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Thursday, March 4, 2010
Spring Training Blog: March 4


HARDEN LOOKS GOOD IN RANGERS DEBUT (7:24 p.m. ET)
This is a pitcher-catcher partnership that Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Rich Harden could like.

Harden, in his Texas debut, pitched two innings of one-hit ball and Saltalamacchia and Matt Brown each hit a three-run homer, leading the Rangers to a 13-3 win over the Kansas City Royals on Thursday.

Harden, who spent the past 11/2 years with the Chicago Cubs, had one walk and one strikeout and gave up one unearned run.

"Rich looked great," Rangers catcher Saltalamacchia said. "He was throwing all his pitches with command, which is big, and he was just working on things. He looked comfortable. I could call anything at any time."

-- The Associated Press

MARINERS' AARDSMA TWEAKS GROIN (7:07 p.m. ET)
Seattle Mariners closer David Aardsma tweaked his groin during his one-inning outing Thursday against San Diego, but the Mariners do not believe he will miss much time.

"We don't think it's very serious and he might miss one outing hopefully and that's it," manager Don Wakamatsu said. "It was the very last pitch and he felt something in his groin. Hopefully, we caught it before it gets to be anything serious."

Aardsma worked the third inning, issuing a walk to leadoff batter Yorvit Torrealba. He then got Everth Cabrera to hit into a double play. He induced Tony Gwynn Jr. to end the inning with a left-side groundout.

Aardsma started last season as the team's set-up man, but when Brandon Morrow lost his effectiveness, Aardsma assumed the closer's role on May 15. He had 38 saves in 42 opportunities after going 128 big-league appearances without a save.

-- The Associated Press

MYERS STRUGGLES WITH CONTROL IN ASTROS DEBUT (6:11 p.m. ET)
Brett Myers showed off his new threads during the Astros' windy spring training opener.

Unfortunately, the veteran pitcher's control wasn't quite as sharp as his new uniform.

Myers, the longtime Phillies hurler, allowed three runs -- two earned -- in two innings, but the Astros rallied with nine runs in the bottom of the fourth inning and cruised to a 15-5 win over a Washington Nationals split-squad on Thursday.

Myers is projected to be the Astros' No. 3 starter behind Roy Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez.

"The good thing was that my ball was moving a lot," Myers said. "The bad thing is I couldn't control where it was moving."

-- The Associated Press

BAY 0-2 WITH WALK, K IN METS DEBUT (4:50 p.m. ET)
Jason Bay's debut was low-key, but David Wright homered in his first at-bat and the New York Mets beat the St. Louis Cardinals 17-11 on Thursday.

Bay, a former Red Sox left fielder, went 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout in his first game of the spring and first live action with the Mets since signing a four-year, $66 million contract in December.

The Mets brought in Bay to add power to the lineup after he recorded 36 homers last year.

-- The Associated Press

NEW A'S HURLER JENNINGS TO SEE ACTION SOON (2:59 p.m. ET)
Oakland right-hander Jason Jennings, who signed with the Athletics on Sunday, is scheduled to pitch in a game within a week.

Jennings threw live batting practice for the first time on Wednesday and will throw one more time in game-like situations before the A's slot him into their pitching plans.

Jennings said his arm felt great the morning after his latest throwing session. The A's plan to stretch him out as a starter or long relief. He moved to the bullpen with the Texas Rangers last year.

-- The Associated Press

YANKEES DH JOHNSON SCRATCHED WITH STIFF BACK (2:41 p.m. ET)
New York Yankees designated hitter Nick Johnson was scratched from the starting lineup for Thursday's game against Philadelphia because of a stiff lower back.

Jamie Hoffmann replaced Johnson in the game that featured new Phillies ace Roy Halladay and Yankees star CC Sabathia.

Johnson was signed during the offseason to take the spot of 2009 World Series MVP Hideki Matsui, who is now with the Los Angeles Angels. Johnson hit an RBI double in the Yankees' exhibition opener Wednesday.

Johnson was hurt during batting practice, saying the problem stemmed from wearing spikes for the first time instead of turf shoes on the mats used in the cage.

"Caught a spike," Johnson said. "I felt a little something. I could have played. We'll see how I feel tomorrow."

-- The Associated Press

RANGERS SIGN CRUZ, ANDRUS, 12 OTHERS (2:37 p.m. ET)
Outfielder Nelson Cruz and shortstop Elvis Andrus are among 14 Texas Rangers who signed one-year contracts Thursday before the team's first spring training game.

With the moves, the Rangers have every player on their 40-man roster signed for the 2010 season.

