Photos From Aubrey Huff's Induction into the UM Sports Hall of Fame

Check out photos from Aubrey Huff's induction into the UM Sports Hall of Fame which was held at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark light Field on February 20, 2009 right before the Miami Hurricane baseball team opened its 2009 season and new stadium against the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers. The Hurricanes went on to win 6-1. Click here to see the photos.

Dolphins sign tackle Vernon Carey for six years, $42 million

Those questions surrounding the Dolphins' offensive line received at least one major answer Friday, when the team locked up right tackle Vernon
Carey for another six years.

The deal is worth $42 million for the length of the contract.

Carey, a South Florida native who played at the University of Miami before getting drafted as a first-round pick in 2004, will maintain his roots in his hometown area. He agreed to the extension Friday, two sources said.

On Thursday, the team passed on the idea of franchising Carey for another year -- instead feeling confident enough in him to keep him around for much longer. He was scheduled to hit free agency Feb. 27, when he would have been one of only a few starting-caliber tackles on the open market.


Dolphins Won't Franchise Carey, Bears & Vikings Interested

The Miami Dolphins will not place the franchise tag on any of their five free agents, head coach Tony Sparano said Thursday.

The Bears and Vikings are expected to be interested in free agent RT Vernon Carey after the Dolphins elected not use the franchise tag.
The Vikings have identified right tackle as one of the team's glaring weaknesses while the Bears will have to replace John Tait. The Dolphins were expected to make re-signing Carey a priority, but they don't appear willing to match his asking price.


Bucs Will Work To Keep Buchanon

General manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mark Dominik has outlined a very specific approach to free agency -- focus on retaining as many of your good players as possible.

It sounds simplistic, but Dominik began putting that practice to use Thursday by meeting with the agents for receiver Michael Clayton, safety Jermaine Phillips and others.

Dominik said he also plans to meet with Drew Rosenhaus, the agent for cornerback Phillip Buchanon, later this week. The Bucs still have about a dozen players who will become either unrestricted or restricted free agents when the signing period begins Feb. 27.

"I spent today meeting with the agents of our players trying to see if we can figure anything out,'' Dominik said. "We have 12 unrestricted and restrictred free agents. So I spent today trying to talk to as many agents as I can in one-on-one meetings trying to see if there's a common ground that makes sense to bring them back. That's our goal first.''


Giants won't receive Saints first-rounder

The Giants will not receive a first-round pick from the Saints as a result of last year's Jeremy Shockey trade.

The Saints would have to sign Jonathan Vilma to a new contract before the start of free agency. The Jets would then receive a second, pushing the Giants into the first. It's a no-brainer for the Saints to hold off on Vilma until March so they can keep their own first-rounder.


James Jones Ailing

Forward James Jones missed practice Thursday and was having his surgically repaired right wrist examined by a doctor, the team said.

Jones and Jermaine O'Neal were both injured on the same play in the third quarter of Wednesday night's home loss to Minnesota. O'Neal took a charge from the Timberwolves' Mike Miller and missed about a quarter after sustaining a bloody nose. O'Neal also said after the game he experienced blurred vision immediately after the injury.

Jones aggravated a right wrist injury during the collision and did not return. The former University of Miami standout had missed three months after undergoing surgery for a ruptured tendon in the same wrist, sustained during the preseason.

''It's just swelling and more precautionary,'' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Jones' visit to the doctor.

Asked whether Jones' injury is serious, Spoelstra said, ``I don't think so.''

A team doctor examined Jones after the game and said the wrist just appeared to be bruised. X-rays were negative.


Huff To Be Inducted into UM Sports Hall of Fame

Friday night before the baseball season opener against Rutgers, UM will induct Baltimore Orioles first baseman Aubrey Huff into the Hall of Fame. Jim Morris, along with Pat Burrell, will present Huff with his Hall of Fame ring and jacket in an on-field ceremony before the game. Huff hit 21 home runs and drove in 95 RBI his final season at Miami in 1998. He hit .400 in his career (2nd all-time) and had a career .719 slugging percentage. For more information on a Parrott Jungle Banquet and the UM Sports Hall of Fame golf tournament on April 24th, go to


Get To Know: Marlins 1B Gaby Sanchez

We here at Fantasy Source want to make sure you're as prepared for the '09 season as possible. That's why we're running a series of posts in the Fastball titled "Get To Know," where we identify prospects and unheralded bench players who have a chance to make an impact soon.

Earlier this week we introduced you to the Cardinals' David Freese, who has a chance to fill in at third base with Troy Glaus missing time. Today, let's get to know Marlins prospect Gaby Sanchez.

Despite never seeing a pitch in Triple-A, the 25-year-old Sanchez is the front-runner to open the season as the starting first baseman in South Florida now that Mike Jacobs is gone. Of course, Sanchez will need a solid spring to convince the Marlins to keep Jorge Cantu at third base and the power-hitting Dallas McPherson (42 home runs in 448 Triple-A at-bats last season) on the bench.

Sanchez, a righthanded hitter, has impressed in the minors, sporting a career .305 average in more than 1,400 at-bats. Last season at Double-A, he compiled a .314-17-92 line in 478 at-bats en route to being named the Southern League's MVP. He's also tough to strike out, as evidenced by his 14.6 percent K rate in '08 and his nearly 1-to-1 career K-to-BB ratio in the minors.

While he has a big frame at 6-2, 225, Sanchez is unlikely to replace the power lost by the departure of Jacobs, now in Kansas City. The 17 homers last season were Sanchez's career high, so owners shouldn't expect much more than that in his first season in the majors. But Sanchez also possesses decent speed, swiping 17 bases last season and 41 total in his minor-league career. That's a nice bonus coming from a 1B option.

An interesting fact about Sanchez is that he was an all-conference catcher at the Univ. of Miami before moving over to first in the minors. It would be nice if the Marlins still had plans on using him as a catcher considering his 20-homer potential and ability to chip in 10-15 steals. Eligibility at C would bump Sanchez up to a mixed-league sleeper, especially with only John Baker and Mike Rabelo on the depth chart. But for now Sanchez should be limited to NL-only and deeper mixed leagues.


Braun sheds light on fashion venture

PHOENIX -- He's a long way from New York's Fashion Week, but Ryan Braun was roaming the Brewers clubhouse this week distributing his new line of T-shirts, looking and sounding like Milwaukee's answer to Marc Jacobs.

