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02-25-2006, 06:06 PM
February 25, 2006
Pirates' Wells has arm fatigue

Associated Press

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Kip Wells has what the Pittsburgh Pirates say is a fatigued pitching arm and they've sent the right-hander to a specialist.
The 28-year-old right-hander was expected to rejoin the Pirates on Sunday after his visit Saturday to an arm specialist in St. Louis, general manager Dave Littlefield said.

"He told us Thursday he felt some fatigue, and we really don't know much specifically beyond that," Littlefield said.

Littlefield said the injury did not appear to be related to recurring hand and elbow irritation that hampered Wells during the 2004 season.

Wells is coming off a disappointing 2005 in which he went 8-18 with a 5.09 ERA. The Pirates signed him to a one-year, $4.15 million contract in December.

"Our approach in any situation like that this early in the spring is to err on the side of caution," manager Jim Tracy said.


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February 25, 2006
Shoulder injury sidelines Nats' Lawrence

Associated Press

VIERA, Fla. -- Washington Nationals pitcher Brian Lawrence has a torn right shoulder and will be sidelined until the All-Star break.
The tear was diagnosed after an MRI test, team doctor Bruce Thomas said Saturday.

Lawrence came into training camp hoping to make the starting rotation. Now it's likely he won't return until midseason or later, Thomas said.

"Injuries have never been an issue with me," Lawrence said. "I never felt any pain until the first day I showed up here."

Lawrence started throwing the day before workouts officially began. He said he felt good, but something went wrong after his first bullpen session.

"I threw and it was hurting. I actually felt decent, but then the next day it wasn't there," he said.

The MRI test showed a split in his labrum, "a small washer-shaped shock absorber in the shoulder" Thomas said.

The Nationals acquired Lawrence from the San Diego Padres for third baseman Vinny Castilla at the end of last season. Lawrence went 7-15 with a 4.83 ERA in 33 starts for the Padres in 2005. He struck out 109 batters and walked 57 in 195 2-3 innings.

The 29-year-old right-hander is 49-61 with a 4.10 ERA in his five-year major league career.

Livan Hernandez and John Patterson have locked up starting spots. Tony Armas Jr. and Lawrence were battling with Ramon Ortiz, Ryan Drese and Jon Rauch for the three remaining spots.


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February 25, 2006
Astros' Lidge wants to close book on shaky postseason

Associated Press

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Houston Astros closer Brad Lidge is done answering the questions.

Yes, he feels bad about allowing two game-winning home runs in last year's playoffs -- one in Game 5 of the NLCS, the other in Game 2 of the World Series. And no, he hasn't forgotten the single Jermaine Dye hit against him to clinch the World Series for the Chicago White Sox in Game 4.

No, he hasn't sought professional help. And no, he didn't spend the winter sadly poring over the fateful pitches.

Yes, his confidence is fine and if those situations arise again, he would love to have the ball in his hand.

If anyone asks again, Lidge will politely say he's moved on, looking toward the 2006 season, and the person asking should do the same.

"I've always felt like I'd answer everybody's questions until I thought the issue had run its course," Lidge said. "At some point, I have to turn the page, and everybody else does, too."

Lidge saved 42 games in 2005, a career high and the second-best season total in Astros history. He struck out 103, best among relievers, and saved nine games in September, a team record.

For now, though, his name is linked not to a great season, but to a pair of memorable postseason home runs:

--Albert Pujols' two-out, three-run blast at Minute Maid Park that kept St. Louis alive in the NLCS. Lidge had the Astros a strike away from the World Series, then hung a slider.

--Scott Podsednik's solo shot in Chicago that put the White Sox up 2-0 in the World Series. Podsednik hadn't homered in 507 regular-season at-bats, but hammered what Lidge thought was a decent fastball.

Of course, Lidge remembers. But he also remembers the three straight playoff games he saved before Pujols' homer, striking out the side in his first All-Star game and earning saves in 24 consecutive appearances last summer, a team record.