Cruz, who hit .260 with 33 home runs and 76 RBIs in 128 games last season, got the biggest contract Thursday at $440,000. Andrus got $418,420 after being one of the AL's top rookies (.267, 33 stolen bases).

Jarrod Saltalamacchia ($418,580) and Taylor Teagarden ($407,010), catchers competing for the starting job, also signed.

The others who signed, all for at least the $400,000 major league minimum, were infielder Joaquin Arias; first baseman Chris Davis; left-hander Matt Harrison; right-handers Eric Hurley, Warner Madrigal, Guillermo Moscoso, Darren O'Day, Alexi Ogando and Pedro Strop; and catcher Max Ramirez.

-- The Associated Press

COMMERCIAL ORDEAL (10:30 a.m. ET)
Big leaguers Ken Griffey Jr., Torii Hunter, Ryan Braun, Orlando Hudson and Carl Crawford appear in a new TV commercial for Dick's Sporting Goods. The ad shows Griffey and Hunter racing through the store, and concludes with the other players arguing vehemently over whether Hunter was out on a tag play with Griffey at home plate.

The five players filmed the spot at a Dick's store in Dallas in the first week in February. "It was an all-day event,'' Braun said. "It's amazing how much goes into a 30-second commercial.''

Hunter said he spent almost 11 hours at the store -- several more than any of the other participants.

"They all left after six or seven hours, and I was still there doing all the running in the store,'' Hunter said. "I was sweating so much, it took them 30 minutes to get the sweat off me. Man, it was a workout.''

Wherever Hunter goes this spring, somebody asks him, "Torii -- safe or out?''

"It was Griffey's commercial, so it's going to seem like I was out,'' Hunter said. "But I was safe. I got in there.''

-- Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.com senior baseball writer

THERE GOES MY HERO (8:47 a.m. ET)
Tim Lincecum has back-to-back National League Cy Young Awards and a two-year, $23 million contract in his back pocket to show for it. But that hasn't made him jaded about meeting a childhood hero.

Lincecum, a Seattle native, was talking to reporters after throwing an inning against the Mariners when Ken Griffey Jr. -- a player he rooted for as a boy -- dropped by to say hello.

"Lincecum, what's up? I just wanted to say hi," Griffey said, extending his hand.

"It's a pleasure," Lincecum replied, looking awestruck as he shook Griffey's hand and watched him walk away. "It was nice meeting you," he added as Griffey headed for the Mariners' clubhouse.

Lincecum paused, let out a breath and said, "Man. Wow. He just came over. That was pretty cool."

He paused again. Then, he asked the media surrounding him, "What were we just talking about?"

Later, Lincecum acknowledged the experience took him by surprise.

"I followed him. I'm a Seattle native, so getting to watch him do his thing, actually all those guys -- [Jay] Buhner, [Joey] Cora was awesome," he said. "Just to have a guy like that come over, it caught me off guard."

-- ESPN.com news services

HAMELS EXPERIMENTING WITH SINKER (8:11 a.m. ET)
Cole Hamels' bread-and-butter pitches have been his fastball and changeup. This spring, the Phillies starter has been working on sharpening his curveball and adding a cutter as well.

But Hamels is also tinkering with a fifth pitch -- a sinker. He's tried it out during games before, with mixed results, and now wants to see if it can become a permanent part of his arsenal, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

"A few games, I would throw it, but it would get hit, and I would say, 'Forget this,'" Hamels said, according to the report. "But it's still something I'm throwing in the bullpen and am working with."

Hamels and Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee don't remember how many times Hamels tried throwing a sinker last year.

"If you're trying to pin me down to specific dates, I don't remember, but he threw it more than you might think," Dubee said, according to the report. "It could be a good pitch for him."

-- ESPN.com news services

I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW (7:51 a.m. ET)
A vision test during a team physical exam has confirmed what Brewers outfielder Corey Hart has suspected since last year -- he's nearsighted.

"It kind of started last year, but I didn't really think about it," he said, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I just kept playing. The ball was a little fuzzy at times, but I didn't think it was that big of a deal."

Rather than eyeglasses or contact lenses, Hart plans to wear prescription goggles in the field to correct his vision, according to the report. He's hoping he can get accustomed to wearing them during spring training.

"I'm hoping they work for me," he said, according to the report. "I don't want to have any trouble picking the ball up. Right now, it's a little fuzzy."

Why wasn't the problem caught last year? "I guessed right [on what letters were shown on the eye chart]," Hart said, according to the report. "This year, I guessed wrong. By the third letter, I was like, 'Maybe H?'"

-- ESPN.com news services