The left fielder arrived at camp Tuesday clad in one of his creations and was explaining its design, burgundy with gold foil and the image of a woman, when center fielder Mike Cameron walked in wearing the same shirt. Ten minutes later, shortstop J.J. Hardy joined the group and suddenly everyone was grateful they weren't at a cocktail party.

"It's awesome those guys are wearing it," said Braun, who distributed shirts to some of his teammates over the winter. "That tells me they like them, and that's a good sign."

The brand name is Remetee, and Braun spent 4-5 hours a day during the offseason hiring staff and working on designs at the company's Los Angeles offices. He co-owns the venture with a handful of investors whom he declined to name, but a magazine article that Braun showed to Brewers beat writers reported that one of them is Affliction owner Todd Beard, whose brand is ubiquitous in Major League clubhouses. The new company's name is a play on the word "remedy," because Braun hopes that its bright colors and friendlier graphics offer an answer to the dark, drab designs popular until now.

The shirts aren't cheap -- they run from $70-$100, complete with rhinestones on the higher end -- but so far business is good. Braun said the line is available in major department stores and some specialty stores like The Buckle, which just this week placed a $100,000 re-order.

"That's unheard of in this economy, for a new line to get into all of these places," Braun said. "The initial buzz has been unbelievable. It's probably greater than we ever anticipated."

Some of his celebrity friends have helped. Braun helped distribute clothes to NBA star Tony Parker and his famous wife, Eva Longoria, to actor Ashton Kutcher and then, naturally, to baseball players like Derek Jeter, David Wright and CC Sabathia.

"It's fun for me, from a business perspective, to be involved with every aspect of the company and see it grow and evolve," said Braun, whose involvement will be more limited when the baseball season begins. "It's so early, but so far everything is going really well."

Remetee is not Braun's only business initiative. He's working on a deal with Sam Bat, makers of his maple baseball bats, to produce a line of metal bats for kids with an "RB8" logo -- Braun's initials and his uniform number. He's also involved with the makers of a high-tech mouthpiece that increases oxygen flow to the brain. Free-agent slugger Manny Ramirez helped make the device popular, and Braun said a number of Brewers players are now using it and liking it.

"I'm just trying to get ownership equity in everything I'm involved with right now," he said. "I like having a say in the direction of the company, and I'm just trying to be really choosy about what I get into. But I really enjoy it."

The chat with Braun prompted a stop at fellow star slugger Prince Fielder's locker. Is Fielder involved in any ventures?

"Just baseball," Fielder said.


Perez seeks to be Cardinals' closer

JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — The battle for the St. Louis Cardinals' closer position wasn't on Chris Perez's mind when he walked off the mound following his first appearance against batters this spring.

"It's too early right now," Perez said on Thursday, as he made his way across the backfields to the Cardinals clubhouse in Jupiter, Fla. Even the first few spring games probably won't tell much, he added.

"The end of March, that's when it is really going to start heating up."

Perez, 23, entered spring as the likely front-runner in a four-way battle with Ryan Franklin, Jason Motte and Josh Kinney for the position.

Perez was the 41st pick in the 2006 draft. He began last season with Triple-A Memphis before being called up in mid-May. He appeared in 41 games, saving seven of them and posting a 3.46 ERA.

Franklin, the veteran of the group, first reached the majors with Seattle in 1999. He led St. Louis with 17 saves in 2008. Motte recorded one save last season. Kinney has yet to record a save at the major league level.

The Cardinals limited Perez to 30 pitches, mixing fastballs, sinkers, curveballs and sliders. He focused on his mechanics and pitch location, noting with a laugh that the last thing a pitcher wants to do is hit a teammate.

Perez said he felt good following the session, though admitted he did tire toward the end of the session.

"He's making good progress," pitching coach Dave Duncan said. "The breaking ball is his project this spring, and he threw some good ones. He's coming along."

Perez was the lone member of the closer's battle to face batters on Thursday. Franklin threw a bullpen session while Motte and Kinney had non-throwing days scheduled.

If none of the four emerge as a clear choice, there is still the possibility the Cardinals could bring in former closer Jason Isringhausen. The Cardinals' all-time saves leader wasn't re-signed following a rocky 2008 season and remains a free agent.

St. Louis General Manager John Mozeliak said earlier this week that the organization considered inviting Isringhausen to camp in a mentor role, but decided against it.

"The message we are trying to send this group of guys we have here is that we think they are capable of doing the job," Mozeliak said.
Perez, for one, isn't concerned about the possibility of an Isringhausen return.

"I'm worried about myself right now," Perez said. "If I take care of my own thing and I do well, it will work out."


Huff Reports To Spring Training

Aubrey Huff reported to Fort Lauderdale Stadium Wednesday hoping that months of inactivity before spring training will again result in one of the finest offensive seasons in the American League.

Huff had hernia surgery after the 2007 season. It kept him from any baseball-related activity until spring training and he hit .304 with 32 homeruns and 108 RBIs last season.

So Huff decided to stick with what works. He says he feels no pressure to duplicate his strong 2008 season, even though he's entering the final year of his contract.


Broncos Clear $3.6 Million By Re-doing Williams' Deal

In a move that helps to reduce some of the dead money resulting from the release of cornerback Dre’ Bly, the Denver Broncos have created $3.6 million in cap space by converting a $4.5 million roster bonus owed to linebacker D.J. Williams into a guaranteed payment.

According to Mike Klis of the Denver Post, the move spreads the payment over five years for cap purposes.  The cap charge for 2009 is reduced, then, to $900,000 — giving rise to an extra $3.6 million in cap room for the league year that commences on February 27.

The $3.6 million in cap savings resulting from the restructuring of Williams’ deal offsets only a portion of the the cap charge relating to Dre Bly’s release.

Per a source with knowledge of Bly’s deal, his remaining bonus proration is $9.45 million.  Because 2009 is the last capped year, the entire amount will have to be absorbed under the 2009 cap.

But since the Broncos are clearing Bly’s $3.25 million salary and $400,000 workout bonus, the net cap hit is $5.8 million.  So with Williams’ adjusted contract, the Broncos are only $2.2 million in the hole. 


RealScouts: Top 10 free-agent inside linebackers

1. Ray Lewis, Ravens. Everyone has been saying all the right things, from Lewis wanting to remain a Raven to John Harbaugh basically saying the team will break the bank to keep him. But teammate Terrell Suggs is likely to get the franchise tag, which means the Ravens will have to re-sign Lewis in the next week or he'll reach the market. If Suggs gets tagged, he would tie up $10.2 million in cap money, which wouldn't leave a whole lot of cash for Lewis. Despite his advancing age, Lewis is coming off a strong season. If he reaches the market, the Jets and Cowboys would be possible landing spots.

