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February, 15, 2009
02/15/09
8:46
AM ET
BELL CREDITS WII FIT FOR WEIGHT LOSS (8 p.m. ET)
San Diego Padres reliever Heath Bell was initially bothered by comments from, of all things, a video game console.

But now the heir apparent to Trevor Hoffman credits his Nintendo Wii Fit game for helping him lose 25 pounds. Bell, who has been given the first crack at taking over the closing role vacated by Hoffman, reported to camp at a svelte 245 pounds.

After spending the previous 16 seasons in San Diego, Hoffman signed a one-year, $6 million contract with Milwaukee in January.

The opportunity to take over for Hoffman, who is baseball's all-time saves leader, was more than enough motivation for Bell. But Bell, who was 6-6 with a 3.58 ERA in 74 games last season, received an extra boost when he began playing video games with his children this offseason. At the time, Bell weighed 270 pounds.

"It said I was obese," Bell said. "If you're obese, it makes [your character on screen] obese. I was disappointed that I was that big. I literally took the game to heart. I did the work but I kind of credit the Wii Fit."

GIANTS TURN TO BIG UNIT FOR BOOST (7:48 p.m. ET)
The San Francisco Giants hope 45-year-old Randy Johnson will boost their rotation. He grew up in the Bay Area and signed a one-year contract the day after Christmas.

"The perfect scenario was to finish in Arizona. If it didn't work out, and a lot of times it doesn't work out for a player, then the next best option was to stay on the West Coast in the National League West. Because of the familiarity, that accommodates my game," he said Sunday.

Johnson starts the season with 295 career victories.

"Winning 300 is important, but it is not the sole reason I am playing this game," he said. "It will be a great moment in my career. It's only five wins. I hope to get five wins early in the season and move on. When it's over, I would like to do what I came here to do -- help this team win. Hopefully the four or five months after that are really important. I'd like to have people think that I made a difference, that I had an impact in some way."

The five-time Cy Young winner had his second back surgery last year, yet finished 11-10 with a 3.91 ERA. He will begin a spring healthy for the first time since 2006, the second of his two seasons with the New York Yankees.

YANKS' WANG FEELING FINE (7:05 p.m. ET)
Chien-Ming Wang who missed the final 3 months last season because of a foot injury, is on a restricted running program and will do most of his conditioning work indoors.

"Everything's good," said Wang, who threw off a bullpen mound Sunday.

In other Yankees news, CC Sabathia kept his beard on Day 2 of workouts, but it won't last much longer. The Yankees have rules on allowable facial hair and length of hair.

"Our manager will handle it at some point," general manager Brian Cashman said. "I don't even think we've posted our team rules yet."

PIERRE IN LIMBO WITH DODGERS (5:55 p.m. ET)
Juan Pierre still wants to know if he has a role with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Pierre's situation remains in limbo until Manny Ramirez signs with a team.

Pierre arrived at spring training on Sunday, showing up three days early and feeling the same as he did at the end of last season -- frustrated.

"I kind of feel like I'm in the way around here," he said. "Last year I wasn't helping the team or me. It was torture for me.

"All I want is a chance to compete."

A career .300 hitter whose 429 steals are tops among active players, the 31-year-old Pierre won't know whether he's a starter or a part-timer -- or possibly even with another team -- until Ramirez makes his decision.

Will he request a trade if he's not a regular this season?

"I played 60-something games [last year]. I'm not happy. Use your logic," Pierre said.

Manager Joe Torre can't do much to clarify the outfielder's status.

"Right now as you look at it, he's our regular left fielder until the decision is made on Manny," Torre said. "He certainly has proven he could do that in the past. Last year before he got hurt, he was our regular."

Asked if the Dodgers would accommodate a trade request by Pierre, Torre said, "That's a tough question. He's certainly valuable. We're certainly sensitive to his desires, too. I know Ned [general manager Ned Colletti] also is sensitive to that.

"But until we know for sure who we're going to have on this club, I think that's a little premature right now."

ACTA SEES BRIGHT FUTURE FOR NATIONALS (5:51 p.m. ET)
Manny Acta leaned back in his office chair Sunday and chuckled at the question: Is this the best team the Washington Nationals have brought to spring training since he became their manager?

"Yeah, yeah. This is the first time we have a legit cleanup hitter, power guy, in our lineup. And, man, if all these guys are healthy, without a doubt -- position player wise -- I would say that," he said, one day before Washington's pitchers and catchers hold their first official workout.

"The bullpen, obviously, it's a challenge," he continued. "But this is" -- and here Acta rapped a finger on his desk for emphasis -- "I would say, the best team we've had the three years I've been here."

Minutes later, Acta offered another rosy assessment: "This is going to be probably the best starting rotation we had the last three years."

