CC Sabathia turned to his PitCCh In Foundation on Wednesday to help first graders in his hometown of Vallejo, Calif., start the school year with new backpacks filled with school supplies.

Sabathia sponsored the event for the second year in a row. This year, every elementary school in the district participated, with 1,500 first graders eligible to take part.

Margie Sabathia, CC's mother, presented the backpacks, along with a video from the Yankees left-hander, during an assembly at Elsa Widenmann Elementary School.

"I am a product of Vallejo schools -- Loma Vista Elementary -- and remember how important it was for me to feel prepared for that first day of school so that's why my mom, my wife, Amber, and I feel so strongly about expanding this program," said Sabathia, who maintains an offseason home in nearby Fairfield, Calif. "I wish I could be there myself to give each boy and girl a high-five as they get their backpack, but I want them to know that I'll be thinking about them when I go out to pitch this week."

Each backpack contained folders, lined paper, rulers, erasers, pencil sharpener, crayons, a first-grade reading level book, and a book marker, along with an inspirational message from Sabathia.

A major project of the organization took place earlier this year when the foundation was the driving force behind the rebuilding of the North Vallejo Little League Baseball facility, where Sabathia once played. Margie Sabathia continues to be an active supporter and participant in the North Vallejo Little League and later this month will travel to Williamsport, Pa., where she will be recognized as the National Little League Parent of the Year.

CC and Amber Sabathia will personally distribute backpacks to children in the Bronx, N.Y., in early September.

Gimenez gets a taste of the gridiron: Chris Gimenez took a big hit at home plate on Wednesday night but held onto the ball.

"I never played football. Ever," Gimenez told "My dad never wanted me to play. I talked to my mom this morning and said, 'I guess that's why.' It was a great life decision."

Buehrle builds strength for second half: Mark Buehrle credits some offseason work for adding second-half stamina.

He's 4-2 since the All-Star break this year but has only 64 career wins after the break compared to 82 prior to the break. He set out to change that trend last offseason.

"To spend as many years in the leagues as you do, I've never done anything in the offseason," Buehrle told "I usually would take it as a three-month break to let my arm do nothing, after doing so much during the season.

"I never did anything. But it became one of those things where the innings, years and pitches added up. I needed to start doing something to finish strong."

Hunter to see his stumping efforts pay off at Target Field: Torii Hunter played nine seasons with the Twins and was looking forward to seeing their new ballpark this weekend. He was among the players who helped lobby for the new facility.

"We were out there fighting, going to luncheons and dinners, talking to local politicians," Hunter told the Los Angeles Times. "We were really pushing to get that new stadium, and now I get a chance to see the result of that work."

"I hear the fans are really supportive, and I'm pretty sure they're so happy to be outside," Hunter said. "They always complained about sitting in the dome on a sunny day. It's beautiful in the summertime there. The fans can work on their tans, like me."

Colvin OK with possible move to first base: Tyler Colvin last played first base when he was a sophomore at Clemson. But with Derrek Lee now a member of the Braves, the Cubs could consider giving Colvin a look at first base.

"I'm not sure how long I'd need," Colvin told the Chicago Tribune. "It's been a while since I've done it. Hopefully if they want me to do that, I'll do it. No one has ever said 'Hey, we want you to take ground balls there.' I've got to wait for that first and then we'll see what happens."

If they do, he says he'd give it a shot.

"I'm comfortable in the outfield, but if that's what they want me to do, I can't complain," he said. "If it helps out the Chicago Cubs, that's what I'll do."

Trade forces Derrek Lee to switch dugouts at Wrigley: Derrek Lee, acquired by the Braves for three Minor League players, was scheduled to join his new club on Friday at Wrigley Field, where he's been a member of the Cubs since 2004. He just needed to go to the visitor's clubhouse upon arrival.

"It'll probably be weird for him," new teammate Derek Lowe told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "You think of all the scenarios that he could possibly have. Making your debut back in the city where you've played so long -- I'd imagine he'll have every emotion going through him."

"I'll probably have to stop myself from running to this side of the dugout here," Lee said. "It'll be different, but it'll be exciting. Sometimes it's more fun to compete with your friends because you can talk a little trash with them."

Crain providing consistency on the mound: Jesse Crain has a 1.08 ERA in his last 10 appearances and hasn't allowed a run in his last seven outings.

"I've definitely found a comfort zone," Crain told "I've been able to throw all of my pitches for strikes. All I know is I work hard every day, and even when things are bad, I still have the same routine and can put something together pretty good."

Helms glad to stay put with Marlins: Wes Helms, who left the Marlins as a free agent in 2007 before returning, took the club up on a one-year extension this time around.

"I love it here," Helms told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "I have a good relationship with the front office, the staff and the players. It's one of those things where I felt comfortable here. I just didn't want to test the market this offseason and start over. ... They brought me back here and showed me loyalty, and I wanted to repay them with that."

"It'll be pretty much a year-to-year discussion with the family about what I want to do," Helms said. "Right now, it's come in here next year and do what I've done here since '06. ... I wanted to be here and be a leader for these young guys."

Ramos gets rave reviews in Nationals debut: Top prospect Wilson Ramos made his debut for the Nationals on Thursday in Atlanta. Acquired from the Twins in the Matt Capps deal, the 23-year-old Ramos earned praise for his work behind the plate.

"He did a good job," teammate John Lannan told the The Washington Post. "He did a great job, actually. He received the ball really well. He did a good job of calling pitches in the right situations."

Westbrook sees command come at last: Jake Westbrook knew that the last thing to come to him after his 2008 Tommy John surgery would be his command. Once that kicked in, everything started to fall into place.

"That's always the last thing that comes," Westbrook told "I've never been an absolute spot-'em-up type of pitcher. I've relied on my stuff and keeping the ball down, letting my sinker work for me. But if you don't have command of that, down in the zone, you're still going to get in trouble. So I've gotten better with my command, better command of all my pitches as the season has gone on. Not just my sinker. And that's fun, when you can go out there and not worry about your arm."

-- Red Line Editorial