February, 22, 2009
The Indians had a scare when outfielders Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo collided while chasing a ball in right-center during a drill.

Choo was escorted from the field by a trainer and had his right knee examined before returning for batting practice about 30 minutes later. He suffered only a bruise and felt lucky not to be more seriously hurt.

"We hit knees. I was really scared," said Choo, Cleveland's starting right fielder who will leave camp Tuesday to play for South Korea in the World Baseball Classic.

Sizemore, a high school football star who was recruited to play at Washington, was barely fazed.

"I guess Choo forgot I was a linebacker," he joked.

Indians manager Eric Wedge was relieved Choo was OK.

"He was probably more upset when he saw Grady standing over him like Jack Tatum," he said.

Curtis Granderson broke his right hand during spring training last year and was sidelined for the first two weeks of the season. When he returned, he still didn't feel right for months.

The Tigers center fielder isn't interested in going through that again.

Granderson hit .302 with 38 doubles, 23 triples, 23 homers, 74 RBIs and was successful on 26 of 27 stolen-base attempts in 2007. He was hoping to build on that last year, but was hit by a fastball from Philadelphia left-hander Travis Blackley late in spring training. He started the year on the 15-day disabled list and didn't play in his first regular-season game until April 23. With Granderson out, the Tigers started 8-13 on their way to finishing 74-88, worst in the AL Central.

Granderson said Sunday he feels 100 percent, and he's backed it up with his play early in spring training.

"He looks very good," manager Jim Leyland said. "With a [hand injury], it seems like you're not totally right the rest of the year. You probably don't heal until the offseason."

Carlos Gonzalez is trying to make Colorado's 25-man roster this spring after the Rockies acquired him from the Athletics in November in the Matt Holliday trade. Colorado also received reliever Huston Street and left-hander Greg Smith.

Street is competing with Manny Corpas for the closing role, and Smith is in contention for the fifth starting spot.

Gonzalez, in competition for the starting job in left field and playing time at the other two outfield spots, is being watched closely in every batting session, bunting drill and outfield station, especially his control at the plate. Composure at the plate has been the sticking point early in his career. Gonzalez struck out 81 times and had 13 walks in 85 games with Oakland last year.

Gonzalez is battling Seth Smith, Ian Stewart and others for the job in left. None of the candidates has a noteworthy edge in experience, leaving the door open for anybody with a productive spring.

"We want to watch him run some balls down, throw the ball, run the bases and swing the bat, and then we will have the opportunity to evaluate that and make any changes we deem are necessary," Colorado manager Clint Hurdle said of Gonzalez. "He has got some legitimate power, has a very dynamic swing to generate bat speed and squares the balls up. There are a lot of things you like."

Ten Diamondbacks players and one coach missed spring training drills Sunday with unspecified stomach illnesses.

The team isn't sure if the illness stems from something the players ate, a virus going around the clubhouse or some other factor.

"I'm not an authority on gastrointestinal conditions," manager Bob Melvin said, but after talking with the team physician he expects all to return to practice Monday.

Some players fell sick Saturday night, others arrived at the clubhouse Sunday morning feeling sick and were sent home.

The 10 players who missed Sunday's workouts were Justin Upton, Chris Young, Daniel Schlereth, Miguel Montero, Scott Schoenweis, Doug Slaten, Brooks Brown, Jon Coutlangus, Clay Zavada and John Hester.

Bullpen coach Glenn Sherlock was also sick.

Reds shortstop Alex Gonzalez got a day off from manager Dusty Baker, who doesn't want to push him too hard coming off a severe knee injury.

The 32-year-old infielder missed all of last season because of a fracture in his left knee. He went through a workout before spring training began and was cleared to participate fully.

"I've got to pay attention to him, pay attention to his gait, watch his actions," said Baker, who allowed Gonzalez to skip workouts on Sunday and plans to use him carefully in spring games. "He was starting to slow down a little bit. He was cleared 100 percent, but not 100 percent on consecutive days."

