Around the Grapefruit League

Updated: February 26, 2007, 8:11 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Minnesota Twins: Sidney Ponson has yet to obtain a work visa from his native Aruba, and he cannot pitch in a spring training game until he does so. He said Monday that he was getting it worked out, but manager Ron Gardenhire wasn't happy about the suspense.

"It's something we were hoping would get taken care of," Gardenhire said. "You don't want to get held back because they haven't gone and gotten this taken care of and we're already starting to get held back by it."

Gardenhire spoke with general manager Terry Ryan about the matter on Monday morning, and the Twins were working with Ponson and his agent to make sure everything comes together.

"We need this to happen now. We want him pitching. For him to make our ball club, he has to pitch. He can't miss starts and miss starts and not pitch. ... We're very serious about that."

Elsewhere in the Grapefruit League:

Atlanta Braves: To the surprise of no one, manager Bobby Cox aligned his spring training rotation to ensure that John Smoltz would be ready to pitch the April 2 opener at Philadelphia.

Smoltz deferred a year ago, letting Tim Hudson take the Opening Day start in what was supposed to symbolize a passing of the guard at the top of the rotation. But the 39-year-old right-hander went on to have a much better season than Hudson, going 16-9 with a 3.49 ERA.

"The reality is that Opening Day comes and goes," he said. "It signifies the start of the season, but the anxiousness of Opening Day is, for me, no longer the way it used to be.''

Right-hander Blaine Boyer, trying to come back from shoulder surgery, jammed the middle finger on his throwing hand while trying to open a window at his spring training home last weekend. His hand slid off the frame and got caught in between the two panes of glass. He did some light tossing Monday without any problems.

Boston Red Sox: David Ortiz faced 12 of the 54 pitches, all from the stretch, in Daisuke Matsuzaka's second batting practice session of spring training. He let nine of them go by, fouled one into the batting cage, hit a grounder to first base that might have gone for a hit and bunted foul on the 12th pitch.

"He's got good stuff, but we haven't played yet," Ortiz said, but "he knows how to pitch. He stays in the strike zone. That's all you need to survive in the big leagues."

Manny Ramirez, on his first day in camp, stood in for three pitches against Matsuzaka and took them all. So less than two weeks into spring training, Matsuzaka faced two of baseball's best hitters.

"They didn't have too much intention of hitting my balls," Matsuzaka said through an interpreter. "It was more to see what kind of pitch I throw. So I just concentrated on my own pitching."

Cleveland Indians: Right-hander Cliff Politte, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, has begun light tossing and could remain in Florida when camp breaks.

He's not expected to be able to help the Indians until midseason.

Florida Marlins: Aaron Boone has played third base since breaking into the majors in 1997, but in Miami, that position is manned by All-Star Miguel Cabrera. The right-handed hitting Boone will see action primarily as a backup to Jacobs, a left-handed hitter, and can also fill in at second base and shortstop.

"Not playing every day -- I've never had that role," Boone said. "I've always come in as an everyday player. That will be an adjustment. It's something I've got to learn to do. I'm looking forward to the challenge of being a good role player. Hopefully I'll be real good at it."

The job requires learning a new position, because Boone has never started a game at first. He has been working there in camp on footwork and other fundamentals with infield coach Perry Hill, considered one of the best in the game.

"People think, 'Aw, just put him at first and he'll be fine,'" Boone said. "The idea is you want to be good at first."

Houston Astros: On Monday, with a fungo bat in one hand and a simmering cup of coffee in the other, Jeff Bagwell -- the Astros' career leader in home runs, RBIs and extra-base hits -- took the field as a supervising instructor.

"It's already a little weird just kind of walking out here, with no tape on my wrist, not in that little circle," Bagwell said. "But I'm not really that sad about that."

Bagwell, who played 15 seasons in Houston, will split time between the major and minor league complexes, advising hitters and offering tips on fielding and baserunning.

By his own admission, Bagwell didn't do much on his first day. He leaned on his bat and made wisecracks to assistant coach Matt Galante as his former teammates ran the bases.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Nomar Garciaparra's wife, former soccer star Mia Hamm, is expecting twins in the next month or two -- the couple's first children.

"We're excited. We're thrilled about how lucky we've been and what we've been blessed with," he said. "This adds to it. You go in with your arms wide open."

He plans to be at his wife's side for the births, meaning it's possible he'll miss a game or two.

"You've got to make it," he said.

New York Mets: Left-hander Tom Glavine, the projected Opening Day starter, will start Thursday against the defending World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals, who will send ace Chris Carpenter to the mound. Jorge Sosa, Pedro Feliciano and Ambiorix Burgos will follow Glavine.

Also, Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax visited Mets camp. Koufax and Mets owner Fred Wilpon were high school teammates growing up in Brooklyn. "It's always great seeing Sandy Koufax," manager Willie Randolph said. "It always perks me up a little bit. I remember watching him as a kid. Talking to him, you have to pinch yourself and you have to realize that it's Sandy Koufax walking into my office."

New York Yankees: The Yankees announced that the MRI exam and X-rays taken Sunday on RHP Carl Pavano's injured left foot showed a bone bruise. He was hit on the foot by a liner during batting practice Saturday.

"I wasn't too concerned with the progress I've made," Pavano said. "I was able to do all my activity today in the weight room. It's considerably better every day."

Pavano is to make his first spring training start Sunday. He was hit on the instep by a liner during batting practice Saturday.

"Obviously, if he doesn't throw enough to work into that day, we'll make adjustments," Torre said. "Right now he is still scheduled for that day."

Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates got a rare firsthand look at their boss when Bob Nutting, the West Virginia newspaper magnate who became principal owner last month, addressed the team at Pirate City.

He stressed the ownership's commitment to winning -- something that's been called into question in the past decade -- and a higher level of accountability.

"We wanted to make sure they knew our commitment to winning, how important that is to me and the fans. That was the primary message," the Pirates' new controlling owner said after addressing players Monday. "The other thing I wanted to make sure they understood was my commitment for the direction in which the team is moving, as well as my support for the existing management team. It was very important that they hear that directly from me."

Kevin McClatchy, who remains chief executive officer, stressed forgetting about the team's recent past. The Pirates have had 14 consecutive losing seasons, the longest such streak in the four major professional sports.

St. Louis Cardinals: Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and third baseman Scott Rolen are talking again, and both agree the rift that began during the 2006 postseason is over.

The two shook hands last week outside La Russa's office at the St. Louis Cardinals' spring training complex. The two had not spoken since the disagreement began.

"It's a dead issue," Rolen said Monday. "It's healthy to be a dead issue. Walking around with a wall between you isn't very healthy for any relationship."

Unlike last spring training, Rolen is healthy and competing in all drills.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.