Carlos Lee had a lot of catching up to do when he arrived at the Houston Astros’ training camp Thursday.
He was two days late after all.
“I got confused with the reporting date,” said Lee, who missed the last seven weeks of the season with a broken finger. “There’s nothing I can do about it, just try to catch up.”
Before he started work proving his pinkie was OK, Lee joked that he was trying to make headlines because he “didn’t get any press the last two months of the season.” He also gave thanks to teammates Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman, who was critical of Lee for missing the report date.
“He talked about me when I wasn’t here but now he’s 100 percent backing me. Thank you, Lance,” Lee said in Kissimmee, Fla., as he hugged his teammate and the two smiled.
Manager Cecil Cooper wouldn’t say what type of punishment Lee would get for being late.
“He came in gave me a big bear-hug and we talked,” Cooper said. “I just said you owe me. I’ll forget about all the stuff if I can get 140 (RBIs) out of him.”
Lee was on track for that type of production when he was hit by a pitch from Bronson Arroyo, ending his season: He had 100 RBIs in 115 games.
The nail of Lee’s pinky finger is gnarled and there’s a sizeable lump on it, but other than that Lee said he’s ready to go.
“Right now it feels sore getting going again but it’s going to be OK,” he said. “It shouldn’t be a factor.”
Jason Giambi, meanwhile, had his first full-squad workout with the Oakland Athletics at Papago Park in eight years, looking relaxed and sporting growth on his chin that was forbidden in his seven ringless years with the New York Yankees.
“It’s kind of like coming home,” he said. “I’m like the new guy coming back. I had to acclimate myself back into things. It felt good.”
In Tampa, Fla., Rodriguez ducked follow-up questions about his drug use, refusing to address a report identifying the cousin the Yankees star claims injected him with a banned substance.
“I’m not talking about it anymore,” Rodriguez said.
The slugger also wouldn’t discuss Major League Baseball’s attempt to interview him about his tainted past.
“I’d rather not get into that,” he said.
The three-time AL MVP met with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and worked out on the main field at New York’s spring training camp. Fans applauded and shouted encouragement, and critical shouts were at a minimum.
“The relief was just putting the uniform back on and running out there with my teammates,” Rodriguez said. “No matter what happens and what has occurred in my life, the baseball field is where I feel most comfortable.”
Colorado Rockies left-hander Jeff Francis will have exploratory surgery on his pitching shoulder next week and expects to miss the 2009 season.
“I’m not counting on coming back,” Francis said in Tucson, Ariz.