Category archive: Washington Nationals

PATTERSON OPTS OUT OF MINOR LEAGUE CONTRACT (10:53 p.m. ET)

Outfielder Corey Patterson ended his tryout with the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday, opting out of his contract for free agency.

The 29-year-old Patterson, who has played in parts of 10 big league seasons, agreed in November to a minor league contact with the Mariners and had the right to be released on seven days' notice if not put on the 25-man roster. If he had been put on the big league roster, he would have received a $650,000, one-year deal.

Patterson appeared in 19 games this spring, and batted .216 (8 for 37) with two doubles, two home runs and two RBIs.

In 1007 games, Patterson hit .252 with 104 homers and 363 RBIs with five teams. He made his major league debut with the Cubs when he was a highly regarded 20-year-old prospect.

-- The Associated Press

GUZMAN SOLID IN FIRST START AT 2B (6:47 p.m. ET)

Cristian Guzman made his first start at second base since losing the shortstop job to rookie Ian Desmond and helped turn two double plays in the Washington Nationals' 9-6 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday.

Guzman also went 3 for 4 with two doubles and two RBIs.

Guzman has played 1,272 games, all at shortstop. Manager Jim Riggleman said Guzman will be "somewhat of a utility player, but more than that."

"We really don't have too much concern that he's a problem over there, but if we did he alleviated that today," Riggleman said.

Nationals infield coach Pat Listach said the most difficult adjustment is turning the double play.

"He's got to get used to not seeing the runner," Listach said. "He's going to be fine over there. It looked like he's been there his whole life."

-- The Associated Press

INDIANS SHIP SOWERS TO COLUMBUS (2:57 p.m. ET)

The Cleveland Indians have sent left-hander Jeremy Sowers outright to Triple-A Columbus.

The team's first-round draft choice in 2004 was one of three players optioned to Triple-A, along with outfielder Trevor Crowe and catcher Wyatt Toregas.

Right-hander Hector Ambriz placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Saturday.

Sowers had a sore shoulder early in spring training, which put him behind in the competition for a roster spot. The 26-year-old is out of options and could not be sent back to the minors without going on waivers.

Sowers, drafted sixth overall out of Vanderbilt, has an 18-30 record and 5.18 ERA in 72 career games.

-- The Associated Press

LARUE DAY TO DAY WITH HAND INJURY (2:57 p.m. ET)

Catcher Jason LaRue is only suffering from a "deep bone bruise" and is "day to day," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Wednesday.

The Cardinals -- who are already without catcher Yadier Molina, who has a strained right oblique muscle -- had thought they might also lose LaRue for an extended period of time after he suffered an injury to his left hand in a tag play at the plate against the New York Mets on Tuesday. But Mozeliak said LaRue, who had an MRI on Wednesday morning, likely won't need to be placed on the disabled list.

"I had visions of a broken hand -- that was the worst case -- to what we're talking about right now," Mozeliak told the Post-Dispatch. "Emotionally, it was up and down."

Molina had his best workout since being injured Wednesday morning and said he felt no pain. Manager Tony La Russa told the Post-Dispatch that he thinks Molina could play on Opening Day; if he isn't ready Monday, he could be placed on the DL retroactive to March 26, which would make him eligible to play on April 11.

-- ESPN.com news services

THOMAS SHIFTED TO TOLEDO (2:11 p.m. ET)

The Detroit Tigers completed their Opening Day roster, sending outfielder Clete Thomas to Triple-A Toledo.

That move puts utility player Don Kelly on the team.

An MRI exam showed Thomas' right shoulder is bruised, but manager Jim Leyland says the injury won't prevent him from being a designated hitter for the Mud Hens.

-- The Associated Press

TWINS SEND RAMOS, PERKINS TO TRIPLE-A (12:21 p.m. ET)

Minnesota Twins catcher Wilson Ramos and left-hander Glen Perkins will start the season in Triple-A.

The Twins optioned both players to Rochester on Wednesday. Ramos is a promising prospect who hit .400 this spring, including a home run on Tuesday over a 35-foot high wall behind the center field fence.

But with Joe Mauer entrenched as the starter, the Twins want Ramos to play every day. Drew Butera will be the backup.

Perkins has been bothered by a sore back. He went 6-7 with a 5.89 ERA last season for the Twins.

Right-handed reliever Pat Neshek, who missed all of last season after Tommy John surgery, has made the roster.

-- The Associated Press

SANCHEZ WHIFFS 11 (7:48 p.m. ET)

Jonathan Sanchez had his strongest outing of the spring Monday, giving up one run on three hits and striking out 11 in six innings as the San Francisco Giants defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 8-6.

Sanchez, who threw a no-hitter against San Diego on July 10, gave up only one hit after the first inning. Rickie Weeks homered with one out in the sixth inning.

John Bowker, making a bid for an outfield spot on the Giants' opening day roster, continued his strong hitting with his fifth home run and a double.

Bowker hit a two-run shot in the fifth inning, one of two given up by Brewers starter Dave Bush.

Eugenio Velez went deep with a man on in the first for San Francisco.

-- The Associated Press

PINEIRO DOMINATES (7:25 p.m. ET)

Joel Pineiro took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and the Los Angeles Angels defeated the Kansas City Royals 10-2 on Monday.

Pineiro worked 6 2/3 innings, his longest of five spring appearances, and allowed only two hits and a run with two walks and two strikeouts.

Over his last 15 2/3 innings, Pineiro has allowed three earned runs. His spring ERA is now 3.48.

Scott Podsednik?s lead-off double in the sixth broke up the no-hitter. Podsednik scored one out later on Rick Ankiel?s double.

Royals starter Kyle Farnsworth made his second start and fifth appearance of the spring and allowed one hit in two innings.

Royals closer Joakim Soria was hit hard, allowing four hits and four earned runs without recording an out.

-- The Associated Press

CALLASPO HURTING (5:44 p.m. ET)

Alberto Callaspo may not be ready for the Kansas City Royals season opener April 5 with Detroit because of an irritation in his right side.

Callaspo has been held out of all baseball activities since the injury, which occurred Friday while taking batting practice.

Callaspo hit .300 last season with 41 doubles and 11 home runs. He was slated to bat third and play third base.

-- The Associated Press

PIRATES TO BAT PITCHER EIGHTH (5:44 p.m. ET)

Andrew McCutchen hit one of Pittsburgh's four home runs and the Pirates unveiled their new-look batting order Monday in a 13-1 romp over the Houston Astros.

