Sunday, September 19, 2010

Reds SP Homer Bailey 'Dizziness' Likely Passes

Hopefully for Reds starting pitcher Homer Bailey, his recent bout with "dizziness" has passed, and can be dismissed as nothing more serious than common vertigo.

Barring a return of the condition, Bailey will make his next start when the team arrives in Milwaukee, according to the team. Details, however, have been few, in which case one is lead to believe that no news is good news.

Common vertigo-- in which an individual experiences a passing or momentary sensation of spinning -- can be brought on by something as simple as poor hydration or minor inner ear inflammation. This can be dismissed as being little more than episodic and rare, if not virtually unique. It is treatable with common medications.

Pilots at nearby Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton are automatically grounded in such situations, with physicians wary of a risk of an aircrash. In Bailey's case, however, the exposure to injury seems limited to nothing worse than falling off a mound, so there should be little hesitation about running him out there again.

Entirely different consequences can be anticipated if the cause is attributed something more serious, such as a tumor, but given the details in this instance it appears that is all but out of the question.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Indians Travis Hafner: Get Thee to a Nunnally

After weeks of practicing with Indians batting coach Jon Nunnally, designated hitter Travis Hafner finally outfoxed the right field defensive shift routinely used against him as he knocked two sharply lined hits to left field, one a double and one for an RBI, in Friday's 9-3 loss to Seattle.

Hafner, 33, rumored to be in danger of losing his spot in the middle of the Indians batting order as his batting average plunged below .200, has been trying to hit to left since the opening of the season.

A natural left-hander, Hafner had some success, but not enough to discourage opponents from continuing to put on the so-called classic "Williams Shift," originally introduced in the 1940s against former Red Sox Hall of Famer Ted Williams. Generally, the shift leaves third base empty, with the third baseman moving to shortstop, the left fielder shading toward center and the shortstop moving to shallow right field behind second base for a total of six fielders on the right side of the playing field.

Up until now, Hafner had hit a handful of pitches to left, but most or all could be characterized as weak grounders or shallow flies easily caught by the lone shortstop or left fielder. If Hafner can continue to go the other way, opponents may have to remove the shift, which should be a dramatic boost for Hafner's batting average.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Lincoln Option Awaits Indians Shin-Soo Choo?

Indians right fielder Shin-Soo Choo -- a South Korean citizen obligated to submit to two years service in his nation's army -- may be able to take advantage of an Abraham Lincoln option to escape the draft, if all else fails.

President Lincoln -- who in the spring of 1861 attended a baseball game between the Brooklyn Eagles and the old Washington Nationals in the nation's capital -- opted to pay a "commutation fee" enabling Lincoln's son Robert to avoid conscription through the use of a mercenary.

Thus Robert, 21, attending Harvard Law School at the time, remained out of the war until its waning days, when he was given the rank of captain and assigned to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's staff as a glorified greeter. The commutation fee was so disdained by Lincoln's public that eventually it was outlawed in favor of compulsory military service for all otherwise eligible, able-bodied men.

In 1950, however, Allied Supreme Commander Douglas MacArthur reinstated the practice for the sons of wealthy, influential Korean families, authorizing stand-ins to take their place as a KATUSAs (Korean Augmentee to United States Army).

Today the practice continues, but in South Korea is no less disdained than in Lincoln's time. It remains a possible but loathsome alternative to keep Shin-Soo playing in the major leagues, though a more palatable choice would be the granting of an exemption in exchange for his playing for the national baseball team in November's Asian games.

In any event, it's an absolutely safe bet Shin-Soo Choo won't be missing any Major League playing time in an army uniform.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Matt LaPorta Tentative for Indians

Indians rookie Matt LaPorta, coming off surgeries to his toe and hip, says he feels 100-percent healthy, but cannot be sure until he plays in unrestrained, everyday game action.

LaPorta, 25, a 7th overall pick in the 2007 draft, has been limited to playing every other day at the midpoint of Cactus League action; but he has five hits in his first 12 at-bats and has been projected by the team to be fully ready to play when the new season opens.

LaPorta told Sirius/XM Radio's Grant Paulsen that he has been taking reps not only in left field, his newly designated prime position, but also at his former position, first base.

