After missing 25 days due to a sore quad muscle, Mike Stanton came back with a vengeance for the Marlins on Thursday. He had three hits, including two home runs, and seven RBIs in a performance that left everyone shaking their heads.
"Oh, wow," Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel of his reaction from his field-level box. "Every time the ball left his bat: 'Oh, wow.' Even the single was hit with authority."
"It's definitely cool to be able to do that my first game back, but that's what I practice," Stanton said. That's what I work on. That's what I've been doing for three weeks, getting my mind ready for this."
The Champ visits the Angels: Former heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali visited the Angels during Spring Training. Ali suffers from Parkinson's disease, but the Phoenix-area resident was able to make the appearance with the help of his wife and sister-in-law.
"It was like royalty walked in -- it was silent," Torii Hunter told the Los Angeles Times. "We're all in the presence of greatness. Every athlete respects what Muhammad did, all the [beatings] he put on all those boxers. He's the greatest of all time."
"It was fun to see him and think about all the quotes from his heyday," said Vernon Wells, who met Ali 20 years ago, when Wells was 12. "We all just soaked it in. It was a special day. Few people have that type of presence when they walk into a room."
Castro turns to Ramirez for advice: Starlin Castro is still adapting to being a Major Leaguer. He is leaning on Cubs teammate Aramis Ramirez -- who broke into the league as a teenager just as Castro did -- for some guidance.
"He helps me a lot," Castro told the Chicago Sun-Times. "When you're not a veteran player, you make a lot of mistakes. Aramis told me to concentrate in the game on every play. And the same in practice -- to practice like it's the game. He told me to think about situations in practice, like first and third, one out."
Chapman plans to build on success: Aroldis Chapman gained plenty of attention in 2010 with his triple-digit fastball. He hopes to continue that success with the Reds in 2011.
"I think the little experience I had last year and what has happened so far here has got me more experience," Chapman told MLB.com through his interpreter. "I definitely feel more confident. I've been able to work better on the field. Since Spring Training started, I've been feeling better and better every day. ... Yes, I feel ready. Like everybody else, we are ready to start the season now."
Rauch to start season as Blue Jays' closer: Jon Rauch will start the season as the closer in Toronto. For Rauch, the role will be nothing new to him after recording 21 saves last season for Minnesota and 17 for Washington in 2008. But he admits that he does not fit the profile of a normal closer.
"Even people who are very good at it still are going to have their bad days," Rauch told the Toronto Sun. "It's just confidence. I think there's a prototypical closer out there that people think has to throw 95, have a swing-and-miss pitch. Sure, those things are great to have, but I think a guy like myself that pitches to contact and trusts his defense can do the job just as well."
Estrada proving he can fill in as starter: Marco Estrada is doing his best to land a temporary spot in Milwaukee's starting rotation. Estrada, who made one start for the Brewers last season, threw 4 1/3 shutout innings against San Diego on Tuesday. He allowed three hits and one walk while striking out four.
"It felt great just to be able to start over there [in a big league] game," Estrada told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "That's what I love to do. I felt confident. I went out there and I threw strikes."
"He liked the way he pitched," manager Ron Roenicke said. "His changeup was good. He had movement on his fastball. He threw some breaking balls that were pretty nice, too. We knew he threw strikes from last year. He's already got experience with a couple of games, so he shouldn't freak out.
"He's definitely a possibility."
Montero sets his sights high with Diamondbacks: Since 2007, Miguel Montero has a .443 slugging percentage, ranking fourth among National League catchers with at least 1,100 at-bats. His .267 batting average ranks seventh and his 40 home runs are eighth. His goal this year is to earn a trip to the All-Star Game.
"That would be outstanding," Montero, 27, told the The Arizona Republic. "If I go to the All-Star Game, I'm not going to act different or change my approach, though. I've got to keep playing the same way and do things right.
"But man, that would be awesome. Even better would be going to the All-Star Game and winning it, especially with it being in Phoenix this year."
