Oriole Chris Ray, out since 2007 after undergoing ligament replacement surgery, worked a flawless inning against St. Louis in Cactus action on Thursday.

"My elbow feels a lot better, and everything else feels the same," Ray, who will likely compete for the closer's job in Baltimore this season, told MLB.com. "I probably haven't felt like this since Little League. I haven't put ice on my elbow, [and] it doesn't get sore. It's really amazing."

Crosby sees results with homer in first at-bat: Bobby Crosby spent the winter working out with Mark McGwire and revamped both his stance and his swing. Crosby saw early results of that work when he homered in his Spring Training debut.

"It's good to see results in your first at-bat," Crosby told the San Francisco Chronicle. "It's nice to see something good happen after putting in so much work and feel you did something right."

"Totally different," outfielder Travis Buck said of Crosby's swing. "He's on balls longer, he's hitting through balls. Obviously, he has power."

Hampton throws two scoreless innings: Mike Hampton threw two scoreless innings against the Washington Nationals in his first competitive outing of Spring Training. The game was delayed 15 minutes at the start due to the late arrival of Florida governor Charlie Crist, who threw out the first pitch.

"My arm felt good," Hampton told the Houston Chronicle. "My body felt good. Obviously location wasn't where it needs to be, but, all in all, I felt good out there. Pitches and location will come."

Francis expected to miss season after surgery: Jeff Francis underwent arthroscopic surgery Wednesday on his left shoulder. The team's medical director, Dr. Tom Noonan, repaired Francis' labrum and also cleaned up fraying tissue in his rotator cuff.

Francis is not expected to pitch this season for the Rockies as the expected recovery time is six months to one year.

"It's not an uncommon injury for pitchers," Dr. James Gladstone, an orthopedic surgeon and specialist in sports medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, told the Denver Post. "It's not done to repair a torn rotator cuff or tendons."

Cook solid in spring debut: Aaron Cook, whom the Rockies are counting on heavily this season, threw two scoreless innings in his spring debut on Wednesday.

"There's always talk about what a No. 1 starter is. I know this: he once threw a complete game in 82 pitches with 73 fastballs. To me, that sure sounds like an ace," right fielder Brad Hawpe told the Denver Post. "Brandon Webb [of Arizona] won 22 games last year; I could see Cookie doing that."

Sabathia, Wang will be first on mound: Yankees manager Joe Girardi has announced the starting rotation for the 2009 season. Not surprisingly, CC Sabathia will start Opening Day, followed by Chien-Ming Wang, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte and Joba Chamberlain. While Burnett was signed to a big contract in the offseason, Girardi wanted to insert Wang, who features a sinkerball, between the hard-throwing Sabathia and Burnett.

"I talked to A.J. about it," Girardi told Newsday, "and he said I'll take the ball whenever you want to give it to me. He was great."

Maine pleased with first outing: Making his first start since Aug. 23, Maine took the mound for the Mets during their intrasquad game earlier this week. Maine threw a perfect first inning and then left two runners stranded in the second inning.

"It felt good," Maine told Newsday. "Arm feels great, body feels great. I just feel it's been such a long time, the mechanics are off. I'm rushing a little bit, but other than that, more important, my arm feels good."

Beckett's back, in control: When the 2008 season ended, Josh Beckett was suffering from a strained oblique muscle that kept him from having his normal velocity. He appeared fully recovered in the team's exhibition opener, throwing two perfect innings.

"You can't go out there and not think about [the back problem] in my first outing," Beckett, who threw only 22 pitches, told the Boston Herald. "I definitely thought about it coming in. It was like, 'Is this going to happen again?' It was nice to get out there and feel good."

Zumaya's debut included some nerves: Joel Zumaya had a successful first outing on Thursday, working a relatively uneventful inning, even if he was a little nervous.

"There's a few guys having jitters out there [in the bullpen] right now," Zumaya told MLB.com. "They're just moving back and forth. And I was one of those guys."

Baez comfortable in return to mound: Danys Baez, who had not pitched since 2007, got in some work for the Orioles against St. Louis on Thursday, and it only took a couple pitches for him to begin feeling comfortable again.

"Before the first pitch, there were too many feelings at the same time," Baez, a former closer, told MLB.com. "You're always concerned about your arm, how it's going to react against a hitter. But after the first or second pitch, I felt like this is what I'm supposed to do and this is why I'm here. That's what I've been working so hard for."

Marshall ready to show he's a starter: Sean Marshall is appreciative of the confidence that the Cubs have shown in him, whether it's as a starter or coming out of the bullpen.

"I feel like I have a job and have to earn my keep," Marshall told MLB.com. "I know that they've expressed a lot of confidence in me.

"I'm just excited to be handed the ball and given the opportunity to pitch and given the opportunity to start. If all things fall into place, that's a good thing. If not, I'll be in the bullpen again. Whatever I can do to help out, I'll do."

Edwin Jackson has the pressure off in Detroit: Edwin Jackson isn't having any lofty expectations thrown on him by his new team, the Detroit Tigers.

"Don't try to win 25 games," Detroit manager Jim Leyland told MLB.com. "Just continue to get better."

Samardzija aims for spot in rotation: Jeff Samardzija would love to be a part of the Chicago rotation in 2009 but says that, if the team asks him to work out of the bullpen, he will be happy to do so.

"If they feel that's the route they want me to go, then we'll do it, but I want to be with this team, helping this team win games, from Day 1," Samardzija told the Chicago Sun-Times.

"I just want to put myself in a great situation to help this team, whether it's out of the pen or starting or whatever it may be," he said.

Hanson shows his velocity in debut: Tommy Hanson impressed Braves manager Bobby Cox in his Spring Training debut.

"Everything I saw today was outstanding," Cox told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "...[H]e had a lot of velocity and tremendous movement in the strike zone. Someone said he hit 99 [mph] today. It doesn't look like it from the dugout, because he gets so much movement."

Bonifacio, Castillo share similarities: Emilio Bonifacio has drawn comparisons to ex-Marlins second baseman Luis Castillo. Both are from the Dominican Republic, both wear uniform No. 1 and both are switch-hitters.

"He's always been one of my favorite players," Bonifacio told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "He's talked to me about using my legs and taking advantage of my speed."

Lincecum prepares to take the next step: Reigning Cy Young Award-winner Tim Lincecum started 2009 off with a scoreless inning against the Indians on Wednesday.

"I always want to get better," Lincecum told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I come into this year, I'm not just sitting [around] hoping everything's going to be all right because of last year. I've got to come out here and work and become better. That's what it takes to be a good Major League baseball player."

Fuentes thrown into fire early: New Angels closer Brian Fuentes faced his first two-on, one-out situation and retired the next two A's batters to get out of the inning unscathed.

"The competitor in you takes over," Fuentes told the Los Angeles Times. "I'd feel the same way in an intrasquad game with two guys on. You've been doing it for so long, you're trained to buckle down and get guys out. Your concentration level goes up a bit."

Cecil gets opening exhibition start: Left-hander Brett Cecil started the exhibition season for the Blue Jays by retiring six of the first eight Yankees he faced.

"I'm not really worried about the result, just about how I do and how I feel afterward," he told the Toronto Star. "I felt great. I made a couple not-so-good pitches, but I'm happy with today and looking forward to the next one."

-- Red Line Editorial