As to which of the two will be his prime position by the end of the year, LaPorta was uncertain.

"To be honest with you, I don't know how to answer that right now," LaPorta told Paulsen.

The 6-foot-3, 240-pound North Dakota native indicated his time at first base has been beneficial for his recovery because the infield is less demanding than the outfield. However, the primary reason he is spending so much time at first base is because Russell Branyan has an ailing back. He didn't mention it, but veteran Travis Hafner has had shoulder trouble in recent years, and will likely take time off as designated hitter, another position at which LaPorta can fill in.

He said he had no objection to be moved around.

"It keeps things new ... and it's a great opportunity for me and the ball club."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mets SS Reyes Wary of Marty Feldman's Disease?

This sounds like a joke, but unfortunately, it's not very funny: Mets shortstop Jose Reyes may not only miss part or all of the 2010 season due to an overactive thyroid, he's even at risk of losing his career and worse yet, might actually end up looking like the late, walleyed comedian Marty Feldman.

Yes, really. Feldman -- whose million-dollar, cockeyed glare reminds one of a pair marbles rolling around in a tin can -- was born with normal eyes, but as an adult acquired his familiar, crazed countenance due to the onset of Graves' Disease, an advanced manifestation of thyroid disorder.

If unarrested, and the nature of the "overactive thyroid" is due to Graves' disease or another form of hyperthyroidism, the condition ultimately could cause Reyes' eyeballs to bug out like a bullfrog due to an infiltrative process to the retro-orbital soft tissue structures. With any luck, however, modern medicine should easily enable Reyes to avoid this, but the possibility remains unclear as long a details continue to remain masked in what New York Times columnist Bill Rhoden has called a "great spring mystery."

Perhaps mindful that doom-and-gloom perceptions have a direct impact not only on the turnstile but on advertising, marketing and finance, the Mets give the appearance of carefully managing the news about Reyes.

While the Marty Feldman alternative ending is remote, a number of questions remain unanswered. For instance, why is the team calling for Reyes to rest? Does that mean no baseball activities or confinement to a sick-bed?

When two weeks would be more than enough time to determine whether blood tests have produced a false positive, why is the team allowing for still another month of inactivity if doctors are not anticipating the possibility of removing or destroying his thyroid gland to bring his body chemistry back into sync?

If doctors determine that Reyes's condition cannot be treated with medicine, why hasn't it been acknowledged that thyroid stabilization through radiation or surgery may require months, or even a year or more, before his metabolism returns to normal?

Perhaps most problematic of all, whether two weeks, six or a year, will the layoff cause Reyes a significant setback in his effort to rehabilitate his damaged hamstring? Add to it, he is clearly going to suffer from deconditioning.

It remains to be seen how this "great spring mystery" will conclude.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Pirates Jeff Clement, Steve Pearce Starting Slowly

The competition for the Pirates starting first baseman's job has begun with Jeff Clement and Steve Pearce neck and neck statistically, and the winner is: Pedro Alvarez!

Yes, you read that right, unlikely though it may be, as preliminary, unofficial rumblings coming out of Grapefruit League camp indicate the possibility of Alvarez moving across the diamond from his natural position at third base if either Clement or Pearce don't kick it into gear by the end of May, perhaps sooner.

Of course, the very idea is still highly speculative at this point, but a potential problem lies primarily with the performance of Clement and Pearce, who once again are starting out slowly.

With fewer than two dozen at-bats between them so far, it's much to early to be drawing conclusions, but the fact remains that Clement is hitting .125 and Pearce .133. The small sample is not especially significant, but their track record is, as both have relatively stellar minor league stats but repeatedly have fallen short at the major league level.

The job is still Clements' to lose, but so far neither he nor Pearce can claim it. The possibility of moving Alverez to first base hinges not only on Clements' and Pearce's continued failure, but on third baseman Andy LaRoche, who also has started out slowly despite a six RBI day.

