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Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Updated: February 20, 8:30 AM ET
Spring Training Blog: Feb. 19, 2008


GUILLEN PASSES ON STEROID, MITCHELL TALK (7:18 p.m. ET)
Jose Guillen arrived right on time, bouncing into the Kansas City clubhouse bright and early with a happy smile and a polite refusal to talk about steroids, the Mitchell report or the 15-day suspension hanging over his head.

"I'm pretty sure we're going to be talking before the season starts, as soon as the situation gets resolved," he said, explaining he would talk about it once his appeal is decided. "Right now, it's in the process and I'm looking forward to getting this over with."

Last December, literally hours after Kansas City signed him to a three-year, $36 million contract, Guillen was suspended for 15 days for violation of baseball's drug policy. He had been linked in media reports to the buying of thousands of dollars worth of human growth hormone. He appealed immediately and an arbitrator's decision is expected before the end of spring training.
-- The Associated Press

YANKS LIKE THE LOOKS OF DAMON, ABREU (6:53 p.m. ET)
The Yankees' staff was extremely pleased with the condition of Johnny Damon and Bobby Abreu as they showed up at camp. Their poor conditioning was an issue last spring and was thought to contribute to the poor start of each player.

Damon met with Joe Girardi at the GM meetings in early November, and at that time, Girardi layed out his expectation that Damon would be in better shape when he showed up at camp this year.
-- Buster Olney, ESPN The Magazine

CRAWFORD SAYS RAYS WILL SHINE THIS YEAR (6:37 p.m. ET)
Carl Crawford thinks the Rays have what it takes to narrow the gap between themselves and perennial AL East powers Boston and New York.

Tampa Bay improved its pitching staff, bolstered the defense and added some veteran leadership that the team's most accomplished young player thinks will make a difference on and off the field.

He stopped short of echoing pitcher Scott Kazmir's contention that the Rays are talented enough to contend for a playoff spot. Still, he's clearly excited by the prospect for a push for the club's first-ever winning season.

"Everybody is young and excited," said Crawford. "Of course everybody's going to think we can do the impossible. When you're young and you feel invincible, you think you can do anything. That's the feeling we should have, but we're going to focus on getting to .500 right now."
-- The Associated Press

METS CEO ON BELTRAN'S PAGE (5:21 p.m. ET)
Mets CEO Fred Wilpon said he did not mind mild-mannered outfielder Carlos Beltran's boast that the Mets are the team to beat in the NL East. In fact, Wilpon added one of his own.

"I expect to be in the playoffs and deep into the playoffs," Wilpon said Tuesday at the team's spring training complex. "That's our expectation."

Beltran's remark was similar to the bold statement Phillies shortstop/NL MVP Jimmy Rollins made last year.

"I like it when players speak their mind," Wilpon said. "Beltran's not the kind of guy that's out there every day making proclamations. It's very meaningful when Carlos Beltran says something like that."

Wilpon said he is happy with the attitude in the early part of camp. He said the Mets do not seem like a team dejected after its collapse of late last season that saw the Phillies win the division.
-- The Associated Press

GRIFFEY JR. REPORTS TO CAMP EARLY (5:02 p.m. ET)
Ken Griffey Jr. had a busy offseason: He played a lot of golf and moved into a new house.

Best of all, he didn't have to make a lot of doctor visits.

The 38-year-old outfielder was upbeat when he reported early to the Cincinnati Reds' camp. Unlike a year ago, when he was still recovering from a broken hand, Griffey was in good health and good spirits.

"It's just a matter of going through the drills and the aches and pains of the first two weeks," he said after taking batting practice. "You try not to do too much."

The Reds' 21 position players are expected in camp Wednesday for physicals and the first full-squad workout.
-- The Associated Press

BOWA JUST THE MAN TO PUSH DODGERS (3:36 p.m. ET)
Dodgers ace Brad Penny is eager to see new third base coach Larry Bowa get in somebody's face, even if it's his own.

"We damn sure needed it last year. Fourth place," Penny said. "You need somebody to push you. You know Bowa's doing it for your benefit. I loved watching him in Philly."