Gonzalez is entering the final season of a $14 million, three-year deal. The Reds used a variety of players at shortstop last season, and are hoping Gonzalez can play there full time, settling down the infield. He batted .272 with 16 homers and 55 RBIs in 2007.

"I told him, 'Follow me,'" Baker said. "I was in a cast for eight weeks in 1977 [with the Dodgers]. I had to ease my way through spring training. That's the year I hit 30 home runs and we went to the World Series.

"He's way ahead of where I was at that time."

Jed Lowrie wants the job the Red Sox gave Julio Lugo $36 million to handle.

Their shortstop competition is the only one for a starting position in Boston's camp.

"We're not supposed to have seven openings going into this camp or something didn't go right during the winter," manager Terry Francona said.

If Lugo prevails, the Red Sox hope he can live up to their expectations when he signed a four-year deal before the 2007 season. If Lowrie wins, three-fourths of their infield will be stocked with homegrown players -- Lowrie, Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia -- and Lugo may ask for a trade.

"At the end of spring training," he said, "we're going to have to see. We're going to have to wait and see what happens."

Working his way back after a disastrous 2008 ended with offseason shoulder surgery, Travis Hafner took part in batting practice with his teammates for the first time this spring Sunday. With general manager Mark Shapiro and assistant GM Chris Antonetti watching from behind the backstop, Hafner completed three rounds of BP.

"It feels good to get back on the field and hang out with your teammates," Hafner said. "It was fun. Everything feels good. There will be a little soreness in there for a little while, but everything feels close to normal."

Cleveland's powerful designated hitter was reduced to the club's highest-paid designated sitter last season. Hafner's weak shoulder limited him to 57 games, and he batted just .197 with five homers and 24 RBIs. Months of rehab failed to strengthen his shoulder and the 31-year-old remembers dinner being a painful chore.

"You'd go out to have a meal and your shoulder would burn just from eating," he said. "If you'd do it a few times, it would wear your shoulder out. Some days it would feel better than others."

But Hafner made the most of his offseason. Along with lifting weights and conditioning, he worked on improving his diet. He stayed away from fatty foods, cut down on the occasional cold beers and hired a personal chef. Hafner had his meals delivered to his home, and ended up dropping 10 pounds -- he's listed at 240 -- before coming to camp looking trim.

The Indians are being extra cautious with Hafner. He's on his own program and probably won't begin playing in Cactus League games for several more weeks.

Joining fellow All-Star Justin Morneau in a batting practice group after going through the usual fielding fundamentals, Joe Crede got some hacks in against hard-throwing closer Joe Nathan and began to get comfortable with his former heated division rivals, the Minnesota Twins.

After spending his entire career with the Chicago White Sox and serving as their regular third baseman since the summer of 2002, Crede officially switched sides Sunday when he signed a one-year contract worth between $2.5 and $7 million depending on how much he's on the field.

"This is definitely a team that I wanted be a part of," Crede said, adding: "I really admired the way they play. I knew my style was going to fit in."

Crede's contract is unique. It includes a base salary of $2.5 million and escalators based on playing time that push the value up in $500,000 increments. The incentives kick in at 250 plate appearances. If he gets 540 plate appearances or more, he'll make $7 million.

The reason for that, and for his availability so late in the winter, is his historically bad back. He's had two major surgeries in the past two years, the last in October, and played in only 144 games with 502 at-bats over 2007 and 2008.

"There is concern," general manager Bill Smith acknowledged. "This is a good deal for both sides. It provides us with the protection we need, and it provides him with the upside he was looking for."

Crede, a native of Missouri, worked out in Arizona during the offseason. He flew to Minnesota for a "full-blown" physical with three different doctors, Smith said, and checked out all right. There are currently no restrictions on Crede's workload.

Anibal Sanchez will be on the mound for the Florida Marlins' Grapefruit League opener on Wednesday, and catcher John Baker is excited to see what the right-hander can do.

"He was kind of throwing a little bit at the end of the year and thinking it might hurt," Baker said. "That's a tough mental obstacle to overcome, coming off of surgery. He has had time to prepare himself better. He feels better and he'll believe in himself more. It'll be fun to see him Wednesday."