"Last year was an incredible year for me," Lidge said. "The last week of the season was not what I wanted. The year, as a whole, made me really happy."

Not long after the White Sox swept the Astros, Lidge drove home to Englewood, Colo., and didn't touch a baseball until Jan. 2. He toured England and Scotland with wife Lindsay and their 1-year-old daughter Avery, then went to the Caribbean island of St. Lucia for his sister's wedding.

Even after the jarring losses, he changed nothing in his offseason schedule. He always plans a trip to Europe in the fall and escapes from baseball until the start of the new year.

"As soon as the last game is played, whatever game that is, I stick to that routine," Lidge said.

He accepted an invitation to compete in the World Baseball Classic and arrived at Astros camp ready for a new season and a new pitch -- a split-finger fastball to go with his straight fastball and hard slider.

As spring training began, Lidge answered questions about the '05 postseason one more time, then imposed a personal gag order on the subject.

"I don't feel like I have anything to prove," he said. "The only thing I'm concerned with is what my teammates think, and I don't have anything to prove to them."

In fact, they still want him pitching at the end of a tight game.

"As soon as he gave up that home run to Pujols, every guy in that clubhouse wanted him on the mound the next night," infielder Mike Lamb said. "Everybody is confident with him out there."

Last year's postseason won't keep the coaching staff from calling on Lidge, either.

"That might as well have been 100 years ago," pitching coach Jim Hickey said. "I have no concerns whatsoever that this will have any effect on Brad at all, other than a positive one. It'll make him even better, make him even stronger. He's so strong mentally, he'll use it to his advantage."


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February 25, 2006
Prior, Wood throw for Cubs

Associated Press

The Chicago Cubs are taking their time with two of their best pitchers.
Mark Prior and Kerry Wood threw in their first appearances off a pitching mound this spring. Wood is recovering from arthroscopic shoulder surgery on Aug. 31, and the Cubs are going slowly with Prior in an attempt to avoid elbow problems that bothered him the previous two springs.

"It felt a little awkward," Prior said. "But it was good to get up there and to start working to try to get down there on a nice angle and see a guy with a catcher's mitt and get after it."

Chicago says Prior will pitch in an exhibition game in early March, perhaps the second time through the rotation. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild said Prior is still in line to start during the team's first regular-season series in Cincinnati.

"He looked OK, for where we are," Rothschild said. "He finished up pretty strong. We'll pick it up there the next time."

Prior said he threw at about 50 percent exertion on the 20 pitches from the mound Friday at Cubs camp in Mesa, Ariz. Rothschild said Wood threw about 15 pitches from the mound.

"He threw off the mound toward the end, really just to get him up on the hill and get used to the slope again and get his balance and things like that right," Rothschild said.

At Kissimmee, Fla., Jeff Bagwell arrived at Houston's spring training camp, his future still uncertain because the Astros filed an insurance claim stating that he's too hurt to play.

"This is what I do, this is who I am," he said. "I can't just go away. That's not in my nature. I'm going to need a couple of weeks to see where I'm at and then make a decision from there."

Bagwell had surgery in June on his right shoulder, and the Astros want to recoup about $15.6 million of the $17 million he is guaranteed this season.

The 37-year-old first baseman fielded grounders, made light throws and spent most of the team's first full-squad workout in the batting cage.

At Fort Myers, Fla., the Boston Red Sox said bullpen coach Al Nipper will fill in for pitching coach Dave Wallace, who is expected to be sidelined for several months while recovering from right hip surgery, made necessary by an infection.

Wallace was in stable condition after the operation Thursday at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He developed the infection about three weeks ago during his drive south for the start of spring training. The infection was related to a hip replacement he had about 10 years ago.

"He put together a good situation and had a good program in place, so I'm just trying to carry it out," said Nipper, who pitched for Boston from 1983-87. "I'm just keeping the seat warm right now for him."

At Tampa, Fla., Gary Sheffield vented his frustration, then left Legends Field upbeat about his future with the New York Yankees.

