Saturday, February 28, 2009 Updated: March 1, 2:35 PM ET SNEEZE COSTS LOOPER START (8:15 p.m. ET) Braden Looper's spring has been slowed by a sneeze.
MLB News And Notes
The Milwaukee right-hander was scratched from his Cactus League debut after feeling tightness in his left oblique muscle near the end of his bullpen warm-up.
Looper, signed as a free agent just before the start of spring training, said he first felt a twinge in his side after he sneezed earlier in the week but didn't think twice about it.
"I haven't felt it playing catch," Looper said. "I didn't feel it doing anything. I feel healthy. That's what is frustrating."
When told Hall of Fame reliever Goose Gossage once went on the disabled list after a sneezing-related injury, Looper said, "He's always been a hero of mine, actually. I remember watching him pitch when I was growing up."
BLACK'S WRIST BLUE AFTER BAT ATTACK (7:27 p.m. ET)
Padres manager Bud Black made it onto the unofficial injury report on Saturday, a day after getting hit on the right wrist when catcher Eliezer Alfonzo let go of his bat in a spring training game.
"I got smoked," said Black, whose wrist was swollen. "A little sore today. No further tests necessary."
He was in good spirits in giving the play-by-play of the injury, which happened after he crossed his arms in front of his face to protect himself during the eighth inning of Friday's game against the Indians at the Goodyear, Ariz., ballpark.
"Fairly short range between home plate and the third-base dugout, so I'm just leaning on the rail, as players and coaches do," Black said. "2-0 swing, good finish, came through, let go of the bat, the old whirlybird toward the dugout, right at me, zeroing in. Go into the protective mode, ow, start to turn, contact, bat down, glasses off."
Black, a former big league pitcher who had offseason surgery on his left shoulder thanks to wear and tear, said he reassured everyone in the dugout that he was OK, then put on a brave face despite the pain.
CARPENTER CRUISES IN RETURN (7:06 p.m. ET) Chris Carpenter's first spring outing was a breeze.
In his first appearance in a game since September, Carpenter needed only 19 pitches to throw two hitless innings in the Cardinals' 9-2 victory over the Nationals.
"I've been in a lot of spring trainings, and spring training is a lot different than the regular season, but like I've said all along, I've felt strong and I've felt good, and my stuff's there," Carpenter said. "Now I have just got to be able to continue to progress my arm strength and pitch count, and get ready to go."
Carpenter was originally slated to throw 40 pitches, but Cardinals manager Tony La Russa pulled him after the second inning.
"Forty is just a number of conditioning, then you put the factors together and you see what makes sense," La Russa said. "He accomplished a lot. He pitched two solid innings. He'll have a great four days of preparation or five days -- there won't be anything that stops him from coming out there again. I didn't think a third inning was worth trying to push."
PAVANO PERFECT IN DEBUT (7:01 p.m. ET) Carl Pavano made his debut for the Indians, working two perfect innings in a 1-0 loss to the Athletics.
"Carl threw the ball well," Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said. "He's been very consistent this spring. It's early. We've got a long way to, but it's nice to see him get out there. A lot of guys are throwing the ball well. That's good to see."
Pavano, who signed a one-year, free-agent deal with the Indians, is taking it slow this spring.
"Up to this point, I've been working on my fastball command," Pavano said. "It's been a little inconsistent, but I kept it down. My secondary pitches are a little behind, but I'm working on those. This is just one step in getting ready for the season."
Meanwhile, Wedge doesn't know when Kerry Wood, who had a bullpen session Friday, will throw again. Wood has been bothered by a sore back, but had no problems Friday. And outfielder Grady Sizemore had treatment on his strained left groin Saturday. The injury forced him off the Team USA roster in the World Baseball Classic. He's expected to miss a few games.
PINIELLA SEES BRADLEY'S INTENSITY (3:53 p.m. ET)
Ron Washington, who managed Milton Bradley last year in Texas, described Bradley as a "perfectionist" during an interview this week. Lou Piniella, Bradley's new manager in Chicago, concurs with that assessment based on what he's seen early in spring training.
