Reports have Tigers releasing Higginson

Updated: March 26, 2005, 9:35 PM ET news services

Detroit Tigers: Don't count out Bobby Higginson just yet.

Bobby Higginson

Higginson had two hits Saturday, giving him seven this spring. He doubled in the second and hit his second homer, a two-run shot off Cleveland's Matt Miller in the seventh.

Citing anonymous sources, several reports have said the Tigers plan to release Higginson, a 10-year veteran batting .189 in 14 games.

"I don't even want to comment on that," Detroit manager Alan Trammell said. "I know there's been a lot of speculation, and that bothers me. I'd like to see somebody put a name behind it. Higgy doesn't deserve that."

Higginson said if he is released, he wants to play for a team with a real shot at contending for a pennant.

"If it's going to happen, I'd like to be sooner rather than later," Higginson said.

New York Yankees: Center fielder Bernie Williams is expected to play in a minor league contest Sunday, his first game action since an upper back strain sidelined him last weekend.

Bernie Williams

Williams took six rounds in his initial batting practice session Saturday since getting hurt March 20.

"I think getting into a game-playing situation, that's going to be a real test," Williams said. "Everything that I'm doing right now has been controlled. Swings, I can control how far and how hard I want to swing. If I want to hit the ball this way or that way. In the game, I don't have such control."

Infielder Rey Sanchez didn't work out because of a sore right thumb. Sanchez was hurt on a bad hop grounder during Wednesday's game against Cincinnati.

Left fielder Hideki Matsui was in the lineup for Saturday's game against Minnesota. He received treatment Friday after fouling a ball off his left thigh.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Dave Williams was chosen as the No. 5 starter, if only because the club felt it had no other choice.

Dave Williams

The left-handed Williams couldn't hold a four-run lead against Minnesota in his most recent start Thursday, yet was chosen over incumbent Ryan Vogelsong and prime prospect Zach Duke. Williams joins left-handers Oliver Perez and Mark Redman and right-handers Kip Wells and Josh Fogg in the rotation.

What the Pirates aren't promising is how long Williams will stay there, especially given his ragged spring (5.50 ERA in five game) and their recurring lack of production from the No. 5 starter.

The right-handed Vogelsong (6-13, 6.50 ERA) held the job much of last season, but went nearly four months without winning a start.

"For the time being, this is the way we're going to go," general manager Dave Littlefield said. "Neither (Williams nor Vogelsong) separated himself, and this is one of those situations that is subject to change."

Boston Red Sox: The club's owners hope to bring ice skating to Fenway Park as a way to squeeze more revenue out of the smallest ballpark in the major leagues.

A seasonal rink built on top of the playing surface during the offseason would host college hockey games and public skating. The team plans to apply to the city soon for a license for the rink, said the team's chief operating officer, Mike Dee. The rink could be open as early as the end of this year, he told The Boston Globe.

There are several hurdles that must be cleared before the team can go through with the rink plan. First, the team has to be sure that the rink can be constructed and taken down without damaging the baseball playing surface, including new turf installed this winter, Dee said.

The team also needs permission from the city and plans to present its proposal to neighborhood groups as well. Currently, the team only has a license that allows it to hold baseball games.

Cleveland Indians: Opening-day starter Jake Westbrook was struck in the right hand with a hard-hit ball during a minor league game Friday, but he's not expected to miss any time.

Indians manager Eric Wedge said Westbrook is fine, although X-rays were taken as a precaution.

Westbrook got the opening-day start against Chicago by default after C.C. Sabathia strained a muscle in his side earlier this month. Sabathia was placed on the 15-day disabled list yesterday and will not be ready to pitch until mid-April.

Westbrook went 14-9 last season

Oakland athletics: Kirk Saarloos boosted his bid for a spot in Oakland's revamped rotation, allowing only two hits in five scoreless innings to lead the Athletics over the Los Angeles Angels, 6-2.

Saarloos made five starts for Oakland last year before he was sidelined by bone spurs in his right elbow. He's given up one earned run in his last nine Cactus League innings.

"He pitched extremely well," Oakland manager Ken Macha said.

Seattle Mariners: Joel Pineiro threw three shutout innings in his return from a stiff shoulder, and Seattle defeated the Kansas City Royals 8-3.

Pineiro, who had not pitched in a big league spring training game since March 4, gave up two singles, walked one and struck out four. He threw two scoreless innings in a minor league game on Monday.

Lopez sent to Triple-A: The club optioned promising shortstop Jose Lopez, along with right-hander Cha Seung Baek and outfielder Jamal Strong, to Triple-A Tacoma.

This spring, the 21-year-old Lopez was hitting .333 in 18 games, challenging Ramon Santiago for a roster spot behind veteran Pokey Reese. Lopez played 57 games with Seattle last season after a July 31 callup, hitting .232.

