Hannahan returning to old ways
Indians third baseman shortens swing to drive ball other way
Now that 31-year-old Jack Hannahan knows he will be the Indians' starting third baseman on Opening Day, he can perhaps relax a little.
"Coming up," Hannahan told MLB.com, "I heard a lot about how third basemen need to be power hitters and hit balls out of the ballpark. It kind of got to a point where I made a swing change and it was kind of two steps backward instead of two steps forward.
"I struggled a little bit, for at least a year and a half, and now I'm trying to really get back to the type of hitter that I am. It's just shortening my swing down, driving the ball the other way."
Hampton announces retirement: Mike Hampton announced his retirement on Saturday, ending his bid to earn a spot in the Arizona bullpen after pitching for the Diamondbacks last season.
"I knew in my heart that it was time," Hampton told the The Arizona Republic. "It's been kind of a struggle this spring. I had flashes of looking good and flashes that weren't so good. I feel that in fairness to myself and everything, it's time to walk away."
Hampton was one of the top pitchers in the National League early in his career. He went 22-4 with a 2.90 ERA for Houston in 1999 and helped lead the Mets to the World Series in 2000. In 10 seasons prior to 2005, he averaged 31 starts per season. Since then, however, he has appeared in only 56 games due to numerous shoulder injuries.
"I wish health reasons wouldn't have sidetracked it for a while, but I've always battled back, always been one to never give up. I made it back last year, and that was a big step for me," he said. "I think I can leave this game on a positive note, knowing that I left on my own terms, which I think any athlete would like to do."
Thome impressed by Howard's progression: Although Jim Thome and Ryan Howard were teammates in Philadelphia for only a short period, Thome has managed to admire what Howard has done from afar over the past several years.
"I love how every year he gets better and better," Thome told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "He's a middle-of-the-order guy, and he's a guy that every team's scouting report says, 'Don't let him beat you.' Even though that's the case, he continues to do well, and he continues to be patient. That's the sign of a superstar player."
Morgan traded to Brewers: Milwaukee acquired Nyger Morgan from Washington on Saturday for Minor League infielder Cutter Dykstra and cash considerations. Brewers general manager Doug Melvin had said earlier that he was considering trading for Morgan when asked.
"We look at it that we still need protection in case Carlos [Gomez] gets hurt, the way he plays. Sometimes these things get out and somebody says there's no interest, then all of a sudden things can change. We were looking for a good player," Melvin told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Beltran's knees pass Minor League test: Carlos Beltran played five innings of a Minor League game over the weekend, getting in five at-bats. Beltran played right field and got some swings at the plate while feeling no pain in his surgically repaired right knee, or in his left knee, in which he is suffering from tendinitis.
"Nothing wrong with my knees," Beltran told the New York Daily News. "Happy with that, and [it's] good that I was able to go out for five innings, and I didn't feel anything. I feel good about it."
Nova, Garcia secure Yankees' last two rotations spots: The Yankees announced that rookie Ivan Nova and veteran Freddy Garcia will be the team's No. 4 and No. 5 starters. Nova had a 1.80 ERA in five appearances this spring and has looked sharp.
"We didn't know what Nova was going to do," manager Joe Girardi told the New York Daily News. "Obviously, we had expectations for Nova."
Garcia is coming off a season with the White Sox in which he threw 157 innings and won 12 games. He was happy to learn his fate.
"Finally," Garcia said with a smile. "I've been working really hard this spring to be here. I had to come here every day, mentally ready to work and do my stuff. My arm feels good, and if you're a pitcher and your arm feels good, after that, whatever."
Minor League veterans Young, Hicks make Braves: With strong play throughout the Grapefruit League season, Matt Young and Brandon Hicks won spots on the Braves' bench for Opening Day. The duo was surprised and overjoyed to hear the news from manager Fredi Gonzalez.
"I don't have words to describe it," Young told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I don't even know. I called my folks [in Texas] and didn't get an answer. I guess it's too early. I'll try to get 'em after the game.
"Fredi told me and I kind of blacked out, like in [the movie] "Old School". I kind of blacked out and couldn't hear what he was saying."
Hicks said, "I'm jacked up about it."
Josh Johnson uses height to bolster fastball: Josh Johnson is one of the hardest throwers in the Majors. Adding to the effect is that Johnson is 6-foot-7 and appears to be closer to the batter after he strides off the rubber than smaller pitchers.
"The velocity, plus the downhill plane and his command of it," Marlins pitching coach Randy St. Claire told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel when asked why Johnson's fastball is so good. "You put those three together and that's what you look for out of your ace. They usually can really command that fastball because they throw it a lot. How many times do you see guys throw 95 right down the middle and get hammered? They can't get anybody out. It's the three of them together that really make it difficult."
"Flat plane, you can see it out of the hand, whether it's in the zone, out of the zone," St. Claire said. "When you start creating downward angle and movement, it makes it that much tougher on the hitter to put a big swing on it and barrel it up. ... Any of your pitches, you're trying to create angle on the hitter so when he sees that ball he's only got a split second to react to whether it's a ball or a strike."
Desmond has sights set on leadoff spot: The trade of Nyjer Morgan to the Brewers paves the way for Ian Desmond to become the leadoff hitter for the Nationals.
"I've said all the time, I want to be up at the top of the lineup," Desmond told the The Washington Post. "I want to get my at-bats. I feel like the more I'll come up to the plate, the better I'll be, and I'll be able to help the team more. There's people who are OK with having time thinking about things. I need to get out there. If I struggle, I need to go out there and hit more. I don't want to sit there and think about it. I want the action. I want the action all the time."
Bourjos taking comfort in Spring Training: The Angels called up Peter Bourjos from the Minors last season to help solidify their outfield defense, and he was all that he was cracked up to be defensively. This spring, Bourjos feels more comfortable and he expects his offense to improve in 2011.
"The first game of Spring Training, I was standing in center field, and I was relaxed," Bourjos told the Los Angeles Times. "I've never felt that way in the big leagues. I've always been nervous, kind of anxious, but this spring, I'm relaxed, and it's carried over into the batter's box.
"I think the two months here last year really helped. I'm more confident, and I'm starting to feel like I belong. Last year, I wasn't sure I did. I gave everybody too much credit."
McClellan plans to benefit from experiences: As Kyle McClellan gets set to be a part of the starting rotation in St. Louis for the first time in his career, he can look back and know everything he's been through has happened for a reason.
"I feel like my past has done a ton to help me be successful in this role," McClellan told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "It's hard to come up and stick in your first year as a starting pitcher with this club and the expectations that usually come with it. I can definitely benefit from what I've done."
Reimold hopeful of Opening Day roster spot: Nolan Reimold did all he could to earn a spot on the Orioles' Opening Day roster. He enters the final days of Spring Training knowing that he worked hard.
"It always feels good to play well. I worked hard to put myself in position where I could play well. Hopefully, I can carry Spring Training into the year," Reimold told the Baltimore Sun. "I've thought about [my roster chances], but it is beyond my control. You just have to play hard every day and see what happens."
Inglett provides Astros with lefty bat: Searching for a left-handed bat off the bench, the Houston Astros acquired Joe Inglett from Tampa Bay for a player to be named or cash considerations. As a Brewer last season, Inglett led the Majors in pinch hits. He hit .294 with two doubles, four triples and a home run.
"We know he can give us a quality at-bat off the bench in that role and can play around the infield, can play a little bit of outfield," general manager Ed Wade told MLB.com. "We'll throw him into the mix here for the next couple of days and give him a chance and see where it all leads."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.