Fanning out across Florida, spreading out under the hot Arizona sun, pitchers and catchers finally took the field.
Spring training is really here.
Though, naturally, there was still plenty of talk Thursday about Roger Clemens' testimony before Congress. And the haze of performance-enhancing drugs. And contract negotiations.
But there was also a lot of talk about baseball - whether the Mets can avoid another late-season collapse, the young Rockies can make another postseason run, and aging stars like Tom Glavine and Curt Schilling can still win ballgames.
Yes, even Schilling showed up for spring training, even though he won't be ready for several months. Optimistically. But there he was in Fort Myers, Fla., ready for rehab.
Schilling met with Boston general manager Theo Epstein, manager Terry Francona and pitching coach John Farrell, patching up differences over the best course of action for his nagging shoulder injury.
The right-hander didn't practice outdoors and did not speak with reporters. He's scheduled to begin his rehab exercises on Friday.
at least six to eight weeks,'' Epstein said. ``Then we'll see where we go from there.''
Schilling's not expected to return before the All-Star break, though Epstein warned ``he's at the very beginning of the process.''
At least a process is in place.
That wasn't the case last week when the Red Sox and Dr. Craig Morgan, brought in by Schilling for a second opinion, differed strongly on whether the pitcher needed surgery.
Morgan, who operated on Schilling's right shoulder in 1995 and 1999, said he had a torn tendon and the only way he could pitch again is by having the operation. The team contended that the tendon was damaged, not torn, and insisted on rehabilitation.
Schilling eventually sided with the team, which could have voided his one-year, $8 million contract if he chose surgery.
Schilling spent seven weeks on the disabled list last year with tendinitis in the shoulder. He was 9-8 with a 3.87 ERA in 24 games last season. In the postseason, he went 3-0 with a 3.00 ERA to help the Red Sox win their second World Series in four years.
Without Schilling, the rotation shapes up as Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tim Wakefield, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, with Julian Tavarez and several others as possibilities. Epstein said his best options to replace Schilling were with players already in the organization.
are going to be some people that probably will get opportunities that maybe wouldn't have.''
At Port St. Lucie, Fla., Pedro Martinez said he knows his place in the Steroids Era.
``I dominated that era and I did it clean,'' he said. ``I can stand by my numbers.''
The three-time Cy Young Award winner said he hasn't paid much attention to the fallout from the Mitchell Report, and he didn't watch Roger Clemens testify before Congress on Wednesday. But the Mets pitcher said he'll probably get caught up on his computer now that he's in camp.
Martinez did have some pointed words for those who once called him a prima donna.
``I have a small frame and when I hurt all I could do was take a couple of Aleve or Advil, a cup of coffee and a little mango and an egg - and let it go!'' he said.
Martinez's point: He wasn't going to try any performance-enhancing substance. In fact, he would welcome a more stringent drug-testing program.
``I wish that they would check every day,'' Martinez said. ``That's how bad I want the game to be clean.''
At Winter Haven, Fla., Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said he doesn't expect new contract talks with Cy Young winner C.C. Sabathia until the 2008 season is over.
Shapiro was reacting to a message Sabathia posted on his Web site Wednesday night that said he and his agents have broken off negotiations on an extension.
``The door is open, but I would say it's very unlikely we'll talk,'' Shapiro said. ``There's not enough common ground.''
At Scottsdale, Ariz., the Giants announced left-hander Barry Zito will start on opening day.
The former AL Cy Young Award winner had a rocky year in 2007, posting career-worsts with an 11-13 record and 4.53 ERA. But manager Bruce Bochy said it ``just makes sense to send Zito out on opening day again.''
Matt Cain will follow Zito, who signed a $126 million, seven-year deal before last season.
At Mesa, Ariz., Cubs manager Lou Piniella said there is a chance former Notre Dame wide receiver Jeff Samardzija will be ready to pitch in the majors this season.
The right-hander went 6-11 with Class A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee last season.
Piniella also said Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly and Rich Hill are locks in the rotation. That leaves Ryan Dempster, Jon Lieber, Jason Marquis and Sean Marshall vying for the other two slots.
At Surprise, Ariz., the Royals hope Hideo Nomo will be able to help out their rotation, even though he had elbow surgery and hasn't pitched in the major leagues in two years.
``I feel like I can still pitch,'' Nomo said through an interpreter.
The non-roster invitee went 5-8 with a 7.24 ERA in 2005 for Tampa Bay and he struggled in Venezuelan winter ball last year with a 6.59 ERA in 13 2-3 innings.
e's back.
The 37-year-old pitcher received a minor league contract and an invitation to spring training Monday. He's a virtual lock to make the roster, and he knows it.
``One through five, somewhere in there,'' Trachsel said of where he fits in the rotation.
Trachsel began last season with the Orioles and was 6-8 with a 4.48 ERA in 25 starts before being traded to the Cubs on Aug. 31. He was released by Chicago after the season.
At Surprise, Ariz., Jason Jennings said he's ``completely ready to go'' after signing a free-agent deal last month with the Rangers that will pay him a base salary of $4 million.
That's much different from last spring with the Astros, when the 2002 NL rookie of the year struggled through nagging pain in his elbow.
Jennings didn't pitch after Aug. 20 and had surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon.
At Peoria, Ariz., Mariners catcher Kenji Johjima is entering the final year of a three-year, $16.5 million deal he signed with Seattle in 2006.
Will he be playing in Seattle next year?
``That's a tough question,'' Johjima said through an interpreter. ``I like Seattle, I like my teammates, I like my team, I like my coaches. ... But that's different from contracts.''
The 31-year-old, who signed with Seattle after 11 seasons in Japan, figures to be one of the top free agents next year if he doesn't sign an extension with the Mariners.

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