Yoslan Herrera, who left Cuba with the dream of playing Major League Baseball, met with the Pittsburgh media recently and said he's ready for the next phase of his life.
"I was a little bit scared when I left Cuba," Herrera told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette through an interpreter. "But now, maybe, it's even more challenging for me to adjust to a new life."
Part of that new life, he hopes, will be earning a spot in the Pirates rotation."I know I have to prove a lot, and I know it won't be easy," Herrera said. "But I feel like I can be ready for Spring Training. Usually, I can adjust to situations very well. There's no problem."
He does, some believe, have the talent to get it done.
"He throws strikes," said Rene Gayo, the Pirates' director of Latin American scouting and the man who signed Herrera. "That's the big thing. He has a lot of good pitches, but he knows how to locate them."
Gayo, who is of Cuban descent, added that he thinks Herrera will adapt quickly.
"The kid's been through a lot, no question," Gayo said. "But I always say about the Cuban players; they're used to pitching to backstops with Fidel Castro's picture on them. They're not going to be afraid of some American guys with sticks."
Reds believe Santos can be innings eater: Victor Santos, formerly of the Pirates, has signed with the Cincinnati Reds with the idea that he will have a chance to be a part of the team's 2007 starting rotation.
"He has a history of being able to provide innings," Cincinnati general manager Wayne Krivsky told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "He's got a versatile résumé where he's pitched in different roles. He's been a starter. He's relieved. He could make the team a couple of different ways. ... We just decided to bring him in, let him compete and give us a little more depth."
Last season, Santos worked more than 100 innings over 19 starts with Pittsburgh.
Barrett works with ex-Cub Davis: Chicago Cubs catcher Michael Barrett has been spending a lot of time working out with former Cubs star Jody Davis and is enjoying every minute of it.
"I don't think there's a better guy to work with," Barrett told MLB.com. "Randy Hundley and Jody Davis are two of the most popular catchers in Cubs history. To have access to Jody is awesome. It shows you how much he appreciated playing for the Cubs and appreciated the opportunity.
"He cares about me as a player and about me because I'm putting on a Cubs uniform," Barrett said. "It's a fraternity within a fraternity. It's been an unbelievable experience."
As part of his lesson from Davis, who was the Cubs' starting catcher from 1982-87, Barrett has talked about how important defense has to be.
"As an offensive player, you're thinking, 'I have to get in scoring position and do whatever it takes to get on base, whether it's a walk or a hit,'" Barrett said. "Jody made a great point -- as a catcher, you have to do whatever it takes to keep that guy from getting to first base, second base, third base and home plate."
As as far as Davis is concerned, not one ball should ever get past a catcher.
"[Davis] said there should not be a ball that hits the brick all year," Barrett said of the wall behind home plate at Wrigley Field. "He's telling me he's going to put his name on one of those bricks, so if a ball gets by me, I'll see his name on the wall, and it'll remind me not to let that happen again. I might just have him sign a brick on both sides."
Hairston Jr. back the Rangers: The Texas Rangers have re-signed Jerry Hairston Jr. to a Minor League contract that includes an invitation to Spring Training. Hairston can pursue opportunities with other teams if he is not added to Texas' Major League roster by March 15.
Hairston's average dipped below career norms last year, but the veteran utilityman believes last season was an anomaly. He is a career .257 hitter and batted .303 for the Orioles in 2004.
"I know I can play a whole lot better, and I've done it," Hairston told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "I know what I can do. Last year, 2006, is in the past. This is like a clean slate."
What makes Hairston so attractive to the Rangers is his versatility. He can play all three outfield spots as well as second base, third base and shortstop.
"I think Jerry had a track record coming into last year that he was a more than capable big league player," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "I know that [hitting coach] Rudy [Jaramillo] and he, late in the season and even working together this offseason, they feel like they've figured a few things out."
Hairston said the ability to work with Jaramillo was a selling point to him when it came time to agree to a contract with the Rangers.
"Being back with Rudy Jaramillo and a great bunch of guys was important for me," Hairston said. "And hopefully having a chance to play for something in October."
Ortiz lands in familiar spot: The Giants welcomed back Russ Ortiz, signing the veteran right-hander to a one-year contract. Ortiz pitched five seasons with the Giants before being dealt to the Braves following the 2002 season. He went 67-44 as a member of the Giants but has fallen on hard times recently, going 5-19 over the past two seasons.
"What I've dealt with the last year and a half has been very humbling," Ortiz told the San Jose Mercury News. "But I know for a fact it's made me a stronger person."
Ortiz thinks he discovered the problem while working with pitching coach Leo Mazzone last year in Baltimore.
"It was basically how I was taking the ball out of my glove," Ortiz said. "It's unbelievable how much of a difference it was with everything."
Ortiz went 1-1 with a 2.14 ERA in Puerto Rico this winter. He had 15 strikeouts and seven walks in 21 innings pitched.
"We saw better arm speed, more velocity, better command, better breaking ball -- all positive factors," general manager Brian Sabean said. "When you put it together with his track record, it was something we wanted to delve into."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.