Kevin Millwood can often be seen on the golf course, but the right-hander has also found a new hobby this offseason -- kickboxing.
02/06/2008 1:40 PM ET
Kevin Millwood gets his kicks
"I started out doing it for fun, but it's an unbelievable workout," Millwood told texasrangers.com. "I really enjoy it."
Millwood wants to rebound from what for him was a disappointing season. He finished 10-14 with a 5.16 ERA. He also missed much of May due to a strained left hamstring.
"I just want to be in the best possible shape I can be so nobody can say that I wasn't in shape," Millwood said. "If I stink, then I stink, but I don't want people to say that I wasn't in shape."
Texas manager Ron Washington has seen a difference in Millwood this offseason.
"He looks strong," Washington said. "He looks very strong. His demeanor is different. He has a look about him. He's working hard."
John Smoltz has a plan: Since returning to the rotation in 2005, John Smoltz has topped the 200-inning mark all three seasons. Yet, he's tinkering with his Spring Training routine.
"I've got a plan, as usual, going into Spring Training," he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Things I want to work on. There might be a lot of behind-the-scenes work, rather than pitching in games. I want to take it slow. It might not follow protocol.
"I want to execute this plan, hopefully have a longer year."
Smoltz hopes the new plan, which he will clear with pitching coach Roger McDowell and manager Bobby Cox, will lead to a return to the postseason.
"I'm not a 'glass' player, I'm not fragile," said Smoltz, who pitched 205 2/3 innings last season, but also had his first DL stint since 2003 (inflamed shoulder) after he slipped while making a warm-up pitch in an early season game.
"But at the same time, if I make some adjustments -- I can't avoid a slip, but I can be economical in my work," Smoltz said.
Former MVP Juan Gonzalez signs with Cardinals: Former AL MVP Juan Gonzalez, anxious to prove he still has something left, has signed a Minor League contract with St. Louis and hopes to make the Major League club as a reserve or platoon outfielder.
"There's not a great deal of risk involved, but there is the potential for significant upside," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "It's something we've been talking about for a while with Juan. I think everybody is intrigued by what he can offer."
Eduardo Perez, a former Cardinals player who supervised Gonzalez's workouts at the MLB-sponsored Winter Training Program in San Juan, Puerto Rico, recommended that the team give him a look.
"You're going to see a very humble guy. It's a lot different than before," said Perez. "He just wants to prove he can still play. He has a desire. It's not about the money. He just wanted the opportunity.
"I know there are going to be a lot of skeptics," said Perez. "There has to be. He hasn't played in a number of years. But his body is in great shape. If he stays healthy the whole season, he's the comeback player of the year."
Five more years for Granderson: Curtis Granderson won't allow his new contract to change him.
Granderson, who batted .302 while becoming just the second player in history to have at least 30 doubles, 20 triples, 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in a season, has agreed to a five-year contract that will provide some security.
But it won't take away his edge on the field nor will it affect the way he handles himself off the field.
"I don't see a change too much in terms of being flashy," Granderson told the Detroit Free Press. "I blend in easily. A lot of people don't recognize who I am until I've left.
Granderson's agent, Matt Brown, says that his client deserves the contract he received. "Those guys don't come around very often," said Brown. "He's such a good human being."
Morgan hopes to start like he finished last season: Nyjer Morgan knows he has a chance to win the Pirates' center field job, but also knows that there will definitely be plenty of friendly competition between he and Nate McLouth for the job.
"[McLouth has] helped me out ever since I came up with the Pirates and since I came into the Major Leagues," Morgan told MLB.com. "He's definitely helped me out, and competing with a guy like that, I can't ask for anything more."
In September of last season, Morgan started 25 games and batted .299 in 107 at-bats. He believes he can reproduce that type of success in 2008.
"My thoughts are just that I am going in with the same attitude that I had when I came up," said Morgan, who also stole seven bases in that stretch. "A lot of people try to tell me, 'Yeah, you're a lock', but I don't see it as that. I have a heck of a player that I'm battling against."
Rios agrees to one-year contract with Blue Jays: The Toronto Blue Jays, who avoided an arbitration hearing with outfielder Alex Rios by signing him to a one-year contract, would still like to negotiate a long-term contract.
"We've got all of Spring Training to continue to talk and we've got the course of the year to continue to talk," general manager J.P. Ricciardi told bluejays.com. "But we don't like to talk to a player during the year and I'm sure a player doesn't really want to talk about it during the year.
"We've got all of February and all of March to try to work a long-term deal out and, if it doesn't come to fruition, we've got him for the next two years and we can continue to try to work on it. We're putting our best foot forward."
Rios, 27, hit .297 last season with 24 home runs and 85 RBIs to go along with 43 doubles. An All-Star, he also finished second in the Home Run Derby contest.
Tracy dealt setback after surgery: Chad Tracy's return to the Diamondbacks' lineup following micro-fracture surgery in September may be slowed because of a blood clot that developed in November, manager Bob Melvin said.
"He's been swinging the bat," Melvin told dbacks.com. "The big thing will be when he starts running, probably right before we go to camp. Not that speed was a big part of his game, but the key will be if he can run without pain. The odds are probably against him being ready for Opening Day, but we'll see when we get to Spring Training how he progresses."
Jesse Litsch aims for spot in rotation: Several pitchers will be competing for the fifth starting spot in the Toronto rotation this spring. One of those pitchers is Jesse Litsch, who impressed the Blue Jays as a rookie last season after being recalled from the Minors.
Litsch will likely compete with Casey Janssen and Gustavo Chacin for the fifth starter's spot. Janssen was solid coming out the bullpen last year, while Chacin is returning from left shoulder surgery.
"We like our club," Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi told bluejays.com. "But there are some questions that have to be answered going into Spring Training and by the time we break camp."
Litsch, who made 20 starts last season, was 7-9 with a 3.81 ERA after starting the season at Double-A last year.
"Litsch made a big impression on me last year and on the team," manager John Gibbons said. "He was up there and he pitched good, struggled a little bit, and then came back and pitched great. I think he's earned the right to claim that spot."
-- Red Line Editorial