There are now fewer skeptics of Adam Wainwright's move from the bullpen to the starting rotation.
03/12/2008 1:16 PM ET
Starting to believe in Wainwright
Cards pitcher is getting used to being a starter
Coming off his first season as a starter, in which he went 14-12 with a 3.70 ERA with 136 strikeouts and 70 walks for the Cardinals, the 6-foot-7 right-hander now seems poised to join the game's upper echelon of starters. On Monday, he pitched five strong innings, retiring the last nine batters he faced against the Braves, who drafted him with the 29th pick of the first round in 2000.
"If he can do what he did last year and the year before, then he's mentally tougher than the people who doubted him," John Smoltz, who befriended Wainwright when he was Atlanta's first-round pick, told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I'm going to be the first one to say I thought they were making a big mistake taking him out of that [relief] role. ... I was saying, 'Oh, no,' but it worked."
Wainwright said that pitching coach Dave Duncan had reminded him to be aggressive following a start last week that pleased neither of them.
"Duncan said, 'Hey, you don't appear to be attacking the hitters, you don't appear to be aggressive,'" Wainwright recalled. "As a pitcher, that is the one thing that you want to portray to the hitters, is that I'm aggressive. I'm going to attack you and you better be ready to swing. If I don't look like it, then I must not be aggressive."
"The kid surprised the heck out of me," Smoltz said. "I'm happy for him. All of sudden he's pushed to the front of the line."
Zito changes delivery to aid command: Barry Zito is using Spring Training to work on a new delivery.
The big left-hander is shortening his windup by not bringing his hands over his head. He hopes the change will improve his command and help compensate for a gradual loss of velocity.
"I thought he looked good," pitching coach Dave Righetti told The San Francisco Chronicle. "I liked the plane of his ball. I thought he was fine, especially in the windup. Unfortunately, he had to pitch in the stretch a bunch.
"He just felt like it was cleaner, like it was easier for his rhythm. He's got all the movement in his hands that's making him a little bit late in terms of delivering the pitch that he wanted, and I agree, so he went out yesterday and worked on it for the first time."
Hanrahan shines out of bullpen: The Nationals moved Joel Hanrahan to the bullpen this spring because he had trouble with pitch counts in the Majors last year. So far the results have been positive. He's allowed just two hits in 7 2/3 innings this spring and has allowed just one walk while fanning 12. On Tuesday night versus Atlanta, he struck out Chipper Jones, Mark Texeira and Jeff Francoeur in order.
"It is only Spring Training," Hanrahan told The Washington Post. "I don't really know what to say about it."
Beltran brings 'little weird' feeling to debut: Carlos Beltran appeared in his first game of the spring Monday against Boston, going 0-for-3 as the designated hitter. Beltran has been sidelined by sore knees that he had surgery on last October.
"I felt a little weird," Beltran told Newsday. "I told [manager] Willie [Randolph] just to give me a chance to play as a DH first. Once I develop confidence, then I can go to the outfield and play a whole game like it's supposed to be."
Park marching toward No. 5 spot in rotation: The Dodgers invited Chan Ho Park to Spring Training for a chance to compete for the team's fifth starter job. The former Dodger has had an impressive spring, allowing just two hits and two walks in seven scoreless innings.
"I don't compete against anybody. I just compete against the hitters," Park told The Los Angeles Times. "Yes, my goal is to try to make the team. But not in the game. In the game, you've got to get the hitters out. So I try to focus on that. I just go one pitch at a time."
Marte battling for role as utility player: Just one year ago, Andy Marte began the season as the Cleveland Indians' starting third baseman. But after straining a hamstring early in April, Marte didn't return to Cleveland until September. He now finds that he's working to make the Indians' roster in a utility role.
"I came to camp a lot more comfortable," Marte told The Akron Beacon Journal. "They told me in the one-on-one meetings that I need to be relaxed. That helped me a lot. They're not trying to put a lot of things in my head right now."
Oswalt throws 70 pitches over four innings: Scheduled to pitch on Opening Day against the Padres, Roy Oswalt is right on schedule after throwing 70 pitches against the Blue Jays on Monday. In four innings of work, Oswalt allowed three runs on six hits.
"I felt good enough to throw 20 or 30 more," Oswalt told The Houston Chronicle. "I started feeling better late in the game."
Villarreal making push as setup option: When the Astros acquired Oscar Villarreal from the Braves in the offseason, the club expected the right-hander to play a vital role in the bullpen. He moved in the right direction on Monday when he threw two scoreless innings against Toronto.
"Possibly," manager Cecil Cooper told The Houston Chronicle about the possibility of Villarreal filling a setup role along with Doug Brocail. "We just have to see how it shakes toward the end. We've got the guy at the end [in closer Jose Valverde]. We just have to get to the guy. We have some options there."
