Spring Training News and Notes from Cactus League teams

Posted: Updated:
By Natalie Rivers By Natalie Rivers

Chris Snyder says he's healthy, shrugs off near-trade
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- Chris Snyder is still with the team that tried so hard to trade him, and he finds himself in an uphill fight for playing time.

The Arizona Diamondbacks catcher says he was fine with the purported deal last fall that would have sent him to the Toronto Blue Jays.

He called it "a new opportunity." But the trade, reportedly for one-time Diamondback Lyle Overbay, fell through. So Snyder remains with Arizona and must compete for playing time with Miguel Montero, the man who replaced him when he was injured last season.

Manager A.J. Hinch says Montero is ahead of Snyder in training camp but he expects both to be big contributors this season.


Reggie Willits say he'll do his best wherever he's needed
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- He'd never admit it, but Reggie Willits might have cringed a bit when the Angels went outside the
organization to acquire outfielders Gary Matthews Jr., Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu and Hideki Matsui over the past three years.

In trying to keep up with the Steinbrenners, the Angels have never been shy about spending money through free agency.

But in acquiring those players, Willits was shoved, not only to the side, but to the minors.

Willits had a breakthrough rookie season in 2007 when he finished fourth in the American League in the Rookie of the Year voting.

He's since racked up 271 at bats at Triple-A Salt Lake and 188 with the big club.

Coco Crisp learns from an idol
PHOENIX (AP) -- Coco Crisp never saw Rickey Henderson play in the Oakland Coliseum, even though he spent parts of his summers visiting relatives in nearby Richmond.

That didn't stop the young Crisp from wanting to play like him and from wanting to collect every baseball card ever produced of Henderson.

These days Crisp is getting tips from the famed base stealer and leadoff hitter. It made him a little bit nervous at first.

Now he's trying to absorb everything he can from Henderson.

Military commitment leaves Shin-Soo Choo's future in doubt
GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) -- As one of baseball's rising young stars, Shin-Soo Choo has a bright future.

But due to circumstances beyond his control, the Cleveland Indians outfielder and native of South Korea is uncertain if that future will be interrupted.

Choo put together a solid all-around season in 2009, but faces a potential problem that has nothing to do with baseball. South Korean men are required to serve two years in the military by the time they turn 30 years old.

Choo will be 28 in July.

Choo has options. The best alternative would be to play for the South Korean baseball team in the 2010 Asian Games, which will be held in November. Choo would need to get clearance from the Indians to participate.

If South Korea wins the gold medal, Choo said his military obligation would be waived.

Mariners' Jose Lopez out of comfort zone at third base
PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) -- Jose Lopez is not a happy camper, and he doesn't like to play baseball that way.

The Seattle Mariners infielder is frustrated with a spring training position switch. The 26-year-old Lopez has played second base almost exclusively for the past four seasons, but this spring he's being tried out at third base.

He's not happy because he's out of his comfort zone. He played some third base in the minor leagues but has been on the "hot corner" only five times in 718 big league games.

Third base was vacated after Gold Glove winner Adrian Beltre departed, signing a free agent deal with Boston. The
Mariners signed free agent Chone (shahn) Figgins in the offseason with the idea he could play third.

But Figgins is versatile enough to play all around the field.

He'll be playing second while the Lopez experiment progresses.

Rich Harden pleased after 1 inning in intrasquad game
SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) -- Rich Harden was glad there was no screen in front of him Monday when he pitched a scoreless first inning for the Texas Rangers in an intrasquad game.

Harden had been throwing with the protective screen in batting practice, but that was discarded for the eight-inning intrasquad game.

Harden gave up a one-out single to Michael Young but ended the inning by inducing Chad Tracy to ground into a double play.

The Rangers signed Harden to a one-year $6.5 million contract after he went 9-9 with a 4.09 ERA and held opponents to a .234 batting average in 26 starts last year with the Chicago Cubs.

John Danks to start 1st spring training game for White Sox
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- Lefthander John Danks will start the White Sox spring training opener.

