 3-2 pitch by Detroit's Max Scherzer an estimated 450 feet to drive in the first two runs of the game.

Scherzer didn't get out of the first inning, giving up four hits and three walks to the eight batters he faced.

Atlanta starter Tim Hudson pitched three innings, giving up one run on an RBI single by Jeff Larish while striking out three.

Troy Glaus and Eric Hinske each went 2 for 2 and scored twice for the Braves, and David Ross drove in four runs. Mitch Jones hit a home run in the eighth inning.

-- The Associated Press

MAINE SOLID IN SPRING DEBUT (4:25 p.m. ET)
John Maine struck out four of the eight batters he faced in his spring debut, and Chris Carter hit two ninth-inning homers to help the New York Mets beat a Florida Marlins split squad 11-2 on Monday.

Maine allowed one run, two hits and one walk in 1 2/3 innings. He threw 21 of his 39 pitches for strikes.

Carter began the ninth with a pinch-hit homer, and had a three-run drive with two out.

The Mets are 6-2 this spring and have scored 91 runs.

Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla committed two errors on one play in the first inning, bobbling a grounder and then making a wild throw, and Jason Bay's single scored a run.

Florida's Ryan Tucker gave up two runs in two innings.

-- The Associated Press

OLSEN RETURNS FOR NATS (4:24 p.m. ET)
Washington's Scott Olsen, making his first start since season-ending shoulder surgery last July, threw two innings in the Nationals' 11-2 loss against a Florida Marlins split squad Monday.

The left-hander, penciled into a rotation spot provided he is healthy, allowed seven hits and three runs. Olsen gave up a three-run home run to Jorge Cantu in the first inning after a bloop single and a broken-bat liner off the glove of third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.

Washington is 0-6 this spring and has been outscored 67-30.

Florida right-hander Ricky Nolasco worked three innings in his first turn against major leaguers this spring, allowing a run on four hits with five strikeouts.

Josh Willingham and Zimmerman homered for the Nationals.

Florida's Ronny Paulino had four hits.

-- The Associated Press

ACEVES MAKES CASE FOR 5 SPOT (4:21 p.m. ET)
Alfredo Aceves may be pushing his way into the thick of the battle for the No. 5 spot in the New York Yankees' starting rotation.

Aceves tossed four perfect innings Monday in a 6-0 victory against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a split squad game for both teams. In two outings this spring, both against the Pirates, the right-hander has retired all 18 batters he's faced.

Aceves, who worked one inning more than originally planned, struck out three. He threw just 36 pitches in the game, then tossed another 16 in the bullpen before cooling down.

"He's a strike-throwing machine," said Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez. "He's a great weapon for us."

Along with Sergio Mitre and Chad Gaudin, Aceves went into spring training as a long-shot for a rotation job. The front-runners are Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes. Even if he doesn't wind up a starter, Aceves could nab a roster spot as a long reliever and fill-in starter.

"I would like to be a starter," Aceves said. "But it's not up to me."

Also, Javier Vazquez settled down after allowing a first-pitch homer to Jimmy Rollins, striking out four of his last five batters to help a New York Yankees split-squad beat the Philadelphia Phillies 7-5.

Vazquez was pitching for New York for the first time since he gave up a first-pitch grand slam to Boston's Johnny Damon in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS.

-- The Associated Press

SORIANO PHYSICALLY FINE, MENTALLY GUN-SHY (3:11 p.m. ET)
Chicago Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano said Monday that although his knee feels 100 percent, he is still trying to overcome the mental hurdle in terms of extending himself and going all out in spring training.

Soriano on Saturday made his first appearance in the Cubs lineup since knee surgery ended his 2009 season on Sept. 15, later saying he planned to play back-to-back Cactus League games Monday and Tuesday. "I want to test and trust my knee a little bit more," Soriano said Saturday.

According to Cubs manager Lou Piniella, Soriano will hit either fifth or sixth in the Cubs lineup this season. The Cubs slugger said he has been working on better balance at the plate with new hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo.
-- Buster Olney, ESPN The Magazine

WANG RETURNS TO NATS, STARTS IN WITH LONG TOSS (11:33 a.m. ET)
Chien-Ming Wang is back with the Washington Nationals, but there's no timetable for the right-hander's return to the mound.

Nationals manager Jim Riggleman says Wang's health will determine when he pitches. Wang is recovering from right shoulder surgery that ended his 2009 season in late July.

