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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Carl Everett expects to win with Seattle Mariners


PEORIA, Ariz. -- He hadn't even started his first Mariners workout, and already Carl Everett was spicing up a bland Seattle spring training.

By 8 a.m. Tuesday, minutes after arriving at his new clubhouse, Everett was whooping and churning out jokes. He teased 39-year-old pitcher Dave Burba for looking like the goody-goody player depicted on the league's posted notice on the proper way to wear a uniform.

Later, the Mariners' new designated hitter explained why he bought two weeks of spring training lunches for his Montreal teammates in 2004. He paid for catered hot food over the clubhouse cold cuts, because "when you get turkey, you get the whole turkey. Legs, hips, rear end. Everything."

But there was nothing about dinosaurs. Not yet, anyway.

"That's dude's crazy, man," said outfielder Matt Lawton, a fellow offseason Seattle import and locker neighbor who spent most of his morning at Everett's side. "Good luck with HIM."

On the field, trainers called the players to stretch before for the first full Seattle practice. Everett was using nail clippers to trim his fingernails.

Everett later pantomimed punches into the stomach of new hitting coach Jeff Pentland. Three times, he clowned with a television cameraman. He bellowed cackling, drawn out laughs at Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre around the batting cage.

The man infamous for once head-butting an umpire, spitting at and grabbing his crotch at Seattle pitcher Jamie Moyer after a home run and claiming dinosaurs never existed had landed with laughs onto his eighth team in 11 major-league seasons.

"Eight teams doesn't bother me," the 34-year-old former Marlin, Met, Astro, Red Sox, Ranger, Expo and White Sox said. "That means I'm wanted."

The Mariners, desperate for a left-handed power hitter, wanted him enough to pay the switch-hitter $3.4 million this season. Seattle also has a club option for 2007.

Everett earned $4 million last season with the World Series champion White Sox. He played in 135 games and batted .251 with 23 home runs and 87 RBIs.

It was the fourth time in his 11-year career he hit at least 20 home runs and drove in at least 80, yet Chicago declined its 2006 option.

Seattle then leaped for a potential spark for its complacent clubhouse and an even more inert offense.

"I heard this team was lax and laid back," Everett said. "I find they are very humorous and willing to play baseball - so far.

"The tone for me right now is it's going to be a great year."

Everett's first-day tone surprised some Mariners.

"Actually, being with him today, he was one of the nicest guys I've ever met," said Lawton, who has never played with Everett. "He's going to be great for our clubhouse, keeping guys loose.

"You see some many guys with the label 'Time bomb' and they are quiet, like they are about to explode. He was great."

Hold on, Matt. Everett warned those "time bomb" moments may still be coming.

"You're going to find when I'm not smiling, stay away from me," Everett said.

A hearty chuckle failed to hide his seriousness.

"I don't know what my reputation is. I've heard so much from so many different people," he said. "And, actually, I really don't care. But the guys in the clubhouse, they know who I am. They are around me more than anybody.

"I'm not a person who will let you get to know me - and that tends to offend people.

"I'm not looking for people to like me," he said. "I'm here to win."

Everett said he perceived that winning mentality to be lacking from the Mariners last year during their 69-93 season - Seattle's second consecutive 90-loss year.

"'Hope we're going to win,' that's exactly what I saw," Everett said. "It wasn't a team that went out to beat you every day."

With that, Everett rose from the picnic table he had been using as his pulpit. He then issued this ironic advisement:

"You all stay out of trouble."

Cubs pitcher Mark Prior starts carefully


MESA, Ariz. -- Mark Prior needs a quick start and a healthy one. He's opened the last two seasons on the disabled list, a place he doesn't want to visit again.

That's why Prior said he is taking a deliberate approach to getting ready for another season.

Nearly a week into spring training, he still hadn't thrown off the mound when the Chicago Cubs held their first full-squad workout Tuesday.

Slowed by a two-week throat infection this winter - one that sent him to the emergency room - his early regimen has been limited to throwing off flat ground and working on endurance.

"I've been on throwing programs before, but this one is a little more structured, trying to build up arm strength," Prior said Tuesday. "I'm doing extended amounts of sets, throwing 20-25 at a certain distance and then taking a little break and going back a little bit farther. I think I'm responding to it well. We talked about it last year, that's how it would be - take it a little bit slower or a little bit more methodical."

Prior has pitched in just one regular spring training game the last two years. In 2004 he was hampered by Achilles tendinitis, and last year had a sore elbow.

"I know what my history's been," he said.

Prior said his arm is fine. After recovering from his elbow soreness last season, he took a line drive off the elbow, rebounded from that trip to the DL and finished 11-6 in 27 starts with a 3.67 ERA.

In 2003 when Chicago made a run for the World Series in Prior's first full major league season, the 6-5 right-hander went 18-6, including 10-1 in the final two months.

Hampered by the injuries, he's just 17-11 in the ensuing two seasons.

"I feel good. I felt good out there yesterday, and I expect to be on the mound here in a couple of days," he said. "My body feels good. I'm getting closer. It's a process to get ready for the season. It's not just show up and go to work. I don't feel sick and weak."

Cubs manager Dusty Baker is satisfied with where Prior is at this point in the spring.

"I mean the guy, he's progressing like we said," Baker said. "Mark's going good. I asked him. I get tired of asking how he's doing, actually. And I'm sure he's tired of answering the questions himself."

Manny Ramirez given permission to report March 1


Manny Ramirez will be in camp with the Boston Red Sox - just not for a few days.

After asking Boston to trade him during the offseason, the slugger was given permission to report to spring training on March 1, six days after the club's first full-squad workout and one day after Major League Baseball's mandatory reporting date.

"Manny is in Florida completing an extensive training regimen and is prepared to have an exceptional season," said a joint statement from Ramirez and the team that was released by the Red Sox on Tuesday.