Penny is fond of former manager Grady Little, but believes L.A. would have been better off had Little or someone on his coaching staff come down harder on the players when mental mistakes were made.

"If we make stupid mistakes, something will be said," said Bowa, 62. "I don't hold grudges, but I get stuff off my chest. I didn't come over here to finish third. I came over here to play in October."
-- The Associated Press

BAY WATCH: HE DOESN'T NEED A LIFE VEST (3:23 p.m. ET)
Management said Tuesday that outfielder Jason Bay's end-of-season criticism of the club's direction would not affect his future with the Pirates.

"Obviously, he was frustrated at the end of last year, and that's understandable," new team president Frank Coonelly said. "But there's nothing more important to the Pittsburgh Pirates' success in the short term than Jason Bay returning to the player that we all know he can be. His status with the club is certainly not in jeopardy."

Pittsburgh shopped Bay for a trade this offseason, but teams were offering little in return. That surely was because Bay's batting average dropped from .286 to .247 last season, his home runs from 35 to 21.

On the final day of last season, Bay said, "To think we're going to win 100 games or go to the World Series next year with the exact same team … it would be a little foolish." Pittsburgh enters '08 with a streak of 15 straight losing seasons, one shy of the modern professional sports record set by the 1933-48 Phillies.
-- The Associated Press

BIG PAPI TAKES SWINGS (2:16 p.m. ET)
David Ortiz says he's nearly fully recovered from knee surgery he had shortly after the Boston Red Sox won the World Series last season.

The star designated hitter arrived at spring training on Tuesday and took some swings in the batting cage. The first official team workout for all players is scheduled for Friday.

Ortiz said he felt good after leaving the cage. In the postseason last year, he batted .370 with three homers.

The only regulars who haven't shown up in camp are Manny Ramirez, Mike Lowell, Julio Lugo and Coco Crisp. Position players must report by Wednesday.
-- The Associated Press

LOPEZ STUCK IN VENEZUELA (1:42 p.m. ET)
Second baseman Jose Lopez is having visa problems in Venezuela and will miss the Mariners' first full-squad workout.

"We've been aware of it probably a week or a little bit more," Seattle manager John McLaren said Tuesday. "It was out of his control. Those consulates down there are tough to deal with sometimes. You're at their mercy."

Pitchers and catchers reported to camp last week but position players weren't due to check in until Tuesday, with the first team workout scheduled for Wednesday. Provided he can get his visa situation corrected, Lopez is expected in camp by the end of the week.

"That's just the way it is," said McLaren, adding he had not spoken with Lopez. "He did everything he was supposed to do and they were dragging their feet. The information we're getting, everything will be in place and he'll be a day or two late."
-- The Associated Press

MORE TWINS VISA ISSUES (11:00 a.m. ET)
Left-handed pitcher Dennys Reyes and infielder Alexi Casilla are the latest Twins players to have immigration problems. Lefty Francisco Liriano also has been dealing with immigration issues.

Reyes didn't realize that his Mexican passport was set to expire in three months. He was expected to resolve his issue and be with the team by Wednesday.

"He had four months to take care of some of this business and he didn't do it," general manager Bill Smith said, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Casilla, according to the newspaper, had "a legitimate family medical emergency" that caused him to miss his visa appointment last week. The Twins and Major League Baseball are working with him to reschedule his appointment, but it's possible he'll miss the team's first full-squad workout on Saturday.

FREAK INJURY FOR PENCE (10:52 a.m. ET)
Right fielder Hunter Pence crashed through a sliding glass door in the bathroom of his spring training home, leaving him with multiple cuts that will sideline him for a week.

Pence spent the night in an emergency room after the incident Monday evening. He arrived at camp Tuesday with a gash on his right index finger and a brace on his left knee.

"It's pretty silly that this kind of a freak accident happened," Pence said.

Pence said he was in a hot tub at the home where he's staying and got out to use the bathroom. He had left the door open, but didn't noticed that a friend had just closed it. He hit it with his shoulder, leg and head and it shattered.

