Around the Grapefruit League

Updated: February 27, 2007, 11:40 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Atlanta Braves: Seventeen months ago, doctors cut into Mike Hampton's left elbow and replaced a damaged ligament -- the dreaded Tommy John procedure. The recovery always takes at least a year and, even then, there's no guarantee that the elbow will feel like it did before, at least not right away.

Hampton, who was hopeful of being 100 percent when he got to spring training, now realizes that he's still in the midst of rehabilitation.

"There's going to be good days and bad days," he said, standing at his locker with a bulky ice pack strapped to his left shoulder. "I just know I've got a long way to go. I've still got some stuff to accomplish before I can get into a game. That's just reality."

Hampton threw a handful of curves during five minutes of batting practice, the first time he's used his breaking ball this spring. He could definitely feel the resistance in his elbow.

"I'm not where I need to be," he said. "It felt good early, then I threw some breaking balls. I didn't feel as good later in the session as it did earlier."

Elsewhere in the Grapefruit League:

Baltimore Orioles: One successful inning in an intrasquad game would be insignificant for most pitchers with major league experience. To John Parrish, it felt like the World Series.

The Baltimore Orioles' left-hander, who hasn't pitched in a game that counted since undergoing reconstructive surgery on his elbow in July 2005, turned in a scoreless sixth inning Tuesday in an intrasquad matchup. He allowed one hit and struck out one.

"I was still a little nervous and anxious to get out there," said the 29-year-old Parrish, who's trying to secure one of the final spots in the bullpen. "I just took my time and made sure to gather myself."

It's been a long comeback for Parrish. While recovering from the 2005 surgery, he needed two more medical procedures last year to remove scar tissue and a bone spur from his elbow. He couldn't pitch again until September, when he threw one inning in the instructional league.

Boston Red Sox: Joel Pineiro is with a new team, preparing for a new role and working with a new pitching motion. The Boston Red Sox hope all that adds up to him becoming their new closer.

"It's a fresh, new start, a new beginning," Pineiro said Tuesday. "So hopefully, I can start off the way I started as a starter."

He began releasing the ball at a lower point late last season, and the change appears to have worked. He faced David Ortiz, Wily Mo Pena and Julio Lugo in batting practice recently and was impressive.

"Those are guys that I faced with my [previous] arm angle," Pineiro said. "They haven't seen me from down low and they said, 'Oh, man, it looks like your ball's coming in a lot better.'"

Florida Marlins: Miguel Cabrera looked ready to go Tuesday. He homered in the third inning to help the Florida Marlins beat the University of Miami 12-7 in Jupiter, Fla.

"I want to be ready for the season," said Cabrera, awarded a $7.4 million contract in arbitration this month. "I don't want to start slow."

Jeremy Hermida and Joe Borchard also connected for the Marlins, and top prospect Chris Volstad pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings. Florida faces its first big league opponent Wednesday when it plays the World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals.

Houston Astros: The Astros held an intrasquad scrimmage on Tuesday.

Manager Phil Garner was most impressed by closer Brad Lidge, who threw 13 pitches and struck out two batters.

"Lidge was perfect," Garner said. "If he maintains his mechanics like he did today, he'll be in perfect shape."

New York Mets: Outfielder Carlos Beltran and catcher Paul Lo Duca were late scratches from the intrasquad game for precautionary reasons. Beltran said his neck and quadriceps were sore.

Both are expected to play Wednesday against Detroit.

John Maine and Philip Humber were among those to throw scoreless innings in the scrimmage.

Outfielder Ben Johnson dropped a ball in the first inning.

New York Yankees: Kei Igawa was the center of attention even before he threw a pitch Tuesday.

About 20 photographers from his homeland lined up behind the plate to record the Japanese left-hander's first warmup toss before a New York Yankees' intrasquad game. The quick-working Igawa needed just 19 pitches to cruise through two scoreless innings.

"He was good," manager Joe Torre said. "There's really no wasted motions. He's very compact and he goes after it. I think that's a sign of knowing what you want to do."

The only hit Igawa allowed was a leadoff, first-pitch drag bunt single by the speedy Brett Gardner. Three pitches later, Igawa induced a double-play grounder from Bronson Sardinha. After Jose Tabata ended the first with a grounder, Igawa pitched with a 1-2-3 second.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Pittsburgh outfielder Xavier Nady left the team Tuesday afternoon to fly to Pittsburgh for more tests on his inflamed intestine. The tests taken Monday at a Bradenton hospital produced "nothing conclusive," Littlefield said.

The GM did not say if any chronic conditions had been ruled out, nor what the new round of tests would cover.

"This isn't something that's bothered him on a frequent basis and, frankly, progress is being made as far as how he feels. So, it's not something that I'm overly concerned about," Littlefield said.

The Pirates played an intrasquad game Tuesday. Brad Eldred homered in his first at-bat, Nate McLouth hit a three-run shot and Luis Matos made two fine defensive plays in the outfield.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays: Stuart Sternber is entering his second season as principal owner of the perennial last-place team, and he knows some people question his commitment to winning because the club's payroll still ranks among the lowest in baseball.

"I feel like the honeymoon is over," Sternberg said Tuesday during a visit to spring training.

"You can get a sense of things. You can get a whiff or a smell," he added. "I think it all emanates from the payroll."

Nevertheless, Sternberg thinks the franchise has made substantial progress since he took control following the 2005 season, and he remains confident the club is headed in the right direction.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.