Pirates manager John Russell plans to begin the season with his pitcher hitting eighth, a move that will shift McCutchen from leadoff to second in the batting order.

With pitcher Paul Maholm in the No. 8 spot, Akinori Iwamura hit leadoff, McCutchen was in the No. 2 spot and shortstop Bobby Crosby batted ninth.

The only change Russell might make would be putting Ronny Cedeno, scratched because of lower back pain, in the lineup instead of Crosby.

Iwamura hit a three-run homer and McCutchen, Brandon Jones and Andy LaRoche had two-run shots.

"It sets us up to score more runs," Russell said. "It really seems to make a lot of sense, a way to get more guys in scoring position in front of Aki, Andrew, [Garrett] Jones and ([Ryan] Doumit. It creates good balance in the lineup."

The Pirates claimed RHP Hayden Penn off waivers from the Florida Marlins. To clear space on the 40-man roster, OF Brandon Moss was designated for assignment. The Pirates have 10 days to trade, release or waive him.

Moss, a former Red Sox prospect acquired in the Jason Bay trade in July 2008, hit .081 this spring. He hit .232 with 13 home runs and 64 RBIs in 178 games with Pittsburgh. The 25-year-old Penn was 1-0 with a 7.77 ERA in 16 games with Florida last season and is 4-6 in 30 games with the Orioles and Marlins.

For the Astros, right-handed pitcher Roy Oswalt (left hamstring tightness) was examined in Houston by Dr. Michael McCann. Oswalt received an injection in his back and will make his scheduled start Wednesday. Oswalt is expected to start as planned on Opening Day.

-- The Associated Press

CARPENTER GETS NOD; GARCIA BATTLES (5:37 p.m. ET)

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa confirmed that Chris Carpenter will start Opening Day in Cincinnati.

And Jaime Garcia kept up his bid for a spot in the St. Louis rotation, pitching six innings Monday as the Cardinals beat the Minnesota Twins.

Garcia gave up two runs and eight hits without a walk. La Russa said there probably would be an announcement about the starting staff.

"He knew what was at stake and he handled himself well," La Russa said. "He got a lot of balls on the ground and threw a good assortment of pitches."

Kyle McClellan, who was in competition with Garcia and Rich Hill for the final rotation spot, has been a valuable member of the bullpen the last two seasons with a 3.73 ERA in 134 games. He can be used in the middle to late innings.

"That's where we need him," manager Tony La Russa said. "I just don't think we have enough depth."

Said McClellan: "It's pretty obvious with [Garcia] in our rotation it's going to be a very solid rotation. I can go back to the bullpen and improve on what I've done the last two years."

Albert Pujols and Ryan Ludwick homered off Twins starter Kevin Slowey. Minor leaguer Daniel Descalso hit a two-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth to win it.

-- The Associated Press

YANKEES HURLER BRIDGES GAP BETWEEN RIGHT, LEFT (2:53 p.m. ET)

Yankees minor league ambidextrous pitcher Pat Venditte is expected to pitch in his first major league spring training game during Tuesday's split-squad contest against Atlanta.

Venditte, who uses a six-finger glove, pitched at Class-A Charleston and Tampa last season, posting a combined 4-2 record with 22 saves.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi says he has wanted to see Venditte pitch all spring.

Girardi earlier this spring asked that Venditte be sent over for a big league game from the minor league complex.

Yankees Opening Day starter CC Sabathia is scheduled to start the game with the Braves.

Also, reliever Alfredo Aceves has back tightness and will not pitch for the next few days.

-- The Associated Press

METS' REYES TAKES BATTING PRACTICE (2:18 p.m. ET)

Jose Reyes is a step closer to appearing in a game for the first time this spring.

The New York Mets' shortstop took batting practice against minor league pitchers Monday morning and said the session went better than expected.

Reyes has participated in six workouts since returning to camp Wednesday, following a three-week absence with a hyperactive thyroid that prevented him from doing any physical activity.

"I didn't expect to hit the ball that hard today," Reyes said of the session. "I expected to swing at a couple and miss, but it was better than I expected."

The two-time All-Star hasn't played in a game, other than an intrasquad scrimmage, since last May when he was sidelined because of a hamstring injury.

Reyes said he still doesn't know when he will get into a game or if he will be ready for Opening Day, but he hasn't had any problems since returning.

"I haven't played since last May so I can't wait to get on the field and play with my teammates, but right now we're going to take it one day at a time and see what happens next," he said.

-- The Associated Press

MORROW RESUMES THROWING FOR BLUE JAYS (2:09 p.m. ET)

Toronto right-hander Brandon Morrow threw 52 pitches in a simulated game after being shut down for a week due to a "dead arm."

He allowed one hit, walked one and struck out four of 14 batters. He says he "felt great, could've kept going."

Morrow, projected as the No. 3 starter in the Blue Jays rotation, is scheduled to make his final spring start Saturday at Houston and said he could go five or six innings against the Astros.

He took himself out of his previous start on March 19 against Houston after experiencing soreness in his right shoulder while warming up in the bullpen.

-- The Associated Press

BEDARD RETURNS TO MOUND AT MARINERS CAMP (1:22 p.m. ET)

Erik Bedard is back on a mound for the Mariners -- albeit at less than half speed.

The oft-injured left-hander took his first step to rejoining Seattle's jumbled rotation by tossing about 20 pitches off the mound out of the stretch position Monday morning.

General manager Jack Zduriencik, special assistant Tony Blengino, manager Don Wakamatsu, pitching coach Rick Adair, two other coaches and two trainers watched the 6-minute session in a side bullpen.

The Mariners estimate Bedard could pitch again by June, though this mound work is earlier than originally expected.

Bedard joked to Zduriencik his throws were "all strikes."

-- The Associated Press

NATIONALS' FIFTH STARTER "UP IN THE AIR" (1:19 p.m. ET)

Washington Nationals manager Jim Riggleman says the team has settled on four-fifths of its starting rotation, with 1997 World Series MVP Livan Hernandez and Craig Stammen earning spots along with Opening Day starter John Lannan and Jason Marquis.

Stammen will be the team's No. 3 starter, and Hernandez earned the fourth spot after signing a minor league contract in February.

Riggleman says Monday the fifth starter's job is "up in the air," with Scott Olsen, Garrett Mock and J.D. Martin in the running.

