Around the Cactus League
Chicago Cubs: Trying to stay away from the elbow and shoulder problems that have plagued him throughout his career, Kerry Wood plans to avoid throwing curveballs when he moves to the bullpen this season.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Wood threw an encouraging bullpen session on Monday. He said he plans to throw primarily his fastball and slider with an occasional changeup this season.
"That would be a pitch I would usually use later in the game as I got tired," said Wood of the curve, according to the Sun-Times. "I probably won't use it as much."
Wood bruised his chest falling out of a hot tub before camp started and is still behind other pitchers. He appeared in only four games last season and was diagnosed with a shoulder injury. He opted to try to pitch this season without surgery.
"I watched him specifically today, and he threw well," manager Lou Piniella said, according to the Sun-Times. "The ball comes out of his hand real easy. He's got some good life to it."
Elsewhere in the Cactus League:
Chris Snyder is the "old-timer" of the duo at 26, entering his third full season with the Diamondbacks. The other is Miguel Montero, just 23, one of several youngsters who have risen rapidly through the talent-laden Diamondbacks' farm system.
Snyder is a muscular 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, Montero a solid 5-11, 195. Snyder bats right, and is coming off a strong season when he edged out Johnny Estrada for most of the late-season playing time.
"The way the offseason went, the work I put in, you compound that with the season I had last year, I feel great going into this year," Snyder said.
The Chicago White Sox third baseman, bothered by two herniated disks for part of last season, will work out in the weight room for 30 to 45 minutes a day to prevent back issues from becoming a continual problem.
"I am ready to go. There is nothing going to hold me back. I am not going to take it easy on anything," Crede said Tuesday. "I feel good where we are at. We put in a different program than what we had last year. It is more strict and it concentrates more on the muscles that surround the back. I don't anticipate there will be as many problems as there were last year."
Back stiffness near the end of the season led Crede to start taking cortisone shots. In the closing weeks, he hit just .179 with two homers, but still finished third among American League third baseman in home runs (30), RBIs (94), slugging percentage (.506) and extra-base hits (61), while also batting .283 and playing in 150 games.
"I know my numbers weren't good and I would've liked to finish my days [in Baltimore] with a better record because those people were great to me," Lopez said. "But it's nice to come to Colorado and kind of start clean. This is a good chance for me to show what I can still do."
Lopez, who was traded to Colorado last month for minor league pitchers Jim Miller and Jason Burch, is in the mix with Jeff Francis and Aaron Cook for a shot at taking the mound on Opening Day for the Rockies.
Lopez changed his offseason program to a specialized plan, focusing on flexibility, balance and coordination, with his weight training regimen dedicated to strengthening the muscles in his pitching shoulder, around his rotator cuff.
LaRue was the No. 1 catcher for Cincinnati from 2001-05 but lost his starting job to David Ross after he had knee surgery during spring training last year.
John Buck has been Kansas City's starting catcher for the past 2½ seasons, but with the acquisition of LaRue, there are no guarantees he'll be the starter when the season rolls around.
"I like them both," Royals manager Buddy Bell said. "Our catching situation is in good hands with either one of them."
Johnson spent the second half of last season at Triple-A Sacramento after beginning the year as Oakland's starting first baseman. While he offers no excuses for why he struggled offensively for the A's, it certainly didn't help that he accidentally squirted sunscreen directly into his right eye on the final day of spring training last year.
This winter, he saw four or five doctors who put their heads together to determine what was wrong -- and he received a diagnosis just a few weeks ago. Johnson has since been undergoing therapy on the eye and so far is pleased with the results, though he says he won't know right away how much it helps his swing.
"My perception of what was wrong was wrong," he said. "There were dramatic results right away. It's night and day."
Seattle Mariners: Mark Lowe, Seattle's surprise rookie reliever in 2006, will have another MRI next week to determine when he can start throwing following elbow surgery in October, the Mariners announced.
Meanwhile, former San Diego third baseman Sean Burroughs' comeback attempt as a non-roster invitee to Seattle's camp has been delayed before starting, because of a fishing accident.
Lowe, whom the Mariners had hoped would be their setup reliever to closer J.J. Putz, saw Dr. Lewis Yocum Monday in Tempe, Ariz. Yocum performed the surgery to repair a chondral defect in Lowe's right elbow last Oct. 6 and has scheduled a follow-up MRI for Feb. 21.
Burroughs slipped and fell while fishing in San Diego last week. An MRI revealed a sprained AC joint and separation in the right shoulder. Burroughs, 26, is scheduled to remain in San Diego through the end of the month, then be re-examined.
If Wright makes the team this spring with the Rangers, it would be his sixth team in six seasons -- and the second year in a row he had to earn his spot as a non-roster invitee. But the 32-year-old, 6-foot-6 right-hander would finally be with the team for which he's always wanted to pitch.
"I lived three hours north in Oklahoma City, so when it's all said and done, if I'm on the team, nobody will be prouder to wear that Rangers uniform than me," Wright said Tuesday.
Also, new Rangers center fielder Kenny Lofton made his first appearance in the clubhouse. Lofton, a six-time All-Star who will turn 40 in July, is with his 11th team in 17 major league seasons. He has been to the playoffs 10 times with six teams, including the Los Angeles Dodgers last season, when he hit .301 with 32 stolen bases. Lofton is a .299 career hitter with 599 stolen bases.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
SPRING TRAINING NEWS
Follow the day's news from spring training in the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues as we begin the countdown toward Opening Day on Sunday (Mets at world champion Cardinals, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2):
• Colon, Weaver, Figgins on DL
• Pirates send Sanchez to the DL
• Rogers has clot removed, will miss first half
• Sabathia throws, says he's ready for opener
• Pavano to start Opening Day for Yankeees
• A's put Dan Johnson on DL with hip injury
• Walker signs minor league deal with A's
• Grapefruit: Towers wins spot in Jays' rotation
• Cactus: Big Unit to start season on DL