The 29-year-old pitcher played long toss with Jordan Zimmermann from about 120 feet for 20 minutes Monday morning. He also threw some soft pitches from both the stretch and windup from about 90 feet.

Wang signed a one-year, $2 million deal last month that could earn him another $3 million in performance incentives. Wang was 1-6 with a 9.54 ERA for the New York Yankees last season.
-- The Associated Press

RIVERA HAS FIRST BP SESSION (11:02 a.m. ET)
New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera threw 34 pitches during his first batting practice session Monday.

Rivera has taken a slower approach at spring training for the past few years. The 40-year old right-hander went 3-3 with 44 saves and a 1.76 ERA in 66 games last season. He will make the first of his eight or nine game appearances early next week.

Left-handed reliever Damaso Marte had his initial bullpen session, making 27 pitches. Meanwhile, Nick Johnson was back in New York's lineup after missing the previous four games with lower back stiffness.
-- The Associated Press

null

February, 20, 2010
02/20/10
9:04
AM ET
ASTROS WORK OUT FOR FIRST TIME UNDER MILLS (9:18 p.m. ET)
First-time Astros skipper Brad Mills ran his first workout Saturday, when Houston's pitchers and catchers reported to the club's spring training complex near Orlando.

The 53-year-old Mills is a major league manager for the first time after spending the last six seasons as Terry Francona's bench coach in Boston. Mills inherits a team with veteran talent in Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee, but also wants to incorporate young players into prominent roles this season.

Mills was hired in October to replace Cecil Cooper, who was fired with 13 games left in the season.

-- The Associated Press

GAGNE OPTIMISTIC ABOUT CHANCE WITH DODGERS (7:18 p.m. ET)
Eric Gagne is pretty sure this is his last shot at a major league comeback, and he's glad to be getting it with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The 2003 NL Cy Young Award winner, who rejoined the Dodgers when he agreed to a minor league contract Friday, thinks making the team this spring shouldn't be a problem as long as he's healthy.

On his first day back inside the Dodgers' clubhouse, Gagne pulled on a fresh, blue cap Saturday and tugged at the bill. He said it was perfect.

He could have been referring to more than just the fit. Gagne has pitched for three big league teams since leaving the Dodgers after the 2006 season. But it was in Los Angeles where he became a star closer, and he says the Dodgers never left his heart.

-- The Associated Press

ROCKIES' COOK FINDS STRENGTH THROUGH WEIGHT LOSS (7:04 p.m. ET)
Colorado Rockies right-hander Aaron Cook cut out fried foods and sodas. He stopped eating desserts and avoided late night snacks.

The result was startling.

Cook reported to spring training at 200 pounds, down from 220 at the end of the 2009 season. He expects to gain between five and 10 pounds during camp but should enter the upcoming season carrying less weight.

Colorado catcher Chris Iannetta and pitching coach Bob Apodaca noticed a difference right away when Cook threw his first bullpen session of the spring Saturday. Iannetta says he had a lot more extension on his pitches and Apodaca says Cook looked "really healthy and athletic."

Cook went 11-6 with a 4.16 ERA in 158 innings last year.

-- The Associated Press

SLIMMER STAIRS AIMS FOR SPOT ON PADRES' BENCH (6:27 p.m. ET)
Matt Stairs says he pushed himself hard during his offseason conditioning program just in case any teams had interest in his services.

At the same time, however, the veteran pinch-hitter put the thought in the back of his mind that he might have to retire.

But sometime after he secured a job as a hitting coach for the University of Maine, Stairs received an invitation to spring training from the San Diego Padres. Stairs, who signed a minor league deal in January after losing 32 pounds this offseason, officially checked into spring training on Saturday.

Stairs, who began his career with the Montreal Expos in 1992 and is playing for his 12th team, weighs 198 pounds. He finished the 2009 season with the NL champion Phillies weighing 230 pounds. Stairs attributed the weight loss to a diet and playing for two senior league hockey teams in Bangor, Maine. He also was a coach for the varsity hockey team at John Baptist Memorial High School in Bangor this winter.

"I feel great right now," Stairs said. "We'll see how it goes. If I can't hit any home runs, I'll start throwing some burgers in me."

-- The Associated Press

RED SOX CATCHER VARITEK IN ODD POSITION: BACKUP (4:14 p.m. ET)
For the first time in 12 years, Jason Varitek is starting spring training as a backup.