The game is Thursday against the Los Angeles Angels.

Lefty Mark Buehrle (BUR'-lee) will get the start Friday against the Los Angeles Dodgers, with veteran relievers Scott Linebrink and J.J. Putz also scheduled to pitch.

Cubs catcher Soto in shape after sophomore slump
MESA, Ariz. (AP) -- Geovany Soto saw the 242 on the scale and was neither surprised nor upset.

It wasn't until the Chicago Cubs catcher looked in the mirror that he hated what he saw: a guy who failed his colleagues, his team, his fan base and himself.

The 2008 National League Rookie of the Year says he felt like he let down his teammates during a sophomore slump that contributed to a disappointing 2009 Cubs season.

Soto hired a personal trainer, changed his diet dramatically and worked out religiously.

The next time his teammates caught a glimpse of him -- at the Cubs Convention in January -- they saw a fit athlete who looked like a middle infielder.

Stults kicks off competition for 5th starting spot
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- The Dodgers will begin their battle for the open fifth spot in the rotation three days before the official spring training game schedule begins.

Left-hander Eric Stults will pitch for the Dodgers on Tuesday in a B game against the Chicago White Sox, kicking off what figures to be one of the more interesting competitions of camp.

Stults also has been the named the starter in Saturday's second spring game.

Stults' confidence already was high, but now he will enter the outing after receiving instruction Monday from Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax.

Stults was among a handful of pitchers who had a one-on-one session with Koufax.

Josh Lindblom, Jon Link, Scot Elbert and Chad Billingsley also worked with the former Dodgers pitcher.

Buster Posey waiting for his chance with Giants
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy knows a good catcher when he sees one.
He spent parts of nine seasons as a catcher in the major leagues. And he has no doubts about the future of Buster Posey.

Bochy says Posey is a complete player and that it's only a matter of time before he's a front-line catcher in the major leagues.

The time probably will go much slower than the 23-year-old Posey would like.

Chris Young set to start Padres' exhibition opener
PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) -- Padres pitcher Chris Young is benefiting from all his hard work this offseason.

Manager Bud Black has named Young, who is 6 1/2 months removed from shoulder surgery, as the starting pitcher for Thursday's exhibition opener against the Seattle Mariners.

It will be the first time Young has set foot on the mound since June 14, when he left a start against the Los Angeles Angels early with shoulder pain. But Young, who was 4-6 with a 5.21 ERA in 14 starts last season, isn't feeling any pain right now and says he can't wait to get back on the mound.

Young says getting to this point is only one part of his rehab and that he's looking forward to completing his first full season since 2007.

Reds 1st baseman Joey Votto, a Canadian, thrilled by hockey gold
GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) -- Joey Votto wasn't a big hockey fan growing up in Toronto.

But the Cincinnati Reds first baseman was rooting for the home team during Canada's 3-2 overtime victory over the United States in the gold medal game on Sunday. The United States forced overtime on Zach Parise's goal with 24.4 seconds left in regulation, but Sidney Crosby's goal won it for the home team.

Crosby is considered Canada's greatest hockey player since Wayne Gretzky.

He failed to score on a breakaway attempt earlier in the game, but got the one that gave Canada a victory in one of the most important games in the history of the hockey-obsessed nation.
Veteran outfielder Jay Payton hoping to catch on with Rockies
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- Outfielder Jay Payton is either on the road back to the big leagues or the road to retirement.

Either way, he'll find out during the 2010 season.

The 37-year-old Payton is in camp on a minor league contract with the Colorado Rockies. He missed the entire 2009 season after injuring his right shoulder lifting weights before the start of spring training.

Unsigned at that time, Payton tried to continue working out but finally underwent arthroscopic surgery in April to have a torn labrum repaired.

Payton spent the final two months of 2002 and all 2003 with the Rockies before moving on to San Diego, Boston, Oakland and Baltimore.

He realizes he's "more of an insurance policy" at this point, since the Rockies are flush with outfielders.