Benitez added to Toronto pitching corps: The Blue Jays added some veteran depth to their bullpen Tuesday by signing Armando Benitez, 35, to a Minor League contract. Benitez is set to report to camp on Thursday.
"He hasn't got in shape, but we're going to keep stockpiling as many arms as we can," general manager J.P. Ricciardi told The Toronto Star. "Nothing ventured, nothing gained. We're not looking for a closer."
Benitez has earned 289 saves in 14 seasons but would be used in middle relief or as a setup man should he earn a spot on the roster. Last season with San Francisco and Florida, he was 2-8 with a 5.36 ERA.
Gallardo on target after knee surgery: Yovani Gallardo hopes he can take a step toward a return to the starting rotation when he throws live batting practice to hitters in the Minor League camp on Wednesday.
Gallardo has been out since having torn cartilage removed from his knee at the start of camp. The plan is to bring Gallardo along at a pace to have him back in the starting rotation by mid-April.
"He's right on schedule," manager Ned Yost told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Matsui in good shape after first appearance: Hideki Matsui went 0-for-3 on Monday for the Yankees in their 6-4 exhibition win over the Twins, but what had the outfielder and the club happy was the fact that he felt healthy after his first action of Spring Training.
"No problems," Matsui, who is recovering from offseason knee surgery and missed three days with a stiff neck, told Newsday.
Johnson's back fine after pitching in first game: Randy Johnson appeared in his first Spring Training game on Monday, throwing 33 pitches against the Colorado Rockies. While he did allow a three-run homer, Johnson said he felt no discomfort while on the mound.
"The stuff's there; it's definitely there," catcher Robby Hammock told The Arizona Republic. "I saw it first-hand today. He had a good fastball, was throwing some good sliders. Just a matter of him getting his conditioning where it needs to be, getting his pitch count up. Overall, I think it was a plus for the Diamondbacks today."
Johnson was throwing his fastball between 88 and 92 mph and threw a scoreless first inning. In the second inning, however, he allowed a three-run home run to Chris Iannetta and finished the day allowing three runs on four hits and one walk with one strikeout in 1 1/3 innings.
"Obviously, the results weren't great," Johnson said, "but even in years past, I'm not looking too much at results. I'm looking to gain some endurance and stamina and work on my location while monitoring my back at the same time. Minus the results today, there were a lot of positive things. But as competitive as I am, I'm still disappointed I would pitch like that."
Strained groin keeps Crisp out of action: Coco Crisp entered Spring Training with the Boston Red Sox hoping to compete for the starting job in center field. But the battle with Jacoby Ellsbury has never really developed as Crisp has played only eight innings and not at all since March 2 due to a strained left groin.
Manager Terry Francona said Crisp would be cleared to return to game action when he shows he can sprint without feeling discomfort. Crisp, however, says he isn't close to returning.
"If it was up to my mind, it would be one thing," Crisp told The Boston Globe. "But it's up to my body, and when my body says I'm right, I'll go out there playing. I can't mess around with this. [Speed] is my game, period. I've got to make sure that's right. We'll see. I'm taking it day to day, see how it feels. I come in tomorrow, maybe it feels better."
Myers getting acclimated to new job as starter: Last year, Brett Myers stepped in to close games and propel the Phillies to the NL East Division Title. This year, he finds himself back in the starting rotation -- a role that he embraces while still admitting he loved closing out games in 2007. In other words, the transition hasn't been all that easy.
"No, not at all," Myers told The Philadelphia Inquirer. "I liked closing last year. That's no secret. But I like starting, too, because I'm getting the opportunity to pitch. I'm not going to be a selfish guy and whine and complain because they had to make a move. I'm not that type of guy."
Four out-pitches a boost for Slowey: Twins pitcher Kevin Slowey has a chance to make the team as a back-of-the-rotation starter with four virtually equal pitches -- a fastball, a changeup, a curve and a slider.
"It would be nice to have a pitch that you feel like you can get a lot of swings and misses with, but for me, it's not going to be one pitch," Slowey told The St. Paul Pioneer Press. "It's going to be throwing the right pitch to the right location on the right count. That's going to be my out pitch. It might be a slider one day, a curveball one day. Maybe it's just throwing a good fastball."
Prospect Miller pitches four innings: Lefty Andrew Miller, one of the prospects acquired from the Tigers in the Miguel Cabrera-Dontrelle Willis trade, pitched four innings Tuesday in his fourth appearance of the spring. He gave up three runs on four hits with three walks and a strikeout.
"I had some command issues [early]," Miller told The South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "In general my fastball was pretty good, but I got into trouble using other pitches I wanted to establish."
-- Red Line Editorial