He's no longer the home run king, but he's still the Hammer.
Hank Aaron hobbled into Atlanta's spring training camp on Tuesday - he needs knee-replacement surgery - with no opinion on whether Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens deserve to be in the Hall of Fame but saying he's confident baseball is on the way to recovering from the steroids hysteria of the past several years.
"I think baseball is trying to clean up its act," Aaron said. "It's unfortunate for baseball, but baseball has been through some tough times. It went through the White Sox scandal and survived. It went through a lot of things and survived. It's going to survive this, too."
Like many baseball fans, Aaron tuned in when the Mitchell report was released, and he was in front of the television again for Roger Clemens' testimony before Congress last week, when the seven-time Cy Young Award winner denied using human growth hormone as alleged by his former trainer.
"I'm glad it happened, and I'm glad it happened before spring training, before the season started," Aaron said. "We can get it over and done with. You'll see. When the season starts, we'll again be drawing fans. People will come out to watch these kids play."
In Orioles camp in Fort Lauderdale, second baseman Brian Roberts and outfielder Jay Gibbons again apologized for using performance-enhancing drugs.
"Embarrassment is a good word. Disappointment. You know, it's just one of those things where you look in the mirror, and I have no excuses," said Gibbons, who will serve a 15-day suspension at the start of the season for receiving a shipment of the human growth hormone after January 2005, when it was banned by baseball.
"I blame myself," Gibbons added. "It's definitely something that's out of character. I took a shortcut and I'm paying the price with the 15 days."
Roberts was implicated in the Mitchell report by former teammate Larry Bigbie. Roberts later acknowledged he took one shot of steroids in 2003, calling it "a terrible decision," but insisted he never used performance-enhancing drugs before or after.
"I told the truth. I made my statement. We'll move on from there," Roberts said.
And in Kissimmee, new Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada declined to answer questions about the Mitchell report and an FBI investigation looking into his alleged link to performance-enhancing drugs. In the report, Adam Piatt claimed he gave steroids to Tejada in 2003, when they played in Oakland.
"I can't really talk about that situation," he said. "Right now, I just want to talk about baseball, because that's really my focus."
SEE YA, C.C.? The cold, hard reality is that C.C. Sabathia's days with the Indians could be dwindling. At this time next year, the AL's reigning Cy Young winner could be pitching for somebody other than the only team he has ever known.
"I can't think like that," Sabathia said after a brisk workout. "I don't want to go through the season thinking this will be my last year. I want to help my guys here win."
At the end of December, the Indians offered Sabathia a four-year extension believed to be worth between $17-million and $18-million per year. Sabathia said the sides never got close.
FELIZ EXCITES SCHMIDT: Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt, a guest instructor in Phillies camp, said he thinks new third baseman Pedro Feliz could have 30 homers and 100 RBIs. "He's an impressive young man," Schmidt told the News Journal of Delaware. "Tremendously impressive hands, good arm, good batting stroke. I think he's going to be a big key for the club this year."
NO comment: Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez had little to say on a report about his passion for cockfighting in his native Dominican Republic. "That's personal, that's a different culture down there. I'm from (the) Dominican, so let's talk about baseball," he said.
ORTIZ HEALING: David Ortiz took swings in the batting cage after reporting in Fort Myers and said he's nearly fully recovered from knee surgery he had after the Red Sox won the World Series. "I feel good," the DH said, "getting almost 100 percent."
BROADCASTER HONORED: Longtime Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus, 73, is going into the Hall of Fame after being named winner of the 2008 Ford C. Frick Award for broadcast excellence.
ANGELS: Vladimir Guerrero is part of the club's plans at DH, even if he isn't wild about the idea. Guerrero shook his head no when asked if he was interested in logging more time as the DH, something manager Mike Scioscia said is designed to give certain players rest.
ASTROS: The team defeated former All-Star Mark Loretta in salary arbitration, improving teams to 5-0 against players this year. Loretta will be paid $2.75-million rather than the $4.9-million he requested.
MARINERS: Second baseman Jose Lopez is having visa problems in Venezuela and will miss the team's first full-squad workout today.
NATIONALS: Left-hander Odalis Perez agreed to a nonguaranteed minor-league contract that will pay him $850,000 if he makes the major-league club.
RANGERS: Second baseman Ian Kinsler agreed on a five-year, $22-million contract with a club option valued at $10-million for the 2013 season.