If LaRoche begins to play up to his potential, he could hold onto the third base job, forcing Alvarez to be considered as a replacement for either Clement or Pearce.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Tim Lincecum, Tim Byrdak Share Same Body Type

Other than the fact that he is right-handed, owns two consecutive Cy Young awards, is 10 years younger and throws about 10 mph faster, the Giants ace Tim Lincecum and Astros situational lefty reliever Tim Byrdak are identical twin brothers by different mothers -- at least where body type is concerned.

Yes the two Tims are each 5 feet 11, and there's not 20 pounds difference between them, with Lincecum weighing in at about 170, Byrdak at 190. Both are exquisitely smallish men in a game where the average major league pitcher's stature now approaches 6 feet 4, and the tallest exceeds 7 feet.

But does it necessarily follow that either one or both are more prone to breakdowns simply because they compete against men generally more than a half a foot taller and 30-50 pounds heavier?

No, not necessarily, Byrdak told It's merely a matter of mechanics and form, not necessarily size, explained the 36-year-old veteran, who has survived more than eight years of sometimes gruelling major league service.

"The reason they keep saying Lincecum is going to break down is because of the way he throws the ball, winds, releases and finishes," Byrdak said. "That's what that is all about."

So if Lincecum, 26, had more fluid mechanics like the soft-tossing Byrdak, would he be more likely to survive as long as Byrdak? Conversely, if Byrdak had adopted Lincecum's relatively violent, hard-throwing style; would they be picking up Byrdak's body parts all over the field by now?

Byrdak, whose lengthy periods of disabled time have been linked to repeated bouts of elbow tendinitis, removal of bone fragments and ligament replacement, declined to guess: "They already picked up my body parts all over the field," he said.

Nomar Garciaparra Buys Red Sox Clubhouse Pass

Former Boston Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra -- now in his current reconfiguration as an ESPN baseball reporter -- has bought himself a new pass to his old team's clubhouse with his tearful reconciliation with Theo Epstein, John Henry, and Larry Lucchino.

Here is the formerly vaunted superstar sitting elbow-to-elbow with the aforementioned suits, all smiles and bouquets as if all his notorious past transgressions have been forgotten and absolved, as if nobody remembers that it was his banishment to the Cubs five years ago -- like the excision of a cancerous tumor -- that so revitalized the then struggling BoSox that they were enabled to come back from the dead to reach the World Series.

Say what you will about those old, unsubstantiated inferences that his body broke down due to the effects of performance enhancing substances, or that he had exaggerated his alleged inabilities to play due to injury and laid down on the job at the critical moment when he was most needed during the 2004 drive toward World Series immortality.

Those in the know fully understand that the heart of the matter was actually Nomar's mercenary position in a proposed $60 million, four-year contract extension negotiation. The team's intransigence had left him bitter and recriminatingly resentful of what he perceived as a lack of appreciation for his previous stellar accomplishments -- accomplishments, by the way, of which he was no longer capable and which failed the acid test in the harsh light of good, old-fashioned New England good sense and frugality.

Though Garciaparra's tarnished relationships with writers have left a cloud over his chance of ever reaching Cooperstown, his Hall of Fame hat logo none-the-less remains at stake, so team has once again clutched him to its bosom and allowed him walk among the players' lockers with the rest of the reporters without seeming to be the interloper that he would be otherwise.

It's a pity that everyone has such a short memory. Rather than appearing with Garciaparra in a scene vaguely reminiscent of John Voigt's love scene in the motion picture "Deliverance," Epstein, Henry and Luccino might better have asked: "Nomar, what have you done for us lately?"

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Rockies Ask What's Miguel Olivo Done Lately?

After struggling at the plate for a half dozen years newly signed Rockies catcher Miguel Olivo undeniably broke through last year with a 23 home run total with the Royals, a rate of approximately one every nine at-bats, or an astonishing potential of 50 total for the season if he had played full time.

And so what are the Rockies asking of their newly signed backstop? What have you done for us lately? With Cactus League games just getting under way the suspense is already over as multiple media reports indicate that Olivo, 31, will be little more than a reserve due to the emergence of the highly regarded Chris Ianetta, 26.