3. Jonathan Vilma, Saints. The good news is the Saints don't have any other top-level free agents, so they could put the tag on Vilma. But it probably won't be necessary because Vilma wants to return to New Orleans after his stellar comeback season. Vilma is athletic, fast and instinctive and can still make plays all over the field.


Orien Harris Could Sign with the Bengals

Defensive tackle Orien Harris (6-3, 300, second season) saw action in 14 games and started Week 6 against the Jets. He is an exclusive rights free agent; the team has already signed FB/TE Daniel Coats, who was the other player in that category.


James reiterates desire to leave Cardinals

Less than three weeks after completing an unlikely postseason run with a solid effort on Super Sunday, Edgerrin James feels like he’s running in place. The veteran halfback wants the Arizona Cardinals to release him – sooner, rather than later – insisting that he and his employers came to a de facto agreement that he would not return to the team for the 2009 season after he was benched midway through ’08.

James, who has one year and $5 million remaining on the four-year, $30-million contract that brought him to the desert in February of ’06, believes he does not fit the Cardinals’ offensive system and wants to go to a team that will better utilize his abilities.

“We had a clear, mutual understanding of where we both were at – that this was going to be my last year – so it shouldn’t be that big a deal,” James said in a recent telephone interview. “My mind is already set. It didn’t work, and it’s time for me to push on.

“I’ve been a professional during this entire situation, and it’s only right that they do the same. Instead of dragging things out with a player that’s not going to be around next year, why not let him go?”

James’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus, is scheduled to meet with Cardinals officials at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis this week to discuss the situation – as well as the desire of another Rosenhaus clients, Pro Bowl wideout Anquan Boldin, to be traded. Rod Graves, Arizona’s general manager, did not respond to requests seeking comment on James’ status. A source familiar with the Cardinals’ thinking says James is considered the team’s top halfback and is unlikely to be released unless and until a suitable replacement is obtained, most likely via the draft in late April.

In the wake of their first Super Bowl appearance, which ended in a last-minute, 27-23 defeat to the Steelers, the Cardinals are dealing with a multitude of offseason issues, including the future of quarterback Kurt Warner – who could retire or test unrestricted free agency starting Feb. 27 if not re-signed – and other key players whose contracts are expiring, including defensive ends Bertrand Berry and Antonio Smith. (The team applied the franchise tag to inside linebacker Karlos Dansby earlier this week. Warner’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, has been negotiating with the Cardinals and will continue discussions in Indy this week. The two sides are likely to agree on a two-year deal that would pay Warner well over $20 million.)

There has also been upheaval in the coaching ranks. Offensive coordinator Todd Haley was hired as the Chiefs’ head coach, and defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast was fired. Though neither opening has been formally filled, a team source says Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt will assume Haley’s duties and split the nominal coordinator title between two current assistants – offensive line coach Russ Grimm is expected to be named “running game coordinator,” and receivers coach Mike Miller will be named “passing game coordinator.” The source said linebackers coach Billy Davis will be promoted to replace Pendergast, who joined Haley’s staff in Kansas City on Tuesday in an unannounced capacity.

James considers his departure to be a given. The halfback hasn’t been back to Arizona since before the Super Bowl, and in his mind, he has already relocated. His belongings were packed and shipped back to his offseason home in Miami in November, after he was benched by Whisenhunt.

“They already lost their running back,” James said of the Cardinals. “They lost me in Week 8, 9 and 10, when they stopped playing me. I’ve been lost. Clearly, I wasn’t what they wanted. That was when I packed up my bags and shipped my stuff home.”

The resurrection he enjoyed during the postseason did nothing to change his mind. After the Super Bowl, which was played in Tampa, Fla., James stayed in his home state rather than flying back to Arizona with the team. “For what?” he asked. “Exit meetings last 10 minutes, and I’ve been through nine of those. What was the point?”

James, 30, is the NFL’s active rushing leader with 12,121 yards, the 11th-highest total in league history. A two-time NFL rushing champion during his stellar, seven-year stint with the Colts, James believes he can return to All-Pro form if utilized the way he was in Indy. He favors “stretch” running plays, on which he can use his patience and vision, and believes he can be effective catching balls out of the backfield and setting up play-action passes.

After grinding out consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in his first two years in Arizona, James was benched in early November, as Whisenhunt inserted rookie Tim Hightower into the lineup. Over the next eight games James carried the ball just 11 times, and he asked Graves for his release. The team declined, but James believes that an understanding was reached regarding his future.

Then again, James’ perceived value to the organization has changed since then because Whisenhunt went back to the veteran before the regular season finale. James ran for 100 yards in that game against the Seahawks and remained productive throughout Arizona’s four-game playoff run, gaining 236 yards on 61 carries and injecting some much-needed balance into the offense.

Still, James is convinced that he is a “bad fit” for Whisenhunt’s offense.

“I never came to play in a passing system,” James said. “I’m no scatback, and I’m not going to try to be one. I don’t train to be a scatback – I train to be an RBI hitter. I’ve worked too hard to build this style of play I’ve got, and it works. People say I can’t break off the big run anymore, but the funny thing is, when I won the rushing title (in 2000, with 1,709 rushing yards) my longest run was 30 yards. This year, it was 37. So have I gotten better?”

As to where he might want to sign if granted his freedom, James has long professed a desire to play in or near the Sunshine State. Of the three teams based in Florida, the Buccaneers would seem to be the team most likely in need of a veteran back.

However, James said finding an organization committed to winning, and one which features an offense in which he could excel, would be the biggest considerations in his decision.

“[Playing close to home] has always been something, from Day 1, that I’ve wanted,” James said. “Any time you get a chance to play for your family and friends, it’s a big deal. But playing for a winner, and being in the right situation, overrides that.

“I might pay attention to some of the stuff I didn’t pay attention to last time [in free agency]. I want to play for a winner, somebody that’s used to winning – a winning organization that could actually use a back. Because let’s be realistic: Put me back in a situation where I can do the things I did when I was at my best, and I’ll kill it.”