The Boston Red Sox catcher is the No. 2 man behind Victor Martinez.

"This isn't necessarily new for me," Varitek said after the first official workout for pitchers and catchers. "Is it different? Of course, it's different. But I think that in that role that it was last year toward the end that probably got me prepared for this.

"For the most part, I'm here to support Vic as much as possible and take the load off him when he needs it."

Varitek is starting his sixth season as the Red Sox captain and said he might be a better leader when he doesn't play and can devote more attention to communicating with teammates instead of the details of the game.

-- The Associated Press

ANGELS' SHIELDS SAYS REHAB ON TRACK (3:50 p.m. ET)
Angels' reliever Scot Shields says that his recovery from season-ending knee surgery last June is on track and that Los Angeles' bullpen has never been better.

The Angels longest-tenured player said on Saturday that the Angels' relief corps is among the best since he joined the team in 2001.

Shields has been a bullpen mainstay as the right-handed setup man, spanning the tenures of closers Troy Percival, Frankie Rodriguez and Brian Fuentes.

But he made a career-low 20 appearances last season before opting for left knee surgery in mid-June. He admitted to pitching in pain while compiling a career-worst 6.62 ERA over 17 2/3 innings.

The Angels are bringing Shields along slowly this spring, and he says that was the plan all along.

-- The Associated Press

MARLINS LOOKING AT PLAYOFF BERTH (3:48 p.m. ET)
As the first spring training workout begins, the Florida Marlins are already swinging for the fences by talking optimistically about making the playoffs.

Pitchers and catchers took the field for drills Saturday with high expectations, from team president David Samson on down.

The Marlins have climbed from 71 wins in 2007 to 84 in 2008 and 87 last year, when they finished six games behind league champion Philadelphia in the NL East. The core of the team returns intact, and payroll will top $40 million for the first time in five years.

More improvement likely will be needed to crack the postseason for the first time since the Marlins won the World Series in 2003.

-- The Associated Press

DEMPSTER DRAWS INSPIRATION FROM AILING DAUGHTER (3:43 p.m. ET)
Ryan Dempster has inspiration every time he gets in a tight situation on a baseball field with the Chicago Cubs. It comes from his 10-month-old daughter, Riley, who's been fighting DiGeorge syndrome all her young life.

Riley Dempster, who was born on April 1, 2009, has undergone numerous procedures, including the insertion of feeding and tracheal tubes as she fights the disorder caused by a defect in a chromosome.

Symptoms and conditions of DiGeorge syndrome vary in different patients and with different degrees of severity. In Riley's case, she's been unable to swallow. Early on, she underwent another procedure in which a portion of the stomach is wrapped around the esophagus to promote healing and reduce acid backup.

"She's doing well. She's still unable to swallow but she's doing well. She's a tough little fighter," Dempster said this week from the Chicago Cubs' spring training complex.

Dempster said his daughter must learn how to swallow on her own and it's a difficult process for someone so small and young.

"She inspires us," Dempster said. "You know, watching. If you're going through that, I can do anything. I really feel that way."

-- The Associated Press

CARDS GROOMING BACKUP OPTIONS FOR CLOSER FRANKLIN (3:23 p.m. ET)
Ryan Franklin was one of the National League's top closers last year, even with an awful final month, a first-time All-Star for St. Louis whose ERA hovered around one until early September.

The Cardinals have faith that a pitcher who'll be 37 next month and isn't a strikeout machine can do the job again, but not enough that they're not trying to develop a backup this spring.

"It doesn't matter to me," Franklin said Saturday. "I've got a couple of years, maybe three years left, and I want to win. Whatever that takes, whatever they think, is totally fine with me as long as I'm a part of it."

Among the potential fill-ins are Jason Motte, who began last year as the closer, and Mitchell Boggs. Both throw in the high 90s, more of a typical closer template than Franklin, who is a ground-ball pitcher.

"You always want a succession plan, and if something doesn't work you want to look for something internally first," general manager John Mozeliak said. "It's just natural."

-- The Associated Press

WAKAMATSU GIDDY ABOUT MARINERS' ROTATION (3:18 p.m. ET)
A starting rotation with Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee at the top is giving the Seattle Mariners plenty of optimism for 2010.

