|Webb and Halladay struggle through final spring training tuneups|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 25 March 2008 17:10|
Both former Cy Young Award winners struggled through their final exhibition starts, while the Chicago Cubs added Reed Johnson to their outfield Tuesday and the Chicago White Sox settled on Joe Crede at third base.
Hours before, the regular season began in Japan, where the Boston Red Sox started their World Series title defense with an extra-inning victory over Oakland in the earliest major league opener ever.
Back in Florida and Arizona, several top pitchers prepared for their opening-day outings - and not all of them looked sharp.
Webb allowed seven runs - five earned - and 10 hits while throwing two wild pitches in 4 1-3 innings of the Diamondbacks' 9-8 loss to the Los Angeles Angels in Tucson, Ariz.
The 2006 NL Cy Young Award winner, Webb has an 8.50 ERA through 18 innings this spring. He is slated to start Arizona's season opener next Monday at Cincinnati.
``Honestly, I'm not where I want to be. Definitely not in midseason form by any means,'' Webb said.
Halladay was betrayed by bad defense and his own mistakes while giving up 10 runs, four earned, in a horrible fifth inning. Tampa Bay went on to beat the Blue Jays 10-0 in Dunedin, Fla.
The Rays' first 10 batters scored in the fifth on six hits and five Toronto errors - three by second baseman John Tolisano.
``It's baseball, it happens,'' Halladay said. ``I just didn't change speeds very good once things started going. I thought my location was good, but I didn't mix pitches very well.''
Halladay, the 2003 AL Cy Young Award winner, never made it through the fifth. He gave up nine hits in all while walking one and striking out three on 76 pitches, 51 strikes, in four-plus innings.
``He was cruising along,'' catcher Rod Barajas said. ``Then there were some errors and when a team gets baserunners it carries their confidence. It was one of those fluke things that don't happen very often with Halladay.''
At Kissimmee, Fla., Atlanta pitcher John Smoltz said he felt no discomfort while throwing in the morning, the first time he tested his right shoulder since he was held out of his last scheduled start.
Smoltz was encouraged that the stiffness that caused him to miss a start Friday was gone. He only played catch in the outfield for about 10 minutes and still appears almost certain to open the season on the disabled list. He could come off the DL to make his first start April 6 against the New York Mets.
``The last time I threw was more or less a chore. This wasn't a chore,'' Smoltz said.
At Tampa, Fla., the Yankees said Andy Pettitte will miss his first scheduled start of the season April 2 against Toronto because of back spasms. New York manager Joe Girardi expects the left-hander will pitch the third or fourth game instead.
At Tucson, Crede won the starting third base job for the White Sox over Josh Fields, who hit 23 homers as a rookie last year but will start the season at Triple-A Charlotte.
``He understands where we are, where he is in his career,'' general manager Ken Williams said. ``To his credit, he said, 'Well, I'll use it as an opportunity to improve on some things not only for myself, but to you guys. I'll get better defensively, I'll get better offensively so that I can be the total package when I get back to the big leagues.' A class reaction.''
Juan Uribe will start the year as the everyday second baseman, but rookie Alexei Ramirez will get playing time there, along with spot starts from Pablo Ozuna, Williams said.
At Scottsdale, Ariz., Johnson was an immediate hit in his Cubs debut.
Two days after he was released by Toronto, Johnson agreed to a $1.3 million, one-year contract with Chicago and then got two hits, including a double, and scored twice in a 7-5 victory over San Francisco.
``You guys don't know how happy I am to be here,'' he said.
Giants outfielder Aaron Rowand left the game with a bruised lower leg after getting hit by Rich Hill's pitch.
In other news, Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers finalized their $152.3 million, eight-year contract, the fourth-largest package among current major leaguers.
Jorge Cantu won the competition to replace Cabrera at third base for the Florida Marlins.
Milwaukee released pitcher Claudio Vargas, leaving the final three spots in the rotation to Dave Bush, Carlos Villanueva and Manny Parra - at least until Yovani Gallardo returns from the knee operation he had early in spring training. Gallardo could be back in mid-April.
Boston put ace Josh Beckett on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to March 19, with a lower back strain. Red Sox manager Terry Francona indicated there was a chance Beckett could pitch in the three-game series at Toronto starting April 4.
San Diego exercised manager Bud Black's option for the 2009 season.
In other spring training games:
Mets 5, Braves 4
At Port St. Lucie, Fla., Tim Hudson pitched effectively into the fourth inning in his final tuneup for Atlanta's season opener, while New York had Johan Santana face minor leaguers instead of its NL East rival.
Indians 7, Yankees 5
At Winter Haven, Fla., Cleveland's Andy Marte hit a go-ahead, three-run homer to make up for two errors. Robinson Cano went 3-for-4 with two RBIs for New York.
White Sox 5, Rockies 2
At Tucson, Mark Buehrle showed pinpoint control, allowing a run and four hits in six innings for Chicago. Colorado's Franklin Morales pitched four scoreless innings before allowing four runs in the fifth.
Dodgers 3, Brewers 3
At Phoenix, Brad Penny was wild but effective for Los Angeles, which finally heads home to California after playing spring training games in Florida, China and Arizona this year.
Reds 5, Phillies 3
At Clearwater, Fla., Edinson Volquez all but assured himself a spot in Cincinnati's rotation, striking out five and walking one in five strong innings to lower his ERA to 2.79.
Cardinals 3, Nationals 0
At Jupiter, Fla., Anthony Reyes allowed three hits in six scoreless innings but remained on the bubble for a spot in St. Louis' rotation. Albert Pujols drove in two runs and is hitting .411 with 17 RBIs.
Pirates 7, Twins 3
At Bradenton, Fla., Ian Snell gave up two runs over six innings in his final start before pitching in Pittsburgh's opener Monday at Atlanta.
Orioles 8, Marlins 1
At Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Brian Burres allowed six singles in 5 1-3 scoreless innings for Baltimore. Burres and Matt Albers are locked in a two-man race for the fifth starter job.