David Wright may not have been able to help lead the United States to a World Baseball Classic title, but he did change the life of U.S. Army Sgt. Felix Perez.
03/25/2009 10:01 AM ET
David Wright gains a fan in Iraq war vet
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Wright got to know Perez during the team's stay in Florida and decided to pay for Perez to fly to Los Angeles -- and pick up his tab while there -- so Perez could cheer on the team against Japan in the semifinals.
"Awesome. An outstanding guy," Perez told the New York Daily News about Wright. "To take the time to do this for me, I'm nobody. There are guys better than me with worse stories. It's outstanding."
Perez was injured in Iraq in July 2004 and got an American flag signed by Team USA players after meeting them after a game in Miami.
"Obviously, he's a tremendous person, first and foremost," Wright said. "We got a chance to meet him in Miami. It's an honor to wear this uniform, but once you've seen a couple guys who have been through that and how much this flag means to him, obviously that inspires us. We take it that much more seriously when we get a chance to speak to people like that."
Schilling makes retirement official: Curt Schilling announced his retirement from baseball Tuesday, posting the announcement on his blog, 38pitches.com. During his career, Schilling was able to play in four World Series, winning three titles.
"This party has officially ended. After being blessed to experience 23 years of playing professional baseball in front of the world's best fans in so many different places, it is with zero regrets that I am making my retirement official," Schilling wrote. "To say I've been blessed would be like calling Refrigerator Perry 'a bit overweight.' The things I was allowed to experience, the people I was able to call friends, teammates, mentors, coaches and opponents, the travel -- all of it -- are far more than anything I ever thought possible in my lifetime."
Romero inches closer to starting position: Rookie Ricky Romero is making a push to land a spot in the starting rotation for the Toronto Blue Jays. Romero had a strong start against Cincinnati to keep himself in the race.
"My arm felt pretty good overall," Romero told the Toronto Star. "I felt like I battled out there. I was just a little excited for the first couple of innings. [Catcher Raul] Chavez was trying to calm me down. It worked. I was happy with it. I wish I hadn't thrown as many pitches, but I got out of some tough situations and jams, which is good."
Coffey secures bullpen spot: At least one spot in the Milwaukee bullpen is taken. Manager Ken Macha said reliever Todd Coffey is assured of a place in the pen when the season opens. Coffey is 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA this spring, with 12 strikeouts and one walk in 10 innings.
"For me, he's on the team," Macha told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Peña to play important role in bullpen: Chad Qualls is the new closer for Arizona this season, but the most important man in the bullpen may be setup man Tony Peña.
"For the better part of his time in the big leagues, he's been a dominant force in the bullpen," pitching coach Bryan Price told the Arizona Republic. "He's key."
Young encouraged after recent start: Chris Young was back on the mound for the Padres on Monday after skipping his previously scheduled start due to soreness in his elbow. Young finished his outing with 81 pitches thrown.
"I'm encouraged but not satisfied," Young told the San Diego Union-Tribune of his outing. "My ball had life. I felt good, but I wasn't as sharp as I wanted to be. But compared to my last two starts, it was a night-and-day improvement."
Nady gets the nod in right field: Manager Joe Girardi says Xavier Nady has moved ahead of Nick Swisher for playing time in right field for the Yankees.
"If we were to break today, Nady would be my right fielder," Girardi told the New York Daily News. "Nady did a lot of good things last year, so he had the upper hand going in."
Pujols ready to get season started: There are still nearly two weeks left before the season starts, but Albert Pujols says he's ready to go.
"Right now, I feel like every year -- good about myself with two weeks to go," Pujols told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "If the season started tomorrow, I would be ready. But I'm also glad there's another couple weeks left where I can pace myself and be there for [Opening Day on] April 6."
Gregg, Marmol in battle for closer's spot: Kevin Gregg and Carlos Marmol are having a spirited competition for the closer job on the Chicago Cubs.
"I've shown them what I can do," Gregg told the Chicago Tribune. "Carlos has shown them what he can do. ... You're only getting 10 innings out of us, [but], with our track [record] and history, you know what we can do. Now it's just how you put things together."
