Around the Grapefruit League

Updated: March 1, 2007, 12:31 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Florida Marlins: With right-hander Josh Johnson sidelined by a sore arm, the Marlins are auditioning candidates for a fifth starter to begin the season.

Johnson has yet to throw from a mound during spring training, and the Marlins anticipate he won't be ready for the start of the season April 2, manager Fredi Gonzalez said Wednesday.

Candidates to fill the fifth spot include right-handers Yusmeiro Petit, Wes Obermueller, Sergio Mitre and Jose Garcia, and left-hander Chris George. Mitre started seven games last season but missed most of the year with arm and shoulder problems.

Johnson finished 12-7 with a 3.10 ERA as a rookie in 2006. His arm trouble first surfaced last September, when he missed the final three weeks of the season.

Elsewhere in the Grapefruit League:

Atlanta Braves: Kelly Johnson got off to a shaky start at second base for the Braves.

Johnson, who came up to the Braves as an outfielder but is attempting to replace Marcus Giles at second, botched a defensive play in the Braves' 5-0 victory over Georgia Tech on Wednesday.

In the second inning, Johnson tried to backhand the throw by catcher Brian McCann but couldn't come up with it. The ball bounced into the outfield and McCann was charged with the error, though Johnson acknowledged it was his mistake.

"I kind of gave up on it," said Johnson, who came up to the Braves as an outfielder after playing shortstop in the minors. "By the time I figured out what was going on, it was too late to get to the base."

Baltimore Orioles: Jay Gibbons was efficient at fielding grounders to first base during February. Now it's time to see how he handles the position against outside competition.

The Baltimore Orioles open their exhibition schedule Thursday against the Marlins, and one of the most interesting facets of the game might be how Gibbons handles his new -- and old -- position.

Gibbons played first base in the minor leagues and manned the position with limited success with the Orioles. He seemed to have found a home in right field last season until Nick Markakis took over. So Gibbons will try to supplement his role as designated hitter by playing first base.

The fashion in which Gibbons snares a grounder in the hole, takes cutoff throws and zips the ball across the infield this month will go a long way toward determining if he plays first base this summer.

Boston Red Sox: Curt Schilling, penciled in as the Red Sox's opening day starter, pitched two scoreless innings againts Minnesota in a 4-4 tie in 10 innings Wednesday night.

Schilling allowed two hits and the Red Sox led 4-1 before Julian Tavarez allowed a three-run homer in the fifth by Joe Mauer.

"I felt a little stronger than I thought I might be," said Schilling, who threw 19 pitches -- 18 fastballs and one slider. "I feel like I'm good to go for a lot more than that right now."

Before the game, a statue was unveiled of former Red Sox star Ted Williams in front of City of Palms Park. His former teammate, a tearful Johnny Pesky, 87, participated in the ceremony.

Houston Astros: Catcher Hector Gimenez will have surgery on Monday in Houston to repair a torn lambrum in his right shoulder.

Gimenez was competing against Humberto Quintero and Eric Munson to be the backup catcher behind Brad Ausmus.

Manager Phil Garner said the 24-year-old Gimenez will likely sit out the season.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Los Angeles hitters were far ahead of the pitchers in a 90-minute intrasquad game Wednesday, with 16 different players combining to get 17 hits in the Dodgers' only such game of spring training.

Manager Grady Little said beforehand the plan was to play 4½ innings, and that's what happened, but each side had an inning halted twice, meaning there were only 23 outs recorded. And a few of those were on the bases.

Barring the unforeseen, the starting lineup of the home team will be identical to the one Little will use April 2 in the season-opener at Milwaukee, including right-hander Derek Lowe, who allowed six hits to the first nine batters he faced, but only two runs.

Right fielder Andre Ethier went 2-for-2 -- the only player in the game with more than one hit -- to help the home team beat the visitors 8-3.

Minnesota Twins: Matt Garza, the Twins' minor league pitcher of the year last season, pitched two scoreless innings against Boston in a 4-4 tie in 10 innings Wednesday night.

"It was a blast," Garza said of pitching against Curt Schilling in both teams' exhibition opener. "There's no pressure on me. I got up [to the majors] in a year. That's more than I can ask for."

Garza, 23, won his first five decisions at Triple-A Fort Myers last season and was a combined 14-4 before making his major league debut on Aug. 11. On Wednesday, he struck out David Ortiz on a slider in the first inning.

"We just want him to do what he did tonight," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Throw the ball down, attack the hitters and make them swing the bat."

New York Mets: Mets pitcher Oliver Perez hit a Sports Illustrated photographer on a leg with one of his warmup pitches. His control improved, his results did not.

Perez walked only one batter in two innings, but gave up four runs and five hits as the New York Mets lost 5-4 to the Tigers in their spring training opener Wednesday.

"I got hit pretty good," said the photographer, John Iacono, who was shooting from near the backstop before the game. "At the last minute, I saw it coming. I turned my left leg just enough so I didn't get it head on."

Tigers manager Jim Leyland told Iacono to have trainers look at the leg, which was hit just below the knee. Iacono, who stopped shooting the game after the fourth inning, had about 15 minutes of ice and had the leg wrapped. He said after the game that he wasn't feeling too good and that he might have the leg X-rayed.

New York Yankees: Yankees closer Mariano Rivera could make his 2007 spring training debut Monday.

Rivera, sidelined from Aug. 31 to Sept. 22 last year because of a muscle strain near his right elbow, has felt fine since spring training began. The 37-year-old right-hander threw off a bullpen mound Wednesday, and wants to throw another bullpen session Friday.

"No rush," Rivera said. "We'll go from there, see how I feel throwing. I feel real good."

Torre said the team likely will stay with its plan of recent years to have Rivera pitch only at home during spring training.

St. Louis Cardinals: For Adam Wainwright, spring training is off to a nice start.

The World Series closer, bidding for a place in the St. Louis Cardinals' rebuilt rotation, pitched three hitless innings Wednesday to help beat the Florida Marlins 6-3 in the exhibition opener for both teams.

Wainwright, who earned the win, walked one and fell behind several other batters. But he still needed only 30 pitches -- 15 strikes -- to get through the first three innings, facing 10 batters.

"I did some things well to get some first-pitch outs, but I did a lot of things I'll need to improve on," he said. "All in all it was a good first time."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.