The Nationals have some time to make a decision, because an off day early in the regular season means they won't need a fifth starter until April 11.

-- The Associated Press

WELLEMEYER UPS BID FOR GIANTS' SPOT (1:06 a.m. ET)

Todd Wellemeyer made another strong start in his bid for the fifth spot in San Francisco's rotation and Aaron Rowand had two hits and drove in a run and the Giants turned away Bay Area rival Oakland 6-3 on Thursday night.

Wellemeyer, a 31-year-old right-hander who is in camp as a non-roster invitee, pitched five innings for the second straight game. He gave up two runs (one earned) and three hits while walking two and striking out four and improved to 3-0.

Rowand, the Giants' leadoff hitter, singled and scored in a two-run third inning and hit an opposite-field double to right to bring home a run in a two-run fourth after Oakland had cut the lead to 2-1. Rowand has a hit in 11 of his 13 games this spring.

John Bowker, making a bid for a reserve outfield spot, had a pair of doubles after homering twice and driving in seven runs in a 7-0 win over Kansas City on Wednesday.

Giants closer Brian Wilson recorded his second save.

-- Associated Press

ROTATION SPOTS STILL UP FOR GRABS (10:14 p.m. ET)

Trying to earn rotation spots, Detroit's Jeremy Bonderman worked out of trouble over 4 1/3 innings, while Washington's J.D. Martin began poorly but finished well, and Johnny Damon's two hits helped a Tigers split squad beat the Nationals 8-2 Thursday night.

Still working his way back from shoulder surgery in 2008, Bonderman allowed five hits and two runs -- one earned. He also threw a wild pitch and walked a batter while recording only one 1-2-3 inning. He's competing with Dontrelle Willis and Nate Robertson for two openings.

Martin gave up five runs in the first, then retired the last 11 Tigers he faced over five innings.

Nationals center fielder Nyjer Morgan singled twice and stole two bases in his first game after being sidelined 10 days with a tight right hamstring.

-- Associated Press

PADRES' LEBLANC IMPROVES TO 3-0 (6:33 p.m. ET)

Wade LeBlanc limited the Chicago White Sox to two runs over six innings and the San Diego Padres won for the 10th time in 12 games with a 5-3 victory on Thursday.

LeBlanc, battling for a spot in the Padres' starting rotation, improved to 3-0 and lowered his spring ERA to 1.80 after allowing one earned run with five strikeouts.

Third baseman Chase Headley had two hits and two RBIs for the Padres.

White Sox starting pitcher Mark Buehrle allowed two unearned runs over five innings.

-- Associated Press

KENDRICK KEEPS FIGHTING FOR SPOT (6:12 p.m. ET)

Kyle Kendrick kept his name in the minds of the coaching staff and management as he continues to compete for the fifth starter's job. The 25-year-old right-hander allowed two runs -- one earned -- in 5 2/3 innings in the Phillies' 8-7 win over the Houston Astros.

"Obviously, you want to hear something, but it'll come down to the wire," Kendrick said. "They don't have to make a decision now. Like I've said before and like I've said all spring, it's out of my hands."

Kendrick is competing with 47-year-old Jamie Moyer for the final spot in the rotation. Moyer is scheduled to start Friday night when the Phillies travel to Tampa to take on the New York Yankees.

-- Associated Press

BERGESEN GETTING FORM BACK (6:06 p.m. ET)

Brad Bergesen got the confidence boost he needed -- at the expense of the defending world champion New York Yankees.

Bergesen took a shutout into the sixth inning, and the Baltimore Orioles got a home run from Adam Jones in an 8-0 victory Thursday.

Bergesen allowed three hits, walked two and struck out two in 5 2/3 innings. Both his strikeouts came against Alex Rodriguez.

"Today was the best I felt," Bergesen said. "Going up against the Yankees and being able to go 5 2/3 helped out, built some confidence."

Bergesen missed the final two months of his rookie season last year after being struck in the shin by a line drive. During the offseason he injured his shoulder during a commercial shoot and was forced to sit out the first 10 days of spring training camp.

-- Associated Press

ANGELS SCRATCH LHP KAZMIR (5:37 p.m. ET)

Los Angeles Angels lefty Scott Kazmir was scratched from his scheduled start Thursday against the Texas Rangers because of tightness in the deltoid muscle near his pitching shoulder.

Manager Mike Scioscia told reporters in Tempe, Ariz., that the injury, caused by fatigue in the deltoid muscle near his shoulder, should not affect Kazmir's ability to start the season on time. He is slated to open April 8 against the Oakland Athletics.

-- ESPN.com news services

WILLIS DISPLAYS COMMAND OF PITCHES (4:33 p.m. ET)

Dontrelle Willis overcame a shaky start and allowed just one run in four innings Thursday to lead the Detroit Tigers past the Toronto Blue Jays, 5-1.

Willis, who is competing for one of the final two spots in the Tigers' rotation with Nate Robertson and Jeremy Bonderman, walked three, but allowed only one hit. His spring training ERA rose to 1.20.

Willis walked the first two Blue Jays of the game and worked out of a jam with runners on second and third to retire the side.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland wouldn't speculate on his opening day rotation, but said that he was pleased with Willis' command of his pitches, not his control.

-- The Associated Press

MATSUZAKA GOES TWO INNINGS FOR RED SOX (3:54 p.m. ET)

Daisuke Matsuzaka made his first appearance of spring training, coming on in relief of starter Tim Wakefield, and the Boston Red Sox beat the Florida Marlins 6-4 on Thursday.

Matsuzaka, whose spring has been delayed by back and neck ailments, pitched two innings, giving up a run on two hits after Wakefield allowed three runs on six hits with two walks in six innings.

In his fifth start of the spring, Chris Volstad went 4 1/3 innings for Florida, giving up four runs -- one earned -- on eight hits with three strikeouts and no walks.

Dan Uggla hit a two-run homer for the Marlins, his second home run of spring training.

-- The Associated Press

KINSLER HOPES TO PLAY MONDAY (10:36 a.m. ET)

Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler, who is recovering from a right high ankle sprain, hit off a tee on Monday. He has yet to put any pressure on his ankle while running, but is still targeting a Monday return to game action.

"I'm trying to keep a bat in my hands as much as possible," Kinsler said. "It's just a matter of getting the timing down. The key is seeing as many off-speed pitches as I can. So that's what I'm hoping to do."

