- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 3, 2007

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The ball came off the bat too fast for Chad Bradford to duck. After absorbing the blow, the Baltimore Orioles pitcher was thankful the line drive merely hit him on the forearm.

“If it gets any higher, it’s toward the head,” Bradford said. “So that’s definitely scary.”

It happened yesterday in the ninth inning of the Orioles’ 3-0 win over the Florida Marlins. Scott Seabol hit the ball off Bradford’s right arm, and Bradford recovered in time to throw to first before stopping to assess the damage.

He stayed in the game to get the final out.

“It’s OK. It tightened up a little bit, but that’s to be expected when you get hit with a ball like that,” the right-hander said. “I think it will be OK. I was able to finish the inning before it started to swell up.”

Earlier in camp, Orioles pitcher Jamie Walker was struck by a line drive. It’s a hazard of the profession.

“It’s just like any other delivery. I finish, and then I have to be ready for something right back at me,” Bradford said.

PHILLIES: Ryan Howard got a raise. He’s still one of the biggest bargains in baseball, though.

The Philadelphia Phillies renewed the National League MVP’s contract yesterday, giving the first baseman a $900,000 salary after the sides failed to agree on a long-term deal.

The figure matches the highest base salary in a one-year contract for a player not eligible for arbitration. St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols agreed to a $900,000, one-year contract in 2003 — that deal included a $50,000 bonus for making the All-Star team, which Pujols earned.

Pujols started a $100 million, seven-year deal the next season.

Howard, who had a $355,000 salary last year, said he was disappointed the sides couldn’t reach a long-term deal, but he’s ready to start the season.

METS: Pitcher Pedro Martinez can start throwing today as part of his recuperation from October rotator cuff surgery.

Team physician Dr. David Altchek gave the approval for Martinez’s next step, general manager Omar Minaya said. Minaya said the most realistic expectation is for the three-time Cy Young Award to return by August.

“We’re probably being very conservative with him,” Minaya said. “A lot of it has to do with, psychologically, where is he at?”

RED SOX: Daisuke Matsuzaka’s spring training debut with Boston began when he gave up a leadoff double by a college junior. The Japanese pitcher retired the other six batters he faced.

Matsuzaka threw 25 pitches, 19 for strikes in the first two innings against Boston College.

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