"Having seen him run and hit two days ago, I don't anticipate that missing a week in February is going to affect him at all come March 31 in San Diego," general manager Ed Wade told ESPN.com.
-- The Associated Press and ESPN.com's Jayson Stark

CLEMENT BEHIND THE PACK? (9:33 a.m. ET)
Pitcher Matt Clement is highly unlikely to be ready for Opening Day, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Clement threw one bullpen session, and pitching coach Dave Duncan didn't like what he saw: "He's behind. How far? Don't know yet," he said, according to the newspaper.

Clement signed for $1.5 million guaranteed after missing all of 2007 with the Red Sox, and over the winter the Cardinals talked about him as though they expected him to be part of their rotation.

That's no longer anything close to definite.
-- Christopher Harris, ESPN.com Fantasy analyst

HOWRY TO CLOSE FOR CUBS? (9:14 a.m. ET)
The Cubs enter spring training with a three-way competition for the closer's job, but manager Lou Piniella told WGN-TV in Chicago that Bobby Howry might have the edge based on the way he filled in for Ryan Dempster last season.

Howry has taken his "front-runner" status in stride.

"I have no inside information," Howry said, according to The Chicago Tribune. "Until you go through it and play it out in spring training, their thoughts and what they discuss behind closed doors and in their meetings is between them and isn't shared with us."

Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol are the other candidates competing with Howry for the closer's job.

YOUNG READY TO COMPETE (9:03 a.m. ET)
Dmitri Young reported two days early for spring training Monday, then joined some Washington Nationals teammates for informal fielding drills and an impromptu hitting session.

Young, who was an All-Star last season, comes into camp ready to compete with Nick Johnson for the starting job at first base. Johnson missed all of last season with a broken right leg, but says he feels back to normal now. The first full-squad workout for position players is Friday.

"One of us might get traded. It's a good thing when you're wanted, as well -- wanted by our team and maybe by someone else," Young said. "Nick is going to bring the best out of me, and I'm going to bring the best out of Nick."
-- The Associated Press

CABRERA IN AWE (9:01 a.m. ET)
Miguel Cabrera, listed as 6-foot-4 and 240 pounds, was criticized for his conditioning last season. Don't expect manager Jim Leyland to do the same.

"He knows where he needs to be and where he feels his best," Leyland said. "Some guys are big guys. They're big guys for a reason. I don't want to turn him into Twiggy."

Cabrera was in awe when he first walked into the Tigers' clubhouse, finding his locker between those of Edgar Renteria and Gary Sheffield and not far from those of friends and fellow Venezuelans Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez.

"It's like a dream come true," Cabrera said. "It's like my first day in the big leagues."
-- The Associated Press

PIERRE REPORTS EARLY (8:54 a.m. ET)
Juan Pierre reported to camp a day early, and said he's prepared to do whatever the Los Angeles Dodgers need from him.

Pierre, who has the most stolen bases (382) and second-most hits (1,378) in the majors since 2001, lost his starting center field job during the offseason when the Dodgers signed Andruw Jones to a two-year, $36.2 million contract.

"I'm no dummy. The guy has won 10 Gold Gloves," Pierre said Monday. "It's up to me to move and do the best job I can. I'm not going to sit here and say I don't want to play center field. I'm just going to play it by ear and go from there."

Pierre said new Dodgers manager Joe Torre has told him he'll probably be moving to left field. Standout youngsters Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier are among those competing for playing time in the outfield, with Jones set in center.
-- The Associated Press

BURRELL WANTS TO STAY IN PHILLY (8:52 a.m. ET)
Pat Burrell, who will make $14 million this season, can become a free agent for the first time in his career in November. But the 31-year-old newlywed says he would rather get a contract extension than test the open market.

"I'd love to come back," he said. "There's no secrets. If it's something the Phillies are interested in, 100 percent."

He says he loves the City of Brotherly Love and playing for the Phillies.

"I don't know anything else," the slugger said Monday. "In Philly, when it's good, there's no better place. There's something different about the Northeast when it comes to baseball where they can't wait to jump on that team with support when the team is playing well."
-- The Associated Press