Ianetta, who has 30-homer potential himself, is regarded as a superior glove man as compared to Olivo who, perhaps in part because of communication shortcomings, failed to satisfy the Royals defensive expectations last year. Ianetta will have to fall flat on his face, not only during spring camp, but in the first four to eight weeks of the season if Olivo is to see much more than a couple of hundred plate appearances.

Yankees Tickets at Tip of Gov. Paterson's Iceberg

If Gov. David Paterson had merely taken World Series tickets from the Yankees without paying for them, that could be dismissed as good old-fashioned, Tammany Hall style, New York Democratic Party machine politics as usual.

The problem is the five tickets, supposedly valued at a suspiciously low $2,125, represent just the tip of the iceberg of a potentially titanic load of additional allegations pressuring Patterson to vacate the governor's mansion.

The allegations being investigated include, but are not necessarily limited to, the dubious award of a state racetrack concession and the back room quashing of a court protective order in a domestic dispute that would likely have proved embarrassing to one of Patterson's cronies.

"The writing is on the wall. It's on the ceiling. It's on the floor. It's on the windows," Baruch College political science Prof. Doug Muzzio told the USA Today.

Yes, the handwriting is clear, so clear that not even a blind man could miss it.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Astros Catcher J.R. Towles To Try Doing It His Way

Having established himself in the minors as a .300 hitter with power, it had been a simple progression for former 20th round draft pick J.R. Towles to win the coveted "catcher of the future" mantle three years ago for the soon to be rebuilding Astros.

But somewhere along the line, Towles became overwhelmed, hitting only .149 over the past two seasons in what has become more and more limited playing time.

"I just listened what a lot of people said and I got overloaded," Towles told "I'm just going to go back to what got me here. Go back to the basics."

At 26, Towles can consider himself lucky, for most players with his track record would find themselves demoted to the minors again, perhaps permanently. But with the Astros still rebuilding, and super thin at the catcher position, Towles has been blessed with yet one more opportunity to impress.

Competition at the team's Grapefruit League camp at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Fla., has pitted him against fellow backstop Humberto Quintero, with whom he will share time either as the starter or the backup.

Barring injury or a total breakdown in performance, neither player appears to be destined for the minors just yet, which buys time for Towles. He must rediscover himself soon, for Stanford product Jason Castro, 22, is waiting in the wings.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Indians Rookies Losing Time to Russell Branyan

Just as quickly as 25-year-old rookie Matt LaPorta was penciled in as the starting first baseman for the 2010 Indians, he has been penciled out with the unexpected signing of free agent veteran Russell Branyan, 34.

Likewise, rising young outfielders Michael Brantley and Trevor Crowe stand to be benched or demoted to the minors as newly named manager Manny Acta likely can be expected to dole out the majority of playing time to such other veterans as Travis Hafner, Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore.

In anticipation of a game of musical chairs, LaPorta already has begun taking defensive drills in left field, the only position remaining for him, even though that is the position which had been expected to be claimed by Brantley, son of former major leaguer Mickey Brantley.

"At the end of the day, if everybody's healthy, it obviously is going to impact one of those young guys," Acta told reporters gathered at the team's Cactus League spring training camp at Goodyear, Ariz. "But I guarantee you, both of those guys are going to play every single day somewhere."

With Hafner and Sizemore both hampered last season by various injuries and ailments, the team was left without a great deal of depth should one or both be unable to play up to form, Acta said.
He hinted that some or all -- including Branyan -- will need downtime to stay healthy, thus creating opportunities for the bench.

Without Branyan, who hit 31 homers in 431 at-bats in an injury shortened effort for the Mariners last season, "we were an injury away from not feeling as comfortable," Acta said.

J.D. Drew Mindful of Red Sox Cancellation Clause?

It's not often remembered, but hidden in the fine print of J.D. Drew's $70 million, five-year contract is a stipulation that the Red Sox can release the 34-year-old outfielder if it is determined that his abilities have been significantly impaired as the result of shoulder injuries sustained before he came to Boston.

Having reached a personal, Red Sox high of 24 homers while batting .279 in 137 games last year, Drew so far has had little reason to fear that he will lose his job. Perhaps mindful, however, that baseball careers can end in an instant, Drew is taking no chances.

