Trevor Hoffman, Pat Burrell and Raul Ibanez started to settle in with their new teams Monday, while Mike Hampton left Houston Astros camp to get treatment for a minor irregularity in his heartbeat.
The upcoming World Baseball Classic also lost one of the sport’s biggest stars when St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols said he will not play for the Dominican Republic because of insurance issues.
Hampton returned to Houston to be examined by team physician Dr. Jim Muntz before undergoing a procedure to correct the heartbeat with an electrical current. The Astros hope to have him back in camp Thursday.
“From what I understand, it’s not an uncommon condition and it’s not an uncommon procedure he’s going to go through,” general manager Ed Wade said in Kissimmee, Fla. “Other than travel time back and forth between here and Houston, we don’t expect him to miss any time.”
Closer Jose Valverde, last year’s NL saves leader, went to the hospital because of an inflamed right forearm that was diagnosed as an infection from an apparent insect bite. He was given antibiotics and isn’t expected to be sidelined by the injury.
Pujols’ health isn’t a concern but the Cardinals star said Monday he’s skipping the WBC because “the insurance does not want to cover” him to play. He made the comments during a conference call with Dominican baseball officials.
Hoffman, meanwhile, is using his early arrival at spring training this year to get to know his new teammates and surroundings with the Milwaukee Brewers.
While the career saves leader is excited about the opportunity after signing a $6 million contract with the Brewers this winter, he admits he still isn’t over the sting of how his long tenure with the Padres ended.
“It’s not that I’m disconnected from San Diego. I’m disconnected from the Padres,” Hoffman said in Phoenix. “I’m not seeing the same people every day. I’m seeing new people. As much as that three, four months ago didn’t seem as much of a reality as it is today, time keeps moving and the game moves on. It doesn’t sit for anybody. You kind of have to — like it or not — move on with it. ... I’m still trying to get used to it.”
After spending most of the past decade as an everyday outfielder with the Phillies, Burrell is expected to be the primary designated hitter for Tampa Bay this season.
Burrell signed a $16 million, two-year contract in January after not being offered a new deal in Philadelphia, where he hit .257 with 251 homers and 827 RBIs over parts of nine seasons.
Ibanez was Philadelphia’s only major offseason acquisition after winning the World Series. He signed a $31.5 million, three-year contract to replace left fielder Burrell.
Also Monday, Ryan Ludwick and the Cardinals agreed to a $3.7 million, one-year contract, avoiding an arbitration hearing that was scheduled for Tuesday.
In Peoria, Ariz., the Seattle Mariners signed top draft choice Josh Fields to a contract with a $1.75 million signing bonus on Monday, ending an eight-month impasse in negotiations with the 20th pick in last summer’s draft.
The right-hander closer will be on the field for workouts with the Mariners as an invited minor-league player this morning.
And in Fort Myers, Fla., the Boston Red Sox agreed to a minor-league contract with outfielder-first baseman Brad Wilkerson. Wilkerson hit .220 with four homers and 28 RBIs in 104 games last year with Seattle and Toronto.