KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) - Mike Hampton rubs down the ball, stares toward home plate and delivers a pitch that sweeps across the outside corner. Mark Kotsay never gets the bat off his shoulder.
The outfielder nods approvingly toward the mound. Kotsay says, "That's better."
Brayan Pena is even more enthusiastic. The catcher barks, "That-a boy!" He gives a slight pump of the fist.
For Hampton, it's another baby step in one of baseball's longest-running comebacks.
Remember Mike Hampton? Left-handed pitcher. Former 20-game winner. Perhaps best known for getting one of the richest contracts in baseball history.
Well, he's still around, though no one could be blamed for thinking he retired or took up coaching or settled for a job overseas. Hampton hasn't made it through a full year since 2004. He hasn't pitched at all over the last two seasons.
But, now, entering the final year of that infamous eight-year, 121 million dollar deal he signed with Colorado in 2001, Hampton is back on the mound, trying to show in the early days of spring training that he's still got a little something left in that scarred-up pitching arm.