Sheffield was angry over television reports about a meeting earlier this week during which New York general manager Brian Cashman said the team would likely pick up his $13 million option for next season.

"The way it looked on TV, it made me look like I was 2 years old," Sheffield said, "like I can't go into a room, be told something and then tell you what I was told. If I come out of the room positive, are they playing games with me or something? You're supposed to be positive if your general manager comes out and says there's a possibility they'll pick up your option. They don't see no reason not to. I produced for two years. What else do you want me to do?"

Sheffield is entering the final season of a $39 million, three-year contract, a deal that includes a $13 million club option for 2007.

At Dunedin, Fla., Blue Jays center fielder Vernon Wells returned to spring training after his strained left quadriceps were examined by doctors in Toronto. The two-time Gold Glove winner, injured while lifting weights last weekend, participated in Friday's workout.

"I was able to jog, probably got up to 50 percent today," Wells said. "You're a little hesitant to do things just because you don't want to hurt it and have to start all over again. We'll gradually get into things now and hopefully by the end of the week get up to full speed."

At Tempe, Ariz., closer Francisco Rodriguez arrived at spring training Friday, joining his Los Angeles Angels teammates nine days after the team's voluntary reporting date for pitchers and catchers.

The 24-year-old right-hander was initially delayed because of an ailing aunt in Cuba and then had visa problems in his native Venezuela.

"It was a very unfortunate situation and one that we couldn't control," Rodriguez said.

The mandatory reporting date is next Tuesday, 33 days before the season opens.

At Vero Beach, Fla., Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder J.D. Drew reported to camp and participated in his first workout of spring training. Drew was a late arrival because he was home with his wife, Sheigh, following the birth of their first child, Jack David, on Sunday night.

"J.D. feels good. He's a proud papa," Dodgers manager Grady Little said. "He was glad of what he was able to accomplish at home, and also very glad to be here."

In Phoenix, Oakland said Frank Thomas will be able to intensify workouts after doctors gave the Athletics positive reports on his recovering left ankle. Thomas, limited to 108 games the past two seasons because of broken bones in the ankle, was being held out of baseball activities after tests Wednesday.

"All signs point to Frank hitting off the tee and soft tosses Saturday," trainer Larry Davis said. "He's ready to go."


02-25-2006, 06:11 PM
February 23, 2006
Gagne faces hitters for first time since June

Associated Press

Los Angeles Dodgers closer Eric Gagne faced hitters Thursday for the first time since undergoing elbow surgery last June and was pleased with the results.
He hopes to be ready for opening day, though he doesn't have a timetable.

"I expected to feel good but I didn't expect to have so much zip on my fastball and movement on my changeup," Gagne said. "I was surprised. It's reassuring. I was under control, staying inside myself and throwing about 80 percent. The ball was going where I wanted it to, which is a big thing."

The 2003 NL Cy Young Award winner was limited to 14 games last season due to arm and knee injuries. On June 24, he had surgery to repair a ligament in his elbow.

Pat Borders, who caught Gagne's 20-pitch, four-batter session, said the right-hander mixed fastballs, changeups and sliders. Gagne did not throw a curveball but said there wasn't a specific reason why not.

"I didn't know until after that, that was the first time he'd thrown against live hitters since last year," Borders said. "That being said, it made what he did out there more impressive. His changeup was super."

In Fort Myers, Fla., the Boston Red Sox had their first full-squad workout, with Manny Ramirez the only no-show.

The slugging left fielder previously received permission from the club to report next Wednesday, one day after the mandatory reporting date.

Red Sox president Larry Lucchino declined to take the bait when asked about New York owner George Steinbrenner's statement the previous day that the Yankees would win the World Series.

"We have enough to worry about in our own camp let alone worrying about what everybody else says in other camps," Lucchino said. "I take that as an expression of optimism rather than as a prediction. I'm glad he's optimistic but we have nothing in common on that. We still see ourselves as David against Goliath."

