Hawksworth proud of Olympic tie
Cardinals pitcher has family connection to Vancouver Games
Blake Hawksworth watched the Olympics unfold with an extra bit of pride because his late grandfather, Jack Poole, was a driving force in bringing the games to Vancover.
So when John Furlong, the CEO of the Vancouver organizing committee, said, "Thank you, Jack," during the closing ceremonies, it had a dramatic impact on the Cardinals' young hurler.
"That's where it kind of hit me, the kind of impact he had on Vancouver and all of the lives that he impacted, especially with all of the work he's done," Hawksworth told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "This is pretty important, especially for my family. It's a proud moment."
Villanueva turns to healthier eating: Carlos Villanueva is sporting a new look in Brewers camp this spring. He's 20 pounds lighter after undergoing a strict diet during the offseason.
"I was a late-night eater," Villanueva told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I'd go to fast-food places and get a burger and fries. Now, when I eat a snack, I make sure it's healthy. I went to a sports nutritionist back home. I started eating on a schedule. I tried to have less carbs as the day goes on. It was hard the first couple of weeks, but now it's constant every day."
Villanueva hopes that the lost weight will help him on the baseball field.
"I feel like I have a lot more energy now," he said. "I didn't lose any muscle, which was important. In my role, you have to have endurance. I've been using a diet high on protein. It's easier during the offseason. During the season, it's going to be harder. You're tempted to eat late at night. It's all about having a routine. I used to be hungry late at night. Now, I'm not."
Pence brings new look after offseason training: Hunter Pence spent his offseason in Houston, and the Astros right fielder has come to camp looking bigger and stronger compared to past Spring Trainings.
Entering his fourth year and coming off an All-Star season, Pence worked hard this winter to improve his baserunning. He worked with new Minor League baserunning/outfield coordinator Eric Young and with strength and conditioning coach Dr. Gene Coleman.
"I want to work on everything," Pence told the Houston Chronicle. "I don't have one priority. I want to make myself a better baseball player in every aspect that I can. I want to get faster, I want to get stronger, have a better swing and be better at fielding."
Hanson throws strikes in debut: After giving up a leadoff single, Tommy Hanson retired the next six batters he faced in his Spring Training debut on Tuesday versus the Mets. He finished with three strikeouts, and 17 of his 27 pitchers went for strikes.
"All my secondary pitches were really good," Hanson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I'd say half of my fastballs were right where I wanted them. Just have to keep working on my fastball command. I feel like I'm close."
"Early in camp, you're just trying to find the zone," catcher Brian McCann said. "He located his pitches in the zone and pitched great."
Sanchez will be on familiar turf vs. Hurricanes: When the Marlins take on the University of Miami in their annual exhibition game, it will seem like old times for Gaby Sanchez. When he was a member of the Hurricanes in 2003, Sanchez played in the exhibition against the Marlins. Now he gets to experience the game from the other dugout. He will become just the second player in franchise history to play in the game for both teams, joining reliever Michael Neu, who played for the Hurricanes in 1999 and the Marlins in 2004.
"We looked at them and the way they would prepare and the way they would practice, knowing one day we would like to be in the same position as them, being able to play in a Major League game," Sanchez told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
"[Dontrelle Willis] was throwing hard, and it was nasty," Sanchez said of his at-bat in the game. "I was almost positive when I hit it that it was a double. Juan Pierre catches it in front of him."
Zito aims to pick up where he left off: Throughout his career, Barry Zito has been a better pitcher in the second half of the season than in the first. That was more true than normal in 2009, when he had a 5.01 ERA before the All-Star break and a 2.83 mark afterward. Zito hopes to get off to a good start this year and looked good in his first bullpen session.
"I just want to have that fluidity I had in the second half last year and all my second halves," Zito told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Mathis made switch to catcher and never looked back: A multi-sport star in high school, Jeff Mathis pitched and played shortstop. One day, he was asked to move behind the plate to catch a teammate who had a good fastball and he has been there ever since. Mathis now has a reputation as one of the best defensive catchers in the game.
"I just like being there for every pitch," the Angels backstop told the Los Angeles Times. "I love playing the infield and I still love taking ground balls. As a catcher, you're in every pitch, and it's never a dull moment."
Pavano to start first game for Twins at Target Field: When the Minnesota Twins open Target Field next month, Carl Pavano is slated to pitch the first game, the team's third game of the season.
"I'm excited," Pavano told MLB.com. "It's truly an honor. The energy from the fans and the rich tradition of sports in Minnesota, specifically baseball -- it's going to be a great experience. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, there's a lot still to do. But it's going to be exciting."
Zambrano's pinch-hitting days to shrink: One of Carlos Zambrano's favorite things to do is to hit, but it looks like he'll be doing a little less pinch-hitting in 2010 than he has in the past.
"They enjoy watching him -- I understand that," Chicago manager Lou Piniella told the Chicago Tribune. "But obviously we'd all rather have a bat coming off the bench, using Carlos only in an emergency or a pinch."
Tracy always gave new teammate Dempster problems: Nobody was happier to see former Diamondback Chad Tracy join the Cubs than Ryan Dempster.
"He was hitting .625 off me," Dempster told MLB.com.
"My confidence was getting ruined every time I went to Arizona and had to face him. He could roll out of bed and get hits off me, too. He wouldn't play for two weeks. I'd look at the scouting report, trying to find something -- nothing -- and he'd get a start and go 3-for-4 with a homer."
Arias ready to make impact after knee surgery: One of the key members of the Astros bullpen is Alberto Arias, who went 2-1 with a 3.35 ERA last season, appearing in a career-high 42 games. Arias, however, ended the season on the disabled list with a right knee injury that led to surgery.
"My goal is to make the best of the opportunities the team gives me," Arias told the Houston Chronicle. "I'm pain-free and ready to go."
Opening triple puts surgery behind Reyes: Coming off an injury-plagued season, Jose Reyes laced the first pitch he saw in an intrasquad game on Monday into the right-field corner for a triple, driving in Gary Matthews Jr. and Luis Castillo.
"To be honest with you, it felt a little weird when I stepped in the batter's box," Reyes told the New York Daily News. "It's been a long time [since] I [faced] a big league pitcher. And when I hit the ball, I said, 'Oh, my God, I have to run now.' But my leg is good. Nothing to worry about.
"I just feel happy that I made it to third base with no problem. But, like I said, it's nothing to worry about. I feel good. No pain. I feel good to be playing the game again."
Dunn has no interest in being full-time DH: Many people view Adam Dunn as an ideal DH, but Dunn enjoys playing the field and is looking forward to becoming a full-time first baseman in 2010.
In fact, Dunn wants to remain in the National League, where there is no DH.
"I could care less about what people say," Dunn told the Washington Post. "I know what I want to do. I know I don't want to go DH. I like playing the field. DH-ing is awesome during interleague, because it gives you a little break, but I couldn't do it full time. I won't do it full time. You can write that out right now."
Ryan aims high with video game hobby: Brendan Ryan has big goals, just like any other Major League player, but also admits he is a bit of a video game addict.
"I'm still trying to be the greatest video game player in the history of the world. I'm working on that," Ryan told the St. Louis Globe-Democrat. "We play a franchise; we drafted a team on NBA 2K10. I play with the guards. I feel like I can handle the ball well. I can use picks, I can dish the ball. I wish the guys would pick up soccer, because that's a really, really fun multi-player game. Not to say all I do is play video games, because that's definitely not the case. I'll watch anything sports. Over the last two weeks, it was 24/7."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.