Drew began pre-season conditioning last month after being shut down for yet another shoulder surgery in October, this one to remove bone spurs so aggravating that he was unable to play last season without being treated with two cortisone injections.

"I had...days when it was a lot worse than others," Drew recently told The Boston Globe's Amalie Benjamin. "The worst part of it was the batting cage and...repetition of swinging the bat. (It) kind of got it aggravated."

Even though the condition worsened as the season wore on, he hit .355 with 12 homers and 30 RBI in the second half of the season, not counting an 0-22 streak immediately after the All-Star game. With that kind of potential, the Red Sox won't begrudge a little downtime for him, if that's what it takes to keep him healthy.

It's a much better alternative than voiding his contract.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Astros GM Ed Wade Warns No Player Untouchable

Astros General Manager Ed Wade has begun his newly extended, three-year tenure by straddling a fine line between the importance of competing for a 2010 playoff berth and the need to reduce costs by dealing players to build for the future.

With a more than $100 million annual payroll to trim and a near bankrupt farm system to replenish, Wade told in an exclusive interview that no player is safe from the trading block, whether a prospect or a star of the caliber of Lance Bergman, Roy Oswalt, Carlos Lee or even the future of the franchise Hunter Pence.

Not that the team is actively seeking out looking suitors, but all offers will at least be considered, especially if value is to be acquired, Wade told

"It's not so much that everybody's on the trading block," Wade explained. "But you can always say 'yes,' if sombody wants to do something stupid. The beauty is, you can always say 'no.' "

Wade, formerly general manager in Philadelphia, came to Houston in 2007, and has won the confidence of owner Drayton McLane despite a losing record. McLain opened Grapefruit League camp in Kissimmee, Fla., by announcing that that Wade's contract has been extended through 2002.

Astros Will Let Hunter Pence Be Hunter Pence

Any number of analysts, scouts and various other prognosticators have foreseen a potential big, big production spike coming for Astros outfielder Hunter Pence as he approaches the prime of his career, but will 2010 be the year?

Don't put it past him; any player of Pence's talent can have a career season not only any year but maybe even every year, says newly appointed Astros manager Brad Mills.

"With him you don't have to worry about peaks and valleys," said Mills during the first day of baseball activities at Astros spring camp at Osceola County Stadium in the Orlando Fla., suburb of Kissimmee.

"We just have to let him be Hunter Pence," Mills said.

And Pence, who in 12 days will observe his 27th birthday, is doing just that, establishing himself as the prototypical first player to arrive in the morning and the last to go home at the end of the day. With position players not expected to arrive until next week, Pence is on the job already, having shown up in camp even before pitchers and catchers to put in a full day of stretching, running and other drills, including some two hours of hitting in the cage.

Is he working on his swing?

"Right now I'm working on the World Series," Pence said lightheartedly yet hinting he thinks the sky's the limit.

Though Pence put up an arguably career best season last year with 25 homers and a .282 batting average, he seems to feel he can reach the next level by putting greater emphasis on his mental approach.

In addition to training all winter under the tutelage of strength and conditioning coach Gene Coleman at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Pence studied various baseball manuals, managers' memoirs, how-to books and even such philosophical essays as "The Art of War," by Sun Tzu, whose thoughts have influenced military leaders from Napoleon to Douglas MacArthur with an emphasis on conditioned responses in fluid situations.

"It's only 100 pages but a I read it twice," said Pence, a former honors student at University of Texas at Arlington.

The six-foot-four, 205-pound phenom, who added about five pounds of muscle during the offseason, wants to cultivate what some trainers have called "muscle memory," in which the body's response is not so much a consequence of the brain's premeditation as it is an automatic reaction, something achievable through repetition.

Pence hopes to counteract his propensity to tinker with his mechanics so that he may "build a foundation for my swing." Whether that means he is approaching a magical career year he won't predict.

"I do feel good about myself coming into this season." Pence told "...I'm coming into this year more prepared than I've ever been."

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Jose Reyes 'Comeback' Portends Trouble for Mets

Injured Mets shortstop Jose Reyes' recent workout demonstration may have been good enough for team vice president David Howard and a bevy of metropolitan reporters that showed up for the coverage at Professional Athletic Performance Center in Garden City, N.Y., but the ill-starred superstar still has a long, long way to go before he can be declared fully recovered.