Not that any of those pronouncements are saying all that much. After all, the Nationals went 73-89 in 2007, Acta's rookie season, enough above expectations that the team picked up his contract option for 2009.

Then the club went 59-102 in 2008, the worst record in the major leagues.

PHILS' KENDRICK GUNNING FOR SPOT (5:09 p.m. ET)
Kyle Kendrick is trying to earn a spot in the Philadelphia Phillies' starting rotation. Despite winning 21 games his first two seasons in the majors, Kendrick entered camp in a four-man race for the No. 5 starter job.

So far, he's the front-runner ahead of veteran Chan Ho Park, rookie J.A. Happ and prospect Carlos Carrasco. But that can change quickly once the exhibition schedule begins.

"For me, he's the leading guy going in because of what he's done for two years," pitching coach Rich Dubee said Sunday. "That doesn't mean my eyes are closed to the other candidates by any means. Kyle's going to have to show he can command his slider, he's willing to use the changeup and that he can get left-handed hitters out better."

Kendrick was 11-9 with a 5.49 ERA in 31 games last season, including one relief appearance. He had success in the first half, going 8-3 with a 4.47 ERA. After the All-Star break, Kendrick was 3-6 with a 7.59 ERA. He was downright awful the final two months, so the Phillies didn't risk using him in the playoffs. The right-hander was 2-4 with a 8.73 ERA in his last eight starts.

GLAVINE, BRAVES REUNION APPEARS LIKELY (2:55 p.m. ET)
There was no contact Sunday between the Braves and free-agent pitcher Tom Glavine. But all signs continue to point toward Glavine re-signing with the Braves any day now.

"I think we've made some progress," GM Frank Wren told ESPN.com Sunday. "I think there's a true desire on both parties to get something done."

Wren said he doesn't believe there's any major hurry to conclude negotiations because Glavine continues to rehab from elbow surgery in Atlanta.

"He wasn't going to be here this week anyway," Wren said. "He's doing his rehab back there anyway. And Dr. [James] Andrews wanted him to do his rehab back there until March 1. So it doesn't really matter. He knows how to get here. And I think he probably knows what he needs to do to prepare. With those two things, I'm not real worried about it."

Manager Bobby Cox said Sunday the Braves wouldn't need a fifth starter until April 19, "and by then, Tommy would be ready -- easily."

-- Jayson Stark, ESPN.com

RAMIREZ TO BAT THIRD FOR MARLINS (1:45 p.m. ET)
Hanley Ramirez is moving from the leadoff spot to third in the batting order this season.

Outfielder Cameron Maybin or infielder Emilio Bonifacio will take Ramirez's place at the top of the lineup.

"I've got to change my approach now," Ramirez said, according to The Miami Herald. "Me, [Dan] Uggla and [Jorge] Cantu -- we've got to drive in runs. And Maybin and [Bonifacio] have to get on base."

CORDERO PASSES FIRST TEST (1:30 p.m. ET)
Reds closer Francisco Cordero has passed the first big test of spring training.

Cordero threw off the mound Saturday for the first time since Sept. 26, when he underwent surgery to repair a micro-fracture and remove a bone spur from his right foot. He says the foot isn't yet 100 percent.

The injury has nagged at the reliever since at least 2007, when he finished second in the National League with 44 saves while with Milwaukee.

This season will be Cordero's second with Cincinnati. He signed a four-year, $46 million contract last year, going 5-4 with a 3.33 ERA and 34 saves despite the hurt foot.

ROWLAND-SMITH CHOOSES TEAM OVER COUNTRY (1:10 p.m. ET)
Ryan Rowland-Smith chose his livelihood over his country.

As expected, the Seattle Mariners' promising left-hander decided Sunday to stay in spring training rather than play for his native Australia in the World Baseball Classic.

He said Australia's manager, Jon Deeble, was disappointed but understood that Rowland-Smith didn't want to risk a major league job by missing at least 10 days of camp beginning March 2. He told Deeble he definitely wants to play for Australia in the next WBC four years from now.

"I'm better served here," said the brawny 26-year-old, one of seven candidates for five spots in Seattle's rotation. "I didn't want to derail what I'd worked for all offseason. It was a tough, tough, tough decision, but this is what's more important."

POSEY GETS FIRST TASTE OF BIGS (1:04 p.m. ET)
On the first day of Giants camp, manager Bruce Bochy had his pitchers taking fielding practice, including reigning Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum.

Catcher Buster Posey, the team's first draft pick this year, compared bats with veteran Bengie Molina.

In his first at-bat in front of the fans, Posey hit one out to left field.

