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March, 24, 2009
03/24/09
10:09
AM ET
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JETER RETURNS TO YANKEES (10:35 p.m. ET)
Derek Jeter rejoined the Yankees from the World Baseball Classic and was in the starting lineup at shortstop for Tuesday night's game against Boston.

Jeter received a loud ovation from fans at George M. Steinbrenner Field when he batted for the first time in the first inning. He went 1-for-2 with a walk and played seven innings in the Yankees' 7-1 win over the Red Sox.

"It's important he's here," New York manager Joe Girardi said. "It's really exciting. It's important to come together as a team."

Jeter, who grounded out in the first, hit a soft liner to right for a fourth-inning single and walked during the sixth against Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, will play in most of the Yankees' remaining spring training games in preparation for the regular-season opener April 6 at Baltimore.

"We've still got what, a week and a half?" he said. "I don't see it being an issue. I've got plenty of time. Physically I'm fine. It's good to get back and now get into a routine of playing every day."

BYRNES BACK TO NORMAL (9:15 p.m. ET)
Eric Byrnes appears to be fully recovered from the hamstring problems that sidelined him for much of last season -- at least at the plate.

Byrnes had two more hits Tuesday for the Diamondbacks in a 7-3 loss to the Giants.

The Diamondback outfielder had singles in his first two at-bats, giving him five straight hits after going 0-for-3 in his first game since being sidelined June 30 because of a hamstring injury.

"To string together five in a row, I am not going to complain about that, especially when they all were hit pretty solidly," Byrnes said.

Byrnes went hitless in his spring debut March 20, was 3-for-3 in his second outing before getting a run-scoring single in the first inning against the Giants. He added another hit in the third, and had a stolen base.

"I feel like I am fighting for playing time. Any time I go out there, that is my mentality," Byrnes said.

PROGRESS MADE BY PHILS (8:37 p.m. ET)
Chase Utley hit his first home run since hip surgery and Chan Ho Park made his latest bid for a rotation spot, helping the Phillies rally past the Blue Jays 7-6.

Utley drove in three runs, two on a homer off closer B.J. Ryan. It was the All-Star second baseman's first long ball since he had hip surgery in November.

Park gave up three runs and four hits in four innings. He struck out seven and walked one. The veteran right-hander is competing with 26-year-old lefty J.A. Happ for the final spot in Philadelphia's rotation.

"It didn't hurt him at all," manager Charlie Manuel said. "We need people to get people out. That's what we're looking for."

YANKS A HOT TICKET (7:23 p.m. ET)
The Yankees put individual game tickets on sale for the first season of their new ballpark and said they had sold 170,000 by midday Tuesday.

Yankees chief operating Lonn Trost said the sale began with full-season equivalents at just under 36,000 for the 52,000-capacity ballpark. He said January's announcement that full-season equivalents had reached 39,393 resulted from an internal team miscommunication and the higher figure referred to the final season at old Yankee Stadium, which held about 57,000 seats.

According to the Yankees' Web site, as of early evening tickets remained at $2,625 for the April 16 home opener against Cleveland, each with a $59.70 convenience charge.

Tickets are priced at $525, $625, $900, $1,050, $1,300 and $2,625 for the Legends seats ringing the infield, which include food and soft drinks. Other field level seats are $90, $125, $225, $250, $300 and $375.

Main level tickets go for $60, $80, $95 and $150, while the terrace level is $50, $75 and $85, grandstand $23 and $30, and bleachers $14.

Tickets for the Delta Sky 360 Suite sell for $375-800 and the Jim Beam Suite goes for $120-150 a seat.

UEHARA BACK IN FINE FORM (6:42 p.m. ET)
Koji Uehara showed no ill effects from a left hamstring strain that had kept him out of Grapefruit League play since March 9, and the new changeup he unveiled worked just fine.

Uehara struck out seven in 3 2/3 innings in the Orioles' 3-1 loss to the Nationals, using his first outing in more than two weeks to try out a new pitch he learned while sidelined.

"I'm the type of guy who wants to try new pitches on the mound in game situations, rather than do it in bullpen sessions," Uehara said through a translator.

Uehara, who threw 40 of his 57 pitches for strikes, allowed a run and three hits without issuing a walk. Pitching coach Rick Kranitz taught the right-hander the new pitch during his last bullpen session and the Orioles' first Japanese-born player quickly integrated it into his repertoire in the longest of his four spring outings.

"I hope he's happy with it. He threw it and got instant results," Kranitz said. "Anytime you're learning a new pitch or trying a new pitch, it's nice to get some instant success. ... It looked like it was a natural pitch for him."

SCHUMAKER GLAD TO SEE OQUENDO (6:38 p.m. ET)
No one is happier to have Jose Oquendo back from the World Baseball Classic than Cardinals outfielder-turned-second baseman Skip Schumaker.

