Utility infielder Aaron Miles came into camp each of the last two years with a pretty good idea that no starting positions were available. Still, he has managed to endear himself to his teammates, management and the fans of St. Louis.
Hard work, good defense and fundamental baseball will do that.
"This guy has done everything you can ask defensively and taking tough at-bats," manager Tony La Russa told the St. Louis Post Dispatch. "Who knows how the season goes? To have somebody like that is like having money in the bank."
Miles said all he wants to do is be as good as -- or better than -- he was a year ago. Where he plays or how often will not change his effort or his attitude.
"I've just been trying to prove that I'm the same guy I was last season," said Miles. "I can get plugged into whatever position and they're not going to lose anything with me in there. Show that I'm the guy for the job and that they should feel confident having me play every day even if I don't (play)."
Freel trying to dial down: Ryan Freel only knows one way to play baseball: full tilt.
The problem, some believe, is that he doesn't really know how to downshift. A collision with the outfield wall earlier this week drove that problem home.
"My shoulder hit and then my head hit the pad," Freel told the Cincinnati Post. "I hit it pretty hard. I didn't slide on the gravel to slow myself down. As soon as I caught it, my shoulder hit the wall, and I went up underneath. It wasn't like I slid a little bit and then hit the wall. It was more of a catch, bang, hit."
His teammates are never surprised by what they see with Freel.
"That's Ryan Freel," said catcher Javier Valentin. "That's the way he plays. That's the way he's going to keep playing. He's going to try to catch everything he can. He's going to dive and do everything he can to help the team."
Manager Jerry Narron isn't that excited about that idea.
"I told him to try to play these games at about 80 percent," Narron said. "Maybe he does. Maybe he would have really gotten hurt if he was playing 100 percent."
Freel understands he should be more careful, but it just doesn't happen.
"I think, 'Just try to take it easy and get out of here in one piece,'" he said. "But then I see an opportunity, and I don't think about that when I'm running for the ball. It just flies out the window. I'm just thinking about trying to catch the ball."
He's also thinking about having fun.
"It was fun to me; I had a great time doing it," he said. "It's just hard to tone it down. It's not the way I play. With the way I've played for so long, trying to take it easy for the last couple days of spring, it doesn't all come together."
Sabathia prepping for Opening Day start: Indians pitcher C.C. Sabathia, who was struck earlier this week on the left forearm by a line drive, says he plans to throw Friday in preparation for working on Opening Day.
"I plan on throwing a bullpen on Friday," Sabathia told the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "to get ready for Monday's start."
Manager Eric Wedge said that his pitcher has recovered quite well.
"C.C. is better than we anticipated. Friday will be a big day for him. We'll see how he gets through his bullpen," said Wedge.
Sabathia said the pain started to fade away on Wednesday evening as he iced the arm, and he's thrilled that nothing serious happened.
"I feel great," said Sabathia. "I'm excited that I'm feeling so well."
Garko ready for start of season: Ryan Garko has made the Cleveland Indians Opening Day roster, and clearly is relieved that Spring Training is finally coming to a close with good results.
"Right now, it's more of a relief than excitement," Garko told the Akron Beacon Journal. "When I'm on the field for Opening Day is probably when it will really sink in."
General manager Mark Shapiro said keeping Garko around gives the Indians an extra weapon that they can certainly use.
"He is the best 25th player who can help us win," Shapiro said of Garko. "He's a bat first. One thing he has always done well -- from college to the minors to the big leagues last year -- is hit. I think this decision will help make him better (defensively), because it takes the heat off."
After struggling for a while on defense, Garko finally calmed down and settled in.
"Everybody told me to relax and just play," he said. "But it's hard to do that when you're trying to make the club. A lot of eyes are on you. But if you can't handle it during Spring Training, it's tough when there are 50,000 people in the stands."
Madson set to set up: In Philadelphia, there have been doubts all spring as to who might set up closer Tom Gordon as the Phillies eighth-inning-man. Ryan Madson has answered the question.
"When you look at our bullpen, he's the ideal guy for the eighth inning," manager Charlie Manuel told the Philadelphia Daily News. "And he's also a guy who could step in and close for us if we needed."
Heading into Spring Training, Madson was instructed to stop using his big curveball and start working on a cutter, and he was also told to just focus on being a relief pitcher. Good advice on both counts.
"It's better [working out of the bullpen]. I don't have to prove anything to anybody," Madson said. "And the cutter is working good. I'm getting more comfortable with it."
