After leading the National League with 50 last season, it took Prince Fielder 32 at-bats to hit his first home run in Spring Training.

Local reporters had begun to wonder if Fielder's new vegetarian diet was affecting his power, but the slugging first baseman believes it had more to do with taking enough swings to regain his timing and get comfortable at the plate.

"Were people getting panicky?" Fielder asked The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Fielder had asked manager Ned Yost if he could get some more swings in during games. He felt better about the situation after talking to veterans Mike Cameron and Craig Counsell.

"They taught me what Spring Training is all about," said Fielder. "It's not about stats. It's about getting the feel, getting in a rhythm and putting the barrel [of the bat] into the ball."

Francoeur gets hit in the face again: Jeff Francoeur escaped serious injury when he was hit in the face with a ball during Sunday's Spring Training game against the Cardinals.

Francoeur was bloodied from the pitch, but he did not break any bones and did not lose any teeth. He was given the option to receive stitches, but declined when he found out he could heal just a few days slower without them.

"Any time someone gets hit in the face it's scary," third baseman Chipper Jones told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "But it's important for him to get right back in there, because you've always got a little doubt in the back of your mind any time something like that happens. Got to get right back in there."

Thompson brings work ethic to Pirates: Kevin Thompson, in camp this spring with the Pirates, spent nearly eight years in the Yankees' organization. In that time, he learned plenty about how to approach the game.

"Being around some of those guys with the Yankees, it really taught me how to go about my business," Thompson told The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I took that to heart. When I was playing with Bobby Abreu, Johnny Damon and those guys, I saw that they work so hard. That's what I do, too, and I hope it shows out on the field."

Lohse wants to be dependable for Cardinals: Kyle Lohse, who signed with the Cardinals late last week, wants his new teammates to be able to depend on him.

Lohse has made 30 or more starts in five of the last six seasons and believes he can become a mainstay in the rotation by taking the ball every turn and pitching consistently.

"I'd just like to come in and be consistent the way I have at times in my career and just try to build on that," Lohse told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I'd like to be one of the guys they depend on every five days."

Gutierrez making an impression in camp: Franklin Gutierrez has done his share of bouncing back and forth between Triple-A and the Major Leagues. This year he hopes to stick with the Indians for the entire season.

According to manager Eric Wedge, that's not out of the question.

"He's a guy that has had a tremendous camp," Wedge told The Cleveland Plain Dealer. "His work is as decisive, deliberate and consistent as anyone we've had in camp. You look at his BP, his work in the outfield. The discipline he's shown mentally is really focused."

Fahey likely to get his chance at shortstop: For Brandon Fahey, the time is now if he wants to step in as Baltimore's regular shortstop.

"It's the first opportunity I've ever had to get a chance, a really good chance of making a Major League team," Fahey told The Washington Post. "But like I said, I try not to put too much pressure on myself."

Shields targeted for Opening Day start: With Scott Kazmir likely to start the season on the disabled list, James Shields may be in line to start Opening Day for the Rays. In four starts this spring, Shields is 3-0 with a 1.84 ERA.

"It feels great knowing the team has enough confidence in me to take Kaz's spot in that situation," Shields told The St. Petersburg Times. "I've always said he's going to be the ace on this staff no matter what. I'll be happy to be able to take his spot if it happens."

Hill gets positive results from bullpen session: Shawn Hill has been slowed this spring with forearm soreness but took a big step forward with a strong bullpen session that left both the pitcher and the team encouraged.

"To be perfectly honest, I feel better today than I thought I would," Hill told The Washington Post. "I had some tightness in there, but no pain. I wasn't 100 percent, but it was completely something I could pitch with."

Abreu manages five innings in return: Tony Abreu returned to action after missing 10 days with a leg injury.

The Dodgers' utility infielder played five innings and ran the bases hard after singling. He went to third on a double and later scored on a sacrifice fly.

"I don't feel really good. But it's better now," Abreu told The Los Angeles Times. "It's been a long time since I played. The most difficult thing is when I have to run."

Angels may tap Weaver for opener: With John Lackey out with an elbow injury, Jered Weaver is in line to be the Opening Day starter for the Angels this season. The team has won all four of Weaver's starts this spring, and he sports a 1.29 ERA with two walks and eight strikeouts in 14 innings.

"We're going to see where we are at the end of camp," manager Mike Scioscia told The Los Angeles Times, "but Weaver is certainly a guy we're going to look at closely."

Balentien aims for fewer strikeouts: Mariners prospect Wladimir Balentien, a Curacao native known primarily for his power, is interested in becoming a more complete player.

"I'm trying to be a better contact hitter," Balentien told The Seattle Times. "Every year, it's getting a little better. Last year, I stuck out 105 times and it was the lowest I've ever had. This year, my goal is to have less than 100."

Balentien is in competition to make the Mariners as a backup outfielder this spring.

Oswalt brings some giddy-up to the mound: Roy Oswalt threw six hitless innings, striking out seven batters, against the Braves on Saturday, lowering his spring ERA to 2.40.

"He's a horse," manager Cecil Cooper told The Houston Chronicle. "We've got to ride the horse as much as we can. If he can take it 34 or 36 times and three-quarters of the time be like that, we're going to win a lot of games."

Kazmir likely to start season on DL: Manager Joe Maddon said it is increasingly likely that Scott Kazmir, who strained his pitching elbow in late February, will start the season on the 15-day disabled list. The Rays' ace left-hander hasn't pitched in an exhibition game yet.

"There's no rush on this whole thing," Maddon told The St. Petersburg Times. "We believe he's fine. We just want to make sure that the arm strength is there and that we take care of this right now so that there is no lingering effect during the season."

Parra, Bush battling for Brewers: Manny Parra and Dave Bush are having a spirited competition this spring for a place in the Brewers' starting rotation. Both were solid against the Royals on Saturday.

Parra, a left-hander, held Kansas City to three hits and one unearned run while striking out seven over five innings. In four outings this spring, Parra is 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA. In 14 innings of work, he has 15 strikeouts and only two walks.

Bush pitched the final four innings, allowing three hits and two runs with no walks and five strikeouts.

"They can do math. They realize what's at stake," manager Ned Yost told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

So far, so good for Prior: Mark Prior doesn't want to think too far ahead, but right now he is enjoying his Spring Training experience with the San Diego Padres.

"I've got to knock on wood," he told The San Diego Union-Tribune. "But it is going well."

Martinez a 'happy camper' after spring debut: Making his first start of the spring on Sunday, Pedro Martinez threw 58 pitches over four innings. He reached 91 mph with his fastball and his breaking ball showed some bite.

He allowed four hits and one walk while striking out four against the Detroit Tigers.

"If I'm able to do what I just did -- go pitch, come out healthy, not even ice my arm -- it's very encouraging," Martinez told Newsday. "That's what I want to do all season. If I'm able to do that, you're going to see good results and you're going to see a happy camper out there all year."

Story courtesy of Red Line Editorial, Inc.