Spring Training Blog: March 23

March, 23, 2009
03/23/09
9:05
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PADRES PICK UP TWO RIGHTIES (8:11 p.m. ET)
The Padres added two right-handers, agreeing to a minor league contract with Shawn Hill and acquiring Luke Gregerson from St. Louis to complete the deal that sent shortstop Khalil Greene to the Cardinals.

Hill was released by Washington on Wednesday. He went 1-5 with a 5.83 ERA in 12 starts for the Nationals in 2008.

Gregerson was 7-6 with a 3.35 ERA and 10 saves for Double-A Springfield last season.

Also, the Padres optioned six players to Triple-A Portland on Monday, including right-hander Josh Geer, who had been competing for a spot in the rotation.

ASTROS GET PRESIDENTIAL VISIT (7:02 p.m. ET)
Houston entertained a special guest Monday when former President George H.W. Bush visited its spring facility. Bush signed autographs and chatted with players before their game.

Bush, a close friend of Astros owner Drayton McLane, attends many early season home games and holds an annual lunch for McLane and select players.

"We love it," Bush said. "My only problem is we leave in the spring. We leave in May when we go to Maine for five months. So I miss a lot of the regular season, but I'll be there right behind the plate."

His wife, Barbara, who recently underwent heart surgery, was unable to attend.

"She was going to come when we scheduled this several weeks ago before her surgery," McLane said. "It's a great asset to have him here."

PENNY MAKES BOSOX DEBUT (5:49 p.m. ET)
Brad Penny pitched three hitless innings in his spring training debut and the Red Sox hit four consecutive homers in a 7-6 win over the Tigers on Monday in front of a record crowd of 8,278 at City of Palms Park.

"It was nice. I felt good," said Penny, who is coming back from shoulder trouble that limited him to 19 outings and a 6.27 ERA for the Dodgers last year. "It has been awhile since I've gone out there and felt good. Last year I went out, and I was pitching but I didn't really feel like I had a lot behind it. Today was good. It was another step just allowing me to get my innings and my pitches. I don't know how many pitches I threw but I felt pretty good."

Penny, who was scratched from a scheduled start March 4 against Puerto Rico, walked one and struck out three.

Meanwhile, Mike Lowell, Jason Bay, Chris Carter, and Ivan Ochoa hit consecutive homers to left field off Brandon Lyon in the sixth inning for Boston.

"[It's] still fun to watch," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said of the home runs. "I know it won't help us during the season, but we'll take it."

GONZALEZ HURTS HAMMY (5:05 p.m. ET)
Shortstop Alex Gonzalez is hurt again.

Gonzalez strained his right hamstring beating out an infield hit in the second inning of a 3-0 victory over the Blue Jays on Monday. He left the game to get treatment.

"When I saw the shortstop dive for the ball, I tried to go for some more," Gonzalez said. "That's when it grabbed me."

Gonzalez missed all of last season with a fracture in his left knee. He was cleared to start spring training with the team, but manager Dusty Baker has been careful not to let him do too much. Baker said the hamstring injury didn't appear to be serious.

"He tweaked it," Baker said. "There's no pull. We'll nurse him through it. We'll see Wednesday, but I doubt if he'll play Wednesday."

GLAUS OFF TRACK (5:25 p.m. ET)
It looks like Troy Glaus' return to the Cardinals will be delayed.

Glaus, who had aimed to be back by April following offseason shoulder surgery, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he has temporarily ceased baseball-related activities because his rehab has reached a plateau.

"I look at it like picking a scab," Glaus told the newspaper. "If you keep picking it, it will eventually get better. It's just going to take a lot longer. If you leave it alone, things tend to go quicker."

Glaus, who hasn't swung a bat or thrown in nearly a week, offered no timetable for his return.

"Who knows? In three or four days we may go out and throw and maybe it's fine and maybe not," Glaus told the newspaper. "I can't predict the future."

HERNANDEZ THE METS' FIVE GUY? (4:22 p.m. ET)
Livan Hernandez appears to be close to locking up the fifth spot in the Mets' rotation.

Hernandez pitched five solid innings in a minor league game Monday, allowing a run and five hits with seven strikeouts. His main competition, Freddy Garcia, meanwhile, was hit hard again.

"He has been very good," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said of Hernandez. "He's healthy. He knows how to pitch. I have no complaints about his stuff or his location."

Garcia, in camp on a minor league contract, gave up three runs on eight hits in four innings despite showing an increase in his velocity. The former All-Star, who missed most of the past two seasons with a shoulder injury that required surgery, might not have enough time to reach 100 percent because innings are tight at this point in spring training.

"We have to get together as a group and figure some things out," Manuel said. "We're running out of innings. We've got to make a decision here pretty soon, probably before the next turn."