The Cardinals are giving Schumaker a crash course in becoming an infielder, hoping his bat will offset any defensive liabilities. But the conversion hit a rough patch while Oquendo, the team's infield instructor and third base coach, was away managing Puerto Rico's WBC team.

Schumaker continued to work with bench coach Joe Pettini during Oquendo's absence, and he's getting better. After making four errors early in the spring, he hasn't made one in two weeks, but Schumaker is struggling with intricate details of the position.

"I'm not going to take anything away from Joe, because he really did help me a lot, but Oquendo has a special talent out there," Schumaker said.

If Schumaker isn't ready, manager Tony La Russa will likely turn to utility infielder Brendan Ryan at second base for Opening Day. But that wouldn't mean the experiment is over.

"We're going to make it work," Oquendo said. "It's going to be fine. We are going to be able to use him. That gives [La Russa] another option to get Schumaker in the games and get more at-bats."

METS SEND DOWN FREDDY GARCIA (3:51 p.m. ET)
New York Mets right-hander Freddy Garcia has an accepted an assignment to the team's minor league camp, assistant GM John Ricco said, according to the New York Daily News.

Garcia, attempting a comeback from shoulder surgery, was competing to be the Mets' fifth starter. It now appears that job will go to Livan Hernandez.

According to the report, Ricco indicated that Garcia will report to minor league camp for the rest of spring training, and then either remain for extended spring training or join the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons, the Mets' top minor league club.

"He still has a ways to go, but I'm glad he's going to stay with us and try to work things out," Ricco said, according to the Daily News.

SOWERS AMONG INDIANS SENT DOWN (3:31 p.m. ET)
The Cleveland Indians have sent left-hander Jeremy Sowers, outfield prospects Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley, and four others to the minors.

Sowers, the sixth overall pick in the 2004 draft, lost out in the battle for Cleveland's No. 5 rotation spot. Lefties Aaron Laffey and Scott Lewis are still in the running for the final rotation berth.

LaPorta and Brantley were acquired in July in the blockbuster trade that sent CC Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers. They were reassigned Tuesday to minor league camp along with right-handers Kirk Saarloos and Greg Aquino and first baseman Michael Aubrey.

Sowers and catcher Wyatt Toregas were optioned to Triple-A Columbus.

ANGELS' ESCOBAR ON ROAD BACK? (10:02 a.m. ET)
Kelvim Escobar's fastball has recently been clocked in the high 90s, an indication that the Angels right-hander is ahead of schedule in recovering from shoulder problems that cost him all of 2008.

Escobar's fastball topped out at 96 mph in a Triple-A game against the Cubs, the Los Angeles Times reported. Facing seven batters, Escobar threw 18 of his 34 pitches for strikes, was clocked between 94 and 96 mph and gave up two hits, with one strikeout and one walk.

"Oh man, I feel good," Escobar said, according to the Times. "I knew I had good velocity, but I never thought I'd be throwing 96."

Escobar hopes he can gradually increase his workload in the weeks to come, according to the report. At that pace and barring any setbacks, the Angels could have him back in the starting rotation sometime in April. They'd be getting back a pitcher who went 18-7 with a 3.40 ERA in 2007.

"I've tested my arm many times this spring, and it feels fine," Escobar said, according to the Times. "Now, I'm going to focus on mechanics and making good pitches."

WILSON LEADING PIRATES BY EXAMPLE (9:47 a.m. ET)
Now that he leads his team in seniority with eight seasons in Pittsburgh, Pirates shortstop Jack Wilson has realized that it's time to be a leader. Wilson admits he wasn't comfortable in that role before, but he's embracing it as the Pirates try to produce a winning season after 16 straight years of sub-.500 records.

"I've always felt there's been someone in the clubhouse that has more time than myself, and it's not really my job," Wilson said. "This is the first year I've been the senior guy. It definitely puts a change in you and your heart and how you want to lead."

Wilson began the change with a bold step. At hitting coach Don Long's suggestion, he completely rebuilt his swing, in the hopes he could recover the power at the plate that abandoned him last season. He finished 2008 with one homer in 305 at-bats, down from the 12 he hit in 477 at-bats in '07.

Instead of a tuneup, Wilson went for an overhaul by adopting a swing that begins with his hands much lower than before -- despite the fact his stance had been hands-high since he was 6 years old. And Wilson stuck with it, despite an 0-for-23 slump that ended Saturday. He had two doubles against the Rays on Monday.

"Obviously, I didn't really like it that much at first -- you've got to change your whole swing," Wilson said. "But, watching films from past years of my bat path, [Long] showed me we could have a better pass at the ball if we brought the hands down."

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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