Josh Hamilton punished the first pitch he saw yesterday, driving a ball over the fence in left center field, a shot that Michael Young told a couple talk show hosts, maybe only half jokingly, he thought the shortstop might have a play on as the ball jumped off Hamilton’s bat on a clothesline. Stupid skills.

Hamilton added a pair of singles, raising his spring numbers to a silly .522/.542/1.043. Among his 12 hits are a pair of homers, a pair of triples, and a pair of doubles. Three strikeouts in 23 at-bats? More than acceptable. His 11 RBI are most in baseball right now.

Meanwhile, Edinson Volquez followed two uninspiring Reds outings with a standout effort on Monday, pitching the fifth through eighth against the Yankees and setting eight batters down on strikes while walking none. He yielded two runs on six hits, but was efficient, needing just 54 pitches to get through his four innings of work, one of which featured Volquez striking out the side of Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi, and Hideki Matsui (with a Jorge Posada single mixed in).

Volquez hasn’t won a Reds rotation job yet, but those 13 strikeouts and two walks in eight innings are making a strong case.

Especially with 20-year-old outfielder Jay Bruce (.320/.346/.360) justifying Cincinnati’s evaluation that he’s ready, Hamilton for Volquez and Danny Ray Herrera is looking like a deal neither team would think about undoing.

Vicente Padilla pulled a hip muscle on the last pitch of his 3.2 innings yesterday afternoon, but he’s apparently fine. The righthander allowed two unearned runs on four hits and three walks, fanning two. In 8.2 camp innings, Padilla’s ERA sits at 0.00 (three unearned runs).

Kaz Fukumori maintains a spotless ERA (one unearned run) as well. In six frames over five appearances, he’s scattered four hits without a walk, retiring six hitters on strikes.

Jason Jennings’s 0.00 ERA needs no asterisk. Nobody has crossed the plate on his watch, and in fact he’s permitted just one hit in 4.2 innings. Reliever Franklyn German has given up three hits in four scoreless innings, walking nobody and punching out six with his 98-mph gas and surprising splitty.

Kevin Millwood threw just over 50 pitches in a 3.1-inning simulated game on Monday, striking out five and permitting two hits and a walk to the foursome of Johnny Whittleman, Steve Murphy, Chad Tracy, and Manny Pena, with Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the plate. Millwood was frustrated with his location, which is far less important than his report that his hamstring felt fine.

Brandon McCarthy didn’t travel to Dallas on Monday as planned, instead getting a second MRI on his right forearm to confirm the original diagnosis of severe inflammation, with no ligament damage. He’ll resume throwing in two weeks and has a timetable of four to eight weeks for his return to action.

Sidney Ponson is slated to pitch two innings in today’s game against the Cubs, following Jennings. Ponson reportedly has an out in his minor league deal that permits him to take free agency if he’s not on the major league roster by May 1. Reasonable enough — McCarthy should be back by then. The Rangers won’t need to go to a fifth starter before April 12, but if Ponson hasn’t forced his way back to the big leagues sometime in the season’s first month, in terms of depth a handful of young arms will be that much closer to earning their own big league looks.

Scott Feldman, who has an option left, might find himself in the AAA rotation when camp breaks. The Rangers are apparently thinking about trying to stretch him out as a starter at Oklahoma. His four-inning effort against the White Sox yesterday was the team’s longest of the spring.

Travis Metcalf will have a 20-minute procedure today in Dallas to remove a partially torn left hamstring tendon. He’ll miss six to eight weeks.

An MRI on catcher Taylor Teagarden’s left wrist (which was drilled by a pitch on March 2) confirmed a bone bruise, which is relatively good news in that it’s not a fracture. He should be back in action well before camp breaks.

According to T.R. Sullivan of, Texas is not inclined at the moment to trade Gerald Laird, who is attracting some interest.

Torii Hunter is having a massive camp for the Angels, hitting .611/.632/1.389 thus far. Thought I’d check up on Gary Matthews Jr., to see how he’s faring with the move to a corner. Twenty-three at-bats is too small a sample to extrapolate into anything meaningful, particularly for a proven veteran, but .261/.250/.304 (one extra-base hit [a double] and no walks) isn’t real encouraging.

Prediction: The only players in the American League who will finish higher than Josh Hamilton in the MVP race in 2008 will play for teams with better records.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at

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