Lee, who still has strips of athletic tape covering the area of the surgery, is scheduled to take part in pitchers' fielding practice Monday and is expected to toss a bullpen session on Wednesday. Heavy rain at the Mariners' spring training complex prevented Lee from taking part in fielding practice on Saturday.

"It would be good to get him back on the mound. That's our first step," Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. "Get him feeling comfortable with the club."

Yet little can douse the Mariners' excitement about having Lee, who came to Seattle in a December trade with the Phillies in exchange for three prospects.

"I joke. I said back in our winter meetings in October, I said 'Cliff Lee is the guy I'm targeting," Wakamatsu said. "That whole process was pretty amazing. At winter meetings his name got brought up and everybody got giddy in the room, and the second part is, 'Can we really do this?' and [general manager] Jack [Zduriencik] made it happen, which was pretty special."

-- The Associated Press

REDS' VOLQUEZ HAPPY IN CAMP DESPITE INACTION (3:08 p.m. ET)
Cincinnati Reds pitcher Edinson Volquez was home in the Dominican Republic when he went to a baseball game just to see teammate Francisco Cordero throw in the winter league.

Volquez couldn't throw after season-ending Tommy John surgery, but he said he missed his teammates more than pitching. So he caught up with Cordero after the game and the veteran told Volquez to keep his head up, that spring training was just around the corner.

While he still doesn't take part in all the same activities as his teammates, and rehab is expected to take a full year, Volquez said Saturday he's happy to be around his teammates at spring training in Arizona.

"I'm still here on the team, I feel like I'm part of the team," he said. "I'm with my teammates. You get time with guys in here, you say hello to everyone, they make you happy."

-- The Associated Press

COX CONFIDENT IN SAITO, WAGNER (3:04 p.m. ET)
After watching Takashi Saito's first throwing session of spring training, Braves manager Bobby Cox had one word to sum it all up:

"Wow."

The former Dodgers closer turned 40 last week. But the Braves expect him to serve as Billy Wagner's primary set-up man. That's health permitting, of course. But Cox said he has no health worries whatsoever about Saito, whose Dodgers career was cut short by a sprained elbow in 2008, or Wagner, who missed most of last season following Tommy John surgery.

"Saito was never in the trainer's room once last year in Boston," Cox said. "And Wags has a new arm. So right now, I don't have any thoughts about those guys breaking down."

-- Jayson Stark, ESPN.com

COX ON JURRJENS, PROCTOR (3:02 p.m. ET)
On the first day that pitchers and catchers worked out, the only Braves dealing with any sort of health issue were starter Jair Jurrjens, who has a sore shoulder, and former Yankees reliever Scott Proctor, who had Tommy John surgery 11 months ago.

An MRI this week on Jurrjens' shoulder showed nothing alarming. But the Braves want Jurrjens to take it slowly at first.

"According to the MRI, he's great," Cox said. "But let's see."

Cox said Proctor is "about two weeks" behind the other pitchers. But the 33-year-old right-hander threw 50 pitches off the mound in the bullpen Saturday and "looked really good," Cox said. "He's still on a rehab schedule, but you'd never know it."

Proctor is viewed as a long shot to make the club out of spring training. But Cox won't rule it out.

"He's going to have plenty of time," the manager said. "I think he'll be ready coming out of camp. But if not, it will be real close."

-- Jayson Stark, ESPN.com

PIRATES WANT TO LESSEN DUKE'S WORKLOAD (2:58 p.m. ET)
The Pittsburgh Pirates are looking to cut down on All-Star pitcher Zach Duke's workload this season.

Duke has made at least 30 starts in three of his first four full seasons in the majors. The exception was 2007, when shoulder problems limited him to 19 starts.

Duke didn't miss a start last season but faded over the final two months. On Saturday, pitching coach Joe Kerrigan said the amount of work Duke put in between starts might have been the culprit.

"We'll have to take a look at that," Kerrigan said. "Maybe that has something to do with the wear and tear in August and September."

Last season, Duke was injury-free and pitched 213 innings, tops on the team and 12th in the National League. The left-hander also was tied for third in the NL with three complete games, the most by a Pirates pitcher since Jeff Suppan had three in 2003.

-- The Associated Press

WILPON OPTIMISTIC FOR METS' 2010 SEASON (2:00 p.m. ET)
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Coming off a season he said was "torture" for him, New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon is optimistic about the 2010 season.