Though Reyes pledged he would be back "100 percent" come opening day, and urged ticket buyers to, "come and see the show," consider a modest word to the wise: Don't believe the hype.

Yes, Reyes was clocked at 3.52 seconds running the distance between home and first base, and he easily darted and dashed left and right as he fielded a series of bouncing tennis balls. In the course of 90 minutes, he bounded and bounced and biked and stretched, all marks of significant progress for a player coming off a second of two surgeries that left him on crutches as recently as the end of October.

But if his was merely a hamstring injury -- plus the complications of a calf strain and inflammation -- that would be one thing. But this is no ordinary hamstring injury, it is a displacement of the hamstring tendon, a critical tear that fundamentally could leave him with a significant impairment of mobility for the remainder of his life, and about which medical experts must remain guarded even in the best of circumstances.

We are in fact ultimately talking about a breakdown -- a disconnection if you will -- of the sophisticated pully system that impacts rudimentary athlectic command over the lower extremities of both legs, both being equal parts of a working tandem. This is the last line between the bone and the hamstring, the disruption of which marks the type of injury one would more easily find in the rodeo bullring, beneath the horses' legs on the turf of a polo match, or in the back of a crashed automobile, having plunged off the escarpment of the Jersey Pallisades.

It can be fixed but with great difficulty, and only after much time, patience, wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Thus, the view from here is that Jose Reyes likely will not finish the 2010 season, certainly not without tiresome visits to the trainer's table. Every time he gets hurt -- and he will get hurt -- he will be out four to six weeks. If he injures himself the way he did before, he could be out permanently.

This is not rocket science. Any physician trained in trauma can foresee the potential for trouble because of the very nature of the injury, and because Reyes is not just some stationary lummox who stands at first base merely to take throws from across the diamond, or waits on the bench for a chance to pinch hit. We are talking about a finely tuned, high-powered little sports car of a man who trades on speed, hustle, daring and precision carburation and rack and pinion steering.

To be effective, he must have unfettered dominion over all his talents, tools and skills., particularly as he approaches the potential zenith of his prowess at his 27th birthday in June.

With hot-and-cold hitting Jason Bay's medical condition having been disparaged by Red Sox doctors, with Carlos Beltran set to miss the opening of the season with another knee problem, and David Wright having struggled to hit even a mere dozen home runs last year, it looks as though another long, long season may be in the offing for Jose Reyes and the Mets.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

One-time A's Future Closer Joey Devine on Mend

Struggling young pitcher Joey Devine, the one-time closer-of-the-future for the Oakland Athletics, has told a teammate that his recovery from "Tommy John surgery" is on schedule and that he looks forward to game action early next season.

"He thinks that by the end of spring training he'll be ready to face live batters," said former A's closer and now setup man Brad Ziegler in an interview with Sirrius/XM MLB radio channel 175.

Devine, 27, had been given Oakland's closer job during last year's spring camp but underwent elbow surgery in April, after having sustained discomfort likely related to that which interrupted his season the year before. Twelve months is a typical recovery time from the surgical procedure in which the ulner collateral ligament is replaced.

Devine formerly had been cast in the role of future closer for the Braves, but was held back by control problems that ultimately may have manifested in disablement.

The Athletics have since found a closer in the person of Rookie of the Year Andrew Bailey.

Clay Buchholz to Fight for Red Sox Rotation Spot

Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz -- seen by some insiders as a candidate for the bullpen due his team's signing of former Angel ace John Lackey -- has vowed to fight for a rotation spot, even if it pits him against veteran Tim Wakefield.

"I don't want to be over confident that I have a spot," the 25-year-old Buchholz told the Boston Herald. "...Knowing that 'Wake' is back to normal and is going to be here for two more years, he's been here a lot longer than I have. I'm sure he's got seniority on that spot, but I'm going to do what I can to be one of the five guys and go from there if it doesn't happen."

At the same time Wakefield, 44, has expressed frustration at the prospect of having once again to prove himself worthy of being a starter now with Lackey, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka holding down the first four spots in the rotation.