-- Richard Durrett, ESPNDallas.com

YANKEES RELEASE RIGHT-HANDER GAUDIN (10:32 a.m. ET)

The New York Yankees have released pitcher Chad Gaudin, who was one of five candidates for the fifth starter spot.

New York general manager Brian Cashman made the announcement on Thursday.

Gaudin went 2-0 with a 3.43 ERA in 11 games, including six starts, with the Yankees last season.

Also, Alex Rodriguez declined comment for the second straight day on his pending meeting with federal investigators regarding his possible connection to a Canadian physician.

The Yankees third baseman is scheduled to meet with officials Friday in Buffalo, N.Y.

-- The Associated Press

KENNEDY CONTINUES TO IMPROVE (9:11 p.m. ET)

Right-hander Ian Kennedy is making a strong case to join the Arizona Diamondbacks' rotation.

Kennedy struck out eight in five scoreless innings and the Arizona Diamondbacks earned a 5-4 win in 10 innings over the San Diego Padres on Monday.

Kennedy lowered his ERA to 2.70. He allowed two hits -- a two-out double by Will Venable in the first inning, and a single by Chris Denorfia in the third inning. Kennedy then picked off Denorfia at first.

"I really don't go out for strikeouts from the get-go," said Kennedy, who could follow Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson in the rotation. "If they come, that's awesome. [Catcher Chris Snyder called a great game. We worked really well together."

Arizona manager A.J. Hinch said Kennedy threw one of the best outings of the spring by a Diamondbacks starter.

"Excellent. Ian was really, really good. He had good rhythm. He had good command," Hinch said. "He had swing-and-miss pitches."

Hinch said the Diamondbacks will likely begin the season with four starting pitchers, as Brandon Webb is expected to miss the start of the season. He has yet to pitch in a Cactus League game.

Arizona is allowing Webb to build his arm strength through long toss. No date is set for his next bullpen.

-- The Associated Press

DUCHSCHERER DECLARES HIMSELF READY FOR SEASON (8:58 p.m. ET)

Justin Duchscherer put up a string of zeros while facing another team for the first time in 19 months. He then declared himself ready for the start of the season -- and past all of his troubles in 2009.

Duchscherer allowed four hits over four innings to help the Oakland Athletics beat the Seattle Mariners 7-2 on Monday.

"I was nervous, very anxious anticipating getting out there for the first time against big league guys," he said. "It's been a while."

Duchscherer missed all of last season because of elbow surgery and depression. The 32-year-old right-hander last pitched in a big league game Aug. 18, 2008.

Even though he only threw about 50 pitches -- he went to the bullpen for 10 pitches after he was finished -- Duchscherer said he expects to be in Oakland's rotation at the beginning of the season.

"As long as I'm ready to go five or six innings, I think that's kind of the plan," he said. "As the season goes, my second, third, fourth start I can progress back up to the 100, 100-pitch count range and hopefully get in seven, eight, nine innings like I feel like I'm supposed to."

Manager Bob Geren said Duchscherer should be ready to start the season in the rotation if he progresses with each spring outing.

Duchscherer was an All-Star in 2005 and '08 before the problems with his back, elbow and depression. He's still on an amended training schedule designed to preserve his back.

-- The Associated Press

MECHE LEAVES GAME WITH SORE SHOULDER (8:41 p.m. ET)

Gil Meche pitched three innings Monday before leaving the Kansas City Royals' 9-5 victory over the Chicago White Sox with a sore right shoulder.

Meche allowed three runs and four hits, struck out one and walked one. He threw 31 of his 56 pitches for strikes.

"The reason I came out was because I felt some stiffness in my shoulder," Meche said. "I didn't want to push it with the season coming up. It's nothing serious. I did all the tests. They checked me out. The shoulder is strong, but the tightness is there."

"There's no pain going on, so I'm not worried about it. After the third, I told Mac [pitching coach Bob McClure], 'Look, I don't feel like I'm getting anywhere. I'm just going through the motions, let's just shut it down and save it for later."

Meche was limited to 23 starts and 129 innings because of shoulder and back problems in 2009.

"Last year I did push through things and I know where that got me," Meche said. "I want to make sure I feel 100 percent when the season starts. It's a matter of me being smart right now. If I have it now, it's OK, but I'm just going to make sure I do the right things, so it goes away."

"When you get stiff on the mound, the next thing you know your neck is bothering you because you're not throwing normal. I felt a little stiffness in my neck coming on, too," he said. "I was like it's not going to be worth it. I'm only going to make myself worse by staying out here trying to pitch."

Meche was scheduled to throw five innings or about 70-75 pitches with only two more starts left in spring training.

"If I go out there throwing two more innings and not being free and easy, who knows what could happen?" he said. "I know I need to get a pitch count up, but if you don't throw correctly that's when injuries happen. The trainers agreed it was a good idea to come out."

-- The Associated Press

CRISP SLATED TO PLAY OUTFIELD THIS WEEK (8:03 p.m. ET)

Oakland center fielder Coco Crisp homered as a designated hitter in his return to the Athletics' lineup against Seattle after being sidelined for nearly two weeks with a sore hamstring.

Crisp is scheduled to play the outfield for the first time this spring Wednesday.

He signed a $5.25 million, one-year contract with the A's in December, six months after undergoing operations on both shoulders. A tender hamstring sidelined the 30-year-old crisp for 12 days before his return Monday.

Batting leadoff, Crisp struck out in his first at-bat then hit a three-run homer in the second inning off Seattle starter Ian Snell.

-- The Associated Press

MCLOUTH LOOKING TO OVERCOME STRUGGLES (7:41 p.m. ET)

Wearing a new set of contact lenses, Nate McLouth has been able to see the ball better than ever this spring.

That doesn't mean, however, that the Atlanta center fielder has been able to hit it.

Mired in a 0 for 28 slump with 12 strikeouts, McLouth batted in every inning of a rain-shorted minor league game Sunday in hopes of getting on track with the start of the season two weeks away.

McLouth got three hits -- two more than he's had in real spring games. Maybe the move worked. Finally, he had something positive to build on.

"I just needed to step away," said McLouth, batting .029. "Hitting is a funny thing. It can wear on you, even in spring training when numbers don't matter -- because they do.

"Not necessarily numbers, but feeling well and making good contact matters. And when that's not happening, regardless of whether it's spring training or not, that's frustrating."

Frustrating for McLouth and worrisome for the Braves. They are counting on him to be their leadoff hitter.

