The last time Shannon Stewar played for Toronto, John Gibbons was the bullpen catcher and Reed Johnson was a rookie. Gibbons is now the team's manager and Stewart is competing with Johnson for playing time in left field. Stewart is also surprised by the demeanor of ace pitcher Roy Halladay.
"Roy Halladay came up to me -- and he was smiling," Stewart told The Toronto Globe and Mail. "I've never seen Roy like that. He scared me. I'm used to Roy being serious and just going out there and being so stone cold. 'Stone Cold' -- that's what I called him. But he had a lot of joy on his face. It seemed like he's really happy with himself."
Stewart played with the Blue Jays from 1995 through 2003. He is back with the club after signing a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training. During his first workout with the team, Stewart took batting practice before watching his new team compete in an intrasquad scrimmage.
"You know, it's kind of a weird feeling," the 34-year-old said later about returning to the club that traded him to Minnesota in 2003. "It feels good, good to be back. I was kind of worried just because of the way it happened.
"I told somebody earlier, 'This is where it all started for me.' My best memories playing in the big leagues have been with Toronto."
Hall working out just fine at third base: Concerns about Bill Hall's move to third base appear to be overblown. Hall, who played center field for the Brewers last season, has looked comfortable in the field during the first week of Spring Training for Milwaukee.
"He looks great, no joke," manager Ned Yost told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "He looks very good, very smooth at third base."
Hall, who came up as a shortstop and is among the most gifted athletes on the Brewers, mishandled a few balls on his first day but by the second day he appeared comfortable and at ease.
Jurrgens hopes to impress on his dad's favorite team: The Braves lost Andruw Jones to free agency in the off-season, but they still have a native of Curacao on their roster. Pitcher Jair Jurrgens, acquired from Detroit in the Edgar Renteria deal, is in the mix for a job on the club's starting rotation.
"It's an honor to be one of the five [starters], and there's a lot of pressure," Jurrjens told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "There are future Hall of Famers in this rotation. And it's the favorite team of my dad, so I'm trying to impress him even more. I liked the Braves before Andruw was here -- since I was about 7. I liked [Terry] Pendleton, Jeff Blauser, David Justice, all those guys."
Cardinals counting on Reyes of old: In the 2006 World Series, the Cardinals' Anthony Reyes took the ball for Game 1, worked eight innings and allowed just a first-inning run. He retired 23 of the last 25 batters he faced.
In 2007 Reyes struggled to find his groove and managed only two victories for St. Louis, splitting time between the Cardinals and Triple-A Memphis. He struggled with his velocity while with St. Louis but was at times dominant at Triple-A.
Now, for the 2008 season, the Cardinals have one if not two spots open in their rotation and hope that Reyes can work his way in.
"We're a deeper ballclub if he's the best guy and he's in the rotation," pitching coach Dave Duncan told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "It gives our pitching staff more depth. ... I'm rooting for Anthony Reyes. I hope he's good enough."
DeRosa searching to cure what ails him: Mark DeRosa is trying to determine the best manner for controlling a heart arrhythmia that he's had since he was a teenager. He says the recent episode that landed him in the emergency room was a wakeup call.
"It's something I've been able to control without any help, and I guess the other day was a wake-up call that I probably need to figure some things out and just get it fixed," DeRosa told The Chicago Sun-Times. "It's something I am tired of dealing with, and if there's medicine or a little procedure that I can do to forget about it, then I'd like to do that.
"A lot of people take medicine, but I don't want to deal with that. I'm 32 years old. I don't want to be on medication for the rest of my life. If there's a procedure I can do, [then] we're going to discuss all those options."
Sowers plans to revamp mental approach: Jeremy Sowers has rarely found himself stuck in a rut and he doesn't plan to start now.
So he's anxious to remedy a statistical drop-off in 2007, a season in which he found himself pitching at Triple-A for part of the year.
"You can lay all those stats on a table and see that they weren't very good but not god-awful," Sowers told The Akron Beacon Journal. "I learned a lesson about the kind of mental approach you have to take. I never had prolonged failure. But I learned that, no matter who you are, somebody will be able to get the better of you.
"At some point, I think I started to see [batters] hitting the ball hard. I went from being in aggressive mode to being in defensive mode. If you're only throwing [fastballs] 80-something, there's no way you're going to be successful unless you're aggressive. You have to be like Paul Byrd, who pretty much says 'Here it is -- hit it.'"
Gordon might be a closer again after all: A year ago, Tom Gordon was the Phillies closer, but shoulder problems led to missed time, and eventually he lost that role. Now with offseason acquistion Brad Lidge set back by a knee injury, Gordon might be getting the ninth inning back -- at least for a while.
Gordon says he's prepared to fill either the setup or closer's role. Whatever is best for the club.
"Nobody likes to lose a job," Gordon told The Philadelphia Daily News. "I felt healthy enough, like I was ready to compete [for the closer's job]. Knowing that Lidge is here -- he's the closer. I'm the eighth-inning guy. I can handle that. I've done that before. I've handled that role. I've had success in that role. Right now for me, it's about winning a World Series."
Paulino starts off with effective outing: It was only one inning of work, but Felipe Paulino didn't hurt his candidacy for a spot in the Astros' starting rotation. Appearing in an intrasquad game Monday, Paulino allowed only one hit -- a single -- in his inning of work.
"I felt good," Paulino told the The Houston Chronicle. "I located my fastball. The only pitch I didn't feel comfortable with was my slider, but I'm not worried."
Paulino made his debut with the Astros last season in September, going 2-1 with a 7.11 ERA. He made three starts and twice appeared in games out of the bullpen. His best start came in his final outing of the season against Atlanta on Sept. 30. In six shutout innings, he allowed only two hits and three walks while striking out three.
Two-seam fastball pays dividends for Qualls: When Chad Qualls was in the Minor Leagues, he had trouble commanding his two-seam fastball because it moved so much. But he stuck with it and the pitch has helped him become one of the game's top setup relievers.
Acquired by Arizona this offseason, Qualls has appeared in 237 games since 2005, the second-most appearances in baseball. He's also racked up 66 holds during his first three years full seasons in the Majors.
"If you're up there in that category, you're obviously doing your job," he told The Arizona Republic. "I just learned that stat, but I do take pride in it."
Blast shows Reyes can also go long: Jose Reyes presents the club with an interesting dilemma. Blessed with great speed, conventional wisdom suggests he should concentrate on hitting line drives or keeping the ball on the ground.
But he's also displayed exceptional power at times. He hit a ball high off the wall in center field, 408 feet away from home plate, in an intra-squad game on Monday.
"I don't know how I hit it that hard," Reyes told The New York Daily News. "In my mind I'm trying to slow down my body a little bit, hit the ball the other way and use my speed. It was a fastball and I just use my hands."
A new year for Kei Igawa: Kei Igawa didn't have the kind of season he envisioned when he came over from Japan to join the Yankees in 2007. Igawa had a 6.25 ERA and spent a portion of the season pitching in the Minors. With that in mind, he has one simple goal this season.
"My goal is to be on the Major League team the entire season," Igawa told The New York Daily News through an interpreter.
Igawa has been a starter for much of his career, but he is likely to fill a relief role with the Yankees.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.