tampabay.com

Hendrickson moves closer to return

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published March 12, 2006


ST. PETERSBURG - Mark Hendrickson's delivery looked good. The way the ball hit the catcher's mitt sounded good, and the left-hander declared he felt good.

Hendrickson threw a 30-pitch simulated game before Saturday's 5-4 loss to the Indians at Progress Energy Park. He also threw four pitchouts.

"I didn't feel it at all," Hendrickson said of the bruised right femur that has kept him from pitching in a game. "I'm still a little off with command of my fastball, but my other pitches felt great. It was a good thing."

Hendrickson, 31, said he expects to throw in the bullpen Monday. If that goes well, the next step is probably a game.

"My goal and their goal is that come (opening day), I'm ready to go," Hendrickson said. "It's just going about it in a different way."

Hendrickson said his rehab work puts him on par with the other starters, who are making their second appearances.

"So I think I'm right there with the intensity I've put into my side sessions," he said. "I think that's going to help me to handle jumping in for maybe three innings."

When that will be is to be determined. But manager Joe Maddon said it is getting closer.

"The ball came out of his hand really well and had a little bit of life at the end of it," Maddon said. "He looked ready right there to me."

MORI TAKES A STEP: Reliever Shinji Mori threw in the bullpen and said he will do so at least two more times before he pitches in a game. It has been nine days since the right-hander's debut was postponed by a sore right shoulder.

"I just wanted to throw nice and easy," Mori said through an interpreter. "I want to make sure I get my rhythm back."

Mori has played long toss since the injury flared.

"I don't get much stress," the Japanese All-Star said, "but I want to pitch."

MYSTERY ABSENCE: Left-hander Mark Malaska apparently has taken a leave of absence from the team. Agent Tom O'Connell said his client, who missed Saturday's workouts, is "fine" but "he's dealing with a family matter right now."

O'Connell said he believes Malaska is home in Youngstown, Ohio, and has no timetable for his return.

Malaska, 26, a nonroster invitee, hurriedly left the clubhouse after Friday's outing, in which he hit a batter, walked another and threw one pitch to a third before being relieved. He has pitched 11/3 innings in three outings and allowed three runs on one hit with two walks and three wild pitches for a 20.25 ERA.

GAME DETAILS: Another good outing for Doug Waechter. The right-hander pitched three scoreless innings without a hit and with a strikeout. He, Ruddy Lugo and Juan Salas no-hit the Indians for five innings. ... Julio Lugo had two hits, including a two-run double. ... Cleveland overcame a 4-0 deficit with a five-run three-hit sixth. Carlos Hines faced five batters, walked two and allowed a hit and four runs. Sean Burroughs' error at third contributed to three unearned runs.

CUTS: The Rays reassigned eight players. Pitchers Hines and Jon Switzer were sent to Triple-A Durham, pitcher Jeff Niemann to Double-A Montgomery. Pitchers Jack Cressend, Bart Miadich, Tony Peguero and Jose Rodriguez and catcher Josh Arhart were sent to minor-league camp.

MISCELLANY: Maddon said reliever Dan Miceli, who pitched for Italy in the World Baseball Classic, reported. ... The Rays got a look at Andy Marte, whom they coveted in the winter. The Indians third baseman was 0-for-1 and made a nice defensive play.