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Phillies ace Hamels OK after trouble with elbow

Seattle Mariners outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. (left) and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt chase a bloop double during Saturday's game against the Oakland Athletics in Surprise.

Seattle Mariners outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. (left) and shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt chase a bloop double during Saturday's game against the Oakland Athletics in Surprise.

Cole Hamels tested his left arm and was encouraged by the results.

The Seattle Mariners have reason to feel good about Ken Griffey Jr., too.

Making his first start since experiencing elbow tightness last week, Hamels tossed 3 1/2 scoreless innings Tuesday in a minor league game at Philadelphia’s spring training complex in Clearwater, Fla.

The World Series MVP allowed one hit and a walk against Pittsburgh Pirates prospects, striking out five of his 13 batters. It was his first appearance in a game since receiving an anti-inflammatory shot in his arm March 17.

“It felt good,” Hamels said after his first outing since March 15. “I think it was really just trying to establish feeling each pitch, one at a time, in each inning. And that was kind of the big thing – how I’d feel in between innings. And I felt great.”

Still, the Phillies’ ace probably won’t be ready for the season opener.

Hamels is tentatively scheduled to pitch in a Grapefruit League game Sunday against Boston. If all goes well, he would pitch again a day or two before opening day, meaning he wouldn’t be on the mound when the World Series champions open up April 5 against Atlanta.

“I haven’t officially ruled him out, but I don’t think he’ll be ready,” Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee said. “He won’t be stretched out. It would be a real long shot. From what I got today, it was a positive step. It was pain-free, or tightness-free, I should say. The velocity was a little better, so those were good things.”

Dubee’s early projection has Hamels making his first regular-season start in the Phillies’ fourth game, which is April 10 at Colorado. While he would love the honor of an opening day start, Hamels is content with the alternative of not missing a turn in the rotation.

“I think that’s the best because I don’t want to miss a start,” said Hamels, who threw 35 of 48 pitches for strikes. “If I’m able to jump in line with our four guys and be the fifth guy, the fourth, third, second – I don’t care. It’s just (about) knowing that after the season starts, we’re on that five-track schedule.”

At Peoria, Griffey is still trying to get comfortable playing left field for the Mariners. At the plate, baseball’s active home run leader looks just fine.

Griffey doubled twice and drove in two runs after nearly getting hit in the head by a fly ball during Seattle’s 7-7 tie with the Texas Rangers in 10 innings.

After going 2 for 17 to start spring training, the 39-year-old Griffey is 4 for 8 with a home run, two doubles, four RBIs and three walks over his past three games.

“Griffey has more spring in his legs, more spring in his bat,” Seattle manager Don Wakamatsu said. “His bat is coming around and he’s making solid contact.”

Griffey had an adventurous day in the outfield. He lost Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s second-inning fly ball in the sun as he was near the warning track. The ball hit hard off the track next to Griffey and bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double.

“It went up and stayed in the sun and stayed there and stayed there,” Griffey said. “If I had gotten hit in the head it probably would have evened up the playing field for the gentlemen who are not as handsome as I am. I didn’t want it so my wife wouldn’t recognize me.”

Mariners lefty Jarrod Washburn allowed three runs and eight hits over six innings in his longest Cactus League outing.

Nelson Cruz hit a three-run homer for Texas. Rangers third baseman Michael Young left in the second inning after aggravating his left quadriceps injury. Young singled in the first and felt a twinge when he tried to run out of the batter’s box.

“After he got that base hit he just felt like it still wasn’t right yet,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “We think it’ll be day to day. We’ll try again tomorrow.”

In other news:

• Manny Ramirez hit his first home run of the spring for the Los Angeles Dodgers, connecting in his first at-bat of a night game against Seattle.

Ramirez was the designated hitter again in his second game back from a hamstring injury. He will probably play the outfield Wednesday against Milwaukee, manager Joe Torre said.

• Oakland manager Bob Geren received a one-year contract extension, with a club option for 2011.

• Derek Jeter rejoined the New York Yankees from the World Baseball Classic and was in the starting lineup at shortstop for Tuesday night’s 7-1 win over Boston. Jeter went 1 for 2 with a walk and played seven innings.

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