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Ankiel regresses in second spring outing

Rick Ankiel was wild again.

The Cardinals left-hander, who threw nine wild pitches in four post-season innings in the fall, walked eight Sunday in less than two innings against the Marlins.

"There isn't a whole lot to say," manager Tony La Russa said. "It's a work in progress. He had a tough day. It's like a hitter who struggles one day. You keep going to work and get it right. It's something he's working through."

Ankiel was brilliant in his spring debut last week, throwing 22 of 29 pitches for strikes over two scoreless innings. His second public start was a different story.

The 21-year-old Ankiel threw 66 pitches, 36 balls, in 1 innings. He allowed one hit and six runs, all earned, and struck out three. The Marlins won 6-4.

Ankiel left the clubhouse shortly after his outing and was not available for comment. La Russa said he will keep Ankiel in the spring training rotation and expects him to pitch during the season-opening series at Colorado.

"We definitely expect Rick to keep working at it and get better and better and better and take his regular turn," La Russa said.

Ankiel threw one wild pitch but struggled to locate the strike zone. He walked the first five, three on full counts, before turning to a good curveball that helped him get out of the inning.

He got B.J. Waszgis to pop out, then struck out Ryan McGuire and Andy Fox looking with curves.

Ankiel looked as if he might be settling down, until he got back on the mound.

Four of his first six warmup pitches sailed past catcher Mike Matheny and hit the backstop, prompting Matheny to take a trip to the mound during warmups. It didn't help.

Ankiel walked the first two of the inning, then got Rich Becker with another sharp breaking ball. But after Chad Mottola singled, Ankiel walked Kevin Millar on his final pitch of the day.

"If you put a circle out there around the strike zone, pretty much he was in that circle," pitching coach Dave Duncan said. "It wasn't like he was throwing the ball all around the stadium. That tells me that the things he is working on are working."

Walking off, Ankiel received a warm ovation from the packed crowd at Roger Dean Stadium. He stared straight down until he got to the dugout steps.

RICKEY TO SIGN: Outfielder Rickey Henderson will sign a minor-league contract with the Padres and be in uniform at the team's spring training complex today, general manager Kevin Towers said. Henderson will earn a base salary of about $250,000 once he appears on the major-league roster, Towers said. "I'm 99.9 percent sure we'll have a deal by (today)," he said. "There are just some minor details left." Towers planned to work out arrangements for some award bonuses with Henderson's agent, Jeff Borris.

BRAVES: Left-hander Steve Avery, fighting for a roster spot, held the Dodgers scoreless for two innings. It was the first time this spring Avery has not allowed a run.

CUBS: Team president and general manager Andy MacPhail downplayed a clause in Sammy Sosa's contract extension that gives the club some flexibility to trade him. The clause includes about eight teams to which Sosa would accept a trade during a few unspecified periods. "It shouldn't be a tremendous issue," MacPhail said, "because we didn't sign him to trade him."

DODGERS: Los Angeles cut its major-league-high payroll, trading pitchers Antonio Osuna and Carlos Ortega to the White Sox for three minor-league pitchers: right-handers Gary Majewski and Andre Simpson and left-hander Orlando Rodriguez. The loss of Osuna's $1.5-million salary drops the team's payroll to just over $109-million, about $1-million behind the Yankees and Red Sox.

GIANTS: Benito Santiago, a four-time All-Star catcher who has played for six teams during a 15-year career, agreed to a minor-league contract. General manager Brian Sabean said he expects Santiago, 36, to be on the opening-day roster, meaning Bobby Estalella or Doug Mirabelli probably will be out of a job.

METS: All-Star catcher Mike Piazza, sidelined for 10 days with a bone bruise on his left knee, caught three innings in a minor-league game. Piazza, who hasn't played since injuring himself in a running drill March 6, participated in simulated running drills and reported no pain. Manager Bobby Valentine said one of second baseman Edgardo Alfonzo's shin splints is healed, and the other is much improved.

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