SPRING TRAINING ROUNDUP News and notes
Giants: Barry Bonds took a few swings in the batting cage, facing live pitching earlier than the club expected. Bonds, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Jan. 31, took his first cuts of spring training against hitting coach Joe Lefebvre. The seven-time National League MVP decided against the club's plan to hit off a tee, preferring to face real pitching. "I knew he wasn't going to wait that long," Giants manager Felipe Alou said. "I knew the guy was going to be swinging the bat sooner than expected."
Red Sox: Curt Schilling made progress Saturday in his second bullpen session of spring training and still could start on opening day. But manager Terry Francona doesn't think there's any reason to rush him. "Opening day is not judgment day," Francona said after Schilling's 43-pitch, 13-minute session. "I think he made progress today. He's certainly not where he wants to be for opening day."
Cardinals: Jason Isringhausen, who tied for the National League lead with 47 saves last year, agreed to a three-year contract extension. Isringhausen tied Armando Benitez of the Florida Marlins for the save lead to help the Cardinals win their first pennant in 17 years. He tied the team single-season save record set by Lee Smith in 1991 despite playing much of the season with a painful hip condition that required surgery in November. Isringhausen agreed to a new three-year deal that replaces the final year of his current deal. The contract will run through the 2007 season with an option for 2008 and including a $1.25 million buyout will be worth a guaranteed $25.75 million. In three seasons with the team, he has 101 saves and his total of 168 saves over the past five seasons is fourth-best in the major leagues. Isringhausen had been in the final year of a four-year contract he signed before the 2002 season. That contract had included an option for 2006.
Dodgers: Norihiro Nakamura is expected to report next week after clearing up his visa problems. Manager Jim Tracy said he was told the Japanese infielder will arrive at the team's spring training facility in Vero Beach, Fla., late Tuesday. "He'll get a very good look in spring training," Tracy said before Saturday's workout. Nakamura, an eight-time All-Star in Japan, signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers earlier this month. He had a career .263 average with 307 homers in his 13-year career with the Kintetsu Buffaloes of the Japanese Pacific League. He spent time working out with the Dodgers during spring training last year. He is expected to compete for playing time at third base with Jose Valentin and Antonio Perez. Tracy also said closer Eric Gagne, who sustained a mild sprain of a ligament in his left knee Thursday, was continuing with all conditioning work as normal and hopefully be back on the field throwing Tuesday or Wednesday.
Blue Jays: Right-hander Billy Koch made his first trip to the mound to face live hitters. "I'm glad I didn't hit anybody," said Koch who returned to Toronto, where he was a first round pick in 1996, "Felt good to see a hitter in there, I was just getting a feel seeing the hitter in there. You can throw a bullpen session all day long but without a hitter in there it changes thing a little bit."
Orioles: Sammy Sosa was victimized by an elaborate practical joke by manager Lee Mazzilli. Mazzilli gathered the entire team at the end of a long practice and told the players they would be running the bases in rapid succession. He assigned Sosa to begin the drill, telling him to sprint to second base as if he hit a double. Sosa did it, then turned around to see no one behind him. Everyone laughed and walked off the field, leaving Sosa alone in the middle of the diamond. "You got me!" he said with a broad grin. As he walked toward the dugout, Sosa got a big hug from Mazzilli just past first base. Sosa was traded from the Chicago Cubs to the Orioles in part because of a rift with manager Dusty Baker, but he and Mazzilli have already established a solid rapport. "I took one for the team," Sosa said, still grinning. "That was pretty funny. I enjoyed that one. They got me. I love it."