Buchholz was called up from Tripe A Pawtucket when Wakefield went down with an injury last year, and went on to notch a 7-4 record with a 4.21 ERA.

General Manager Theo Epstein told the newspaper that he has remained noncommittal about who will win the No. 5 spot, warning that it is too soon to tell who will be healthy when the season begins.

Ex-D-Back Says Brandon Webb Healthy, Strong

A former Arizona Diamondbacks teammate says right-handed hurler Brandon Webb -- who missed virtually the entire season last year with shoulder difficulties -- is healthy and strong, and is looking to resume his career as one of the National League's premier starters.

"He's feeling great right now," said former Diamondbacks lefty Doug Davis. "He's healthy and strong as well."

Davis, a cancer survivor who last week inked a contract with the Brewers, told Sirrius/XM radio MLB channel 175 that he maintains regular telephone contact with Webb, who is traveling east with his family in Davis' recreational vehicle, which Webb borrowed. Davis said he spoke with Webb as recently as Friday.

Webb had been coming off a 22-7 season in 2008, when he notched a 3.30 ERA and struck out 183 in 226 innings. But he came out of his first game last year with shoulder stiffness, ultimately undergoing arthroscopic surgery in August with the objective of returning to action by spring.

A microscopic camera revealed no structural damage, signaling that Webb likely can expect to return to the mound without a serious setback other than anticipated rustiness associated with his lengthy layoff.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus Sizzles in Caracas

Standout major league shortstop Elvis Andrus -- having received permission from Texas Rangers president Nolan Ryan to delay preparations for travel to spring training in Arizona -- homered for the Mariners in a 7-3 triumph over the Lions in the fifth game of Venezuelan National Baseball League Championship Tuesday in Caracas, the nation's capital.

Play resumes Thursday.

The Mariners now lead the the Lions 3-2 in the seven-game set, with Andrus hitting at a .421 clip, or 8-19. He and brother Erold Andrus, a former prospect in the Tampa Bay Devil Rays system, both homered, the first time brothers have gone deep in the same game in the history of the series. They are Venezuelan natives.

Elvis Andrus initially was to begin preparing for his upcoming departure to Arizona after the fifth game, but received the OK from Texas to stay for the conclusion of the series. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to the Rangers Cactus League training facility in Surprise, Ariz. on Feb. 18, with a workout scheduled the following day.

Andrus was expected to appear this week at the Ballpark at Arlington for a promotional minicamp.

At 20, the former top prospect in the Atlanta Braves organization, was acquired as part of the Mark Teixiera trade, and fairly delighted the Rangers when he finished second in the Rookie-of-the-Year voting after hitting .267 with 33 steals and 72 runs scored in his 2009 campaign.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ex-Cubs Ace Mark Prior Refuses to Give Up

Former Cubs ace Mark Prior -- whose promising career has been nearly destroyed by a myriad of punishing injuries -- refuses to hang up his spikes and has been readying himself for a demonstration before major league scouts in Arizona.

"Mark Prior has not retired," a spokesperson for Prior's agent John Boggs said in terse statement with no details of the 29-year-old hurler's progress during an ongoing rehabilitation program resumed in November.

Neither was there word on any throwing sessions scheduled with observers from teams throughout the majors, though sources familiar with long-shot comeback attempts said such meetings often are held unofficially, one-on-one behind closed doors.

Prior seems to be keeping a low profile, but reportedly was seen in street clothes on New Year's Day in La Jolla, Calif., near his hometown of San Diego. He is recovering from shoulder damage that required multiple surgical repairs, and he also has sustained hamstring, achilles tendon, elbow and oblique injuries.

Prior signed a $1 million contract with the Padres in 2008 but was unable to appear in a single game. He then agreed to an additional $1 million contract with the Padres the following year, contingent upon his callup from the minor leagues.

Again Prior was unable to make even a single appearance, having last pitched in a major league game in 2006, when he went 1-6 with a 7.71 ERA for the Cubs.

Prior signed for a then-record $10.5 million bonus as the second overall pick in the 2001 draft. He notched his most successful season in 2003, when he went 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA while striking out 245 batters in 211.1 innings.