"There are a lot of factors involved, some of them are personal, some are family related," general manager Theo Epstein said in Fort Myers, Fla. "He assured us that by staying in Miami and continuing to work with his personal trainer, continuing his regimen, that he wouldn't be behind. In the end, after talking to him, we were OK with accommodating him. It's not perfect, but we're going to support him through this."

Position players were due in town Wednesday, the day before the first workout. Baseball's collective bargaining agreement sets the mandatory reporting date as 33 days prior to the major league opener, which is April 2.

"It happens all the time, guys all over the big leagues show up at different times," Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling said. "He'll be ready to play. Manny's one of those guys who if he didn't show up for spring training, I'd still know he'd be ready for the season when the season started."

In Scottsdale, Ariz., the San Francisco Giants gathered as a full team for the first time this year, with players getting the chance to hit, field, run and throw together as they prepare for the start of the season. There was one notable exception - Barry Bonds was nowhere to be found.

"It's nice to see everybody - not quite everybody," manager Felipe Alou said. "It always feels good when you see all of those guys."

Bonds was a no-show at the first voluntary workout for position players. His agent told the team last week that because of personal issues, the star would come a day or two later than his teammates, who showed up Monday.
"To me, he can get here whenever he feels he is ready because whenever he walks into this field he'll perform the way Barry has performed all of the time," Giants outfielder Moises Alou said.

In Tampa, Fla., Gary Sheffield reported to spring training and was upbeat after the New York Yankees said they'd likely keep him around for 2007.

Sheffield is entering the final season of a $39 million, three-year contract, and the Yankees hold a $13 million option for 2007.

"They brought me in and told me they were probably going to pick the option up," Sheffield said after meeting with general manager Brian Cashman. "You always want to earn whatever you get. I take a lot of pride in that. He didn't have to bring me in today. I appreciate that. When I was a free agent, a lot of teams called and I really didn't answer. There was only one place, and that still remains the same. I don't want to play for nobody else but the Yankees."

Cashman said there is no timetable regarding a final decision. Sheffield's contract calls for the option to be exercised within five days of the end of the World Series or Nov. 5.

"He's such a great player, I'd been surprised at the end of this thing we're not doing something," Cashman said. "Let's play this thing through and see where it goes. I'm not saying we'll do anything soon. I'm not saying we're not going to do anything until the very end. I don't know yet."

Miguel Tejada, who asked the Orioles to trade him during the offseason, was greeted by his Baltimore teammates one hug at a time in Fort Lauderdale., Fla.

Tejada said he told the Latin players, "I felt really embarrassed, because I'm not that kind of man. I'm not the kind of person that makes some trouble. Everything is over. Everything is straight."

After the two-hour workout, he told reporters, "It's never going to happen again."

In Vero Beach, Fla., Jeff Kent said the tense atmosphere in the Los Angeles Dodgers' clubhouse last season shouldn't be used as a reason for the team's 71-91 finish.

"That's not an excuse. Me and Barry fought all the time and we went to the World Series," Kent said, referring to his former teammate in San Francisco. "Just because we can't all always get along doesn't mean we shouldn't win. It still shouldn't have affected the way we played."

In Surprise, Ariz., Phil Nevin said he was eager to erase what he called "my most embarrassing season," acknowledging that he didn't respond well to a midseason trade that sent him from San Diego to Texas.

After acquiring Nevin for pitcher Chan Ho Park in July, the Rangers asked Nevin to be a DH. The team then went through a 1-12 trip and started looking at younger players. Nevin played in only 29 games for Texas, hitting .182 with three homers and eight RBIs in 99 at-bats.

"I didn't handle anything well," Nevin said. "It was my most embarrassing season, and I was basically immature about the whole situation."

A career .279 hitter, Nevin hit .289 in 2004 with 26 homers and 105 RBIs.

"I'm looking forward to making up for things this year," said Nevin, who is in the final year of a contract that makes him the highest-paid Rangers player at $10 million.

Rangers star Mark Teixeira knocked the cover off a ball during batting practice.

"I've never done that before," he said. "I think the cover was probably defective. I'm not taking credit for that one."

Nevertheless, he did put it away in his locker and said it might go in his trophy collection.

Barry Bonds arrives at Giants' camp

Barry Bonds arrives at Giants' camp


San Francisco Giants' Barry Bonds steps out of a vehicle as he reports to his Major League baseball spring training camp Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2006, in Scottsdale, Ariz. His agent told the team last week that because of personal issues, the star would come a day or two later than his teammates, who showed up Monday. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Barry Bonds showed up at the San Francisco Giants' camp Wednesday, one day after the slugger's teammates held their first full-team workout.

Bonds' agent told the team last week that because of personal issues the star would come a day or two later than his teammates, who showed up Monday. The mandatory reporting date for players is next Tuesday.

After having three knee operations and playing only 14 games last year, the Giants are eager to learn what they can expect from Bonds this season. He showed signs of his old self in his brief September return, hitting five homers in 42 at-bats to help the Giants make a late run at the San Diego Padres in the NL West that ultimately fell short.

Bonds, 41, has already caused a stir this spring with contradicting interviews he gave in the past week. He told USA Today that his knee bothered him so much he would probably retire after the season, with or without the home run record, then told MLB.com that his knee brace felt good enough for him to possibly play 10 more seasons.

Bonds is in the final season of his $90 million, five-year contract and will be eligible for free agency after the World Series, meaning his time with the Giants could be up even if he doesn't retire.

He is seven homers shy of passing Babe Ruth for second place and 48 away from breaking Aaron's record. Since Bonds has hit that many only twice in his 20-year career - including his record 73 in 2001 - it seems unlikely he'll break the mark this season.

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