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[February 28, 2014]  The Sports Xchange
 
 02/27/2014 MLB Note - Chicago Cubs Samardzija, Jeff

RHP Jeff Samardzija worked two scoreless innings in the Feb. 27 Cactus League opener against the Diamondbacks. Samardzija, last year's Opening Day starter, gave up two hits. He is the early favorite to pitch the regular-season opener at Pittsburgh. It is also possible Samardzija will be traded, but he made it sound as if that would surprise him. "From what it sounds like right now, we're going head over heels for the season with this team," he said after his start. He and the Cubs are still working on a long-term contract extension.

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MLB Note - Chicago Cubs Bonifacio, Emilio

INF Emilio Bonifacio started at second base in the Cactus League opener against the Diamondbacks. He tripled and scored a run in the first inning. The Cubs recently signed Bonifacio to a minor league contract and invited him to big-league camp. He possesses speed, an item in short supply with the Cubs. It is possible he could stick as a backup infielder.

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MLB Note - Chicago Cubs Fujikawa, Kyuji

RHP Kyuji Fujikawa began throwing off a mound in late February. It was the first time he did so since having Tommy John surgery on his elbow last June. The first session was 20-25 pitches. Fujikawa's elbow injury limited him to just 12 games last season after the Cubs signed him to a two-year deal out of Japan. "It's one step at a time and it's a long process," Fujikawa said through his interpreter. The Cubs hope he can return to major league action sometime during the summer.
 

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MLB Note - Chicago Cubs Hendricks, Kyle

RHP Kyle Hendricks, the organization's minor league pitcher of the year last season, was impressive in an intrasquad game. He is a long shot to make the Opening Day roster, but he could come up sometime during the summer. "He's probably put himself on everybody's radar by the way he went about his business last year," manager Rick Renteria said. "It doesn't hurt anybody to come out and do well."

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MLB Note - Chicago Cubs Vizcaino, Arodys

RHP Arodys Vizcaino, who has not pitched since 2011 because of a long recovery from Tommy John surgery, pitched in an intrasquad game in late February. The Cubs remain hopeful Vizcaino can pitch for them this season, and they would use him out of the bullpen. They obtained him from the Atlanta organization at the July trading deadline in 2012. "I'm just hoping his health continues to not be an issue," manager Rick Renteria said. "His arm is live."

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MLB Note - Milwaukee Brewers Braun, Ryan J.

RF Ryan Braun homered in his first at-bat of the spring, going deep against A's LHP Tommy Milone. It was Braun's first action since accepting a 65-game suspension last season and admitted he used performance-enhancing drugs. As far as his fielding, Braun said he would track as many balls as possible during batting practice each day. Braun is making the move from left field to right field, a position he had not played previously.

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MLB Note - Milwaukee Brewers Wang, Wei-Chung

LHP Wei-Chung Wang admitted he was a bit nervous while pitching in the Brewers' only intrasquad game of the spring. However, the 21-year-old Rule 5 draft pick knew how big of a star RF Ryan Braun is and admitted to taking pride in striking him out.

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MLB Note - Milwaukee Brewers Olmsted, Michael

RHP Michael Olmsted, removed from the 40-man roster over the offseason after a rough year at Triple-A Nashville, struggled in the Brewers' intrasquad game. Olmsted walked two hitters, allowed two hits and a run, and also uncorked a wild pitch.

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MLB Note - Milwaukee Brewers Smith, Will

LHP Will Smith impressed manager Ron Roenicke in his early bullpen sessions in camp. Smith has done some starting in the majors, but Roenicke told Smith he should focus at this point on winning a spot in the bullpen.

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MLB Note - Milwaukee Brewers Herrera, Elian

UT Elian Herrera could be valuable to the Brewers for his remarkable versatility. Herrera not only can play all three outfield spots, he has can play second base, shortstop and third base. That kind of flexibility could be huge on a National League roster.

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MLB Note - Milwaukee Brewers Weeks, Rickie

2B Rickie Weeks started and went 2-for-3 in the Brewers' first Cactus League game. Weeks is battling Scooter Gennett for the starting job. Weeks regressed at the plate the past two seasons. In 104 games last year, he batted only .209 with a .306 on-base percentage, 10 homers and 24 RBIs. Weeks, 31, was lost for the season at the outset of August with a torn hamstring, and Gennett took over. Gennett, 23, raised eyebrows by batting .324 and playing stellar defense, making a strong bid to unseat Weeks.

"Instead of worrying about who's going to start the season, I'm just going to let them play and we'll talk about it later on here in camp," manager Ron Roenicke said.

