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• JUPITER, Fla. - Jim Edmonds was a bit more optimistic about his chances of getting ready by opening day following another batting practice session Friday.

St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said this week that Edmonds and Juan Encarnacion, both coming off surgery, were likely to begin the season on the 15- day disabled list. Edmonds said his right shoulder has improved.

"I feel like I need to be ready for opening day if I can," said Edmonds, who has taken BP four times. "I don't care what anybody else wants, I'm trying to get ready for my teammates and I'll do everything I can."

Reds release pitchers Ligtenberg, Meadows

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• SARASOTA, Fla. - Pitchers Kerry Ligtenberg and Brian Meadows were released Friday by the Cincinnati Reds.

Both had signed minor league deals and had no interest in pitching anywhere but the big leagues, general manager Wayne Krivsky said.

"We felt there were people ahead of them and we wanted to release them sooner rather than later so they have a chance to sign with someone," Krivsky said.

Cincinnati also reassigned top pitching prospect Homer Bailey to its minor league camp. He pitched just 3 2-3 innings this spring, allowing eight runs and six hits.

Leyland: Sheffield expected back with Tigers today

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• LAKELAND, Fla. - Gary Sheffield was expected to return to the Detroit Tigers today after missing several exhibition games.

Sheffield has not played since Monday. Manager Jim Leyland said the 38-year-old designated hitter should play against the Blue Jays in Dunedin.

Sheffield's lawyer, Rufus Williams, said Thursday that his client "is involved in a legal proceeding for a baseball-related matter. ... brought about by a previous agent."

Baseball suspends Francis for five games, Hurdle one

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• NEW YORK - Colorado Rockies pitcher Jeff Francis and manager Clint Hurdle were suspended by the commissioner's office Friday for their roles in a dustup with the San Diego Padres this week.

Francis was suspended for five regular-season games for intentionally throwing at San Diego's Kevin Kouzmanoff on Tuesday after a warning had been issued earlier in the game. Hurdle was banned for one game, and both were fined an undisclosed amount.

Berroa could lose job as Royals' shortstop

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• SURPRISE, Ariz. - Angel Berroa has gone from 2003 AL Rookie of the Year to possibly losing his job as the Kansas City Royals' starting shortstop.

After the Royals defeated the San Francisco Giants on Thursday, manager Buddy Bell worked with Berroa in the batting cages. Giants left-hander Barry Zito struck out Berroa twice - giving Berroa 12 strikeouts in 26 at-bats during spring training with no walks.

Bell said Berroa will be competing for the starting job with Alex Gonzalez and prospect Andres Blanco.

"It is open," Bell said.

Uribe's hearing postponed

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• SAN CRISTOBAL, Dominican Republic - A Dominican court postponed a hearing Friday for Chicago White Sox shortstop Juan Uribe to give prosecutors more time to investigate allegations he shot a farmer last October.

The 27-year-old is at spring training in Arizona and did not appear at the court in San Cristobal province.

Yankees' Abreu takes BP

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• TAMPA, Fla. - The New York Yankees' Bobby Abreu took batting practice in a cage against a pitcher for the first time since straining his right oblique last month.

Abreu took 55 swings Friday.

"I tried to push it a little bit more," the right fielder said. "It was fine. I feel great. I didn't hurt at all. That makes me feel good."

Abreu said he's "on track right now" to play April 2, opening day.

Ayala likely to go on DL

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• VIERA, Fla. - The Washington Nationals said Friday that right-handed reliever Luis Ayala probably will start the season on the disabled list.

Ayala, the main setup man in the bullpen in 2005, missed all of 2006 after elbow surgery.

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