Drew is still the 'phenom': There are a lot expectations on Arizona shortstop Stephen Drew this season. In fact, he has been given the nickname "phenom" by second baseman Orlando Hudson last July when Drew was recalled from the Minors.
It is a nickname that will last at least for the next season.
"He's still the phenom until the end of the year," Hudson told the East Valley Tribune with a straight face. "Then we'll get another phenom, and he'll just be Stephen Drew."
Drew showed he can live up to the hype surrounding him last season, hitting .316 over the final two and half months with a .357 on-base percentage and a .517 slugging percentage.
Manager Bob Melvin has been impressed with Drew both on and off the field since his arrival to Phoenix last season.
"He has a great feel for the game," Melvin said. "Some of the questions he asks are very advanced. He is very aware of all the intricacies of his position. That shows in the way he plays the game. There are guys who have been in the big leagues for 10 years who don't have that great sense for a lot of things that go on.
"You never see any panic in him."
Padres lineup will start Giles-Giles: The San Diego Padres plan to use Marcus Giles in the leadoff role this season. The team's new second baseman, Giles has limited time as a leadoff hitter in the majors and won't change his style of hitting this year.
"I'm going to pretend like I'm hitting second all year," Giles told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Opposing pitchers will get a double-dose of Giles to start games as older brother Brian will hit second. During his career, Marcus Giles has been the more aggressive hitter at the plate while Brian Giles has been more patient. The duo doesn't plan on changing their approach now.
"I'm aggressive," said Marcus Giles, who has clubbed more doubles (148) over the past four years than any other National League second baseman. "That's my style. I can't change myself and make myself a disciplined hitter. At 28, you're not going to change who you are. Ever since Little League, I've been a free-swinger all of my life."
Throughout the spring, manager Bud Black and teammates have told Marcus Giles not to change as well. They know what kind of player he is and don't expect him to become the next Rickey Henderson.
"It's really great to have that kind of support," Marcus Giles said.
Besides, if Marcus Giles puts the first or second pitch in play, Brian Giles, who led the National League in walks in 2005 and ranked fifth last season, will be right behind him to make the pitcher work.
"I can take pitches," Brian said. "So if we don't get the read off (Marcus') pitches, maybe we can get it off mine."
Youkilis looks ready to break out: Kevin Youkilis had a solid season in 2006, his first full year with the Boston Red Sox. The first baseman hit .279 with 13 home runs and 72 RBIs. Youkilis could have a breakout season in 2007 based on what he has done this spring.
During Grapefruit League action, Youkilis has hit .392 with one home run and six RBIs and has a .508 on-base percentage.
"He's had great at-bats all spring," manager Terry Francona told the Boston Herald. "He's just a solid, solid player."
While Youkilis was been solid at the plate and in the field in 2006, he went largely unnoticed by folks outside the Boston clubhouse. It is a fact that doesn't bother the 28-year-old.
"If you're not a superstar on this team, there might be a little less focus on you, but it really doesn't matter," Youkilis said. "In Boston, it doesn't matter where you come from or what you've done, you're looked upon to produce, whether you're a superstar or not. If you're not doing your job, they will turn on you."
Youkilis is also one of the more patient hitters in the Boston lineup, leading the American League with an average of 4.42 pitches seen per plate appearance. He also was able to put bad at-bats out of his mind quickly, something he struggled with earlier in his career.
"I actually see him not beating himself up as much after each at-bat," Francona said. "Some of that's maturity and some of it's because it's Spring Training, (but) I think he's getting a better understanding."
Moylan amazing story continues: Last season, Peter Moylan went from pitching for a club team in Australia all the way to the Major Leagues and the Atlanta Braves, thanks to an impressive performance in the World Baseball Classic. This year, Moylan is trying to prove he's a legitimate pitcher and not just a flash in the pan.
"I'm sure a lot of people think it was just a publicity stunt or whatnot," Moylan told the Athens Banner-Herald of his surfacing. "I thank God that I'm here, but it's become more of a reality now. I'm sort of stepping into this lifestyle. I know I can perform at this level."
Last year, Moylan, a sidearmer, tried to overpower hitters. This year, he's sacrificing some velocity for movement in an attempt to fare better versus lefties.
"He's toned everything down a bit, come up with a change," said manager Bobby Cox. "We want him to throw 90 with some sink. ... And it goes down. He's really got hitters talking about him."
Moylan has a 3.60 ERA in 10 innings pitched so far this spring.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.