Emaus proves himself, earns Opening Day start: It appears Brad Emaus, a Rule V selection by the Mets, will be the starting second baseman for New York on Opening Day. Emaus has a .341 on-base percentage this spring and has displayed power in the Minors. He has hit 12, 10 and 15 home runs the past three seasons.
"He has hit," J.P. Ricciardi, a special assistant with the Mets, told the New York Daily News. "But is he capable of being an everyday, big league player? I think he is in the right circumstance. Maybe this is it, maybe this isn't. He's a gap-to-gap hitter, everywhere he's been he's been a .270-.280 hitter and he's going to hit 15 balls in the seats once he plays regularly."
Emaus said if he makes the team, he will bring a hard-working approach.
"I honestly just feel like I'm a baseball player," he said. "I'm not going to wow you with any tools, but I think day in and day out, I give you a lot of hard work on the field and put out a good product."
Descalso learning from teammates: As a player who knows he will spend 2011 in a utility role with St. Louis, Daniel Descalso is doing the best he can to prepare for the challenges he might face.
"I've talked to Skip [Schumaker] a little bit about it," Descalso told MLB.com. "He came up kind of as a fourth outfielder when he first came up. He was telling me it's the same way he broke in the big leagues. So, I've been able to talk to him a little bit and just kind of get an idea. And with [Jon] Jay and [Allen] Craig, what they did last year, get an idea of how they prepared themselves for a pinch-hit or a double switch or stuff like that."
Barney plays his way into roster spot: Darwin Barney has worked his way into a roster spot with the Cubs. Manager Mike Quade says it's a distinction that he's earned.
"He's played himself into significant time, and it's Spring Training," Quade told MLB.com. "He is making progress. He does a lot of things outside of the batter's box that you really like. He's given himself every chance to be an important part of this infield. Now we'll go north and see what happens in April."
Adrian Gonzalez uses day off to improve swing: With the Red Sox having a rare day off, Adrian Gonzalez decided to use that time to work on his hitting. Coming off shoulder surgery, Gonzalez played in a Minor League game and collected three hits in six at-bats.
"I've been seeing the ball great, as far as seeing it out of the [pitcher's] hand, seeing ball-strike, but when it comes to actually seeing a pitch I want to swing at and swinging, it just wasn't clicking," Gonzalez told the Boston Herald. "Today, I felt a lot better out there."
Feliz still holding down closing role with Rangers: Neftali Feliz finally learned that he will once again serve as the Rangers' closer this season. The Rangers toyed with the idea of putting him in the starting rotation.
"That's exactly what I told him," Rangers manager Ron Washington told MLB.com. "Right now, for our organization, we're better off with him in the bullpen. We haven't closed the door on him being a starter. We're just not ready yet."
Feliz recorded 40 saves last season to rank third in the American League. He was named the AL Rookie of the Year and earned a spot on the American League All-Star team.
Burnett surprised by potential role as closer: Sean Burnett had a 2.14 ERA last season and has not allowed an earned run this spring. That combination could land him as a closer for the Nationals.
"That's probably the one position on the baseball field I thought I'd never play," Burnett told the The Washington Post about being a closer. "I never thought I had that kind of stuff. Do I have the stuff or some of the arms that these guys have? No. But coming and getting three outs in the ninth inning - I think I'm capable of doing that."
"Could he go out and do it as a pure closer?" Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty asked. "That's something you have to develop. I'm not saying that he can't. He's got good, quality stuff. He may not be your prototypical guy. But given the opportunity to do it, I'm not saying that he can't.
"He competes his butt off. He takes everything personal. He goes out there and he competes. He competes."
Augenstein putting up strong fight for spot: Bryan Augenstein is doing all he can to make the roster in St. Louis. Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan likes what he's seen thus far.
"He earned it," Duncan told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "He's earned every next opportunity that he's had this spring. He hasn't given up anything. He's had a very impressive spring."
Bowker plans to make the most of his role: John Bowker says that if he makes the Pirates' regular season roster, he'll do his best to excel in his likely role as a utility player.
"I've come off the bench before," Bowker told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I think of myself as a good pinch-hitter because I usually give a good at-bat. If I can get a start every once in a while, too, that's a plus."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.