"[It is difficult] when you have all those injuries and a bad season, and the fans were disappointed -- but not anymore than I was because I am probably their biggest fan," Wilpon said. "Now that's last year. It's 2010, it's 70 degrees in Florida and the sun is shining, so I have a great feeling of optimism."

After an injury-filled, 92-loss season, Mets fans have higher demands this year. Wilpon has them in mind, especially as the organization tries to fill the stands at Citi Field.

The need to produce likely is putting some pressure on management and coaches, but Wilpon declined to talk about whether any jobs within the organization were on the line, saying, "Those are things of the future."

-- The Associated Press

FELIZ WANTS SPOT IN RANGERS' ROTATION (1:34 p.m. ET)
Right-hander Neftali Feliz was mainly a starter in the minors before being called up to the Texas Rangers' bullpen in August. He struck out four of his first six batters and finished with a 1-0 record, 1.74 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 31 innings.

"When he joined us we saw lightning in a bottle," Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "What did we learn? That it wasn't an accident."

Should the Rangers have Perez start as he has done throughout his minor-league career or are they better off with his power fastball in the bullpen? Feliz, the team's top-rated prospect, is clear on his preference.

"I think I would be a better starter than reliever in the long run," Feliz said through an interpreter. "I'm confident. I feel like I can do better as a starter. I get a lot of questions about it and I tell them that it's up to the team to decide."

Washington said Feliz's future is as a starter. But consistent with the team's mantra this season of making decisions based on what the team needs most to win, a rotation spot isn't guaranteed.

"All the guy's done all his career is start and we want to make sure we use his assets," Washington said. "But he's not going to be given anything. By the middle of spring training we'll determine whether his spot is in the bullpen or in the rotation."

-- The Associated Press

RANGERS' LHP HOLLAND INJURES KNEE (12:56 p.m. ET)
Texas Rangers left-hander Derek Holland injured his right knee during agility drills in a light rain Saturday.

Holland walked off the field under his own power and was examined in the clubhouse by Rangers team doctor Keith Meister. An MRI was scheduled to be performed as soon as a machine becomes available.

The 23-year-old was 8-13 with a 6.02 ERA in 33 appearances and 21 starts as a rookie for the Rangers last season.

-- The Associated Press. For more on this story, go to ESPNDallas.com.

HAREN GETS OPENING DAY NOD FOR ARIZONA (12:49 p.m. ET)
Dan Haren was given the Opening Day start for the Arizona Diamondbacks over Brandon Webb, who is expected to return after shoulder surgery.

"I think it's a great reward for Dan Haren," Arizona manager A.J. Hinch told the Arizona Republic.

Hinch plans on starting new addition Edwin Jackson in the second game, and bringing Webb out for the third game.

The Diamondbacks open the season April 5 against the San Diego Padres at Chase Field.

-- ESPN.com news services

MARINERS PITCHER STILL IN VENEZUELA (11:36 a.m. ET)
Mariners pitcher Yusmeiro Petit is dealing with personal matters in his native Venezuela and is not expected to join the team until next week.

A team spokesman declined to discuss the issues Saturday, although he said they are not related to Petit obtaining a visa to work in the United States.

Petit is the only pitcher not present at Mariners spring training, where pitchers and catchers have arrived ahead of the rest of the team.

The 25-year-old Petit went 3-10 with a 5.82 ERA in 23 games -- including 17 starts -- for the Arizona Diamondbacks last season. He was claimed off waivers by Seattle in November.

-- The Associated Press

PETTITTE ON TIGER'S APOLOGY (9:19 a.m. ET)
Andy Pettitte, who had his own very public apology two years ago after admitting he used HGH, shared his opinions on Tiger Woods' statement.

"I think it will be good," Pettitte told 1050 New York's Andrew Marchand when asked what he thinks the apology will do for Woods' future. "Fans are very forgiving. People are very forgiving. For me, it was amazing. You know you have been following this team, I'm sure, and have been around this team. The fans, everywhere I went, have been unbelievable to me. I thank the Good Lord for that.

"I think my situation was a lot different. I stood and answered every question until you guys didn't have any more questions to ask and I think maybe, in my situation, made things a lot different, but I can't speak on Tiger's behalf or whatever he is going through."

In the end, an apology is only effective if it's sincere. Pettitte said that the public can detect insincerity.