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MLB Note - Pittsburgh Pirates Pimentel, Stolmy

RHP Stolmy Pimentel is being given a starting pitcher's workload this spring, but the rookie is expected be the Pirates' long reliever when the season begins. Pimentel must make the team this spring or be subjected to waivers if the Pirates try to send him to the minor leagues because his is out of options. The Pirates believe he would be claimed by another team. Pimentel, 24, made his major league debut last September and had 1.93 ERA in five relief appearances.

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MLB Note - Pittsburgh Pirates Sanchez, Tony

C Tony Sanchez is likely ticketed for Triple-A Indianapolis to begin the season as Russell Martin seems set as the starting catcher and Chris Stewart as the backup. However, the 25-year-old rookie is giving the Pirates something to think about in the early days of exhibition games. He hit three-run home runs both Tuesday in the Black-Gold intrasquad game and Wednesday in the Grapefruit League opener against the New York Yankees. Sanchez made his major league debut with the Pirates last season and batted .233 with two homers in 22 games.

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MLB Note - Pittsburgh Pirates Ishikawa, Travis

1B Travis Ishikawa, in spring training as a non-roster player, was removed after one inning of the Black-Gold intraquad game on Tuesday because of tightness in his right calf. He is likely out through the weekend. A long shot to make the team, Ishikawa played in a combined seven games with the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees last season, going 2-for-19 (.105).

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MLB Note - Pittsburgh Pirates McCutchen, Andrew

CF Andrew McCutchen is working on his baserunning this spring after winning the National League MVP award last season. He stole 27 bases in 37 attempts last season for a 73 percent success rate. McCutchen would like to increase both his stolen base percentage and volume of steals in 2014.

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MLB Note - Pittsburgh Pirates Grilli, Jason

RHP Jason Grilli is lagging behind the rest of the pitchers in his throwing program this spring and that is by design. The 37-year-old closer wants to conserve his energy for the regular season after pitching in 54 games last season and posting 33 saves with a 2.70 ERA. Grilli will likely make his first Grapefruit League appearance either Monday against the Boston Red Sox in Bradenton or Tuesday against the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland. "For a reliever, spring training can be too long," Grilli said. "How many times do I have to go out there to pitch one inning?"

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MLB Note - St. Louis Cardinals Martinez, Carlos E.

RHP Carlos Martinez embarrassed the Cardinals over dozens of graphic images he had on his public Twitter page and helped him remove the pornographic photos and links from his "favorites" page. Before he could delete them, the page had gone viral, spread by Twitter users and Deadspin.com. "We're embarrassed, and he's embarrassed," said manager Mike Matheny, who spoke to the 22-year-old right-hander. "I'm not trying to shove my morality down anybody's throat. I've made that very clear. But I also need to be concerned about it. Is this something you'd want your kids to see? Is this something that you want to be known for? Is this how you want to be remembered? We are, like it or not, role models. Regardless of your moral compass and where it points, those sorts of things that we're talking about are not things we want our kids seeing."

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MLB Note - St. Louis Cardinals Rosenthal, Trevor

RHP Trevor Rosenthal had to cut short a batting practice throwing session because of soreness in his right quad. "It's nothing real serious," the closer said. "Being this early, I thought I would say something and take care of it now. If it was during the season, I feel it would be nothing worth stopping. I just thought I'd say something."

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MLB Note - St. Louis Cardinals Motte, Jason

RHP Jason Motte, who missed last season after Tommy John elbow surgery, is progressing but doesn't think he'll be ready for the start of the regular season on March 31. "You don't want to push it because then you end up messing with your arm, your shoulder and other stuff because it's not quite ready," Motte said. "I don't want to push for April and have trouble when I could be ready later and pitch the whole season."

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MLB Note - St. Louis Cardinals Craig, Allen

RF Allen Craig, seemingly healed from the severely sprained foot he suffered last September, fell three RBIs shy of 100 after knocking in 92 runs in an injury-plagued 2012 season. "I don't think about 'woulda, coulda, shoulda,'" Craig told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I think I've done a good job preparing myself every year to play every game. I've had a couple of unfortunate injuries as a result of fluky things trying to make a play happen. My goal is to play every single game, but I'm not looking back regretting anything. I've played hard."

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MLB Note - St. Louis Cardinals Robinson, Shane

OF Shane Robinson, a valuable reserve who helped win a couple of playoff games last year, finds himself fighting for a job again. But he said, "You can get in trouble if you focus on, 'Oh, man. Every year I come in here, nothing's ever given to me. And when is it going to be my chance to have a little pressure off me in the spring?' If I think that way, then I might not be in the spot I am. It gives me some edge. It keeps me competitive."

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MLB Note - St. Louis Cardinals Garcia, Jaime

LHP Jaime Garcia, who missed significant time in the last two seasons because of shoulder problems leading to labrum and rotator cuff surgery last May, probably will not be ready at the start of this season either. Garcia, after experiencing discomfort following a throwing session before the exhibition season began, saw two doctors and then got a cortisone shot for his shoulder before returning to camp. But when he will pitch again is uncertain.