Given that James also says he’s not averse to splitting carries, the obvious question is this: Would he consider a return to the Colts, where he could share the workload with Joseph Addai, the runner who replaced him? James was never thrilled with spending half the year in the heartland, but he remains on excellent terms with his ex-teammates and even received a Super Bowl ring from Indy owner Jimmy Irsay after the team won a championship the season after the halfback departed.

For one thing, he’d have no trouble fitting back into longtime coordinator Tom Moore’s offensive scheme.

“That’d be the easiest offense to play for,” James said. “Indy’s always a team that makes sense. It’d be like one of those R&B groups when one member leaves and then comes back after a few years, and it’s like he never left.”

Asked how he would react if the Cardinals were to insist on keeping him in ’09, James said, “My mind is pretty much 100 percent that I’m not going to be there, but if I have to be there, I’ll deal with it when the time comes. I like Rod Graves. I like a lot of the people around the organization. The city of Phoenix has been good to me. But that’s not where we are, and it’s only right that they let me move on.

“I’ve always tried to be a pro and do everything the right way, and so technically I’m under contract and I want to continue playing football, and they have my rights. But clearly, I’m not what they want. I’ve been a pro, so why not let me go?”


Like it or not, Ravens should let Lewis walk rather than overpay

Since Day 1, Ray Lewis has been the face of the Baltimore Ravens. Teammates and fans have deemed him irreplaceable. The head coach and owner have publicly proclaimed their willingness to shell out huge sums to retain his services. But despite all of this, should Lewis receive monster offers from other teams hoping to add his production and leadership, the prudent move for the Ravens would be to let him walk.

That thinking probably borders on sacrilege in Baltimore, but professional football is an unsentimental business. Heck, the Ravens know that all too well. They just jettisoned one of the best players in franchise history, cornerback Chris McAllister, and they need to be willing to do the same with Lewis should the bidding get out of hand.

Now, understand, I'm not calling for the Ravens to kick Lewis to the curb. Quite the contrary. I think the Ravens should make a strong effort to bring him back so he can pick up where he left off in 2008. But they can't allow their emotions to get the best of them when making this business decision.

After coach John Harbaugh's and owner Steve Bisciotti's public proclamations, it may already be too late. Bisciotti has even intimated the team will allow Lewis to test the market and then beat any offer Lewis receives to ensure he finishes his career with the Ravens. Whether or not that's true, the Ravens shouldn't have said so publicly, because it only hurts their ability to negotiate.

I suspect Lewis wants to stay in Baltimore, but is doing everything he can to drive up his value and get the Ravens to pony up. That may be why he's flirting with every team from the Dallas Cowboys to the New York Jets. More power to him, but hopefully the Ravens won't fall for it. The Cowboys, Jets or any other team would be foolish to shell out a ton of guaranteed money to a player who will be 34 when training camp starts in July. Despite his stellar '08 season, he's a declining player. Father Time is undefeated in NFL annals. Whichever team signs Lewis is going to get a player whose production will likely slip every year.

Let's be real clear about something. Lewis is the best linebacker I ever played against. By far. I started against him in 2004 and was amazed with how well-prepared he was and how much of a technician he could be. I remember thinking after the game that was what a Hall of Fame player was like. Every fan watching on TV can see his combination of size and speed. His ferociousness is evident from the last row in the stadium. But it is the other things that separate the good from the great in the NFL. He called out what play we were running a handful of times and was heading toward the running back's eventual path before I even snapped the ball on more than one occasion. Even when I did get to him, his butt-and-shed technique for disengaging from the block was picture perfect.

That said, the Ravens still need to be willing to move on. Lewis' potential suitors are attempting to pay not just for his tackling-ability, but also for his presence in the locker room and on the field as a leader. Too bad it doesn't work like that in the NFL, where leadership isn't for sale. The Jets learned that last year by naming Brett Favre and Alan Faneca captains. There is a process to becoming a franchise leader. Lewis has perfected that process in Baltimore, but that doesn't mean his show will play elsewhere. His presence is most widely felt in Baltimore and both he and the Ravens realize that.

Lewis is one of those rare players whose infectious personality can affect those around him. Ravens defensive tackle Justin Bannan was an average player in Buffalo. Now he is one of the better run-stuffing interior linemen in the league. Lewis had a similar effect on former Bills' defensive back Jim Leonhard.

Speaking of Leonhard, he is just one of the reasons why the Ravens can't break the bank for Lewis. They have ascending players in their prime such as Terrell Suggs, Jason Brown and Leonhard, as well as underrated and overshadowed linebacker Bart Scott, also a free agent, to worry about.

Scott's not the same talent Lewis is, but he's close enough that the Ravens need to consider signing him over Lewis if they can get Scott at about 70 cents on the Ray Lewis' dollar. Scott is an extremely physical player and an outstanding blitzer who is just 28 and didn't see any regular action his first three years in the league.

Who knows, maybe the Ravens already have this whole thing figured out. Maybe the public proclamations from Harbaugh and Bisciotti are intended to scare teams that might have an interest in Lewis. As in, don't waste your time because we will beat your offer and Ray doesn't want to leave anyway. Those teams might be worried that any negotiations they hold with Lewis would really just aid the Ravens.

One more thing. Spare me that talk about how much Lewis cares about the city of Baltimore and the Ravens' organization. If he truly cared as much as he has professed, he would be willing to take a little bit less money in order to ensure the Ravens can keep as many of their free agents as possible. If Suggs is willing to take a "hometown" discount, why can't the ultimate Raven?

The Ravens must attempt to keep Lewis in the fold ... but only if the price is right.


Bulls acquire Salmons, Miller in seven-player deal with Kings

On his reaction to the trade
"Right now it's just shock. I really don't have any emotion to it right now...I wasn't 100 percent (sure he was being traded), because (teams) are talking about making deals all the time. But all of these rumors and everything going on, I was pretty confident that it was going to happen."

"But it's still kind of shocking. I think it's just shocking because Chicago came out of nowhere. (The Bulls weren't) even on the radar, and I'm going to Chicago all of a sudden.

On a conversation between Salmons and his agent, Joel Bell, on Wednesday leading up to the trade
He was like, 'I don't think it's going to happen because (Andres) Nocioni has a lot of years left on his contract.' And then like 15 minutes later, he was like, 'Yeah, you'd better go pack (for Chicago).'
"He was telling me Dallas and the Spurs were going at it (to get Salmons). He said Oklahoma City...I think (the Thunder) offered Desmond Mason. I was just like, 'If somebody's going to do it, then just do it.' Then right before I got the call about going to the Bulls, I heard something about the (New Jersey) Nets, and I was like '(Darn), the Nets are getting into it, and yesterday I heard something about the (New York) Knicks. I was like, 'Yo, something's got to happen.'