"People know," Pettitte said. "People can tell if someone is sincere or not. I think people know me also. I've been around a long time. I've always been open to people and to being able to talk to people my whole career also. I think people know who I am and what I'm about."

-- ESPN.com

null

February, 19, 2010
02/19/10
1:20
PM ET
ROCKIES' JIMENEZ THROWS FIRST BULLPEN SESSION (6:20 p.m. ET)
Ubaldo Jimenez is hoping a couple of minor adjustments will allow him to go deeper into games for the Colorado Rockies.

Jimenez threw his first bullpen session of spring training Friday, and pitching coach Bob Apodaca was pleased with what he saw.

"Today is absolutely how I'd hoped he'd come here," Apodaca said.

Jimenez went 15-12 last year, and his 3.47 ERA was the lowest in franchise history for a starting pitcher. He ranked sixth in the National League in innings (218) and strikeouts (198).

But the 26-year-old right-hander had some problems with his command when he was pitching out of the stretch. That forced him out of some games early because of a high pitch count.

Apodaca said Jimenez was quicker to the plate when he pitched out of the stretch during the bullpen session and his improved alignment led to better command.

-- Associated Press

PADRES' YOUNG FEELS GOOD AFTER PEN SESSION (6:20 p.m. ET)
San Diego Padres right-hander Chris Young says he felt good after participating in a bullpen session during the team's first workout on Friday morning.

Young, who had arthroscopic shoulder surgery on Aug. 17, says he spent all offseason strengthening his right arm and shoulder in order to be ready for spring training. He threw 40 pitches in 10 minutes.

Young was 4-6 with a 5.21 ERA in 14 starts last season and hasn't pitched since leaving early from a June 14 game against the Los Angeles Angels.

"It was a standard first day," Young said with a laugh. "Everybody was healthy. Nobody got lost. I think it's a good day."

"Being ready was the goal. The [doctors] had kind of gone over the rehab timetable and that was the goal. But you never know, one what they'd find once they got in there, or if you'd ever have any setbacks during the rehab. Fortunately I haven't had any."

Young began his rehab in November. Manager Bud Black has constantly been monitoring Young throughout the offseason at Petco Park. Prior to Friday's session, Young had thrown off a mound several times without incident.

-- Associated Press

BONDERMAN BACK TO BUSINESS WITH TIGERS (6:35 p.m. ET)
The Detroit Tigers appear content to go about business with Jeremy Bonderman as if the past two seasons never happened.

That'd be fine with him, too.

"My arm feels good, it's just a matter of building strength," said Bonderman, who didn't win a game last year after shoulder surgery in June 2008. "It's been two years and I need to work really hard in the next two weeks to get my mechanics back."

Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he has the 27-year-old right-hander penciled into the rotation. Bonderman has been throwing freely and without pain since early February.

"Bonderman, in my opinion, is back to a normal spring training and we're going to see what he looks like," Leyland said Friday. "I think he is OK. I mean we'll find out, you never know for sure."

The exhibition season starts March 2, and Bonderman is expected to take his turns in the rotation along with Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer.

-- Associated Press

GIANTS' RENTERIA PLAYED WITH BONE SPUR (6:20 p.m. ET)
San Francisco shortstop Edgar Renteria played all last season with a bone spur in his right elbow, about the size of a piece of pea gravel.

Such a seemingly minor problem to derail an entire season.

Renteria hit a career-low .250 with 19 doubles, five home runs and 48 RBIs in 124 games before the Giants turned to hot-hitting Juan Uribe as they fought for a playoff berth down the stretch. It was the fewest homers for Renteria since 1998 and resulted in a season that he called simply "embarrassing."

"I can play like Edgar Renteria again," he said after arriving in the Giants' camp Friday.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy had no trouble naming Renteria the starting shortstop this season.

-- Associated Press

GRIFFEY ARRIVES AT TRAINING CAMP (6:18 p.m. ET)
Sporting a bucket hat with sunglasses, Ken Griffey Jr. arrived at the Mariners' spring training complex Friday with the kind of reception reserved for a veteran and clubhouse leader.

Griffey embraced manager Don Wakamatsu and general manager Jack Zduriencik, and bellowed greetings to teammates from across the clubhouse.

Slated to be the Mariners' designated hitter, Griffey flew overnight from Florida after watching his daughter's basketball game. He took his physical Friday after proclaiming that he'd lost seven pounds through dieting and exercise.