Baek was 0-2 with a 4.41 ERA this spring, while Strong hit .231 in 20 games.

Colorado Rockies: Shawn Chacon felt so good he wanted to keep going. The right-hander didn't need to, particularly after missing nearly a month with a sore hamstring, but it had to be a good sign for the Rockies.

Chacon pitched four crisp innings to solidify his spot in the rotation and Clint Barmes hit a three-run homer in Colorado's five-run fifth inning off Greg Maddux, helping the Rockies overcome a shaky outing by their bullpen to hold off the Chicago Cubs 7-6.

Chacon worked quickly and was effective at busting his fastball in on the hands of Chicago's hitters, setting up his breaking pitches away in the later innings. He jammed at least five of the 13 hitters he faced and had a couple others reaching for pitches, allowing one hit and one walk.

Chacon left after throwing 51 pitches and approached pitching coach Bob Apodaca about staying in, though he didn't get far.

"I kind of lobbied to get out there another inning, but that was all they wanted from me and I accomplished that, so leave it at that," said Chacon, who's expected to pitch again in Colorado's final spring game on Thursday. "I don't want to beg to go out there and get shelled or get hurt again, so I didn't argue too much."

Reggie Taylor sent to minors: The team reassigned outfielder Reggie Taylor to minor league camp and plans to waive right-hander Aaron Taylor on Monday.

Reggie Taylor was in the mix to land one of Colorado's five outfield spots out of spring training, but couldn't keep up with Cory Sullivan's hitting.

Despite missing last season due to elbow replacement surgery, Sullivan leads the team with a .415 average. He also has four doubles and nine RBI. Reggie Taylor hit .265 in 13 games.

Aaron Taylor appeared in eight spring games, allowing 11 runs and 19 hits in 9 1/3 innings. He also walked five. The Rockies will assign him to Triple-A Colorado Springs if he clears waivers.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Elmer Dessens began last season in the starting rotation before getting sent to the bullpen.

He seems destined to go through the same routine with the Dodgers this year.

Manager Jim Tracy is likely to give Dessens a one-time start because Brad Penny is on the 15-day disabled list and Wilson Alvarez is bothered by a tight shoulder.

On Saturday, the 34-year-old right-hander pitched four innings in a Single-A exhibition game against Florida.

"It was pretty good. I'm very happy," Dessens said after throwing 62 pitches, allowing four hits and striking out five. "My breaking ball, I located it good. My sinker had good location."

Minnesota Twins: The Twins placed right-handed pitcher Grant Balfour on the 15-day disabled list and outfielder Jason Kubel on the 60-day DL on Saturday.

Balfour has a strained right forearm while Kubel is recovering from surgery on his left knee.

The Twins also returned Rule 5 draft pick Ryan Rowland-Smith to the Seattle Mariners after he cleared waivers. The Twins selected the left-handed pitcher from Seattle last December.

Milwaukee Brewers: The club optioned top pitching prospects Jose Capellan and Ben Hendrickson to Triple-A Nashville along with fellow right-hander Jeff Bennett.

Capellan, acquired from Atlanta in the offseason trade for All-Star closer Dan Kolb, and Hendrickson, the organization's minor league pitcher of the year last season, had hoped to crack the Brewers' rotation but struggled through the spring.

Instead, Gary Glover and Wes Obermueller are locked in a fight for the fifth starter's spot behind Ben Sheets, Doug Davis, Victor Santos and Chris Capuano.

The Brewers wanted to "stretch out" Hendrickson and Capellan and get their pitch counts higher but are running out of time at spring training, so they shipped them to minor league camp along with catcher Mark Johnson. He was later traded to the Chicago Cubs for minor league outfielder Travis Ezi.

The Brewers want Capellan and Hendrickson to refine their mechanics.

Capellan, a 24-year-old fastballer, was acquired Dec. 11 after a rapid rise through the Braves' system. Last year, he pitched at Class-A, Double-A and Triple-A and posted a combined 14-5 mark with a 2.80 ERA.

The Brewers are also high on Hendrickson, who went 11-3 with a 2.02 ERA at Triple-A Indianapolis last season before taking his lumps in the big leagues, where he went 1-8 with a 6.22 ERA in 10 starts.

Kansas City Royals: The team is offering free tickets to many home games this season to active and retired military personnel and their families.

The offer, announced Friday, applies to all branches of the service, including National Guard and reserve units. It is available to service members and up to three family members.

"The Royals want to recognize the unparalleled sacrifices that members of the military make to secure our freedom on a daily basis," team president Dan Glass said in a statement. "This special program for the 2005 season will enable us to reach out to the military community and provide an opportunity for these deserving individuals to enjoy a day at the ballpark with their families."

The tickets will not be available for games on Friday or Saturday, for the home opener April 11 or for the game May 22 against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Servicemen must show military photo identification. The offer is based on ticket availability.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.