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  • The Padres, desperate for pitching help, cleared two roster spots Friday by placing right-handers Justin Hampton and Ivan Nova on outright waivers. If Nova, a Rule 5 pick, goes unclaimed, he must be offered back to the Yankees for $25,000.

    Giants righty Merkin Valdez, Cubs righty Angel Guzman and Rockies righty Juan Morillo are among the relief types who could be on the move before Opening Day.

    All have big arms, and all are out of options.

    "Nine out of ten out-of-options guys might turn out badly," one GM says. "But one might have Grant Balfour's impact."

    Balfour cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A last season after failing to make the Rays' Opening Day staff, but he became a force in the bullpen after rejoining the team on May 29.

  • The revivals of infielder Chad Tracy and outfielder Eric Byrnes are perhaps the best news of the spring for the Diamondbacks, who will gain tremendous lineup flexibility if both players are healthy and productive.

    Tracy, one of the D-Backs' few left-handed hitters, has looked good at third base, a position he barely played last season coming off micro-fracture knee surgery. Byrnes is running and hitting well after appearing in only 52 games due to hamstring problems.

    Against certain right-handers, manager Bob Melvin could play Tracy at third, switch-hitter Tony Clark at first and Conor Jackson in left. Against lefties, Melvin could use Mark Reynolds at third, Byrnes in left and Jackson at first.

    And those are just some of the possibilities.

  • The Rangers believe their two top pitching prospects, right-hander Neftali Feliz and lefty Derek Holland, could be ready to enter their rotation before the All-Star break.

    Right-hander Kris Benson, looking healthy and throwing 89-92 mph, could claim the No. 5 spot to start the season, pushing righty Scott Feldman to the bullpen.

    The Rangers also can hold off on Benson, who cannot opt out of his minor-league contract until May 5.

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  • Stewart isn't the only young Rockies hitter making a strong impression. Outfielder Dexter Fowler, 23, also could force his way into the team's plans.

    The Rockies could play Fowler every day in center and alternate Ryan Spilborghs and Seth Smith in left. Or they could bring Fowler along more slowly, using the switch-hitter against left-handers — he is a natural righty — and as a late-inning defensive replacement.

  • The Orioles, after signing free-agent shortstop Cesar Izturis to a two-year deal, recognize that they still need to address the position long-term, as well as first and third base.

    One possibility would be to acquire a young shortstop in need of an opportunity — the Dodgers' Chin-lung Hu, perhaps, or the White Sox's Brent Lillibridge. The Orioles also could bide their time, waiting for their young pitchers to develop and trading for a top shortstop prospect later.

  • Position players who remain unsigned: Jim Edmonds, Frank Thomas, Richie Sexson, Mark Grudzielanek, Ray Durham, Jose Vidro, Luis Gonzalez and Paul Lo Duca.

    Pitchers: Pedro Martinez, Orlando Hernandez, Mark Mulder, Armando Benitez. Ben Sheets, coming off elbow surgery, could return in the second half. So might Paul Byrd, who did not want pitch a full season.


    Author:Fox Sports
    Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
    Added: March 28, 2009

  • Colorado Rockies News

    News » Notes: Rockies' Helton in swing at spring training 2009-03-28


    Notes: Rockies' Helton in swing at spring training 2009-03-28


    Notes: Rockies' Helton in swing at spring training 2009-03-28
    Mark down Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, 35, as an early candidate for Comeback Player of the Year.

    Helton, coming off back surgery, is showing "as much bat speed as the Helton of old," one scout says. Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd agrees, saying that Helton "is swinging the bat as well as he has in years."

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