-- Amy K. Nelson, ESPN.com

HAMELS TO START PHILS' OPENER (12:41 p.m. ET)
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has been hesitant in the past to name his Opening Day starter early in camp. Not so this year.

To no one's surprise, World Series MVP Cole Hamels will get the nod against the Atlanta Braves on Sunday night, April 5 (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2).

"Oh, you might as well go ahead and pencil him in," Manuel said, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

K-ROD: METS ARE TEAM TO BEAT (11:36 a.m. ET)
New closer Francisco Rodriguez arrived Saturday and jumped right into the Mets-Phillies rivalry, proclaiming New York "the team to beat" this year thanks to a revamped bullpen that includes setup man J.J. Putz, an All-Star closer in 2007 with Seattle.

"One of the reasons they brought me here is because obviously what happened the last few years. I don't feel like all the weight of the back of the bullpen is on my shoulders at all," Rodriguez said.

K-Rod set a major league record with 62 saves last season for the Los Angeles Angels, then signed a $37 million, three-year contract with the Mets.

"It's going to be fun. I'm not going to lie to you, I'm a little bit anxious," he said. "I know it's going to be difficult to save 63, 65 games."

STAR RED SOX TRIO ARRIVES EARLY (11:29 a.m. ET)
Three key members of the Boston Red Sox arrived in spring training camp Sunday morning as the team looks to returning to the playoffs for the third straight season.

American League Most Valuable Player Dustin Pedroia, designated hitter David Ortiz and center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury arrived ahead of the reporting date for position players.

Pedroia said he gave up ice cream over the winter as part of his training program and is in the best shape of his career. He said he's ready to help the team get back to the playoffs after losing to the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series last October.

Ellsbury joined Pedroia and teammate Kevin Youkilis in Arizona as the trio trained together for the 2009 season.

HARANG 25 POUNDS LIGHTER (9:52 a.m. ET)
After a 17-loss season in 2008, Aaron Harang reported to Reds camp 25 pounds lighter.

His dedication impressed manager Dusty Baker.

"If the season started tomorrow, Aaron Harang is the Opening Day pitcher," Baker said, according to the Dayton Daily News.

The 6-foot-7 Harang, who dropped from 280 pounds to 255, said an improved diet, featuring smaller portions and more eating at home, plus better workouts were the key to his weight loss.

REYES MIGHT DROP DOWN IN ORDER (9:09 a.m. ET)
Jose Reyes has a surprise in store when he arrives at spring training.

New York Mets manager Jerry Manuel is pondering the idea of dropping his speedy shortstop from the leadoff spot, one of several tweaks that could be on tap for a team coming off consecutive September collapses.

Luis Castillo might get a shot at the top of the lineup, perhaps with Carlos Beltran batting second and Reyes No. 3. Reyes could also be handed more leadership responsibilities on defense, such as aligning other infielders and visiting the mound.

"My emphasis will be on team vs. individual. I think that message is so critical," Manuel said Saturday.

CUBS CAUTIOUS WITH HARDEN (8:50 a.m. ET)
On the first workout Saturday for pitchers and catchers, Rich Harden practiced his hitting but did his throwing on flat ground, not off the mound like most of his fellow hurlers.

"Don't read anything into it. We've got a much longer spring than normal, so we don't really need to rush anybody," manager Lou Piniella said. "He's been throwing and feels nice and strong and healthy. Basically we're just holding him back a little."

A report in the Chicago Sun-Times says Harden has a tear in his right shoulder.

"Nothing that bad," Harden said without elaborating.

RIVERA CONFIDENT OF REBOUND FROM SURGERY (8:45 a.m. ET)
It wasn't evident when he pitched, but Mariano Rivera's shoulder hurt last season. He had surgery Oct. 7 during which New York Mets medical director Dr. David Altchek shaved down calcification of the A.C. joint on the top of Rivera's right shoulder.

With spring training extended to 7 weeks this year, the Yankees and Rivera aren't rushing. Usually, he only throws eight-to-10 innings during the exhibition season.

For now, there is no schedule for the nine-time All-Star to begin mound sessions.

"It's going to be a little slower," he said. "My shoulder feels great, but I haven't thrown. Just tossing, playing catch, going gradually to 70, 90, 100 feet."

GIANTS' LOWRY EXPERIENCING TIGHTNESS (8:30 a.m. ET) Giants left-hander Noah Lowry missed all of last season because of elbow and forearm surgeries. He might not be ready to begin this season either.

Lowry experienced tightness in the back of his shoulder during a mound session Friday.

"We'll be on the side of caution," manager Bruce Bochy said, according to the San Jose Mercury News. "We're not going to rush him."

Even if Lowry is healthy, he'll have to win a competition with fellow lefty Jonathan Sanchez to earn a spot in the Giants' Opening Day rotation.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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