John Smoltz visited with the University of Georgia's men's basketball team and played a game of "H-O-R-S-E" with coach Dennis Felton. Smoltz made some NBA-range 3-pointers, but ultimately lost the game.
Smoltz had a scholarship offer to play basketball at Michigan State but decided to sign with the Tigers after they drafted him out of high school.
"I shook a little when I saw John's stroke," Felton told The Red and Black. "I expected him to be good because our mutual friends had been telling me how good of a basketball player he is, but when I saw his stroke and his range, I wasn't ready to shoot quite that deep. But I am clutch, that's all I can say."
"I could hold my own, but I was not going to be at that point that [basketball] was a career choice for me," Smoltz said. "I knew baseball was going to be the sport to take me the farthest."
Easley interested in Diamondbacks: With Orlando Hudson likely to sign with another team this offseason, the Arizona Diamondbacks have shown an interest in Damion Easley as a possible replacement at second base. Easley hit .273 with 16 home runs and 70 RBIs over the last two seasons for the New York Mets.
Arizona is "definitely a possibility," Easley's agent, Paul Cohen, told the East Valley Tribune. "It is something Damion would definitely be interested in."
Easley, who played with the Diamondbacks in 2006, seeing most of his time at shortstop and third base, lives in the Phoenix area during the offseason. During his stint with Arizona, he hit .233 with nine home runs and 28 RBIs in 189 at-bats.
Hoffman likely done in San Diego: Coming as no surprise, the San Diego Padres declined to offer salary arbitration to closer Trevor Hoffman on Monday, forfeiting the chance to earn draft picks should Hoffman sign with another team this offseason.
"We haven't gotten any phone calls," Hoffman told the San Diego Union-Tribune about his lack of contact with the Padres organization. "We're more than willing to listen to anything out there. They're the ones that took the deal off the table. They're the ones that wanted to go a different direction. If they reach out and legitimately want to make a point of talking, they know how to get a hold of us."
Hoffman, who lives north of San Diego, said he is open to move his wife and three sons to another city if he signs elsewhere.
Shields, Garza could get extended rest: In an effort to try to protect James Shields and Matt Garza from overuse, the Tampa Bay Rays could keep the duo out of games during the first week or so of Spring Training. Both pitchers threw career highs in innings last season and pitching coach Jim Hickey said the extra rest could be beneficial to the pitchers.
Some other pitchers who were heavily used last season, such as J.P. Howell, Grant Balfour and Dan Wheeler, could also be used a little less in spring games. Hickey said past history shows it may be wise to use caution.
"If you look back at recent history -- 2002, 2003 and the teams that made it deep into the playoffs -- there's been a significant drop off in the performance of the pitchers over the next year, whether that's due to fatigue or injury," Hickey told the St. Petersburg Times. "It's something you try to combat. I don't think there's a real science to it."
Springer's return to Cardinals in doubt: After an outstanding season with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2008, Russ Springer is now a free agent, but he was not offered arbitration by the team. While both sides are leaving the door open for a return, Springer says he understands why the decision was made.
"I've been around long enough that nothing is new to me," he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I realize it's a business and sometimes you have to move on. I'm not bitter at all about it. I loved the last two years in St. Louis and -- who knows? -- maybe we'll still work something out."
Wood gets support from Baker: Kerry Wood and former Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker may have a reunion in the works, with Baker admitting recently that he's definitely interested in talking to his former pitcher.
"We have a closer already in [Francisco] Cordero, who we have under contract for a few more years," Baker told the Chicago Tribune on Monday. "But somebody can use Kerry Wood. I am going to call him. I like Kerry Wood as a person, not just as a ballplayer, but as a person. I will give him a call and see what's up."
Grudzielanek to seek contending teams: Mark Grudzielanek has been offered arbitration by the Kansas City Royals, a gesture that he says he will likely decline. It's nothing personal, he says, but he just feels it's time to get as close to a championship as possible.
"I'm going to be a little spoiled," Grudzielanek told the Kansas City Star, "and try to go to somebody with a better [chance] to reach the World Series."
"It's time," he added, "to take that chance."
In three years with Kansas City, Grudzielanek won a Gold Glove (2006) and was the Royals' player of the year (2007).
Flowers expands options with trade to White Sox: The Braves acquired pitcher Javier Vazquez from the White Sox in a six-player deal in which they sent four prospects to Chicago. One of the key players in the deal for Chicago was Marietta, Ga., native Tyler Flowers. A 6-foot-4 catcher, Flowers boosted his stock with a strong showing this year in the Arizona Fall League, where he batted .387 with 12 home runs and 23 RBIs in 75 at-bats.
"I just didn't think it would happen this soon," Flowers told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I was just talking to my parents. They're a little upset about it, but I know it's probably good for me, considering there's a designated hitter [in the American League]. That's another position I can possibly play. That's definitely a plus."
Lincecum lobbies for Sabathia: Recently Tim Lincecum posed for the cover of a 2K Sports video game. During a break in the shooting, Lincecum campaigned for the Giants to add free agent pitcher CC Sabathia to its roster.
"He's from around here, isn't he?" Lincecum told the San Francisco Chronicle of the Vallejo, Calif., native. "I mean, our staff is good without him, but it would definitely not hurt to have him in our rotation. That guy's an animal. He knows what he's doing. He finishes games. He's a competitor. He's a workhorse. If that did happen, I could firsthand learn from him. It's always nice to get other people's perspective on different stuff."
Mariners begin talks with Junior: New Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik had preliminary discussions with the agent for Ken Griffey Jr. about bringing the former Mariners star back to Seattle.
"I have had discussions with Ken Griffey Jr.'s agent, yes," Zduriencik told the Seattle Times. "We had a discussion, yes. We talked about Ken Griffey, yes. Is there anything concrete? I'd say it's more an inquiry than anything else."
Brocail gets new deal with Astros: Hours after deciding not to offer Doug Brocail arbitration, the Houston Astros signed the right-handed reliever to a one-year contract that includes a club option for 2010.
"I'm very happy that it's over with," Brocail, who went 7-5 with a 3.93 ERA in a career-high 72 relief appearances with the Astros last season, told the Houston Chronicle.
"We're very pleased to have Doug back," general manager Ed Wade said. "We had certain expectations when we signed Doug a year ago, and he met or exceeded every one of them. His presence on the mound, in the bullpen and in the clubhouse exudes professionalism and the competitive fire that championship teams need."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.