Manzella adding Japanese to skills
Astros infielder working on communication with Matsui
Rookie shortstop Tommy Manzella is learning some Japanese to better communicate with Astros double-play partner Kaz Matsui.
When he's not on the field or working out, Manzella can often be found working with interpreter Yoshitaka Ono or reading the book Japanese for Dummies.
"I've been picking up on it pretty good, but just the basic stuff," Manzella told MLB.com.
Manzella, who now knows 50 to 60 mostly baseball-related words, said he got the idea from long-time Japan Pacific League manager Bobby Valentine, when Valentine visited the Astros' camp.
Lewis moves batting stance closer to plate: Fred Lewis has made a change in his batting stance, moving closer to the plate in an effort to reach outside pitches.
He ran the idea by Giants hitting coach Hensley Meulens before committing to the new approach.
"I told him I think I'm taking third-strike pitches away because I'm not seeing them," Lewis told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I told him I think I'm too far off the plate and I need to move closer. He said, 'Try it. If you feel comfortable with it, stick with it, because your hands are quick enough to turn on the inside pitches.'"
Type 1 diabetes unable to slow Taylor: Everyone knows Michael Taylor is one of the top prospects in baseball. What many do not know about the A's outfielder is that he lives with Type 1 diabetes. Throughout the day, Taylor measures his blood-sugar level and injects himself with insulin. Taylor has to be careful with his diet, but otherwise, he is able to lead a normal baseball life.
"You're not going to see me eat five or six pancakes before a game," Taylor told the Oakland Tribune. "Pasta, I don't eat that before the game. Any kind of grilled chicken or vegetables would be great because there's not a lot of carbs. You don't need a whole lot of insulin."
"He's got brute strength, athleticism, and he defends well," A's director of player personnel Billy Owens said. "Not to use too much hyperbole, but in a perfect world, he could be a right-handed hitting Dave Parker."
Penny sees results with sinker: Brad Penny is making progress with his newest pitch, a sinker.
"I think it was the first time in my career I got three outs in the inning with sinkers," Penny told the St. Louis Globe-Democrat on Monday. "I told [pitching coach Dave] Duncan when I came in ... I threw a lot of sinkers today, and I got a lot of ground balls out of it. I don't know how many ground balls got through, four or five.
"I was more comfortable throwing the sinker today."
Millwood gets seven strikeouts: Kevin Millwood struck out seven batters over five innings in an intrasquad game on Tuesday.
"It was coming out of his hand very lively," catcher Matt Wieters told MLB.com. "All four of his pitches, at times, were outstanding."
Milledge trying new approach: Lastings Milledge believes better focus will lead to better results at the plate this season.
"I'm controlling the bat a little bit better, definitely more confident than I've ever been," Milledge told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "In that situation or any other, I just visualize what I want to do, and that's what I try to execute. The results aren't always going to be there, but the mental side always has to be there, 100 percent."
Weaver adds two-seam fastball: Jered Weaver is experimenting with a two-seam fastball this spring in an effort to induce more ground balls.
"I'm a fly-ball pitcher. If I can get some more ground balls, it will help a lot," Weaver told the Los Angeles Times.
Cecil finding the right combination of pitches: Last season, Brett Cecil's changeup was his fourth pitch. This spring, however, he's featuring it as his second pitch.
A cut on his left thumb forced him to stay away from breaking pitches until it was healed.
"I told Papi [pitching coach Bruce Walton] I like the fastball/changeup combination for a good amount of my pitches," Cecil told the Toronto Sun. "I kind of pick and choose my spots to throw the curve and slider.
"I like the fastball/changeup combination, and I'm working on a new sinker that's working pretty well, so I kind of want to stick with that game plan as far as pitching goes. You can go through the majority of a game and throw 10 total breaking balls and the rest fastball/changeup if you locate it well, and so far -- knock on wood -- it has been."