How bad has McLouth been this spring? His one hit in 35 at-bats came on March 6 and he has 14 strikeouts and three walks, striking out twice in five of his past eight games.

-- The Associated Press

TALLET GETTING FEEL FOR CHANGEUP (6:27 p.m. ET)

Brian Tallet has been working on his changeup this spring, and he's still trying to get a feel for it.

Tallet decided to keep the pitch out of the dirt while facing Brandon Inge in the first inning of the Toronto Blue Jays' 8-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Monday, and the third baseman connected for a three-run homer.

"I just told myself, 'I'm not going to bounce them anymore. It's not going to get any better by bouncing it,'" Tallet said. "I've got to be able to get that pitch in the zone. So we were working on getting it up a little bit and got that one up just too much."

Tallet, expected to be Toronto's fifth starter, allowed five runs and eight hits in five innings.

"You take that one [changeup] away and it's a whole different ballgame," he said.

"I don't think he would've thrown it in a [regular-season] game, especially 1-1, kind of a contact situation," catcher John Buck said. "Probably the cutter or that good sinker, his go-to pitches in that situation, two runners on. But I wanted him to throw that in a pressure situation."

-- The Associated Press

GARCIA MAKES CASE FOR ROTATION SPOT (6:21 p.m. ET)

Jaime Garcia is making a strong bid for a spot in the St. Louis Cardinals' rotation.

Garcia threw four crisp innings, David Freese and Joe Mather hit their first spring homers and a Cardinals split-squad beat the Houston Astros 6-4 on Monday.

Garcia, who missed last season after undergoing reconstructive left elbow surgery, allowed one run and two hits in relief of Kyle Lohse. He has yielded two runs while striking out 15 in 12 2/3 innings over four outings this spring.

"My arm feels awesome," he said. "It feels better than it has ever felt. I did everything I could in the offseason. Finally now I feel like everything is paying off. It's feeling good and everything is going the way it's supposed to go."

Garcia is competing with non-roster invitee Rich Hill and Kyle McClellan for the final spot in the rotation behind Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Lohse and Brad Penny.

Garcia was thought to be a long shot for the spot because of the surgery, but his success has put him in a close race with McClellan while Hill has struggled.

-- The Associated Press

RAYS HIT SEVEN HOMERS OFF RED SOX (4:51 p.m. ET)

James Shields was solid for 5 2/3 innings and Evan Longoria hit two of Tampa Bay's seven home runs Monday in an 11-9 win over a split squad of Boston Red Sox.

Shields recently was picked by Rays manager Joe Maddon to start on Opening Day for the third straight year. The right-hander gave up one run and five hits.

Kelly Shoppach homered twice for Tampa Bay and drove in four runs. Ben Zobrist, Sean Rodriguez and Hank Blalock also homered for the Rays.

Boof Bonser was hit hard in his first start for the Red Sox, giving up five runs and six hits in two-plus innings.

Mike Cameron had two hits for Boston and is batting .423 this spring.

-- The Associated Press

NATIONALS TEE OFF ON METS' PELFREY (4:23 p.m. ET)

Ryan Zimmerman and Josh Willingham each hit two homers off Mets starter Mike Pelfrey, leading the Washington Nationals to a 7-5 victory over New York on Monday.

Zimmerman hit a towering, wind-aided solo drive in the first inning, and a two-run shot in the fifth. Willingham had a solo shot in the second and a two-run homer in the fourth.

Pelfrey was charged with six runs, five earned, and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings.

Jason Marquis pitched 4 2/3 innings for the Nationals, yielding three runs and seven hits.

-- The Associated Press

HAFNER FEELING LIKE HIMSELF AGAIN (4:19 p.m. ET)

For the first time in two years, Travis Hafner, the Cleveland Indians' easygoing, hard-swinging designated hitter, is looking like himself again. Now almost 18 months removed from shoulder surgery, the man nicknamed "Pronk" -- part project, part donkey -- by teammates years ago, is driving the ball and turning on pitches the way he once did.

In the past week, Hafner has hit a pair of homers -- one a tape-measure shot to center field -- that has given the Indians hope he can anchor the middle of Cleveland's lineup the way he did in 2006, when he hit a career-high 42 homers with 117 RBIs.

"It's starting to get close to where it was," said Hafner, who has studied nuances of his swing on video. "You can notice a pretty big difference in my swing in '08 and '09. But this year, I've been able to do some things and hopefully get back to where I was."

Last season, he batted .272 with 16 homers and 49 RBIs in 94 games. He had opened the season feeling fine, but wound up on the disabled list in late April with shoulder soreness and didn't return until June. The statistics aside, what was more troubling was Hafner appeared lost at the plate.

Hafner isn't making excuses. "I didn't swing the bat the way I wanted to," he said. "I just didn't see the ball the same as I used to. I swung at bad pitches. Hitting is all about consistency."

-- The Associated Press

MARCUM GETS OPENING DAY START FOR BLUE JAYS (3:31 p.m. ET)

Right-hander Shaun Marcum will be Toronto's Opening Day starter.

It will be the first time in eight years that Roy Halladay won't take the mound to open the Blue Jays' season. Now that Halladay has been traded to Philadelphia, manager Cito Gaston said Monday it was an easy decision because of the way Marcum has pitched this spring. In two starts covering five shutout innings, he has allowed one hit and one walk while striking out four.

Gaston has not decided on the rest of the rotation for the opening series against Texas.

"I think he's earned it from what he's done in the past," Gaston said of Marcum, 12-9 in 2007, his first full season with the Blue Jays, and 9-7 in 2008 before a sore elbow ended his season.

Marcum missed half of the 2008 season and all of 2009 recovering from elbow surgery. He says "it never even crossed my mind that I'd be in this position."

-- The Associated Press

JOBA THROWS IN YANKEES INTRASQUAD GAME (2:12 p.m. ET)

Joba Chamberlain made a big start in an empty ballpark.

Bidding for the fifth spot in the New York Yankees' rotation, Chamberlain allowed two runs and six hits over five innings in an intrasquad game on Monday. The contest at Steinbrenner Field was not open to the public, which meant only a handful of people were in the 11,076-seat stadium.

"I felt like I was back in the Florida State League where it all started," said Chamberlain, who pitched for Single-A Tampa of the FSL in 2007. "That was kind of the mindset I took out of it and I think that was good for me. Why I got to where I'm at with the hard work and everything."

