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GIBSON RETURNS TO KANSAS CITY'S CAMP AS HIGUERA, LANSFORD TRY COMEBACKS

Teddy Higuera is giving the Milwaukee Brewers some good signs this spring and Carney Lansford is giving it one more try with the Oakland Athletics.

On a day in which Kirk Gibson returned to Kansas City's camp and Roger Clemens again was absent from Boston's, a pair of past All-Stars continued their comebacks from injuries Sunday.Higuera, limited to seven games last year, pitched from the mound for the first time since undergoing rotator cuff surgery in August. The left-hander threw 50 pitches at the Brewers' camp in Chandler, Ariz.

"He came down and gave me the thumbs up," Brewers manager Phil Garner reported. "He was beaming from ear to ear, so it must have been good. I'm happy for him because he has worked so hard. I've been very impressed."

The Brewers are not expecting Higuera to be ready by opening day. Still, the former 20-game winner is said to be ahead of schedule on his rehabilitation and Milwaukee hopes he'll be able to pitch early in the season.

A few miles away in Scottsdale, Ariz., Lansford said he feels fine after missing all but five games last season.

Lansford's left knee was mangled in a snowmobile accident on New Year's Eve 1990, and the third basemen underwent reconstructive surgery. He tried to come back too soon last July and went 1-for-16.

The Athletics tried to replace Lansford's spot with several players, and none of them worked out too well. Not much went right for Oakland last season as it struggled to an 84-78 record and a fourth-place finish after three straight American League West championships.

"Actually, had the team done well last year I might have retired," Lansford, 35, said.

"Everybody is back and its something like a last shot for us," he said, aware that the team will change after this season because it has so many free-agents.

Lansford said his knee injury is healed and that it should not hinder him.

"I go through the stations here and it seems like I was never hurt," he said. "The knee feels like a normal knee. If I get off to a slow start or something, it's not going to be due to the knee."

Gibson, hobbled by injuries in the past, is healthy this spring. But after the Royals told him he will be a backup this season, he skipped Saturday's workout in Haines City, Fla.

Gibson came back to practice Sunday, not that he's any happier with his role.

"It doesn't matter," he said. "It's not a big deal really. There's nothing to say about it."

Royals manager Hal McRae said he could see why the intense Gibson walked out for a day.

"I think he did a super-wise thing if he wasn't ready to work. Maybe that's the best thing to do, not show up," McRae said. "I'll try to give him a little space, let him work things out and hopefully he will in a short span of time. I understand that."

The Boston Red Sox, meanwhile, continued to have fun at Clemens' expense. The three-time Cy Young winner is working out at home in Houston, and says he will join the Red Sox in Winter Haven, Fla., by Wednesday's mandatory reporting date.

On Saturday, Clemens' teammates rolled out a makeshift red carpet leading to his clubhouse stall. On Sunday players added a milk carton with a baseball card of Clemens attached, and the caption: "Have you seen this pitcher?"

A helium balloon was hung that carried the message, "Welcome back. We missed you."

And there was a case of sunflower seeds.

Clemens had said in an interview last week that he was working out and that if he were at camp he would just be standing around spitting out sunflower seeds.