Around the Grapefruit League

Updated: February 19, 2007, 10:30 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Houston Astros: The moment Roy Oswalt walked into the Houston Astros clubhouse at spring training, things seemed different.

The past three seasons, Oswalt shared the "ace" label with Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens. But with Pettitte back with the New York Yankees and Clemens still mulling his future, Oswalt is alone in the spotlight and missing two influential mentors.

Now, he's the guy younger pitchers are emulating and turning to for guidance and leadership.

"I feel like, all of a sudden, I'm the old guy," Oswalt said. "I'm not that old, but I feel like the old guy."

Elsewhere in the Grapefruit League:

Atlanta Braves: John Smoltz seems determined to prove that splitting up with his wife doesn't undermine the message he's been trying to spread. If anything, he wants to demonstrate how beliefs and character can help someone cope with the breakdown of a marriage.

"Either the words match up to what I've been saying or the principles that I adhere to will be tested," he said. "A lot of people are watching. This is no different than when I was going from starter to closer. Everyone said I couldn't do it. This is no different."

Smoltz in the final year of his contract with the Braves, and has made no secret that he wants to begin and finish his career with the same team. There have been some discussions about a new contract, but Smoltz is already coming to grips with the fact that he might have to go somewhere else.

"I really don't know what the future holds," said Smoltz, who's not even considering retirement. "I've made it known my whole career that I wanted to stay here. But times are changing."

Florida Marlins: Among the pitchers to work Sunday were Dontrelle Willis and right-hander Anibal Sanchez, who threw the first major league no-hitter in 2½ years as a rookie last season. Sanchez has been nursing a sore shoulder but reported no problem during his session.

Josh Johnson, who went 12-7 as a rookie last year, has been troubled since September by soreness in his forearm but said he hopes to start throwing in the next few days.

"It's no time to rush," Johnson said. "I've just got to wait. It'll be better for me in the long run."

New York Mets: LHP Dave Williams expects to have his neck brace removed March 5. He had offseason neck surgery and is expected to miss three months.

Washington Nationals: Switch-hitter Cristian Guzman took swings from both sides of the plate in the cage, then asked manager Manny Acta to go over to a field with him for some glove work.

"I've got a lot of things to prove this year -- 2005, I know this was a bad year for me, and 2006, I [didn't] play at all," Guzman said. "So now, 2007, I have to do something."

As it is, Guzman said, his shoulder is "not 100 percent," and it will be two or three weeks before he's throwing in workouts.

Baltimore Orioles: As Jay Gibbons was filling out paperwork before taking his physical with the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday, he got to the line that required him to list a position.

He pondered for a few seconds and wrote: "utility."

"I'm actually kind of excited to see how things play out," said Gibbons, who reported to Fort Lauderdale Stadium a day earlier than required. "I'm just looking forward to being in the lineup. We'll see where it's going to be. I haven't really had a conversation about it yet. I just hope it's in the field somewhere."

Gibbons spent the past five weeks in Arizona working out at first base with bench coach Tom Trebelhorn.

Cincinnati Reds: Reliever Gary Majewski's right shoulder was still a concern when the Cincinnati Reds opened spring training on Sunday, forcing him to go easy in some drills.

Manager Jerry Narron said Majewski won't be allowed to throw off a mound for about a week.

"Anytime someone's not starting the first day, there's always going to be concern," Narron said. "But we'll see where he is. From my understanding, he should be ready pretty quick."

Majewski said the shoulder got sore again when he threw in the offseason. He said a doctor diagnosed fatigue and put him on a conditioning program that has helped.

Kansas City Royals: Kansas City is banking on Octavio Dotel to be the closer they didn't have last season, when the Royals blew a major league-leading 31 saves.

"For him to be able to do what we think he can do is going to be huge for us," manager Buddy Bell said. "We had a lot of games we should have won last year, that we didn't because we just couldn't finish the games."

Dotel said his elbow is completely healed and that he hasn't felt this good in more than two years. He blamed the elbow injury on trying to throw a new pitch, a splitter, in 2005 spring training.

"The main thing for me is to feel good," Dotel said. "I feel my rhythm and everything I'm looking for to be my way. My velocity so far has been good. I don't think I'm going to have a problem with my velocity. All I need is innings and be in games. The way I feel right now, it is not going to be hard for me."

New York Yankees: Carl Pavano cut short his workout, skipping pitcher's fielding practice because of what Torre said was "heavy legs."

Pavano remained scheduled to throw his third bullpen session Monday.

"Everything is fine," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.