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Spring Headlines: Jeff Mathis suffers broken collarbone, Cole Hamels ready to lead Phillies

(AP)The life of a catcher isn’t an easy one. We were reminded of that almost immediately on Saturday when Miami Marlins backstop Jeff Mathis suffered a broken collarbone after being 'clipped' by a foul tip off the bat of Matt Holliday.

Ouch. Everybody knows how the ball explodes off Holliday’s bat when he puts one between the white lines. Based on that I think he’d be among the last guys you’d want to take a hit from on a foul tip, but there’s not a whole heck of a lot you can do to avoid it, either. Just a tough break all the way around.

"It's not the break that we needed, for sure," manager Mike Redmond said. "It's a fluke deal, a foul tip. It just hit him perfect."

"I feel bad for us, but bad for him. He was excited. He's been great around the young guys. We just have to figure it out tomorrow and see where we go from here."

Redmond knows the drill, having taken a few of those shots himself during a 13-year big league career. He also added the injury will sideline Mathis approximately six weeks. That would put him on track to return around the second week in April.

Stephen Strasburg makes spring debut: He’s back and he’s still on a strict pitch limit. OK, well, that’s actually understandable in spring training, and the 45-pitch limit manager Davey Johnson placed on him was more than fair.

As for his performance, Strasburg would need 31 of those pitches to get through a shaky first inning, which included a two-run homer off the bat of Ruben Tejada. The 24-year-old ace then settled in for a perfect 11-pitch second to wrap up his afternoon.

"It felt pretty good, glad I was able to make an adjustment," Strasburg said. "A bit of a debacle in the first inning but it seems like that's just what happens for me every Spring Training. It's going to take a little while for me to get a little more comfortable, a little better rhythm out there. I was just glad I was able to get back feeling right in the second."

We remain confident that Strasburg's rhythm won't be a problem five weeks from Monday.

Derek Jeter progresses to running drills: It may not sound like much, but Derek Jeter going through running and agility drills on Saturday is a notable step in his recovery from a broken ankle suffered during the postseason.

''It's a natural progression, but everything went good,'' Jeter said. ''It went fine.''

According to the Yankees, Jeter’s Grapefruit League is still a ways away, but everything remains on track for him to be in their Opening Day lineup.

Cole Hamels ready to assume leadership role: A lot of talk in Phillies camp this week about leadership or the lack thereof during their disappointing 2012 season. Well, one guy who's ready to change that and assume a larger role appears to be Cole Hamels.

From MLB.com's Todd Zolecki:

"I'm almost 30, so I should probably kick it in gear with the leadership role," Hamels said. "I have been here for a long time and I've seen some leaders leave, like Pat [Burrell], [Jamie] Moyer and Jayson Werth and Aaron Rowand -- those guys were big-time leaders. You can't expect new guys to come in and lead a team. They have to feel it out. I agree with Pap. Last year, I wasn't fulfilling my end of the bargain either. We are all guilty. We all have to step up and take a role and a presence in this team and get back to what we're capable of doing, which is winning."

Fellow pitchers Roy Halladay and Jonathan Papelbon were the most vocal in questioning the team's sense of urgency. They never hinted at any specific player needing to step up, but it would certainly be understandable for Hamels to take that as a challenge.

Jose Contreras gets minor league deal: The Pittsburgh Pirates added some potential depth to their pitching staff by signing veteran Jose Contreras to a minor league contract. The deal includes an invitation to spring training, but Contreras is not expected to be ready to contribute by Opening Day as he’s still rehabbing from a torn UCL in his right elbow and a flexor pronator tear. He’ll be a candidate for a bullpen spot if or when he proves healthy.

Furcal gets injection in ailing elbow: Uh oh. We just heard on Thursday that Rafael Furcal was still feeling discomfort in his ailing right elbow. Now comes word that the Cardinals shortstop received an anti-inflammatory shot and will be sidelined an unknown number of days as he waits for the pain to subside.

Furcal ended up missing the final month of the regular season and the entire postseason while dealing with the torn UCL. He then opted for rehab rather than offseason surgery, which is a decision he may end up regretting if the elbow is already acting up.

Photo of the Day: If you didn’t think Josh Reddick as was a hot dog before…

(AP)That photo was snapped perfectly as Reddick attempted to run down Ryan Braun's first inning flyball. He didn't succeed because the ball ended up landing on the other side of the fence.

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