Mike Sweeney, another team leader from last season, is expected Sunday after signing a minor league deal last week.

"When you get Griff in here, it kind of puts pressure on everyone else," Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. "I just called [Sweeney]. I said 'Griff's here, where you at?' He said, 'I got a late invitation. It wasn't my fault."

-- Associated Press

DICE-K REPORTS IN BEST SHAPE OF CAREER (5:58 p.m. ET)
Friday was conditioning day for the Boston Red Sox, which unlike last year, was an easy day, a great day for Daisuke Matsuzaka. He's in his best shape in his four years with the Red Sox.

Matsuzaka has a different looking body than the one he had when he was placed on the disabled list last June, and sent to the minor leagues, to rehabilitate his weak right shoulder, and get himself into much better shape. And now, he has. Matsuzaka spent five weeks in the Athletes' Performance facility in Phoenix in December, January and February.

"He had a great attitude, he was a pleasure to work with," said Mike Roberts, the director of baseball for Athletes' Performance. "He pushed himself in all areas, in the power area and the cardio area. He came to us like a minor league guy who was coming to big league camp for the first time. He was excited. He was like a rookie who was trying to make the club."

After going 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA in 2008, Matsuzaka dropped to 4-6 with a 5.76 ERA last year. When he was placed on the disabled list in late June, he was told by management that he had to get himself in better shape, as well as regain the strength in his shoulder. He came back in better shape in September, and pitched much better, but it was the off-season work with Athletes' Performance that prepared him for spring training.

Matsuzaka worked there for five weeks. For a two-week period, he did two workouts a day, which is rare for a pitcher given the workout regiment in that program. He didn't throw much off the mound, but threw a great deal during those five weeks. He displayed a great, tight spin on his breaking ball and, as always, tremendous balance over the rubber.

Matsuzaka had tightness in his back the first day of spring training, but it is nothing to worry about, several sources said. The Red Sox have Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and John Lackey as their first three starters, leaving two spots for Matsuzaka, Clay Buchholz and Tim Wakefield. Most teams don't have five major league starters, the Red Sox have six. Matsuzaka, 29, is likely to be one of the five.

-- Tim Kurkjian, ESPN The Magazine

HARANG NOT ASSURED OF STARTING OPENER (5:11 p.m. ET)
Right-hander Aaron Harang isn't assured of making another opening day start for the Cincinnati Reds.

Manager Dusty Baker said Friday that he's open-minded about who will start the opener. Harang has started the past four, but has struggled to win the past two years, throwing the No. 1 spot open to competition.

"We're in a performance-based occupation, like most, but probably even more," Baker said. "It's a big responsibility to be a No. 1, you know?"

Harang's streak of four straight Opening Day starts is one shy of the club record. Harang has won six games each of the past two seasons, when injuries and an appendectomy held him back.

Bronson Arroyo led the staff in wins last season with 15.

-- The Associated Press

RANGERS' DOMINICAN PLAYERS JOIN CAMP (4:48 p.m. ET)
Omar Beltre and Alexi Ogando's five-year wait to attend their first major league spring training is over.

Beltre and Ogando arrived in the Rangers' camp on Thursday and took to the practice fields in Surprise, Ariz., on Friday afternoon.

The two right-handers admittedly were involved in a human trafficking ring in the Dominican Republic and were prohibited from entering the United States for five years, a ban that finally ended this year.

Their baseball careers had been limited winter ball, the domestic Dominican League and international tournaments.

-- The Associated Press

NEW ROLE FOR UEHARA (4:45 p.m. ET)
The Baltimore Orioles still believe that right-hander Koji Uehara can be a valuable member of their pitching staff.

It just won't be in the starting rotation.

Uehara will work out of the bullpen this season after making 12 starts in 2009 as a rookie. He ended his career in Japan as the closer for the Yomiuri Giants, but most of his experience has come in the rotation.

Uehara, the first Japanese player to sign with the Orioles, went 2-4 with a 4.05 ERA in 66 2/3 innings. He made two stops on the disabled list with hamstring and elbow injuries, and didn't pitch after June because of a slightly torn flexor tendon. He also struggled with his endurance and has hired a new personal trainer.

-- The Associated Press

HART HAS EDGE FOR ROTATION SPOT (3:58 p.m. ET)
Just two days into spring training, the Pittsburgh Pirates might already have settled one of their position battles.

