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Phillies' great Mike Schmidt battles cancer

CLEARWATER — Mike Schmidt sat down at a picnic table beyond the leftfield wall on a sunny morning at Bright House Field, then scooted over to seek the shade of some palm trees and a light tower.

He wasn't taking any chances.

The Hall of Famer is recovering from an advanced form of skin cancer that kept him from being a guest instructor with the Phillies in spring training.

Schmidt, 64, was in camp Sunday and publicly spoke for the first time about his illness — stage 3 melanoma — and the two operations, radiation and chemotherapy treatments that followed.

"I feel fantastic right now," he said.

Looking fit and trim, the three-time NL MVP is scheduled for a scan today to see how far his recovery has progressed. He still plans to join the Phillies' television crew to work 13 home Sunday games this season, and to return to camp next year to work with hitters.

"I'm a very lucky man," he said.

Schmidt felt most fortunate that he got a "crusty little thing" on his hand checked out in August. A dermatologist decided to give him a full examination and found a mole on his back.

A biopsy revealed the melanoma was more serious than stage 1, and Schmidt spent the following months shuttling between Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and his home in Jupiter.

"I've done just about everything I can to destroy the cancer cells in my body," he said.

Yanks: Ellsbury ailing

TAMPA — Yankees CF Jacoby Ellsbury was scratched from the starting lineup against the Braves because of slight tightness in his right calf.

Coach Rob Thomson, managing a New York split squad, said the move was precautionary and the outfielder would have played if this were the regular season. Ellsbury will also sit out today against the Pirates in Bradenton.

TANAKA STRONG: Japanese RHP Masahiro Tanaka allowed one run and three hits over 41/3 innings in New York's 7-4 win. He struck out six and walked two.

IN PANAMA: LHP CC Sabathia pitched five hitless innings in a 7-0 win over the Marlins, a day after the Yankees were no-hit in baseball's return to Mariano Rivera's home country. Miami won 5-0 in the first game here to honor Rivera, baseball's career saves leader.

Jays: Praising Happ

DUNEDIN — Blue Jays manager John Gibbons gave LHP J.A. Happ a vote of confidence, describing himself as "a big Happ fan" and indicating that he had an inside track on a rotation job.

Happ had a sore back early in camp and pitched poorly in his first two outings, but he bounced back with three solid innings in a minor-league start Friday. His 2013 season was interrupted when he was hit in the head by a line drive at Tropicana Field.

"I think he's going to have a heck of a year for us," Gibbons told mlb.com. "All indications the other day, his back's fine, he threw very well and that was a big question. Now, if his back flares up, it might be a different story."

Blue Jays

Games: Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, 373 Douglas Ave., Dunedin

Tickets: (727) 733-0429; bluejays.com

Today: off

Phillies

Games: Bright House Field, 601 Old Coachman Road, Clearwater

Tickets: (727) 467-4457; phillies.com

Today: vs. Orioles (ss), 1:05

Yankees

Games: Steinbrenner Field, 1 Steinbrenner Drive (corner of Martin Luther King Jr. and Dale Mabry), Tampa

Tickets: (813) 879-2244; yankees.com

Today: at Pirates, 1:05, Bradenton

Phillies' great Mike Schmidt battles cancer 03/16/14 [Last modified: Sunday, March 16, 2014 7:59pm]
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