Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Sore back sidelines Yanks' hurler Hughes

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TAMPA, Fla. -- Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes has upper back stiffness and will be sidelined for a few days.

"There's always a little bit of concern, but it's upper back by his shoulder blades, so we'll see how he is in a couple days," manager Joe Girardi said Tuesday. "You're usually more concerned about the lower (back problem) lingering. The good thing is he was ahead of where he'd probably normally be at this time, which helps."

Hughes was hurt Monday during a defensive drill covering first base.

Closer Mariano Rivera did throw, 36 pitches during his third bullpen session, and is ready to face batters for the first time since May.

"I think the next one's going to be BP," Rivera said.

Baseball's career saves leader was hurt while shagging fly balls during batting practice in Kansas City on May and had surgery June 12 to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

A small group of fans watched the 43-year-old right-hander throw and gave him a loud cheer afterward. One fan asked how he felt, and Rivera replied "Fine, and how are you?"

Arbitrator bored

NEW YORK -- Reserved for the better part of February for the contentious process of salary arbitration, the Ellis East Room on the second floor of the Hyatt Regency Phoenix went unused. For the first time since arbitration began in 1974, none of the players who filed wound up arguing their cases.

After peaking at 35 hearings in 1986, the number of salary arbitration cases argued hasn't reached double digits since 2001. The total dropped to a record low of three in 2005, 2009 and 2011, and then there were none at all this year.

All 133 players who filed last month settled, gaining an average increase of 119 per cent, according to a study by The Associated Press. San Francisco catcher Buster Posey, the NL batting champion and MVP, led the way with a 13-fold hike to $8 million.

Relatively few big-name stars even filed. Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum's final two seasons of arbitration eligibility were covered by a $40.5 million, two-year contract agreed to in January 2012. Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw agreed the following month to a two-year deal guaranteeing $19 million that leaves him with just one more arbitration-eligible season.

Colon comes clean

PHOENIX -- Bartolo Colon knew he had failed a drug test for about six weeks before he got hit with a 50-game suspension last season. He made several starts for the Oakland Athletics while knowing he probably wouldn't participate in the pennant race.

"I continued to pitch, but my mind wasn't good," he said.

Now that Colon is back in the clubhouse at spring training with the teammates he let down, the 39-year-old right-hander knows he can only earn peace of mind and forgiveness by getting back in top form on the mound.

Colon finally spoke Tuesday about his season-ending suspension for a positive testosterone test. Through a translator, the former Cy Young Award winner with 171 career victories expressed regret for his past mistakes and hope for his future.

"The only thing I can say about last year is I apologize to everybody, even the fans, the team, the front office about what happened," he said.

The A's organization already has forgiven the veteran starter whose first season with Oakland ended prematurely. Not only did the unlikely AL West champions re-sign Colon, they gave him a raise with a $3 million, one-year contract.

The Dominican veteran doesn't intend to call a team meeting to apologize to everybody. He said he'll speak to the A's individually about his past mistake and their future.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 20, 2013 C7

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