On how he thinks he'll fit in Chicago
They traded for me, so I'm sure I'm in their plans. I mean it's a lot of money coming back to them and they took it. You never really know until you get there and see what's going on."

On whether having Miller go with him makes the transition easier
"It definitely makes it easier, because he's been there (Miller played for the Bulls from 2000 to 2002). He was in Chicago, so he can tell me where to go, what to do, how to get to certain places. His wife is coming, so she can help my wife...That definitely helps a lot. That's a blessing right there.

On his time in Sacramento
"I see it as all positives. I don't see any negatives in coming out to Sacramento, other than being traded. And I don't really see that as a negative. It's just that I don't get to finish what I started here.
"I mean me and my wife came out here right after we got married. It helped us grow. We had our son here, were on our own and had to rely on each other. Even in the short period we had here, it was good. Basketball-wise, the Kings gave me a great opportunity to be able to show what I can do, and that's part of the reason why the trade happened now is because of that. If they wouldn't have given me an opportunity, I wouldn't have been in as high of demand as I was on this particular trade deadline.

On the experience leading up to the trade
"I was hearing there were teams calling them, but (the Kings) weren't really out shopping. But then once all these teams kept calling and it wasn't like (the Kings) were turning it down, I was thinking like, 'Why do they want to trade me so bad?' I started to wonder that. It was just weird to me that they were really trying to trade me that bad. (But) the fact that I was in such high demand this particular trade deadline is good.

"There were a lot of really good organizations that were calling. That's something to be proud of. That just shows me you produce on the court when other teams want you, and not just for the salary or space. They really want you on their team. Obviously, Sacramento didn't really see me in their future, so it's better to leave now when things are good rather than leave when they're getting ugly." - Sam Amick


Cards likely to name closer

The Cardinals would prefer to name a closer from their group of relievers before the start of the season.

"Ideally," pitching coach Dave Duncan said, "what I would like to see is that over the course of the spring, somebody emerges that we have the confidence in to finish the games."'s Matthew Leach labels Chris Perez the early favorite, with Josh Kinney and Jason Motte also in the mix. Going relatively unmentioned is Kyle McClellan, who did a better job of protecting leads than any St. Louis reliever last season, even if most of his chances came in the seventh and eighth innings. McClellan, though, is viewed as a candidate to step into the rotation should Chris Carpenter or someone else miss the start of the season.


Huff after some repeat business in '09

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Aubrey Huff isn't afraid of repeating his success. One season after a career year, Baltimore's first baseman is hardly worried about whether he can do it again. Huff arrived at Spring Training camp on Wednesday and seemed confident, confiding to the media that the only pressure he feels is self-imposed.

"I don't really believe in pressure too much," said Huff, who won the American League's Silver Slugger for designated hitters last season. "I just go out there and play, and if the numbers come, they come. I think pressure is pretty worthless, really. One day, I'm going to be dead and nobody is going to care. You know what I mean?"

Huff had a well-documented return to form last year, an offensive comeback fueled by a streamlining of his mental resources. The slugger was unable to work out before the 2008 season due to a sports hernia surgery, and he traced his clarity to the twin circumstances of his first child's birth and the death of close friend Joe Kennedy.

This offseason, Huff took a cue from that success and refused to obsess over his numbers. He didn't work out heavy, and he didn't pick up a bat until he arrived at Fort Lauderdale Stadium on Wednesday. Still, Huff is confident about the moves his team has made, and he's quite sanguine about his chances of remaining an Oriole well into the future.

"I think I may have run out of Tampa [Bay] too early," Huff said of the team that drafted and developed him. "I had been in Tampa for six straight years of losing ... and it was time to get out of there. And then I leave there and they start getting good. I would hate for that to happen here."
Huff has his future in his own hands. The veteran is entering the final season of a free-agent contract that he signed before the 2007 season, and he can earn a hefty raise with another strong year. If that's not in the stars, he can choose to seek an extension in Baltimore or freely choose his next team next winter.

Put another way, the simple fact that his contract is about to expire means that Huff's out of long-term security, but he claims not to worry about his future between the lines. The left-handed hitter said that he won't be cowed by trade rumors, citing the fact that he had to play through them for much of his tenure in Tampa Bay.

"With Tampa, it seemed like every year, I was a guy that was dangled out there," Huff said by way of explanation. "I would be on 'SportsCenter.' At one point, I was in that Manny Ramirez deal in '05. I went into the game thinking I was getting traded that day. It's something that I've dealt with my whole career. I don't put too much emphasis on it. I've been traded once to Houston. You just never know when it might happen. You just can't really worry about it."

Huff will be wearing a glove on a full-time basis this season, slotting in as Baltimore's regular first baseman and ceding DH duties to Luke Scott. Part of the rationale for that move is to make the Orioles a better defensive team in the outfield, but Huff requested to play the field more often, and he is confident it will help his offense.

"I seem to do well DH'ing, but in all honesty, it does get kind of tired at times," said Huff. "You sit and watch your teammates go out there and play the full game while you're just sitting there rotting a little bit.

"I certainly am looking forward to playing a little bit of first this year. Don't get me wrong, DH'ing every now and then is fine. It keeps you kind of fresh. But I'm definitely excited to play first."

And the bottom line, as far as Huff's concerned, is that the Orioles are beginning to put together a dangerous team. Baltimore's cleanup hitter said that he expects the team's pitching and defense to be much improved and the offense to be every bit as good as it was last year, yielding a team that can compete in the AL East.

"I enjoy the organization," Huff said. "I wouldn't mind giving it a run here. It seems like [president of baseball operations] Andy MacPhail is making all the right moves. We've got some pieces in place. We've got a lot of young pitching in the organization that's supposedly high on the prospect lists, and that's where it all starts: Starting pitching. We can surprise some people."


proCanes NFL U 2009 Free Agents

Stay tuned for an in-depth analysis of each of the proCanes free agents and where they might end up later in the week.