Chamberlain had one strikeout, one walk and induced three double plays.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi and other team officials will meet Wednesday to discuss the final rotation spot. The winner could be announced Thursday or Friday.

-- The Associated Press

NATIONALS SEND DUNCAN TO MINOR LEAGUE CAMP (9:22 a.m. ET)

The Nationals have reassigned outfielder Chris Duncan to minor league camp, the team announced Monday.

Duncan had been trying to make the Nationals as a non-roster invitee. He spent parts of five years with the St. Louis Cardinals, including the team's run to a World Series title 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.

The Nationals also reassigned infielder Pete Orr to minor league camp and optioned right-handed pitcher Shairon Martis to Triple-A Syracuse.

The moves trimmed the Nationals' big-league roster to 36 players.

-- ESPN.com news services

ROCKIES PITCHERS BATTERED AND BRUISED (9:21 p.m. ET)
All morning, Rockies reliever Randy Flores took part in a drill designed to improve the dexterity and reflexes of the pitchers.

Still, the exercise couldn't prepare him for the liner off the bat of Cleveland's Chris Gimenez. Before Flores even had time to flinch, the ball caught him squarely on the left forearm, leaving behind quite a bruise.

Following the Rockies' 6-3 win over the Indians on Wednesday, Flores walked out with his pitching arm wrapped in white gauze.

Just another member of Colorado's battered and bruised bullpen.

The knot on Flores' arm comes on the heels of the news concerning Huston Street, who could miss the season opener after experiencing tightness in his right shoulder during a recent throwing session. Street will find out the results of an MRI in the next day or so.

Should Flores' arm remain tender in the morning, he could be next in line for an MRI.

"When I came in, they did the test that would indicate if they thought it was broke -- if I shrieked or something," Flores said. "I passed. So, it basically feels like a monkey bump times 100. ... Looks like just a bruise."

Street and Flores aren't the only ones banged up in the bullpen. Set-up man Rafael Betancourt has an inflamed pitching shoulder -- although he had an encouraging pitching session Wednesday -- and Jimmy Gobble recently strained his groin.

The health of the bullpen remains a question mark with Opening Day in Milwaukee looming on April 5.

-- The Associated Press

ROYALS-PADRES SLUGFEST INCLUDES 30 RUNS, NO HOMERS (9:15 p.m. ET)
The Padres put together three five-run innings as they outslugged the Kansas City Royals 16-14 on Wednesday. Tony Gwynn and Lance Blanks each drove in three runs for the Padres.

The game included 31 hits, 10 doubles, three triples, 11 walks, a wild pitch, five errors, a passed ball and 12 unearned runs -- and lasted 3 hours and 27 minutes. The Padres led 16-4 entering the seventh, but the Royals scored 10 unanswered runs to make it interesting.

"I don't like the result," Royals manager Trey Hillman said. "I was proud the way we came back."

San Diego left-hander Clayton Richard watched San Diego score five runs in the second and five in the fourth. In both innings, the Padres sent 10 men to the plate.

"You wish there was a way for your team to score a lot of runs and do it quick," Richard said. "I've been thinking of that for a long time on how to make that happen. You love to see the offense do well, but it's tough to sit for so long and go back out there. But you'd definitely rather have that than your team not scoring runs."

-- The Associated Press

FORMER ALL-STAR TURNBOW RELEASED (6:28 p.m. ET)
The Marlins released former All-Star closer Derrick Turnbow, who was set to have his troublesome right shoulder examined by a doctor in Miami later Wednesday. Turnbow said Tuesday he knew his chances of making the Marlins were "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 was set to 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.

-- ESPN.com news services

MARQUIS TRYING TO GET FEEL FOR PITCHES (4:57 p.m. ET)
Jason Marquis allowed eight runs on eight hits over 3 1/3 innings in his second start of the spring, and the Houston Astros beat the Washington Nationals 11-2 on Wednesday.

Marquis allowed the first four batters to reach base during a five-run first inning. He gave up eight total hits and struggled with his command, walking four. His ERA rose to 21.94.

"None of my pitches worked," he said. "I just didn't have a feel for anything."

Marquis, who signed a two-year, $15 million deal in December, went 15-13 with a 4.04 ERA with Colorado last season. He logged more than 200 innings for the third time in his career and appeared in his first All-Star Game.

The Nationals hope that either Marquis or John Lannan will anchor their rotation.

Marquis said he plans on throwing two bullpen sessions before his next outing. He is confident he can get himself right by the time the regular season rolls around.

Cristian Guzman started for the Nationals at shortstop for the first time this spring. He's recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and had missed some time earlier this spring after his wife gave birth to their daughter. He went 1-for-4 with a triple, showing off some blazing speed on the basepaths.

-- The Associated Press

HART STRUGGLING WITH CONTROL (4:43 p.m. ET)
Kevin Hart might be walking his way out of the Pittsburgh Pirates' starting rotation.

Hart walked six of the 12 batters he faced, failing to make it out of the second inning in the Pirates' 6-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday.

Hart came into spring training as the favorite to win the No. 5 spot in the rotation, but the right-hander has struggled with his control. He threw 53 pitches, only 19 for strikes, and reached three-ball counts on nine batters -- even hitting Ramon Santiago with a 3-0 pitch.

"My fastball had good life and my sinker had good movement," Hart said. "When I made pitches in the zone, I was able to get guys out. It's the 34 I threw out of the zone that got me into trouble."

In four outings this spring, Hart has pitched 4 2/3 innings and walked 13 of the 30 batters he's faced. His ERA is 15.43.

Hart has one minor league option remaining, so it's possible he could begin the season at Triple-A Indianapolis.

"We're still in the evaluation process," manager John Russell said. "We still like what Kevin can bring, but at some point he's got to get it done."

-- The Associated Press

HANSON 'SHARP' OVER FIVE INNINGS (4:41 p.m. ET)
Tommy Hanson pitched like he was in midseason form Wednesday for the Atlanta Braves.

Hanson allowed one run on six hits in five innings in Atlanta's 4-2 win over the Marlins. It was the longest outing of the spring for Hanson, projected to be Atlanta's No. 3 starter.

"Really sharp. Best he's looked all spring," said manager Bobby Cox.

Hanson gave up a leadoff single in the first inning to Chris Coghlan, who was bunted to second before scoring on Hanley Ramirez's single. But the Marlins didn't do much else against Hanson, who effectively mixed in 10 changeups out of his 76 pitches.