Sanchez, who threw a no-hitter as a rookie in 2006, made his 2008 debut on July 31 after recovering from right shoulder surgery. He finished 2-5 with a 5.57 ERA.

Manager Fredi Gonzalez announced Sunday that Sanchez would start the first spring game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

"I don't care if it's the first, second or third game. I just want to be ready for the season," said Sanchez, who missed spring training last year.

Either Ricky Nolasco or Josh Johnson is expected to start when the Marlins host Washington on Opening Day on April 6. Both right-handers will throw at least one inning Tuesday in an intrasquad game.

Kevin Gregg and Carlos Marmol are competing this spring to replace Kerry Wood, whose decade-long run with the Cubs is over after a final season as a top closer.

"We'll do what is best for the team to win games, no matter what," pitching coach Larry Rothschild said Sunday. "I think Kevin is capable of pitching more than one inning at a time, also. I think both of them can do it."

Marmol carved out a role as a top setup man in 2007 when he made 59 appearances after being called up in May, going 5-1 with a 1.43 ERA. Last year he was 2-4 with a 2.68 ERA in 82 appearances and became one of the NL's best setup relievers.

Gregg came to Chicago from the Florida Marlins in a November trade that signaled the end of Wood's time with the Cubs.

"I don't see it really as a competition," Gregg said. "I think we both can pitch in either role. I know he's been very successful as a setup guy and I've been successful as a closer. So where it leads to this year, we'll see what [manager] Lou [Piniella] is going to do and what he feels comfortable with."

The Astros have voided the minor league contract of Toby Hall after the catcher opted to have shoulder surgery Sunday.

An MRI taken Saturday showed that Hall had a torn labrum.

"It gives me a little peace of mind to go get [the surgery]," Hall said, according to the Houston Chronicle. "Seeing the MRI and seeing what I've been dealing with the last couple of years, it kind of puts me at ease to go get it fixed. That way I can get back out there [as] the player that I used to be and be healthy [and] go out there with two labrums."

Hall will miss at least four months because of the surgery. His injury leaves three catchers vying for two spots on the roster. Humberto Quintero is the favorite to win the starter's job, while J.R. Towles and Rule 5 draft pick Lou Palmisano will likely compete for the backup spot.

Roy Halladay normally starts the Blue Jays' spring training opener, but not this year. Rookie Brett Cecil will face the Yankees on Wednesday, while Halladay won't start until Saturday against the Braves.

But Halladay said Sunday it had nothing to do with dodging the Yankees.

"I think [the coaches] just went from Opening Day backwards," the ace said. "And I think they tried to avoid as many trips as possible."

So Halladay's longest road trip of the spring will be an hour down the highway, to face the Pirates in Bradenton. But for now, the Blue Jays have no intention to have him dodge a scheduled start against the Red Sox on March 16.

"Why not?" he laughed. "I'm not going to fool anybody."

-- Jayson Stark,

There apparently won't be a Daniel Murphy-Fernando Tatis platoon in left field for the Mets this season, after all. Manager Jerry Manuel said Sunday that Murphy will get most of the starts in left.

"I don't want him to get into a strictly platoon situation," Manuel said, according to the New York Post. "I think he's a little better player than that. And with [Ryan] Church being a left-handed hitter, I kind of see Murphy being a better hitter right now at this time. So Tatis could [play in right field]. It all depends on how they're doing. If they're not getting hits, then they're not going to play -- development or whatever. They've got to perform."

Manuel said he will find ways to get Tatis at-bats -- even if it means platooning Tatis in right field with Church, who is coming off a 2008 season that was plagued by concussions. Tatis also has been getting a lot of infield work in camp so far for the Mets.

"[Church] is the right fielder that I hope not to pinch-hit for," Manuel said, according to the Post. "But if you're not performing, then I have to make some adjustments. I can't just give you 162 games and say, 'You're my right fielder.'

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.



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