Jim Palmer and Roger Clemens showed progress Saturday, while Frank Viola showed a sign that his elbow may be bothering him more than he has let on.
Palmer, the Hall of Fame right-hander, continued his comeback by throwing 110 pitches to batters at Baltimore camp in Sarasota, Fla. Palmer, 45, is attempting to become the first Hall of Famer to play in the big leagues."Still throwing rising gas," Billy Ripken said to catcher Ernie Whitt. Later, Ripken grunted, "Geez, he's pitching me everywhere."
Palmer is scheduled to start against the Boston Red Sox on March 11.
"It was a good test," he said. "Nothing to write home about, maybe I'll make a phone call. . . . I felt good and the guys said I threw good batting practice. Whether that's going to get guys out or not, we'll find out in about 10 days."
While the news was good for Palmer, the New York Mets said Viola will be examined Monday in Richmond, Va., by Dr. Richard Caspari. The left-hander has four bone spurs - three small and one large - in his pitching elbow, but has continued to throw after the intial discomfort.
Clemens, meanwhile, had his third workout of the spring at Chain O'Lakes Park in Winter Haven. Clemens threw 81 pitches in hot, humid weather, and there were no signs of the arm problems that sidelined him last September.
"It was pretty warm out there and I felt it, but my arm feels great," Clemens said. "Eight-one pitches? That's good. I'm just trying to build up my strength while helping the hitters. That's what BP is all about."
Pete Smith of the Atlanta Braves, another pitcher coming back from an injury, threw on the sidelines at West Palm Beach for 10 minutes at about half-speed, then threw a half dozen pitches at 75 percent.
Braves first baseman Nick Esasky, out most of last season with a type of vertigo, looked better Saturday. He took about 150 swings and was hitting the ball crisply. He also fielded balls for 30 minutes and had no problems.
While players continued to stretch their bodies, some continued to stretch their clubs' wallets.
Matt Williams of San Francisco, who led the National League with 122 RBIs last season, agreed a $2.6 million, two-year deal, the largest contract ever for a player not eligible for salary arbitration.
The 25-year-old third baseman, who would have been eligible for arbitration next winter, will get $600,000 this year and $2 million in 1992. He made $215,000 last season.
"If I go out and have the same type of year as 1990, I might have made more money in a year," Williams said. "But who cares? That's not a big deal. Security is primary to me."
Ramon Martinez, 20-6 last season with a 2.92 ERA for the Dodgers, ended his holdout by agreeing to a one-year contract worth $485,000. Los Angeles had threatened to renew his contract at a salary of the team's choosing.
"If we had not reached an agreement, we would have had an agreement of a different style (renewal)," Dodgers general manager Fred Claire said.
Atlanta is threatening to renew the contract of pitcher John Smoltz, who was 14-11 last season.
"It doesn't look too good," said Smoltz, who earned $247,500 and is seeking $400,000 for 1991.
Meanwhile, the Cubs failed to work out an extension for NL home run leader Ryne Sandberg, who already is signed for 1991 with a club option for 1992.
"We are obviously disappointed that we were unable to extend Ryne's contract," Cubs president Don Grenesko said.