"I think that's the best I've thrown my changeup, ever," said Hanson, who used the pitch to strike out Coghlan swinging in the third inning.

Hanson is 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA -- two runs in 9 1/3 innings -- with one walk and 10 strikeouts in three games this spring.

-- The Associated Press

LIDGE TO THROW THURSDAY (3:37 p.m. ET)
The Phillies said Wednesday that closer Brad Lidge will pitch in a game for the first time Thursday. The team is off, but Lidge will start a minor league game at the Carpenter Complex and throw one inning.

Lidge is recovering from offseason elbow and knee surgery. The team hasn't ruled out the possibility that he could be ready Opening Day.

Left-handed reliever J.C. Romero, also recovering from elbow surgery, threw live batting practice for the first time Wednesday but is viewed as unlikely to be ready by Opening Day.

--ESPN.com senior MLB writer Jayson Stark

DIAMONDBACKS AGREE WITH BENSON (2:27 p.m. ET)
The Arizona Diamondbacks agreed to terms with pitcher Kris Benson on a minor league contract Wednesday.

The right-hander has compiled a 69-74 record with a 4.41 ERA in eight seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Mets, Baltimore Orioles and Texas Rangers. The Pirates selected him No. 1 overall in the 1996 first-year player draft.

Benson missed the entire 2007 season after having rotator cuff surgery on his right shoulder. He signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in February 2008 and went 1-4 with a 5.52 ERA in 11 starts at Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

Benson was on the Rangers' 2009 opening day roster as a starter. After a short stint on the disabled list, he went to the bullpen and was 1-1 with an 8.46 ERA in eight games.

-- The Associated Press

REPORT: METS, MARLINS TO PLAY IN PUERTO RICO (2:32 p.m. ET)
A three-game series between the New York Mets and Florida Marlins in June has been moved from Miami to Puerto Rico, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The shift to San Juan's Hiram Bithorn Stadium had been discussed for months pending an agreement between Major League Baseball and the players' association. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement was scheduled for Thursday.

Florida will remain the home team, and the games will be played June 28-30.

Hiram Bithorn hosted 22 Montreal Expos home games in each of the 2003 and 2004 seasons before the franchise relocated to Washington. The ballpark also hosted the 2001 season opener between Texas and Toronto, and it was the site of games during the World Baseball Classic in 2006 and 2009.

-- The Associated Press

CAPUANO SHUT DOWN WITH ELBOW FLARE-UP (7:55 a.m. ET)
Brewers starter Chris Capuano, attempting his second career comeback from Tommy John surgery, has been shut down for a few days with elbow inflammation.

The left-hander experienced lingering tightness in his elbow after pitching against the Reds last week.

"Rather than push through it, they just decided to shut it down for a few days and let it calm down," Capuano told reporters. "It's disappointing because I felt so good for the first few weeks of camp."

Capuano, 31, believes the amount of throwing he has done -- every day in spring training and four or five days a week in his offseason program -- finally caught up with him. But he's still aiming at returning to the team as a starter.

"I always knew I had to show the Brewers I could go take the ball every fifth day and throw seven or eight innings and be able to bounce back," he said. "If it gets pushed back a week or two weeks from wherever I start my season, it's not that big of a deal to me in the long run. I just hope it's that [and not more]."

-- 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

CHAPMAN PITCHES TWO SCORELESS INNINGS (6:20 p.m. ET)

Aroldis Chapman struck out two over two scoreless innings and the Cincinnati Reds beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2 on Friday.

Chapman allowed just two infield singles. His strikeouts came on the last two batters he faced, overpowering Matt Kemp on a high fastball and getting Casey Blake looking.

Chapman defected from Cuba last year and agreed to a $30.25 million, six-year contract with the Reds in January. The left-hander has allowed three hits over four scoreless innings in two spring outings.

-- Associated Press

GIAMBI GETS DEFENSIVE IN DEBUT (6:03 p.m. ET)

Jason Giambi made his spring training debut Friday, flying out to center and taking a pitch off the forearm in the Colorado Rockies' 9-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants.

Giambi also made a diving stop at first base, a play he might have missed out on had he followed through with his original plan of being a designated hitter with an American League team this spring.

Instead, he opted to sign a one-year deal with Colorado as a fill-in at first for Todd Helton and a pinch hitter.

Todd Wellemeyer pitched four scoreless innings for the Giants, allowing just two hits. Nate Schierholtz and Buster Posey each drove in two runs.

Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa went four innings, giving up one earned run.

-- Associated Press

HARDY, HUDSON GETTING ACQUAINTED (5:37 p.m. ET)

Shortstop J.J. Hardy and second baseman Orlando Hudson, the Minnesota Twins' new double-play combination, are getting acquainted.

The two are being paired during spring training so they can learn each other's tendencies around the middle of the infield. Even though they have yet to turn a double play in four exhibition games, both Hardy and Hudson said they expect their new working arrangement to go smoothly.

Hardy was acquired in a trade from the Milwaukee Brewers, while Hudson signed with the Twins as a free agent. Minnesota is Hudson's fourth major league team.

-- Associated Press

BRAVES' JURRJENS FINALLY MAKES DEBUT (5:26 p.m. ET)

Atlanta Braves right-hander Jair Jurrjens managed to make his spring debut, anyway.

Jurrjens threw two scoreless innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday before the game was called after three due to showers that washed away the exhibition slate in Florida.

Jurrjens had been struggling with inflammation around his right shoulder and manager Bobby Cox decided to be cautious. Jurrjens, who turned 24 in January, went 14-10 with a 2.60 ERA for the Braves last season.

Jurrjens was supposed to start Wednesday against the New York Yankees, but the game was called due to rain. He made the 90-mile bus ride to Tampa and said it was tough to get back into his rhythm for a second straight day, but he said his arm felt fine.

-- Associated Press

WEEKS PAINED TO PLAY WITHOUT HARDY (4:25 p.m. ET)

Rickie Weeks is eager to resume his career, but he's not exactly looking forward to Opening Day.

The Brewers second baseman hasn't played since tearing the sheath of a tendon in his left wrist in May. When he takes the field next month, his double-play partner at shortstop, J.J. Hardy, won't be there.

Hardy was traded in the offseason to the Twins for center fielder Carlos Gomez in a move that made way for Alcides Escobar. Weeks says he and the rookie Escobar will make a strong combination, too.

Weeks says he'll hurt a little because he and Hardy were close and that they've talked during spring training.