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MLB Note - Cincinnati Reds Simon, Alfredo

RHP Alfredo Simon started the exhibition opener and went two scoreless innings. With RHP Mat Latos on the mend, the Reds are considering Simon as a starter. "We do know we're short one starter right now with Mat, so someone's going to be making that start," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "We have an interesting situation with Tony Cingrani looking really good as our fifth starter. We've got to look really hard at the guys who are next in line, if we were to have any setbacks where Mat wasn't ready to start the season, we've got to look at the group we have here, which would include Simon. He's got a starter's background and a very, very durable arm, so we want to look at him in longer stretches because we know he can pitch out of the bullpen. He's a big, durable kid, who throw strikes. We're going to stretch him out possibly beyond (two, three innings) as a just-in-case as we get toward the back-end, decrease the workload."

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MLB Note - Cincinnati Reds Broxton, Jonathan

RHP Jonathan Broxton threw his first bullpen session since his August elbow surgery on Feb. 24, and it went well. Broxton is still in line to be ready by Opening Day.

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MLB Note - Cincinnati Reds Latos, Mat

RHP Mat Latos is working out with the team again. Latos was held out of drills for a week and a half after having minor knee surgery on Feb. 14. "I feel like I'm part of the team again," he said. "I was going crazy, pulling my hair out. It was fun to be out and joke around again." Latos is progressing well, but he still hasn't thrown off the mound. "I feel fantastic," he said. "I'm taking it day to day. I don't want to put pressure by setting a date."

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MLB Note - Cincinnati Reds Cozart, Zack

SS Zack Cozart hit .254 overall last year, but he hit .287 from July 11 till the end of the season. "I ended the year pretty confident," Cozart said. "I wanted to continue on that. My simple thought the last two months was: middle, the other way. I'm staying with that approach. I think you can look back at those last two months and see I hit probably double the amount of balls to right field and I did early in the year. I want to stick to that approach."

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MLB Note - Cincinnati Reds Corcino, Daniel

RHP Daniel Corcino entered last year as club's fourth-rated prospect but went 7-14 with a 5.86 ERA at Triple-A. "It was a step back for (him)," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "But I don't think he was ever right. He turned around a bit in the second, but his arm slot was low, his stuff was flat, his velocity was down on both fastball and slider. His command fell by the wayside."
 

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MLB Note - New York Yankees Jeter, Derek

SS Derek Jeter made his Grapefruit League debut Feb. 27 and went 0-for-2 while playing five innings in the field in an 8-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The 39-year-old veteran, who played in only 17 games last season because of a fractured ankle and leg problems, grounded into a double play and grounded out to third base. In the field, Jeter's only action was a tag at second base on a stolen-base attempt.

"I feel like I haven't played a game in a couple of years," Jeter said. "That's what it felt like, even though I played a couple last year. I think just getting out there (felt good). I don't know if there's one thing in particular, but just getting into a game, feeling good, that's what I was most excited about."

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MLB Note - Los Angeles Dodgers Greinke, Zack

RHP Zack Greinke made just four pitches in his spring training debut Feb. 27 before leaving the Cactus League game against the Diamondbacks with a right calf injury.

The ailment, which Greinke described as feeling like a cramp, was diagnosed as a mild calf strain. However, he acknowledged he might not be ready for Opening Day.

Greinke landed awkwardly while making a pitch to Arizona 2B Cliff Pennington and was limping after throwing another pitch. Dodgers trainer Stan Conte and manager Don Mattingly came to the mound, and Greinke attempted several warm-up tosses before he left the game and headed to the clubhouse.

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MLB Note - Oakland Athletics Elmore, Jake

INF Jake Elmore, designated for assignment by the White Sox on Feb. 26, was traded to the A's the next day in a cash deal. Elmore, 26, played all nine positions for the Astros last season, when he hit .242/.313/.325 with two homers and six RBIs in 52 games. Chicago picked him up off waivers from Houston in November.

"Jake adds versatility to our roster and provides an option for (manager) Bob (Melvin) at a number of spots," A's assistant GM David Forst told the San Francisco Chronicle. "We had tried to acquire him each time he was on waivers in 2013 and are excited that we found a way to finally add him to the organization."

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MLB Note - Oakland Athletics Parrino, Andy

INF Andy Parrino was designated for assignment by the A's on Feb. 27 to clear a roster spot for newly acquired INF Jake Elmore. Parrino, 28, went 4-for-34 (.118) with one RBI in 14 games for Oakland last year. He also had brief major league stints with the Padres in 2011 and 2012.

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