Hoffman beginning to 'peel the onion': Trevor Hoffman has always set his own timetable during Spring Training. On Monday, he threw live batting practice for the first time. Next up is a scheduled appearance in a spring game for the Brewers, likely to come this Friday.
"It's kind of hard to put it in perspective," Hoffman told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "You almost have to pull it out and move it back 2½ weeks, when all of the other pitchers did that. But, when we get to the end of this, the thought process that [trainer] Roger [Caplinger] had is going to play out perfectly. I'll be right where I want to be. I'm happy with the progression.
"Facing hitters, it allows me to add pieces. Today, we added a hitter. Next time, we get rid of the [batting] cage and the shadows it casts, and we add an umpire. You start to peel that onion back with what you're trying to do."
Niese puts hamstring injury behind him: Jon Niese, whose 2009 season was cut short by a right hamstring injury, was happy for the chance to demonstrate that injury is behind him.
On Monday, the Mets pitcher pounced off the mound to grab a ball that ricocheted off him. He later had to spring to first base to cover the bag on another play.
"I think he's over those things," manager Jerry Manuel told the New York Daily News. "He's exorcised those demons, if he had them."
"When I got ready for those plays, I don't think about my hammy," said Niese, who tore his right hamstring last Aug. 5 on a fielding play. "Afterward, I'd be lying if I said I didn't. I think, 'Nice, it doesn't hurt.'"
Cano slotted into No. 5 hole in lineup: With the departure of Hideki Matsui, Yankees manager Joe Girardi believes now is the time to slot Robinson Cano into the fifth spot in the batting order.
"I think it's always been somewhat projected that he would move up in the lineup," Girardi told the New York Daily News. "He's got so much ability and tools, but with young players, sometimes you want to ease him in. To me, Robbie's not a young player anymore, even though he's young on this team."
Lowell makes first spring appearance at first base: Mike Lowell played first base for the Red Sox on Monday, his first appearance there since 1998, when he was still playing in the Minor Leagues for the Yankees.
No balls were hit his way, but he did catch two throws.
"It's very nice to see him on the field," starter Tim Wakefield told the Boston Herald. "He got a great ovation from the fans. I asked him just a little while ago how he felt, and he feels good."
Wakefield said Lowell is very athletic and looked comfortable at first base. He then went on to talk about Lowell's overall qualities.
"The list goes on and on," Wakefield said. "He's been as professional as anyone I've ever played with. He's been a great leader in the clubhouse. He's been a great friend off the field with me. He's just a tremendous guy. To see him battle injuries the last couple years has been difficult to watch, but he's a gamer. He's going to go out there and give you 125 percent every single night. Knowing that, having him out there -- whether it's at first base or whatever his role might be this year -- I'm glad that he's still with us."
Duncan retooling swing in attempt to make Nationals: A few years back, Chris Duncan was an up-and-coming slugger. In 2006 and 2007, he hit 43 homers in 655 at-bats.
After being slowed by a sports hernia and a neck injury, Duncan is in camp with the Nationals, trying to earn a spot on the team while reworking his swing with hitting coach Rick Eckstein.
"When you're trying to make changes, and you're also trying to make a club, that's a real challenge," manager Jim Riggleman told the Washington Post. "It's tough to commit to some change when every at-bat is crucial to you."
Boggs plans to make the most of bullpen role: The Cardinals consider Mitchell Boggs an important part of their bullpen.
"We think he can be an impact reliever for us. He has a power sinker, and he's got the making of a real good slider," pitching coach Dave Duncan told MLB.com. "If he's had any problems, its a little inconsistency, but based on the latter part of the season last year, where he really came around and was throwing good, we got real excited with the potential of him being a real impact reliever."
Boggs says he'll do whatever they tell him to do.
"You have to adapt a little bit," he said. "There's some differences that happen in the bullpen that don't happen in the rotation. I'm not worried about any type of role, I could care less. I just want to go out there and get guys out. And whenever they ask me to do that, [I'll] try to be ready and be on top of my game, so that's all I can do."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.