HERNANDEZ SET FOR FIRST START (4:12 p.m. ET)
Right-hander Felix Hernandez will make his Cactus League debut Thursday against Kansas City. Hernandez hasn't pitched in a game since he helped Venezuela beat Puerto Rico 2-0 on March 16 to advance to the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic. The 22-year-old threw 86 pitches over 4 2/3 innings in the win, raising a few eyebrows in the Mariners' organization.

But Hernandez erased any concerns about his health Monday, throwing 51 pitches in a bullpen session without any difficulties.

"I felt good, no problems," a smiling Hernandez said following his workout. "I just have to do my thing. I'm ready to pitch."

With pitching coach Rick Adair and bench coach John Wetteland watching, Hernandez threw primarily fastballs during the workout and got some work pitching out of the stretch. He also got a quick refresher course on the Mariners' signals from Adair. Afterward, Hernandez said he still needs to build up his arm strength and work on his changeup.

"We have to pitch the way that we pitched [in the WBC]," Hernandez said. "That's all we have to do, our thing. We have to do the little things and play baseball. We've been working over there like we were here, we did the same things. It was a lot of fun."

RED SOX BELT FOUR STRAIGHT HOMERS (3:38 p.m. ET)
The Red Sox knocked four straight home runs off Detroit's Brandon Lyon in the sixth inning of their Grapefruit League game Monday in Fort Myers, Fla.

Mike Lowell, Jason Bay, Chris Carter and Ivan Ochoa all went deep to left field, according to MLB play-by-play.

Boston led 7-0 after six innings.

PHILLIES DEMOTE KENDRICK (12:02 p.m. ET)
The Phillies sent right-hander Kyle Kendrick to their minor league camp Monday, likely leaving the fifth starter race to be decided between left-hander J.A. Happ and right-hander Chan Ho Park.

In 50 career starts, the 24-year-old Kendrick has a 21-13 career record with a 4.78 ERA.

Besides Kendrick, the Phillies also sent catching prospect Lou Marson and second-base prospect Brad Harman to their minor league camp.

-- Jayson Stark, ESPN.com

LEE FEELS SLIGHTED OVER WBC DEMANDS (10:23 a.m. ET)
First baseman Derrek Lee said Major League Baseball officials tried to persuade him to play in the World Baseball Classic as a Team USA replacement for the injured Kevin Youkilis despite being slightly hobbled by an injury of his own.

"They started calling me," Lee said, according to the Chicago Tribune. "They needed a first baseman. But I couldn't go, not being 100 percent."

Lee missed five games with an injured right quadriceps before returning to spring training Sunday.

"I thought it was disrespectful, to be truthful," he said, according to the newspaper. "They knew I wasn't playing here [in camp]. How do they expect me to get off the trainer's table and start playing there?

"At the same time, you understand they're trying to win, and I was the guy that was on the [provisional] roster, so I guess they figured they'd give it a shot. If I felt better, it'd be a different story."

SANTANA: FALL WOULD WORK BETTER FOR WBC (10:12 a.m. ET)
Johan Santana, who missed the World Baseball Classic after offseason knee surgery, says the tournament would be better served coming in the fall, after the World Series.

"That will give you at least three weeks after the season is over to regroup and get everybody as a team, as a country, and put them all together," Santana said, according to The Star-Ledger of Newark. "Some guys will be tired, but at the same time, you will have a couple weeks to rest and to get together as a team, and I believe it will be better."

In 2006, Santana played for Venezuela, ousted on Saturday in the semifinals by Korea, which plays Japan in the final Monday night.

"It's tough because you cannot get ready in two weeks," he said. "It takes a little more time. And you can see that the teams that got together and they worked out, those are the teams that had a good chance to win."

MILLEDGE TO BAT LEADOFF (9:20 a.m. ET)
Center fielder Lastings Milledge will start the season batting leadoff after filling the role for the past week in spring training.

"I think Lastings is better suited leading off right now than Cristian Guzman, because Lastings runs more," Nationals manager Manny Acta said, according to MLB.com. "Seeing Lastings run in front of Guzman is better than seeing him run in front of [Ryan] Zimmerman. Guzman [a switch-hitter] hits from the left side. He would be better suited to shoot through the hole behind Milledge."

Last season, Milledge moved around the lineup consistently, first batting second, then sixth, third and fourth. He hit .268 with 14 homers, 61 RBIs and 24 stolen bases in his first year with the Nationals.

"This year, I can be more of myself," Milledge said, according to MLB.com. "I thought being thrown in the cleanup spot, the three-hole or put in the position to carry the team may have been a little bit too much for me. Now I can put all my tools together. I can use my bunting skills and steal bases, which I stole quite a few last year."

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