Competing for a spot in the Tampa Bay starting rotation, Jason Hammel threw four scoreless innings on Sunday to boost his chances. Hammel, who allowed three hits, hasn't given up a run in six innings.
03/04/2009 1:14 PM ET
Hammel making impression with Rays
Rays pitcher trying to earn the fifth-starter's nod
"I'm ready to show them I can be a starter," Hammel told the Boston Herald. "I'll win the ballgame for you if you give me the ball."
Manager Joe Maddon likes what he sees from Hammel and believes he turned a corner when he got out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the 14th inning against Boston last September to earn a save.
"He's pitching with a lot of purpose right now," Maddon said. "I'm very happy for the way he's going about his business."
Hunter wants to see Compton kids on the field: Torii Hunter, through his Torii Hunter Project foundation, recently donated $10,000 to help fund youth sports programs on the Compton grounds of Major League Baseball's Urban Youth Academy.
"As soon as they said Compton, it was a no-brainer," Hunter, who has an uncle who used to live in the city, told the Los Angeles Times.
"If you have baseball in the area and kids start playing against each other, maybe they'll grow up together," Hunter said. "Sports can really bring people together."
Free-swinging Chris Duncan shows his power: Chris Duncan knocked in five runs and hit a three-run homer in St. Louis' 15-4 win over the New York Mets on Tuesday. For his manager, Tony La Russa, the display of power was a sight for sore eyes after watching his slugger fight neck pain in 2008.
"A bomb," La Russa told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch of the home run. "He had some great swings all day. Two hits against left-handers.
"The pain he was in [the last two years]," said La Russa, "probably a couple hundred at-bats, with either his groin or his arm -- he was so restricted. He gets a lot of courage points for those things."
Hawkins a late addition to Classic team: With several relievers unable to go for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, LaTroy Hawkins accepted an invitation to join the team. Hawkins was contacted by Team USA pitching coach Marcel Lachemann on Sunday night, and, after talking to his wife and several players, including Doug Brocail, Jacques Jones, Matt Lawton and Eddie Guardado, Hawkins agreed to play.
"My wife said, 'You always wanted to pitch in the Olympics or compete in the Olympics, whether it's speed-walking or something,'" Hawkins told the Houston Chronicle. "She said, 'This is as close as you could get,' and I said, 'You've got a point.'"
Chris Snyder sees results after changing swing: A simple adjustment to Chris Snyder's swing, aided by the help of Arizona hitting coach Rick Schu, seems to be paying off. Snyder launched a three-run home run Monday against the Cubs and had good contact in his other two at-bats.
"He was getting a little long [in his swing], and we talked about changing his hands," Schu told the Arizona Republic. "We just made a little adjustment, and the ball has been jumping off his bat the last four or five days. I really like what I'm seeing from him right now."
Wright hopes to make the lineup this time: David Wright is one of 13 New York Mets leaving camp to join their respective teams for the start of the World Baseball Classic. Wright will play for Team USA along with teammate J.J. Putz.
"I'm very excited. I really wanted to play in the first one and didn't get the opportunity," Wright told the New York Daily News.
This year, with Alex Rodriguez opting to play for the Dominican Republic, Wright will share third base with Chipper Jones.
Peavy makes final tune-up before Classic: Making sure he will be ready to face Canada in the World Baseball Classic, Jake Peavy threw three scoreless innings on Sunday against the Chicago Cubs. Peavy threw 33 pitches and mixed in his breaking pitches with his fastball.
"I wanted to use everything and get a good feel [for] how hard I can go without pushing the limits," he told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Josh Hamilton given rest after Achilles strain: Josh Hamilton was given a few days off after straining his left Achilles tendon on Sunday in the first inning of the Rangers' game against Seattle. Hamilton was examined by the team doctor but was bouncing around in the clubhouse after leaving the game.
"It's no big deal," he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "It just tightened up on me. Obviously we've got like 800 Spring Training games left. These aren't important."
Crawford back to his old speedy ways: Carl Crawford, who hit two triples on Sunday, said he notices a big difference between his speed this spring compared to last season when his hamstrings weren't 100 percent.
"I feel explosive again," he told the St. Petersburg Times. "Last year I didn't."
As starter or reliever, Masterson will be prepared: Justin Masterson doesn't know if he will be a starter or a reliever for the Boston Red Sox, but the young right-hander doesn't waste time worrying about what role he will have.
