Greg Maddux met his new teammates, Jim Thome surveyed the scene and Barry Larkin opened his final spring training camp.
It could only mean one thing: Spring training got into full swing Thursday.
The Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies began workouts across Florida and Arizona. They joined the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who got a head start Sunday because they open the season early in Japan.
A day after agreeing to return to the Cubs, Maddux looked quite comfortable as he strolled into their clubhouse in Mesa, Ariz., holding a crossword puzzle.
''The clubhouse used to be in the middle of the fields, didn't it?'' he asked. ''I'll get used to it.''
Fans were thrilled to see No. 31 wearing a Cubs uniform for the first time since 1992, with one yelling out, ''We're glad to have you back!'' as Maddux and the rest of the team took the field to stretch.
''I don't really feel like a rookie,'' he said. ''I might feel like a fish out of water. I'm still trying to learn what fields No. 1 and 2 mean. I think in time I'll understand the system and fit right in.''
His teammates are sure of it.
''He's going to come into our rotation and obviously help us,'' Kerry Wood said. ''So obviously he's going to be welcomed with open arms in this clubhouse.''
At Clearwater, Fla., Thome arrived at Phillies camp a week before the required reporting date for position players.
''I think the reason why I get here so early is because I want to get out of the cold weather,'' Thome said with a chuckle. ''I don't live here or in Arizona like a lot of these guys.''
The Phillies, who lost the National League's wild-card playoff slot to eventual World Series champion Florida, have high expectations this season.
''You look at this club and you have to be excited,'' Thome said. ''But being good on paper doesn't win it. We had great teams when I was in Cleveland and we never won a World Series.''
At Sarasota, Fla., Larkin had no nostalgic feelings as he put on his red jersey and black spring training cap at the Cincinnati Reds' camp.
''This is normal,'' said the infielder, who turns 40 in April. ''There's nothing special, yet, about this upcoming season. You've got to go out and play, play hard, try to do well, and that's really it.
''There's nothing more that goes into it at this particular point. You get ready and you go out and try to have a good year.''
In the day's top news event, NL Cy Young Award winner Eric Gagne lost his salary arbitration case and will receive $5 million from the Los Angeles Dodgers instead of $8 million.
Gagne was 2-3 with a 1.20 ERA and 55 saves in as many chances last season, and made $550,000.
Arbitrators Stephen Goldberg, Dan Brent and Elliott Shriftman heard the case Wednesday in Phoenix.
Gagne's agent, Scott Boras, said the Dodgers argued that he shouldn't be paid vastly more in his first year of arbitration eligibility than Mariano Rivera, who beat the New York Yankees in 1999 and earned $4.25 million.
''The club's argument was that he should be tied to Mariano Rivera as a three-plus player, and the service-time argument apparently won the day,'' Boras said.
New Dodgers general manager Paul DePodesta wouldn't say whether the team would consider a multiyear contract for Gagne, who can become a free agent after the 2006 season.
''Obviously, this guy has accomplished an awful lot and is an integral part of this club,'' DePodesta said. ''Maybe you'd want to give one pitcher four or five years. Some you only feel comfortable giving him two. It's a case-by-case basis. I don't know enough about this case to say what would make sense.''
Owners beat players 4-3 in the cases that went to hearings, the eighth straight year management has won a majority. Owners hold a 263-197 advantage since arbitration began in 1974.
In Scottsdale, Ariz., the San Francisco Giants said the entourage of trainers who typically surround Barry Bonds' locker will be noticeably absent from the clubhouse this season.
That means no Greg Anderson, one of four men charged last week in a steroid-distribution ring that allegedly supplied dozens of professional athletes with banned substances.
Pujols, Cardinals expected to announce $100 million deal Friday
Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals were expected to announce their $100 million, seven-year contract on Friday, when the sides had been scheduled to go to salary arbitration in Arizona.
Pujols and the Cardinals agreed to the deal Wednesday, according to a source familiar with the negotiations who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The Cardinals called an 11 a.m. EST news conference for Friday at their spring training complex in Jupiter, Fla., but did not announce the subject matter.
At 24, Pujols led the major leagues in hitting at .359 last year. He hit 43 home runs with 124 RBIs and topped the majors with 51 doubles, and he made $950,000. His deal contains an option for an eighth year that could make the contract worth $111 million.
Pujols gets $7 million this year, $11 million in 2005, $14 million in 2006, $15 million in 2007 and $16 million in each of the final three years, according to contract terms obtained Thursday by The Associated Press. The Cardinals have a $16 million option for 2011 with a $5 million buyout.
St. Louis gets to defer $3 million a year from his 2007-10 salaries without interest, with Pujols getting $1.2 million a year from 2020-29.
St. Louis made Pujols the ninth baseball player to receive a $100 million contract, the first since Jason Giambi's $120 million, seven-year agreement with the New York Yankees in December 2001.
Pujols has played only three full seasons, making him the fastest player to receive a $100 million contract. Colorado's Todd Helton signed a $141.5 million, nine-year extension in March 2001 after three-plus seasons in the big leagues.
Pujols had been seeking $10.5 million in arbitration, while the Cardinals had offered $7 million.
Third baseman Scott Rolen previously had been the highest-paid Cardinals player. He'll be entering the second year of an eight-year, $90 million contract.
Cardinals pitchers and catcher also report on Friday to training camp in Jupiter, Fla., with the first workout scheduled for Saturday. The first workout for position players is Feb. 25.
Pujols had been working out in the Miami area, near the Cardinals' spring training site, during negotiations.
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