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Sox Would Like Improved Health

Fort Myers, Fla. — Boston Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington hopes a reorganized medical staff leads to less controversy about injuries.

Former closer Jonathan Papelbon, who left after the 2011 season, told ESPNBoston.com last weekend that he and several of his former teammates were regularly injected with the legal painkiller Toradol, an anti-inflammatory drug that is not banned by Major League Baseball. Papelbon singled out Mike Reinold, Boston’s former head physical therapist.

“It’s been really a two-year process of reorganizing the medical staff,” Cherington said yesterday. ”If things are going well in that area, we’re not talking about it nearly as much as we have, and you’re not hearing from them. You’re not hearing from the medical staff nearly as much as we have. So that’s our hope going forward, that we’re hearing from the guys in uniform a lot more and the guys in the training room less.”

Twenty-seven Boston players spent time on the disabled list in 34 stints last year, the most by any team since at least 1987, according to Stats LLC.

Reinold was let go by the Red Sox after last season. Dr. Thomas Gill, the Red Sox medical director for seven seasons, departed after 2011 in the reorganization, and Dr. Peter Asnis was promoted head team orthopedist after being with the club a team physician since 2005.

After a 7-20 finish in September 2011 cost Boston a playoff berth, the Red Sox went 69-93 last year for their most losses since 1965 and finished last in the AL East for the first time since 1992.

Yankees

Tampa, Fla. — CC Sabathia wasn’t surprised his first pitch was well inside off the plate. The important thing was the New York Yankees’ ace felt good.

Sabathia threw off a mound yesterday for the first time since arthroscopic surgery Oct. 25 to remove a bone spur from his left elbow. The left-hander made 29 pitches during yesterday’s session, which was watched by several team officials including pitching coach Larry Rothschild and spring training instructor Billy Connors.

“No problems,” Sabathia said. “Probably didn’t throw a strike, but that’s normal for my first bullpen. I got a little nervous when I first got up there. Hadn’t been up there. Didn’t know how I was going to feel, but I immediately felt good and I felt comfortable.”

Sabathia was part of a scheduled bullpen group that included two of the pitching staff’s elder statesmen: 43-year-old Mariano Rivera and 40-year-old Andy Pettitte. As Sabathia and Pettitte walked toward the main field to loosen up, Rivera already had started his bullpen workout.

By the end of his mound session, Sabathia’s control improved and the sound of his fastball popping in the catcher’s mitt got louder.

Blue Jays

Dunedin, Fla. — Mark Buehrle won’t be experiencing the dog days of summer.

While the pitcher is headed to Toronto, his family will split the season between Broward County in Florida and their home in St. Louis. One of their four dogs, Slater, is a mix of American Staffordshire terrier and bulldog — and bulldogs are banned in the province of Ontario.

“He’s an awesome dog,” Buehrle said yesterday. “That’s what’s a shame; just the way he looks is why we have to get separated.”

Sent to Toronto as part of the Miami Marlins’ payroll purge, Buehrle had a few options. He could have left Slater with friends or placed him in a kennel. The Buehrle family also could have moved to Buffalo or somewhere else on the U.S. side of the border, forcing the pitcher to commute 90 minutes each way to Toronto.

Buehrle’s wife, Jamie, 5-year-old Braden and 3-year-old daughter Brooklyn will spend time with the 33-year-old left-hander during spring training, as will Slater and their three vizslas.

Nationals

Viera, Fla. — Rafael Soriano planned to arrive early in camp with the Washington Nationals. He was delayed by visa issues, but the team’s new closer showed up yesterday in good shape and ready to get to work.

The Nationals, who already have three players who closed for them at different points last season, signed Soriano to a $28 million, two-year contract in January.

He walked into the clubhouse Saturday and received a hug from starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez and a welcome-to-Viera greeting from pitching coach Steve McCatty.

Though he has 132 career saves, this is only the second time the 33-year-old Soriano has come to camp knowing he is expected to be his team’s closer.

Phillies

Clearwater, Fla. — Charlie Manuel is tired of talking about his contract.

The deal for the Philadelphia Phillies manager expires at the end of this season, along with the deals for Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz, and probably the agreement for Roy Halladay, too.

Manuel spoke yesterday, saying: “This is the last time I’ll answer about my deal, OK? I’m very satisfied with the way it is.”

Dodgers

Glendale, Ariz. — Clayton Kershaw has been selected as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ opening day starter and will become the team’s first pitcher to start three straight openers since Derek Lowe from 2005-07.

Kershaw will take the mound on April 1 against the World Series champion San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium.

Reds

Goodyear, Ariz. — Right-hander Homer Bailey and the Cincinnati Reds agreed Saturday to a $5.35 million, one-year contract, ensuring baseball will set a record low for salary arbitration hearings.

No cases have been argued before three-person panels this year among the 133 players who filed for arbitration last month and just two remain scheduled for hearings next week: San Diego left-hander Clayton Richard and Baltimore reliever Darren O’Day.

O’Day and the Orioles have an agreement on a $5.8 million, two-year contract that is pending a physical. Richard has asked for a raise from $2,705,000 to $5.5 million and has been offered $4,905,000 after he went 14-14 with a 3.99 ERA last tear.

Baseball’s previous record low was three hearings, set in 2005 and matched in 2009 and 2011. The high was 35 in 1986.

Owners hold a 291-214 lead since arbitration began in 1974.

Bailey, who pitched a no-hitter at Pittsburgh last Sept. 28, had asked for $5.8 million and had been offered $4.75 million when players and teams swapped proposed arbitration salaries last month.

His agreement was for the same amount as Ryan Zimmerman’s settlement with the Washington Nationals a day earlier.

Bailey was 13-10 with a 3.68 ERA in 33 starts last year.