Right-handers Kevin Hart and Daniel McCutchen were supposed to duel for the fifth spot in the starting rotation, and recent first-round draft pick Brad Lincoln was supposed to provide pressure while starting the season in Triple-A.

On Friday, all indications pointed to Hart as the frontrunner.

In discussing his pitching corps, manager John Russell mentioned Hart as one of the starters and McCutchen among the bullpen crew. But when pressed, Russell stopped short of confirming Hart has won the job.

-- The Associated Press

SANTO: CUBS WON'T MISS BRADLEY (3:44 p.m. ET)
The buzz in Chicago is that the Cubs' "team chemistry'' will be better now that disgruntled outfielder Milton Bradley has been traded to Seattle. Veteran broadcaster Ron Santo certainly didn't dispute that notion in a talk with reporters in Mesa on Friday.

Santo said the mood in the clubhouse changed for the better in September, when the Cubs suspended Bradley for comments critical of the team and its fan base. In December, the Cubs traded Bradley to Seattle for pitcher Carlos Silva.

"I'm a very strong believer in a good chemistry, and there's nobody better than Lou Piniella when it comes to chemistry,'' Santo said. "But this was a tough situation when you bring in [Bradley], who's hopefully going to change. I couldn't understand the way he is. He's just not a happy man.

"When you start talking about the fans and Wrigley Field and how you can't wait to get off [the field], it's not good. It wasn't like he'd get on anybody in the clubhouse. He was always just kind of mad. He'd walk right by you and not even look at you. But that's over with now.''

-- Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.com

CUBS HAVE SOME JOBS AVAILABLE (3:37 p.m. ET)
Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells and Ted Lilly -- who had offseason shoulder surgery and is taking things slowly because of some discomfort in his knee this spring -- are penciled in as the top four starters in the Cubs rotation. That leaves Sean Marshall, Carlos Silva, Tom Gorzelanny and Jeff Samardzija to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation in Mesa.

Manager Lou Piniella will also have to weed through a number of candidates to round out his bench. At the moment, it looks as if Xavier Nady will be the fourth outfielder, Koyie Hill will be the backup catcher and Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker will divvy up the at-bats at second base.

That leaves eight or nine players to compete for what might be two bench jobs. The list of candidates includes Micah Hoffpauir, Andres Blanco, Chad Tracy, Sam Fuld, Kevin Millar, Brad Snyder, Bryan LaHair, Tyler Colvin and Bobby Scales. The Cubs will also take a long look at shortstop Starlin Castro, the franchise's top prospect. But Castro is 19 years old and has only 111 at-bats above Class A, so he's likely to begin the season in the minors.

-- Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.com

HAMILTON'S BOLD PREDICTION (2:54 p.m. ET)

Outfielder Josh Hamilton arrived at Rangers camp Friday and said he learned from last year and is ready to put all of that behind him and have a strong 2010 season.

He also predicts the Rangers will have a big season, saying he believes the team will win 96 games in 2010.

For more, check out ESPNDallas.com's Rangers blog.

CHAMBERLAIN, HUGHES THROW OFF MOUND (2:46 p.m. ET)

Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, the front-runners for the Yankees' fifth starter spot, both threw 30 pitches during their first spring training bullpen sessions on Friday.

The pair had worked off a mound during early workouts last week.

Chamberlain loves the competition and said that pushing each other makes the team better

Chad Gaudin, Sergio Mitre and Alfredo Aceves are also under consideration for that role.

Manager Joe Girardi said the competition won't really begin until the start of spring training games next month.

-- The Associated Press

ESCOBAR SAYS SHOULDER IS WEAK (1:20 p.m. ET)
Reliever Kelvim Escobar said Friday that his shoulder is merely weak and any rumors that he is hurt are untrue.

The former starter signed a one-year, $1.25 million deal with the Mets in late December, despite pitching in only one major league game since 2007 because of shoulder surgery. He's expected to contend for the eighth-inning setup role.

"I am in a program that I have to stick with," Escobar said. "It's not true I am not going to pick up a ball and the things I heard. You have to take it easy. I don't want to rush. There is plenty of time to get my arm in better shape, and it should be fine."

The 33-year-old Escobar pitched winter ball in Venezuela, then didn't pick up a ball for almost 5 weeks. Although he's been doing arm exercises and other workouts, Escobar acknowledged he's behind schedule and isn't sure when he'll be able to pitch.

-- The Associated Press