Brewers manager Ken Macha thinks Weeks looks the same despite injuries that have cost him parts of the last four years.

-- Associated Press

PETTITTE TOSSING STRIKES (3:06 p.m. ET)

Andy Pettitte peered over his raised black glove for a sign from the catcher, shook him off, nodded "OK," then froze Jimmy Rollins with a changeup for strike three.

Vintage Pettitte.

Too bad the sequence took place in a batting cage under the stands at Steinbrenner Field -- and Philadelphia's Rollins was nowhere to be found.

Torrential rains forced the New York Yankees' bus to turn around about an hour into the trip to Viera on Friday, and Pettitte's first scheduled start of spring training was turned into another simulated outing.

"I got my normal warm-up in, and then I got all my throws in and I'm tired," Pettitte said. "That's the biggest thing, I wanted to make sure I was good and fatigued. Obviously, I would've loved to face hitters but the way the weather's been I had to get my work in here today."

After a two-inning simulated outing on a back field Sunday, Pettitte went three innings Friday and threw 50 pitches, mixing in several breaking balls.

-- Associated Press

TIGERS' PITCHING WEATHERS RAIN (2:58 p.m. ET)

Tigers manager Jim Leyland might complain about the weather if he thought it would do any good.

"It's not OK, but it's OK," Leyland said after Friday's exhibition game against the Philadelphia Phillies was rained out. "You can't do anything about it so you just do the best you can.

"Obviously we've got a lot of work to do. I think the next 10 days or so are going to be critical for us in the pitching area. It's actually OK for some guys to get a little blow, but other guys it's not."

Jeremy Bonderman and Nate Robertson, candidates for open spots in Detroit's pitching rotation, had been scheduled to pitch Friday. They will pitch instead in Saturday's split-squad game against the New York Yankees.

"The plan is to have Bonderman, Robertson and [Dontrelle] Willis, not necessarily in that order, pitch three innings apiece here, and [Max] Scherzer will pitch in the road," Leyland said. "So we'll have all four of those guys pitching and that's good." Scherzer and Ryan Perry will be among the pitchers traveling to Port St. Lucie to face the New York Mets.

-- Associated Press

RED SOX, CARDINALS JUGGLE ROTATION (2:55 p.m. ET)

The St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox will adjust their pitching plans after rain forced the postponement of Friday's spring training game.

Boston and St. Louis will split their squads on March 22, adding a game in Jupiter and "B" games on Saturday against their minor leaguers.

Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz, scheduled to start Friday, will start Saturday's "A" game against the Pirates in Fort Myers. Michael Bowden follows Buchholz.

Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols is expected to return to the lineup Saturday after missing about a week to nurse an ailing lower back, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Cardinals right-hander Rich Hill, scheduled to start Friday, will start the "B" game on Saturday and right-hander Chris Carpenter will keep his regular scheduled start at 1:05 p.m. against Houston on the main field.

The Red Sox are playing Tampa Bay in Fort Myers on March 22 and the Cardinals have a game in Kissimmee against the Astros.

-- ESPN.com news services

ORIOLES' JOHNSON HOPES FOR REVIVAL IN EIGHTH (2:43 p.m. ET)

After struggling when given a chance to replace George Sherrill as closer during the second half of last season, Jim Johnson hopes for a revival now that he's back to a set-up role for the Baltimore Orioles.

"When I took over for George last season, I probably tried to overdo it," Johnson said. "That never really leads to success."

Johnson blew three of his 11 save chances in the ninth-inning role after Sherrill was traded to Los Angeles, and Baltimore signed Mike Gonzalez during the offseason to become its closer.

"We all understand what Mike was brought here for," Johnson said, "and that's fine."

A starter in the minor leagues, Johnson was converted to a reliever two years ago. He didn't allow a run in his first 10 appearances and he didn't allow a home run all season.

His finished 2-4 with a 2.23 ERA in 2008 but slumped to 4-6 with a 4.11 ERA last year, when he allowed eight homers and failed to convert six of 16 save chances.

"He will be himself. He will be effective as an eighth-inning guy as opposed to a closer," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "He did try to do a little more than he should have when he was the closer. I think he'll be better suited for the eighth inning."

-- The Associated Press

RAYS STILL SPRING'S WINNINGEST TEAM (2:28 p.m. ET)

The Phillies-Rays spring training game has been canceled because of rain.

Friday's cancellation means Tampa Bay's franchise-record streak of nine straight exhibition wins will remain intact at least another day. The Rays are scheduled to host the Florida Marlins in Port Charlotte on Saturday.

-- The Associated Press

K-ROD'S PITCHING SESSION ON HOLD (12:16 p.m. ET)

The cancellation of the Mets-Twins spring training game has forced New York closer Francisco Rodriguez to postpone pitching to live batters.

Rodriguez said Friday he expects to throw to live hitters Saturday in what should be the final step before pitching in a spring training game.

Rodriguez has yet to pitch to hitters this spring after dealing with a case of conjunctivitis, otherwise known as pinkeye. He plans to wear prescription goggles under doctors' orders, though he said he feels fine.

Rodriguez said he needs to get back on the mound so he can determine what he needs to improve before Opening Day.

-- The Associated Press

MARLINS-ORIOLES RAINED OUT (11:24 a.m. ET)

Rain has forced the cancellation of the Florida-Baltimore exhibition game.

The announcement Friday came two hours before the scheduled start. The game will not be made up.

The Marlins traveled from Jupiter for games Friday in Sarasota and Saturday in Port Charlotte against Tampa Bay. The Orioles were scheduled to start Jeremy Guthrie, and Florida was to start Andrew Miller.

To give pitchers extra work, Baltimore added a split-squad game Sunday at Pittsburgh's minor league complex, Pirate City in Bradenton.

-- The Associated Press

YANKEES-NATIONALS WASHED OUT (10:12 a.m. ET)

Heavy rains washed out Friday's scheduled exhibition game between New York and Washington.

A sellout crowd was expected at Space Coast Stadium for the defending World Series champions' only visit of the spring. The Yankees were already en route from Tampa when informed of the cancellation early Friday. Water had collected in some areas of the outfield before the decision was made to call the game.

It's the second consecutive rainout for the Nationals, who were planning to start right-hander Jason Marquis against Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte.

The Nationals reassigned catcher Devin Ivany and first baseman Josh Whitesell to their minor league camp.

-- The Associated Press

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