Phillip Buchanon CB 5-11 186 7th Season Buccaneers

Vernon Carey OT 6-5 350 5th Season Dolphins

Bubba Franks TE 6-6 265 9th Season NY Jets

William Joseph DT 6-5 308 6th Season Raiders

Ray Lewis LB 6-1 250 13th Season Ravens

Darrell McClover LB 6-1 226 5th Season Bears

Jerome McDougle DE 6-2 2646th Season NY Giants

Brett Romberg C 6-2 298 5th Season Rams

Jonathan Vilma LB 6-1230 5th Season Saints

Nate Webster LB 6-0 232 9th Season Broncos


Rashad Butler OT 6-4 309 3rd Season Texans


Orien Harris DL6-3 300 1st Season Bengals


Ken Dorsey QB 6-4 215 6th Season Browns

Najeh Davenport RB 6-1 247 7th Season Colts

Report: Ray Lewis irritating front office

Free agent Ray Lewis reportedly irritated the Ravens' front office last week by saying he'd welcome playing for the Cowboys or Jets.

Beat writer Mike Preston concedes it was "posturing" and anticipates owner Steve Bisciotti caving to Lewis' demands. Lewis is expected to command $9 million annually on a three-year contract. That'd be quite a haul for a linebacker turning 34 who wore down during the stretch run last season.


Devin Hester, Vince Wilfork among NFL stars to play charity softball in Jupiter

NFL stars Randy Moss and Devin Hester, and Dolphins players Anthony Fasano and Jake Long are among NFL players who will play in a charity softball game against the Palm Beach County Sheriff's SWAT on Friday at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Heath Evans Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children and families affected by sexual abuse.

Evans, the New England Patriots fullback who graduated from King's Academy, said he also received commitments from several of his Patriots teammates, including Vince Wilfork and Jabar Gaffney.

The game is at 7 p.m. and tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children, available through Ticketmaster.


Agent: Vernon Carey likely to walk

With two weeks until the Dolphins either get deals done with their free agents or face the prospect of losing them, an agent offered his opinion Friday that they’ll opt to allow offensive tackle Vernon Carey to test the market.

“I just don’t think they like him that much,” the agent said of condition of anonymity. “They don’t think he’s worth the pricetag.”

There had been speculation the Dolphins could use the franchise tag on Carey, but that would be in the range of $9 million per season.

The same source said it’s unlikely Miami will use its first-rounder at that position. “There are no tackles in this draft in the Jake Long category,” he said. Having said that, draft experts feel as many as five tackles could be taken by the time the Dolphins pick at No. 25.

The offensive line is likely to undergo some shakeups before camp starts. Long and Justin Smiley are sure to return, but Samson Satele could be moved to guard and Andy Alleman to center. Center Al Johnson, another free agent, appears to be gone, and Ike Ndukwe is a longshot to return. Donald Thomas, who impressed before being lost for the year to injury, will also be back.

Remember, this was a unit that could not consistently open holes for Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams last year. Especially late in the year, a large percentage of the run production was coming off end-around plays rather than inside the tackles. Improvement was a necessity; the question is, where do Bill Parcells and Co. turn to make it?


Braun stands by friend, mentor A-Rod

PHOENIX -- Hours before Alex Rodriguez was to face a media throng in Tampa, Brewers slugger Ryan Braun was standing by his friend from more than 2,000 miles away.

While expressing regret for what he called Rodriguez's "mistakes," Braun refused to denounce the fallen Yankees star.

"Everybody makes mistakes, and I'm not the type of person that's going to change my opinion about who he is just because he made a mistake," Braun said. "I wouldn't just disassociate myself with somebody just because he made a mistake. I don't think anybody is perfect, and I don't think he's ever pretended to be perfect."

Braun first met Rodriguez on a recruiting trip to the University of Miami in 2001, the same year that Rodriguez, according to his first interview on the subject, began taking banned substances. The story that Rodriguez allegedly tested positive for steroids broke via on Feb. 7, but New York reporters did not get their first opportunity to grill Rodriguez on the subject until Tuesday.

Because Brewers hitters took the field at 11:30 a.m. MT for batting and fielding work, just as Rodriguez stepped behind the microphone, Braun would have to wait to see the exchange in replay.

"It doesn't do me much good to say anything bad about anybody," Braun said earlier in the morning. "It will be interesting to see what he has to say. I will say that I think he's done everything that he should have done [since the story broke] and the best thing he can do is come out, admit to everything and be completely honest. The situation will die a lot faster if he tells the whole truth."

Was he surprised by events of the past two weeks?

"I don't know if I would say I was surprised," Braun said. "I feel like it was so rampant, so prevalent in baseball during that time period that not much surprises me anymore. If anything, I was surprised he got caught, that it came out this long after he supposedly did it."

Rodriguez shifted from shortstop to third base when he was traded from the Rangers to the Yankees prior to the 2004 season and helped Braun make a similar move. Braun, who moved to left field before the start of the 2008 season, still occasionally runs into Rodriguez.

Braun said he has never been tempted to use performance-enhancing drugs. He attended Miami from 2002-2005 and said NCAA drug testing was extensive, and entered professional baseball following the 2005 Draft amid stringent testing by Minor League Baseball.

"It's never something that I sought," Braun said before showing a flash of his sense of humor and his well-documented self-confidence. "I would never do it because if I took steroids, I would hit 60 or 70 home runs."

Other Brewers chose to stay away from the topic of Rodriguez including pitcher Chase Wright, who was traded from the Yankees to the Brewers earlier this month. He didn't regret missing Tuesday's media circus at New York's Spring Training camp.

"I'd rather watch it on television," said Wright, who played briefly in the big leagues with Rodriguez in 2007 but didn't get to know the slugger.

Brewers right-hander Dave Bush, the team's representative to the Players Association, also took a pass on the topic. Asked if he wanted to discuss Rodriguez, Bush responded with a smile, "No."

"What other guys do, that doesn't affect me," said Bush, who used to pitch for the Blue Jays and has held Rodriguez to 2-for-10 in his career (one of those hits was a solo home run). "I'm working with what I've got, and I'm going to go as far as that takes me. Other players will do what they want."


Knicks Inquire About Salmons

The Knicks have asked the Kings about swingman John Salmons. A seven-year veteran out of Miami, Salmons is the team's second leading scorer at 18.3 ppg.


Bucs Want Buchanon Back

We hear the Bucs are very interested in re-signing soon-to-be free-agent CB Phillip Buchanon. He was arguably the team’s best corner last season, and with 2008 first-round pick CB Aqib Talib still developing, locking up Buchanon has become a high priority for new GM Mark Dominik. Tampa watched as the performance of the team’s other starting corner, Ronde Barber, declined last season, and sources say Barber, a 12-year veteran, is likely headed for a lesser role this year.