Ramirez and former Red Sox teammate Pedro Martinez might withdraw from the Dominican Republic's team in the World Baseball Classic. Martinez, who has a toe injury, still hasn't pitched off a mound in spring training for the New York Mets. He said Thursday he will definitely miss the first round of the tournament.

"Our understanding is that Pedro, very frankly, is doubtful," said Gene Orza, the No. 2 official of the players' association. "It's still possible he will play, but I think it's at best 50-50 right now."

Orza has spoken in recent days with representatives for Martinez and Ramirez.

"Coming to camp on March 1 doesn't bode well for Manny's participation," Orza said.

The Dominicans won't have Texas Rangers closer Francisco Cordero, who has a sore shoulder, or Arizona reliever Jose Valverde, who pulled out because he wants to prepare for his season with the Diamondbacks. Both were on the Dominican Republic's preliminary roster.

At Scottsdale, Ariz., Barry Bonds had a quiet second day in spring training with a much smaller media contingent present than upon his arrival the previous day.

"What happened to the mob?" Giants manager Felipe Alou said. "The mobsters."

Bonds hit five home runs in batting practice against first-base coach Luis Pujols, including two consecutive balls into the right-field picnic area.

At the end of his workout, Bonds took a nap on the floor in the far corner of the clubhouse.

Alou said Bonds wouldn't play in an intrasquad game next Wednesday and probably would be limited to games in which he can be the designated hitter. The Giants' concern now is how Bonds will react to running in the field or on the bases.

At Viera Fla., Alfonso Soriano still isn't ready to commit to playing the outfield for the Washington Nationals, so a resolution will have to wait until after the World Baseball Classic.

A two-hour meeting with team officials failed to produce a breakthrough, and the parties essentially agreed to put off the problem.

"We've been pretty clear about being unclear," general manager Jim Bowden said.

Soriano will be allowed to work out at second base with the Nationals for the first few days of spring training because that is the position he will play for the Dominican Republic. Soriano reports to the Dominican team March 3 and could return as late as March 21.

At Lakeland, Fla., Detroit manager Jim Leyland announced veteran left-hander Kenny Rogers will start the Tigers' season-opener April 3 at Kansas City.

"I think it's just a respect factor. I think he's earned that over his career," Leyland said of the 41-year-old Rogers, who was 14-8 with a 3.46 ERA last season with the Texas Rangers.

Jeremy Bonderman, last year's opening-day starter, will pitch the home opener April 10 against the defending world champion Chicago White Sox.

At Mesa, Ariz., Carlos Zambrano, slimmer after losing 15-20 pounds in the offseason, talked about his lofty expectations this season.

"One of my goals is to win the Cy Young and help this team to go to the World Series," said Zambrano, who used all his pitches during the team's first session of live batting practice.

At Phoenix, Frank Thomas arrived at Oakland Athletics spring training but won't be able to take part in workouts until the team's doctors check out an MRI of his surgically repaired left ankle.

He said he plans to spend most of the spring hitting in "B" games with minor leaguers.

"I'll spend more time on the back fields getting my eye going and timing," he said. "I'm going to take these at-bats seriously on the back field. As we get close to opening day, if they want to mix me in that's fine. I'll be ready to go."


02-26-2006, 02:10 PM
February 26, 2006
Pirates' Wells has total blockage of artery in right arm

BRADENTON, Florida (Ticker) - Pittsburgh Pirates righthander Kip Wells was found to have total blockage of the axillary artery in his pitching arm, the team announced on Sunday.

Wells was examined Saturday in St. Louis by Dr. Robert Thompson, a surgeon who specializes in blood clots, after complaining of arm fatigue in his right arm.

The angiogram revealed that Wells had complete blockage in the main artery, located under the clavicle, which supplies blood to the upper extremities.

There is no timetable for Wells' return.

Wells, 28, is expected to seek a second opinion before the Pirates announce any additional information.

Pittsburgh signed Wells to a one-year contract worth $4.15 million last month, averting arbitration.

