- The Washington Times - Monday, March 16, 2009

Ivan Rodriguez appears headed to the Houston Astros. Cole Hamels and Manny Ramirez aren’t sure when they’ll be back in spring training games.

A 14-time All-Star catcher, Rodriguez was closing in on a $1.5 million, one-year contract with the Astros, a person familiar with the talks told The Associated Press on Monday.

The deal would contain $1.5 million in performance bonuses based on games and plate appearances, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the agreement had not yet been announced by the team.

“There isn’t anything certain yet. Right now the only team I have is Puerto Rico,” Rodriguez said in Spanish before a World Baseball Classic game against Venezuela in Miami. “There’s interest, but I haven’t received a call yet. Let’s wait and see what happens in the coming hours or days.”

Houston needs a veteran catcher to replace Brad Ausmus, who signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Astros have several young catchers in camp who need time to develop. Humberto Quintero had been in line to start this season, but he’ll likely move to a backup role.

“It’s very important for me (to be a starter) because I feel good enough to play every day,” Rodriguez said. “I feel very good, ready to play a whole season.”

He added that his strong play with Puerto Rico probably boosted his bid to find a major league team.

“It helps a lot for some players like myself, who still don’t have a job. I think this Classic has been a very important factor,” he said.

Hamels left Phillies camp and flew to Philadelphia to have his left elbow examined by team physician Dr. Michael Ciccotti.

“He’s had a little bit of a persistent soreness in his elbow. We do not believe it’s serious,” general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said in Clearwater, Fla. “But at least at this time we thought it was important for Dr. Ciccotti to check him out and see if there’s anything more serious than we think it is.”

The World Series MVP made his first Grapefruit League start Wednesday. He pitched in an intrasquad game Sunday and didn’t report any pain during four innings.

Hamels feels tightness in his elbow between innings and after he’s finished pitching for the day.

“I was able to throw yesterday,” the 25-year-old left-hander said. “It’s just been that kind of mild discomfort, something I don’t want to have to deal with during the season. So if we can figure it out and somehow lessen the inflammation and the discomfort, I’ll be able to throw and be productive.”

Hamels pitched 262 1-3 innings last year, the first season in an eight-year professional career that he avoided the disabled list.

The Dodgers hope Ramirez won’t have to start the season on the DL because of his cranky left hamstring.

The slugger will be held out of exhibition games for at least a week after he aggravated the injury Sunday while playing the outfield for the first time this spring.

“We’re just going to lay low till we get rid of this,” manager Joe Torre said in Phoenix. “We’re just going to keep him out. I can’t give you a time because I don’t know the time, but it’s certainly going to be through the weekend and probably beyond that.”

The 36-year-old Ramirez will continue to hit in workouts.

“A thing we’re certainly not going to attempt to do is take a chance with this, and once you start playing it never goes away,” Torre said.

He said if Ramirez gets “a week or so of at-bats, it should be enough” for him to be ready for opening day.

Torre acknowledged that Ramirez is upset about the lingering injury.

“He was frustrated,” the manager said. “He’s always in a good frame of mind pretty much, but he certainly doesn’t like the inactivity.”

In other news:

_Florida reliever Matt Lindstrom has a strained right rotator cuff that will sideline him at least a week, and he’ll miss the rest of the WBC. Lindstrom underwent an MRI exam and was told not to throw for seven to 10 days, the Marlins said. The organization is uncertain whether he’ll be ready by opening day.

_Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun will remain with the United States team at the WBC despite straining a muscle on the right side of his rib cage Sunday.

_All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez was held out of Florida’s lineup against Washington because of discomfort in his right shoulder.

_Detroit manager Jim Leyland isn’t sure whether injury-plagued reliever Joel Zumaya will be ready for opening day.

_Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano had an MRI that found bursitis in his right shoulder. He could play the field on Friday. Left-hander Damaso Marte also had an MRI that showed he has inflammation in his pitching shoulder. The reliever will have the first of two bullpen sessions Tuesday and could pitch this weekend.

_Atlanta lefty Tom Glavine threw under game conditions for the first time since elbow and shoulder surgery, working two innings in an intrasquad contest.

_Royals right-hander Julio Pimentel will miss at least six weeks with an elbow injury that could require season-ending surgery.

Royals 11, White Sox 7

At Phoenix, Chicago’s Bartolo Colon gave up four runs and three hits in 1 2-3 innings in his first appearance since offseason surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow.

Angels 8, Giants 5

At Scottsdale, Ariz., Torii Hunter and Howie Kendrick each hit a two-run double for Los Angeles.

The Giants scratched reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum because of a slight case of the flu. Lincecum is to make his next start Wednesday in place of Randy Johnson, who will be skipped because of biceps soreness, manager Bruce Bochy said.

Tigers 7, Cardinals 6

At Lakeland, Fla., Khalil Greene went 3-for-3 with three RBIs and Albert Pujols homered for St. Louis.

Twins 5, Orioles 3

At Fort Myers, Fla., Joe Crede went 3-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs for Minnesota. The third baseman had been in a slump since he signed with the Twins last month.

Red Sox 6, Blue Jays 4

At Dunedin, Fla., Jed Lowrie hit one of Boston’s three homers off Roy Halladay, who allowed four runs and eight hits in five innings.

Yankees 12, Phillies 0

At Tampa, Fla., New York’s Joba Chamberlain made his second straight strong start, allowing two hits over three scoreless innings.

Rockies 8, Diamondbacks 3

At Tucson, Ariz., Todd Helton and Carlos Gonzalez each hit a two-run homer for Colorado, and Christian Colonel added a three-run shot.

Brewers 9, Cubs 6

At Phoenix, Bill Hall hit a three-run homer and Corey Hart also went deep for Milwaukee.

Nationals 3, Marlins 1

At Jupiter, Fla., Washington’s Jordan Zimmermann breezed through another dominant outing, striking out six in four shutout innings of two-hit ball. The 22-year-old right-hander has 22 strikeouts and two walks in 12 1-3 scoreless innings this spring.

Rays 6, Pirates 4

At Bradenton, Fla., Paul Maholm threw 4 2-3 shutout innings for Pittsburgh. He has allowed one run in 13 2-3 innings this spring.

Indians 4, Mariners (ss) 1

At Goodyear, Ariz., Cleveland’s Jeremy Sowers pitched four effective innings, allowing one run and three hits.

Athletics 10, Dodgers (ss) 8

At Phoenix, Jason Schmidt tossed two scoreless innings for Los Angeles but manager Joe Torre said the right-hander is no longer a candidate to begin the season in the rotation because there is not enough time for his rehab from shoulder surgery.

Mariners (ss) 4, Dodgers (ss) 3, 10 innings

At Peoria, Ariz., Erik Bedard pitched one inning for Seattle in his first outing since March 5. The left-hander, who had been sidelined with sore buttocks, allowed one run and two hits.

___

AP Sports Writers Kristie Rieken, Steven Wine and Ricardo Zuniga, and AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.

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