"The way he pushes himself is his trigger, in a way, to be successful," Piniella said Saturday. "I can see it when he does the drills -- just the way he goes about it -- or when he takes batting practice. It's a focused, intense effort, and it carries on into the game."
Piniella, understandably, is downplaying the possibility of another outburst or two this season from Bradley, whose history of blowups is well documented.
"Heck, when I played, I blew up a few times, too," Piniella said.
The Cubs' biggest concern this season will be keeping Bradley healthy. Last season, Bradley made 97 appearances at designated hitter and started only 20 games in the outfield. Although he should be more mobile now that he's 18 months removed from knee surgery, Piniella is already talking about resting him in day games after night games.
Bradley has been bothered by a tight left quad and a case of the flu early in Cubs camp, and he's listed as day to day.
-- Jerry Crasnick,. ESPN.comCUBS, KOSKIE AGREE TO MINOR LEAGUE DEAL (3:24 p.m. ET)
Third baseman Corey Koskie and the Chicago Cubs have agreed to a minor league contract with an invitation to their spring training camp in Mesa, Ariz.
Koskie has been out of the majors since he sustained a concussion while playing for Milwaukee in 2006. But he says he is fully recovered and will play for Canada in the World Baseball Classic. He will report to the Cubs' camp after Canada is finished playing in the WBC.
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said Saturday the club is glad to give the 35-year-old Koskie a chance. The completion of the deal is pending a physical.
Chicago is looking for a backup for Aramis Ramirez.
ROYALS' BALE TO HAVE THYROID SURGERY (10:31 a.m. ET) Royals left-handed reliever John Bale is scheduled to have his thyroid removed Tuesday after being diagnosed with hyperthyroidism caused by Graves' disease, the Kansas City Star reported.
Bale had been losing weight during the offseason in an effort to get in shape, but a routine camp physical and follow-up exam in Kansas City revealed some of that weight loss was due to irregularity in his thyroid. Given a number of medical options, Bale decided to have it removed, because that promised the quickest return to the field -- within two weeks, if all goes well.
"The best way to go about this is to have surgery," Bale said, according to the Star. "Just have it taken out. If I do that, I'll be normal in two weeks. I want to nip it in the bud now."
Bale, who ended last season with 10 straight scoreless appearances, has been penciled in as the Royals' set-up man for closer Joakim Soria.
ONE SMALL STEP FOR A GIANT (10:08 a.m.) Randy Johnson went two innings in his first outing for the San Francisco Giants on Friday, giving up one run. But he was happy just to be pitching in February -- something he didn't get to do the past two years, thanks to back surgeries.
"To be able to go out there and feel that good and compete and not worry about anything, that's a good position," Johnson said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. "Tomorrow I know I'm going to feel good. I'll be able to do my program and get ready for my next start. Other than the senior moments I had with my splitter, I felt pretty good."
Those "senior moments" were a splitter that hit Royals first baseman Ryan Shealy and another that was scored as a wild pitch in the Royals' 6-1 win.
Another Giant also had a solid outing on the mound. Jonathan Sanchez, making his first and only appearance before leaving for the World Baseball Classic, threw 45 pitches, walked none and struck out four in three innings.
SCHMIDT PAIN-FREE IN BRIEF OUTING (9:55 a.m. ET)
The will-he-or-won't-he Manny Ramirez drama has dominated the headlines out of Los Angeles Dodgers camp this spring. But the Dodgers' 2009 fortunes might hinge on the health of Jason Schmidt's arm as much as they do on Ramirez's bat.
Schmidt threw 21 pitches (10 strikes), walked two hitters, and recorded just two outs in a brief outing in a B-game between Los Angeles and the Chicago White Sox Friday morning. Afterward, he said he was pitching pain-free but was still working to find the proper arm slot on his delivery.
Schmidt's manager, quietly optimistic about Schmidt's prospects, didn't sound too worried about his mechanics.
"Sometimes you can overthink that stuff," Joe Torre said. "I just have a sense -- and maybe I'm wishing this -- that once he gets a couple games under his belt, that he's going to feel comfortable."
-- Eric Neel, ESPN The Magazine