Ironically, Wells earned roughly a raise of $1 million despite coming off a season in which he went 8-18 with a 5.09 ERA. He led the National League in losses and walks (99).

In seven years in the major leagues, Wells has compiled a 55-69 record with a 4.36 ERA for the Chicago White Sox and Pirates. He recorded a career-high 12 wins for Pittsburgh in 2002 and followed with a career-best 3.28 ERA the following season.

A first-round pick of the White Sox in 1998, Wells was traded to the Pirates in December 2001 in a five-player deal in which Chicago received righthander Todd Ritchie.

http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news;_ylt=AgoTqk5Ep.iNY7YTJYXQ1IARvLYF?slug=pirate skipwells&prov=st&type=lgns

02-26-2006, 02:11 PM
February 25, 2006
Nationals RHP Lawrence out with torn labrum

VIERA, Florida (Ticker) - Brian Lawrence's tenure with the Washington Nationals is off to a bad start.

The Nationals learned that Lawrence, who was acquired in a trade with the San Diego Padres in the offseason, will be out at least until the All-Star break with a torn right labrum.

Lawrence, 29, began to feel pain in his shoulder earlier in the week and had an MRI on Saturday, which confirmed the injury.

The righthander went 7-15 with a 4.83 ERA in 33 starts for the Padres last season before being sent to the Nationals for third baseman Vinny Castilla on November 3. The trade became official when Lawrence passed a physical, which showed no indication of the injury.

Lawrence was expected to compete for a spot in Washington's rotation. His spot could be taken by Tony Armas Jr., Jon Rauch or Ramon Ortiz.

In five seasons with San Diego, Lawrence went 49-61 with a 4.10 ERA in 162 games, 146 as a starter. He enjoyed his best season in 2004, going 15-14 with a 4.12 ERA in 203 innings.

http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news;_ylt=Ak8DKrnQAaTjpw.fNoitZUQRvLYF?slug=nation alslawrence&prov=st&type=lgns

02-26-2006, 02:31 PM
The Nationals acquired Lawrence from the San Diego Padres for third baseman Vinny Castilla at the end of last season.

Jim Bowden officially has the reverse Midas touch at this juncture of his career.

See ya on that Pizza show Jimbo.

02-26-2006, 06:44 PM
Feb. 26, 2006, 2:29 PM ET
Rocket to pitch to minor-leaguers at Astros campAssociated Press

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Roger Clemens will pitch to minor-leaguers at Houston Astros spring training camp on Monday, his oldest son and the Astros said.

The 43-year-old Clemens wants to pitch in the World Baseball Classic and then decide if he'll retire or play a 23rd season, said Koby Clemens, a third baseman in the Astros' farm system.

Koby Clemens said his father was due to arrive in Florida on Sunday night and was planning to pitch to minor-leaguers in a simulated game setting Monday morning. Koby has been working out at Astros spring training camp since Thursday.

The Astros confirmed that the seven-time Cy Young winner would be at camp on Monday.

Clemens, a free agent, wasn't offered salary arbitration by the Astros and cannot re-sign with them until May 1. He could join another team before that, and Texas, Boston and the Yankees are reportedly interested.

Houston general manager Tim Purpura said the Astros got permission from Major League Baseball to allow the Rocket to pitch at their spring training complex.

Clemens led the major leagues with a 1.87 ERA last year but was plagued by back and hamstring problems late in the season. He limped off the field after just two innings in the World Series opener.

Koby Clemens said his dad was ready to retire in December, but his family talked him out of it.

"We were all like, 'You should wait and allow yourself to rest your body,'" Koby said. "He was still kind of hurting, kind of tired. He was like, 'I don't want to do this again.'"

Many of the Astros expect Clemens to play for them again this season. Manager Phil Garner said Sunday he hasn't asked Clemens what he'll do but thought the Astros offered the best situation -- a shortened season close to his family and his home.

"He knows how much we would like to have him back," Garner said. "I think this is the perfect spot for him."