The New York Yankees made plenty of noise this past offseason, reworking their starting rotation by adding Randy Johnson, Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright.
They also made a less flashy move, shelling out $2 million for a 35-year-old second baseman with little pop and a lifetime .319 on-base percentage.
One week into the season, the Yankees are crowing about Tony Womack. Manager Joe Torre said Womack gives the team something it hasn't had since Chuck Knoblauch: a player with strong base-stealing capabilities.
Womack stole eight bases this spring and two more in the first three regular-season games.
"He gives us that dimension we can really utilize in this league," Torre said. "You can hit him ninth and he doesn't lose that aggressiveness."
After a disappointing 2003 season, when he played for three teams and batted .226 with just 13 stolen bases, Womack bounced back with St. Louis last season.
Now, he is batting behind Bernie Williams, and will have Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez at the plate if he gets on base. That's a pretty speedy quartet for a normally plodding Yankees team.
The question is whether Womack can play solid defense and continue to get on base. If he can, the unheralded move might register as one of the Yankees' best of 2005.
"It depends on the way he is going to perform this year that's going to dictate how important it was," Williams said. "But I assume he is going to have a great year. He prepared himself great and he was probably one of the hardest workers in the spring. He is ready to go."
No more nice kitty
Dmitri Young is trying his best to fire up his Detroit Tigers teammates on and off the field.
In one week, he trashed management's decision to demote outfielder Marcus Thames, saying it was a "mistake" and "beyond unfair." Then Young set a Tigers record for hitting three homers on Opening Day.
Afterward, he pointed to a picture he had of himself colliding with Yankees catcher John Flaherty in a meaningless spring training game and proclaimed that the Tigers had a new attitude.
"The days of the nice Tigers are gone," Young said. "Milk-and-cookie teams finish last."
A sad Yaz
While most of New England was celebrating the Red Sox's improbable run to a championship last fall, the franchise's greatest living player was in mourning.
Carl Yastrzemski still can't talk about the events of September, when his 44-year-old son, Michael, shockingly died from complications after hip surgery. Michael was still in the hospital recuperating from surgery when he died from a blood clot.
"Life will never be the same for me. It's that simple," Yastrzemski said this spring while instructing Red Sox minor leaguers.
V. Martinez makes history
Cleveland Indians catcher Victor Martinez has made the big time. The 26-year-old hit 23 homers and drove in 108 runs and made the All-Star team last year in his first season as a full-timer.
Last week, he signed a five-year $15.5 million contract, the biggest pre-arbitration deal ever for an Indian. It's only the seventh deal in history that guarantees a catcher five or more years.
Compiled from interviews, wire services and reports from other newspapers.