PHOENIX -- Miguel Tejada reported to the Oakland Athletics' spring training facility Saturday after being delayed for two days because he was caring for his ill son.
The reigning American League MVP missed only two full-squad workouts, and manager Ken Macha wasn't too concerned that the star shortstop will be behind because he had been playing winter ball for his native Dominican Republic.
Tejada was greeted with several handshakes and hugs as he dressed for his first practice of the spring. After taking the field to cheers from a couple dozen fans, he ran up to several players to say hello.
''It'll be nice (having him back),'' second baseman Mark Ellis said. ''It feels a little different not having him here. He'll be ready. He has a lot of energy and entertainment.''
Tejada is eligible to become a free agent after this season, and his contract status is expected to be a hot topic during spring training. The 26-year-old Tejada has said he wants a long-term contract to remain with the A's.
''I love Oakland. It's a great city,'' Tejada said. ''I know everybody. It's like a family.''
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Pittsburgh first baseman Randall Simon practiced for the first time after missing two days while the team checked out an abnormal reading during an electrocardiogram.
''It was a great time being out there for my first day,'' he said. ''It was a bad feeling to sit out while the other guys were on the field.''
Simon was limited to indoor batting practice Friday but participated in full drills Saturday after passing a stress test.
''It's always a relief to hear everything is fine,'' he said. ''I knew everything was going to be OK and that they wanted to be cautious with me.''
He took part in fielding, baserunning and conditioning drills. During regular batting practice, Simon needed a few swings to shake off the rust before peppering balls across the outfield.
''He moved well and showed a lot of energy,'' Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said. ''It was good to have him back out there.''
The Pirates picked up Simon from Detroit for three minor leaguers in the offseason. He batted .301 with 19 homers and 82 RBIs for the Tigers last year.
KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) -- Houston right-hander Jared Fernandez is still a candidate for the starting rotation despite being diagnosed with a bulging disc in his lower back.
Fernandez, who signed a minor league contract with the Astros this winter, will receive a cortisone shot Tuesday, general manager Gerry Hunsicker said.
Fernandez, 30, has been limited by the injury in the first days of spring training. Team officials said he fell while jogging in January and aggravated his back after beginning spring training drills.
''We are unsure whether the problem was a direct result of the fall or was it aggravated at that time,'' Hunsicker said. ''This injury will not preclude him from being a candidate for the starting rotation. It will obviously hinder him, however.''
Fernandez will be held out of workouts and will require rest during the recovery process,.
The knuckleball pitcher entered workouts as a candidate for the fifth position in Houston's starting rotation. He has a career record of 1-4 with a 4.43 ERA in 19 games.
The Astros announced that Roy Oswalt will start the season opener against Colorado on April 1 and Wade Miller will pitch the second game of the season.
JUPITER, Fla. (AP) -- Florida manager Jeff Torborg says he has the best all-around infield he has seen in 40 years.
Of course, that's with a healthy Alex Gonzalez at shortstop.
Gonzalez, an All-Star in 1999, missed most of last season because of a shoulder injury. Gonzalez has felt no pain so far in spring training, and the Marlins expect him to return to his All-Star form this season.
''My main goal is to stay healthy,'' said Gonzalez, who hit .225 in 42 games last season. ''I have rehabbed hard during the offseason, and the pain is gone. I'm looking forward to playing hard and helping the team.''
Gonzalez hit .277 with 14 home runs and 59 RBIs in 1999 and became just the second rookie shortstop named to the NL All-Star team.
He hasn't been the same since.
He hit a career-low .200 in 2000, improved to .250 the following year but had a combined 16 homers in the two seasons. Then came the nagging injury, which stemmed from dislocating his left shoulder May 18.
Despite the injury, the Marlins re-signed the 25-year-old Venezuelan shortstop to a one-year, $1.7 million contract.
''His hitting will improve as he gets in a groove,'' Torborg said.
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