"It's more kind of just trying to get ready to pitch," Masterson told the Boston Herald. "If you're waiting for them to tell you, it almost gives you the idea that you're in limbo. I want to go out and, whatever innings I'm in, do the best that I can to get ready. Then, whenever the word comes about exactly what will be taking place, I'll be ready to pitch.
"I think there's too much spring left [to worry about it]. For me, it's kind of neat to be in that discussion because it's like, 'Oh, wow, they really think I can do either one.' It's not unsettling yet. I hope it doesn't get there. I'd like to stay with the nice, easy mind about it."
Helton's return on the horizon: Todd Helton is progressing well in his rehabilitation from back surgery last September, but he still is a few days away from playing in his first Spring Training game for the Rockies. He is currently taking batting practice and fielding ground balls.
"I'll play in about a week, maybe sooner," he told the Denver Post. "I feel good. I'll be ready to go."
Wang shows he's over foot injury: For the first time in nearly nine months, Chien-Ming Wang pitched in a game on Monday. Last June, Wang tore the Lisfranc ligament in his right foot while running the bases during a start against Houston. Facing the Astros again on Monday, the right-hander allowed only two singles in two scoreless innings.
"No more pain," Wang told Newsday. "Now I feel good, like nothing wrong. Very excited the first time I faced a hitter."
Aramis Ramirez not getting caught up in the hype: Aramis Ramirez doesn't waste time considering where he fits among all-time Cubs third basemen.
"I've heard that, but I don't really believe in the phrase 'on pace,' because you never know what's going to happen," Ramirez told the Chicago Tribune. "You can get hurt, or you're quick to lose it. You keep seeing guys that, for some reason, they can be a superstar one day, and two years later, they can't hit a baseball."
DeRosa proud to lend a hand to Team USA: Mark DeRosa admits he was taken aback when he was asked to be a part of Team USA for the World Baseball Classic but is nonetheless thrilled to be on the team.
"Of course I was surprised," DeRosa told MLB.com. "I remember three years ago [in the inaugural Classic], it was just superstar after superstar. Obviously, they have their stars this year, too, but they also have their role guys.
"I think it sets up more for guys knowing their roles, being ready, having a high-energy bench -- things I take pride in."
Mayberry's size, athleticism hard to ignore: Ryan Howard is impressed by the other big man in the Phillies clubhouse -- 6-foot-6 John Mayberry.
"He's just a pure athlete," Howard told the Philadelphia Daily News. "When we were doing our base-running drills, we'd say, 'Mayberry's going to get to the bag in three steps.' His stride is so long that it does make it look like he's not moving as fast, but being a tall guy, you are going to have longer strides."
Johnson plans to bring new attitude: In 2008, Kelly Johnson went on a 22-game hitting streak in September, which raised his average to .287 for the season. Johnson credits a new attitude, and trying not to be so uptight, for his turnaround.
"I had to do a little bit less than I'd been doing, come to the field with more of a light-hearted attitude and just not put so much pressure on myself," Johnson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "It's not that I didn't do the work. I felt like I had done so much work, I just had to trust it."
Kuroda dominant in Spring Training debut: In his first Spring Training outing, Hiroki Kuroda retired six of the seven batters he faced. It was a promising day for Kuroda, who is battling back from shoulder problems that plagued him at the end of last season.
"That I was able to do this was a relief for me," Kuroda told the Los Angeles Times. "I felt very unsure for a long time."
Randy Johnson has upper hand against Arizona: Randy Johnson enjoyed his first chance to battle his old teammates when he pitched three scoreless innings with seven strikeouts against Arizona. But Johnson denied taking any extra satisfaction from his performance.
"I'm not like that," Johnson told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I could pitch against them when it really counts and I could give up seven runs."
"I was having fun," Johnson continued. "I didn't feel any different than I did against Kansas City, other than I pitched an inning more and I was more effective with my pitches."
Orlando Cabrera on his way to Oakland: The A's have agreed in principle with free agent Orlando Cabrera on a one-year contract. Oakland expects Cabrera to officially join the club on Thursday. Cabrera has been to the playoffs in four of the past five seasons, making the postseason with the Angels, Red Sox and White Sox.
"He's not necessarily a numbers guy, but defensively, he's one of the best, and offensively, he's a tough out," third baseman Eric Chavez told the San Francisco Chronicle of his new teammate.
Fontenot getting acclimated to hot corner: It's not that Mike Fontenot isn't entirely comfortable at third base for the Cubs, he says, it's just different than second base.
"It's a lot more reaction," Fontenot told MLB.com. "That's why they call it the 'hot corner.' The ball definitely gets on you better. You just have to learn to take more drop steps."
-- Red Line Editorial