AROUND THE HORN Spring training news and notes

Phillies: Pitcher Brandon Duckworth was sent to Philadelphia on Monday for a precautionary MRI exam, one day after leaving his start with an inflamed right elbow and forearm. Duckworth was to be examined today by team physician Dr. Michael Ciccotti. Duckworth left his start Sunday after one inning with tightness in his arm. He was still sore Monday, but manager Larry Bowa was optimistic that the injury isn't serious. Phillies catcher Mike Lieberthal, who hasn't played since Feb. 27 because of an abdominal strain, accompanied Duckworth to Philadelphia for an exam. Lieberthal hopes to return to the lineup Thursday or Friday. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins missed his second consecutive game Monday with a strained left hamstring and isn't expected to return for two or three days. Reserve first baseman Tyler Houston has elbow tendinitis in his throwing arm.
Athletics: After essentially missing three of the last four seasons with a staggering series of injuries, Mitch Meluskey is tentatively easing into spring training. Once considered one of baseball's top young catchers, Meluskey signed a minor league deal with Oakland after Detroit dropped him last fall. The switch-hitter made his first game appearance with the A's last Saturday, going 0-for-3 as the designated hitter. Afterward, he detailed his mistakes in each of his at-bats -- yet he wasn't disappointed by the results.
Cardinals: Left fielder Albert Pujols agreed Monday to a $900,000, one-year contract. The deal for the 2001 NL Rookie of the Year is the highest one-year contract for a major league player with less than three years of major league service who was not eligible for salary arbitration. In addition to his salary, Pujols would get a $50,000 bonus for making the NL All-Star team. Pujols has a .321 average over the last two seasons with 71 homers and 257 RBIs, and he finished second to Barry Bonds last year in NL MVP voting after batting .314 with 34 homers and 127 RBIs.
Padres: Pitcher Rob Ramsay's inspirational comeback from a brain tumor will move on to the minor leagues. The left-hander, in camp as a nonroster invitee, was reassigned to the minor league camp Monday, one of 14 players in the first round of roster cuts.
Blue Jays: The Toronto franchise is hoping for more financial help from commissioner Bud Selig this season to help compensate for the weak Canadian dollar. Selig is studying six formulas that would be based on Blue Jays ticket sales for a possible currency-adjustment plan designed to help the club compete economically with American teams, said Rob Godfrey, Toronto's senior vice president of communications and external relations. Last season, the Blue Jays received a one-time payment of $5 million from the commissioner's discretionary fund to help compensate for the weak Canadian dollar. Godfrey has been negotiating a long-term plan with baseball since last summer. The proposals are based on the currency assistance plan the NHL offers small-market Canadian teams, making the amount of money given to the Blue Jays contingent on attendance.
Rangers: Injury-plagued pitcher Justin Thompson and first-round draft pick Drew Meyer were among 12 players reassigned Monday to the minor league camp. Also sent were right-hander Travis Hughes; left-handers Ben Kozlowski and Mario Ramos; catchers Danny Ardoin, Fernando Lunar and Scott Heard; infielder Jason Hart; and outfielders Ryan Ludwick, Laynce Nix and Jim Rushford.
Orioles: A toxicology report on the death of pitcher Steve Bechler probably will be released Thursday, according to the coroner conducting the autopsy. Broward County medical examiner Dr. Joshua Perper said Monday he'll hold a news conference to disclose the findings.
-- Associated Press

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