Vernon Carey unlikely to rejoin Dolphins?

An anonymous agent told the Palm Beach Post that he doesn't believe the Dolphins will re-sign free agent OL Vernon Carey.

It's worth noting that this comes from a player rep who doesn't represent Carey and may not be close to the situation. "I just don’t think they like him that much," the agent said. "They don’t think he’s worth the price tag." Miami could have shakeup at four offensive line positions next season, including right tackle, center, and both guard spots.


Ray Lewis' play faded down the stretch?

Baltimore Sun writer Mike Preston believes that free agent Ray Lewis' play faded down the stretch of last season.

The Ravens reportedly noticed Lewis was wearing down and limited him in practices during the second half of the season. This will be something to for teams courting Lewis, 34 in May, to consider if he makes it to free agency.


Nate Webster Not Drawing Much Interest

MLB Nate Webster could end up back with the Broncos on short-term, low-risk deal late in the spring if no other team shows any interest and Denver still has some spending money left over. Head coach Josh McDaniels’ club will be well below the cap this offseason, and sources say they expect the team to go after at least one high-priced free agent.


Morgan to be kept on Saints roster

Saints GM Mickey Loomis says LB Dan Morgan will be kept on the roster after he was reinstated from the retired list Thursday.

Morgan will have to pass a physical in late March to be cleared for OTAs. The club shouldn't count on a contribution from the injury prone 30-year-old.


Can Dolphins let Vernon Carey loose?

As the start of free agency draws closer the pressure to get a deal done with some of the Miami Dolphins' free agents is mounting.

In my opinion the most critical, and possibly the most costly of Dolphins' free agents is tackle Vernon Carey, a four-year starter. Whether to retain Carey or not is one of the Dolphins' top 10 offseason decisions, which you can read more on here.

He's a proven commodity. At 27 he's still young. He's respected for his durability. He's got a year's worth of experience playing left tackle under his belt courtesy of the 2007 season. And the former Miami Hurricane is a hometown product who does good in the community.

But Carey and his representatives aren't looking to give the Dolphins a hometown discount. This former first-round pick is looking for a lucrative, multi-year deal that will set him and his family up for the rest of his life.

Even though right tackle isn't a position NFL teams break the bank for, Carey will likely be in demand if he hits the free agent market because he can play tackle on both sides, and has the versatility to play guard, the position he finished his college career at.

I'm told his representation is seeking a deal that pays him more than $20 million, with at least half of it guaranteed.

Placing the franchise tag on Carey is an option, but not a favorable one to the Trifecta.

The franchise tag, which would pay Carey $8.4 million for one season, could buy the Dolphins some time to work out a deal, or not.
Tagging him could put Carey in an undesirable pay-for-play situation, where he'd be forced to keep his weight down and production high considering he'd be entering another contract year in 2010.

Maybe the Dolphins would prefer Carey continue to have that carrot of a big payday hanging just out of his reach. But why pay $8.4 for one season when a contract that pays him $5-6 million a year would do?

Houston re-signed right tackle Eric Winston to a five-year, $30 million deal last season. That deal paid him a $6 million signing bonus, and $10 million in guarantees.

At the end of last season the Cowboys signed Trifecta find Marc Columbo, another right tackle, to a four-year contract reportedly worth $22 million, with $11.5 of it guaranteed to prevent Columbo from hitting the fee agent market.

If you average out those two recent contracts $5.75 million appears to be the going rate for a starting right tackle approaching the free agent market. But can the Dolphins fill that spot with cheaper labor?

Allowing Carey to leave through free agency would create a huge void on the team's most troublesome unit. But there might be cheaper alternatives on the free agent market.

Scouts also say this draft is full of talented tackle prospects. However, there will be a tremendous run on them early, just like there was in last year's draft, which featured Jake Long as the No. 1 pick.

The Dolphins presently have young tackles Nate Garner and Brandon Frye on the roster, and it's possible rookie Donald Thomas (6-4, 310) or Ikechuku Ndukwe (6-4, 325) could play that position. Both guards have the ideal size and the necessary skill-set to get the job done.

But it's unlikely any of those four would play the position at Carey's level for at least the 2009 season, which means the troublesome offensive line might take a step backwards.

So, now that you know most of the factors, can the Dolphins afford to balk at Carey's asking price, potentially letting him depart as a free agent?


Burrell trading places this spring

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- After 11 seasons in the Phillies' organization, Pat Burrell feels a little strange this spring to be based south of Clearwater, Fla., where he has spent every Spring Training at the home of his former team.

"I can't lie, it's different," said Burrell, who signed a two-year, $16 million deal during the offseason that brought him to the Rays. "Different faces -- different everything, really -- but change is good and I'm really looking forward to getting this thing started.

"You know, this is what you sign up for when you start playing. You never know what's going to happen. Fortunately, I ended up in a very good organization with a bunch of guys who want to win."

Rays fans will remember last seeing the 32-year-old Burrell during the World Series. When he stepped into the batter's box in the seventh inning of Game 5, Burrell had no hits in 13 at-bats, but he stroked a double off J.P. Howell. Eric Bruntlett pinch-ran for Burrell and scored the game-winning run in the Series-clinching 4-3 win.

Right-hander James Shields called Burrell "the hardest guy on the Phillies to face" during the World Series, "because he just grinded every single at-bat."

"I think I threw 14 pitches an at-bat to him, it seemed like," Shields said. "He's not scared to take his walks -- he's a very patient hitter. He wants to get his pitch. He'll foul pitches off just to get that one pitch. I think he's going to be really good for our team."

During Burrell's tenure with the Phillies, he experienced a love-hate relationship with the raucous Philadelphia fans. Looking in the rearview mirror, he believes that experience benefited his career.

"Personally, as far as playing up there, and going through all of that," Burrell said, "I really think it makes you a better player. This game is difficult. It's difficult every year. And some years, you're going to have tough times. And certainly it's tough to bounce back. But you learn a lot about yourself going through struggles. This game's certainly about struggling.

"But anywhere, if you have pride as a player and integrity, you don't want to go through hard times. You put expectations on yourself and you want to achieve that. And when that doesn't happen it's just instinct to question some things and doubt yourself. To be able to go through that and come out where I have, I feel fortunate. But definitely I think it's made me a better player."

Burrell, who has a .257 career average with 251 home runs and 827 RBIs in parts of nine Major League seasons, appeared to be the best fit for the Rays' designated hitter spot, given the fact he's right-handed, he hits lefties well and he's got some power.