Lee to take Opening Day honors: Cliff Lee, who has been tabbed as the Opening Day starter for the Indians, says that stepping into the role previously filled by CC Sabathia is a true honor.
"It's exciting knowing that the team sees me as the No. 1 starter," Lee told the Akron Beacon Journal. "Other than that, I want to treat it like any other game. I want to do what I always try to do: give my team a chance to win, not put extra pressure on myself."
Hinske's versatility makes him attractive: Eric Hinske has been a part of two straight World Series -- one with Boston and most recently with Tampa Bay -- and his ability to do many different things for his team is a big part of what made him attractive to the Pirates.
"He gives us the versatility, but he's also a very good player," Pirates manager John Russell told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "We felt like we needed better players off the bench and guys that could actually -- if something happens -- be able to play every day as well. That's tough to play against."
Berkman blasts pair of home runs: Lance Berkman hit two home runs on Monday to lift the Astros past Florida, 10-8. The homers gave him three in two days.
"Lance put some good swings up," manager Cecil Cooper told the Houston Chronicle. "Lance had some great swings today. Every at-bat was good swings. It was good to see that."
Snell honored father by playing for Puerto Rico: Having just returned from the World Baseball Classic, Ian Snell had plenty to say about the event.
"The fans and that atmosphere was much different than what it is here in the United States," Snell told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "It's like they're really, really passionate about the game and it makes you want to go out and perform for them. I had a great time."
And representing Puerto Rico was important to Snell.
"It meant a lot because it was for my dad," he said. "It wasn't that I was trying to fake and be something that I'm not. That's the way I grew up. Nobody really knows because that's the way I grew up. I don't talk about it and I don't care to talk about it with other people. My dad is Puerto Rican, and I just wanted to honor him and represent him on the team, and that's what I did."
Lindstrom targets Opening Day return: After being sidelined for a week with tendinitis in his rotator cuff, Matt Lindstrom has resumed throwing. Lindstrom hopes he will progress enough to be ready to pitch on Opening Day for the Marlins.
"He would have to hit all his target dates," manager Fredi Gonzalez told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "As a reliever, you can protect him."
Milledge receiving theft tips from Cedeño: The Nationals have moved Lastings Milledge to the top of the order and hope he can become the stolen-base threat the team has lacked the past few seasons.
One of the team's coaches is former Major Leaguer Cesar Cedeño, who stole 550 bases in his 17-year career. Cedeno is tutoring Milledge on the finer points of basestealing.
"He will be a success if he becomes a real student of this particular fact -- how to steal bases, because he's definitely got a God-given ability," Cedeño told the Washington Post. "And he's willing to do it. He likes to run."
Manny focused on a healthy hamstring: Manny Ramirez homered in the Dodgers' first night game ever at Camelback Ranch, but after the game he indicated that a flyout to left-center was a bigger at-bat because it gave him a chance to run hard and test his injured hamstring.
"I'm more concerned about my leg," Ramirez told the Los Angeles Times. "If I'm healthy, I'll be fine. Everything will take care of itself."
Guzman to receive new look at first base: Jesus Guzman, the 2008 Texas League batting champ while in the A's organization, has been everything the Giants expected, both offensively and defensively. He is batting .404 with a team-leading 14 RBIs this spring and has been moved to first base.
"We want to see what he looks like there," vice president of player personnel Dick Tidrow told the San Francisco Chronicle. "Is it a crash course? It could be. We want a chance to see him play in Minor League games so he can get comfortable there."
Matthews Jr. ready for action: Gary Matthews Jr., who had surgery on his left knee during the offseason, plans to make an impact in the Angels outfield.
"I'm 34, and you don't play forever," Matthews told the Los Angeles Times. "It's not like I'm 24 and have time to sit around and waste years. That's not what I'm going to do."
"I'm ready to get back to playing every day," Matthews added. "Surgery allowed me to get my strength back."
-- Red Line Editorial