"I haven't done a whole lot of [playing DH]," Burrell said. "I'm trying to talk to as many guys as I can about that, trying to get the right mind-set. The whole deal is getting comfortable. Spring Training is a good time for that. And I haven't spoken to [Rays manager] Joe [Maddon] too much about it. But it looks like that's what I'm going to be doing most of my time. It's something I've got to work on and get comfortable with."

Burrell remains friends with Jim Thome, a former teammate in Philadelphia, and has picked the brain of the current White Sox slugger on the finer points about playing DH.

"We've kept in touch all through the years since he left Philly," Burrell said. "And for him, it's really worked out great. And he enjoys [being a DH] and said it's something you have to get your feet wet in. And over time, you have to figure out what will work for you. And I think that's the whole process."

Burrell does anticipate having to find a way to stay busy during the games.

"I don't think I'm going to be somebody who can just sit in the dugout and wait for his time at bat to come up," Burrell said. "So however that's going to be, staying loose and staying in the game, because it is a change. I'd like to say I've got it all figured out, but I think it's a work in process."
Regardless of whether Burrell is playing DH, or an occasional stint in the outfield, he will provide "a big bat for the middle of that lineup" according to new teammate B.J. Upton.

"He can bring us 20-plus home runs -- and any time you can add that to your lineup, it's big," Upton said. "Especially when you add it to the speed we've got and the guys we've already got here, that's going to play a big part in what we do this year."

Burrell will be a big part of what Tampa Bay does this season, but he won't be looked upon as an offensive savior for the Rays.

"I'm here to help," Burrell said. "The core of this team is homegrown and you've got some unbelievable players here. Anything I can do to help, I'm here. That's kind of the way I look at it and I think it's a little more realistic, too."


Kings close to trading John Salmons?

It is increasingly likely that the Kings will trade swingman John Salmons, according to the Sacramento Bee. The Blazers and Thunder are among as many as five interested teams.

The Blazers' offer would involve Channing Frye's expiring contract, and the Thunder's would involve Joe Smith's expiring contract. It's also possible that Brad Miller will be traded, possibly to the Knicks in a deal involving Malik Rose's expiring deal -- the Kings are expected to lose over $20 million this season, and clearly the Maloof brothers are looking to cut costs.


Graves seeks fresh start with Astros

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Danny Graves' path to Kissimmee, by way of a non-roster invite to Spring Training, took an unconventional route about a month ago when he signed with Houston.

Graves e-mailed club owner Drayton McLane directly, explaining his situation, his desire to pitch again and the reasons why the Astros were an attractive team to him.

Graves knew McLane to be a man devoted to his faith, and Graves, having changed his path after growing weary of a rather unsavory life he was leading, felt the Astros would be a good place for him to land.

"I'm at a different point in my life than I was before," Graves said. "I'm a Christian now. I knew that Drayton was, too. I know he had a lot of guys in the clubhouse that were also. I figured if I had a chance to play in the big leagues again, I want to be a part of that. I reached out to Drayton and asked him if there was an opportunity, and if not, I'm just going to retire."

McLane responded favorably, chiding Graves for all of the games he saved for the Reds -- many of them against the Astros -- during the right-hander's tenure in Cincinnati from 1997-2005. McLane said he'd pass the message along to general manager Ed Wade, who offered Graves a Minor League contract.

"Ed called me and said, 'I can't promise you anything except for a non-roster invite and just a chance to make the club,'" Graves said. "That's all I'm looking for. I'm not looking for any promises or guarantees, just an opportunity to see if I can still help somebody. I guess they said it really touched Drayton's heart, the e-mail I sent."

Graves lives with his fiance in San Antonio, and the close proximity not only to Houston, but to the Astros' Triple-A affiliate in Round Rock, made this organization that much more enticing. Graves didn't expound on the path his life had taken prior to finding new faith through religion, but he credited his fiance for helping him get on the right track.

"I don't have enough time to tell you about the last few years," he said. "It was miserable and I was really lost. Mentally, I didn't know what I was doing. Things you're not supposed to do. My fiance is a Christian, has been a Christian for a long time and she helped me with my walk. I realized it's pretty embarrassing what I did before as a person."

Graves was released by the Reds in May of 2005, one day after sparking controversy when he made an obscene gesture toward a fan who heckled him and yelled a racial slur. Graves regretted the part he played and cites that incident as just one of many things he'd do differently if he had the chance.

"I would have turned my back and walked away," Graves said. "That was pretty much the downfall."

Graves hasn't pitched in the Major Leagues since 2006, when he made 13 appearances and compiled a 5.79 ERA with the Indians.

With the Astros, the 35-year-old Graves is looking for a new beginning. The odds are against him this spring, considering he is trying out for a bullpen that at this point has no jobs available. Graves said he would accept a Minor League assignment, but if the Astros don't want him in the organization at all at the end of Spring Training, he'll be content with simply retiring.

"If it came down to [going to Triple-A], if they wanted to keep my in the organization, I would do it," he said. "It's still close to home. The bullpen never stays the same all year. I just want a shot."


St. Louis Cardinals reliever Chris Perez works on throwing motion

JUPITER, Fla. — Arguably the leading candidate for the Cardinals' vacant closers role, second-year righthander Chris Perez is scheduled to throw his first official bullpen session of spring training Sunday. He's working on something new and plans to bring back a little of something old.

In his past two sessions with pitching coach Dave Duncan, Perez has been stopped in the middle to correct what coaches see as a flaw in his arm path. They want him to try and get the same motion whether he's throwing his high-heat fastball or his under-construction slider.

"My mechanics feel good," Perez said. "Right now, it's not my mechanics, it's just the angle my arm takes as I throw the ball. They want to make it the same from one pitch to the other. That way I'm not giving up the pitch by having two different release points."

Perez saved seven games for the Cardinals last season and since being drafted in 2006 he's been billed as the club's future closer. He comes to camp as part of a competition or a committee for the role — depending on perception — and must develop his second pitch to strengthen his claim. Improving the consistency of his arm path is new.

What he uses as his second pitch could be old.

Perez usually uses his curveball early in spring training and builds toward throwing the slider that he uses during the regular season. This year, he's considering keeping the curve and nurturing it as more than a show pitch.

"It's been looking good," Perez said. "Coach Marty (Mason) told me to throw a curve or a slider. Whether I can throw it consistently is the most important thing. They want me to have one. They don't care which."