Joey Votto is thrilled to have the chance to represent Canada in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.

"It's pretty special to be able to play for your country, but to be able to play in front of friends and family, and then afterwards go home and enjoy the experience with them, is going to make it extra special," Votto told MLB.com. "Whatever the manager wants me to do, I'll do. I just want to help the team, but obviously I want to play."

Votto, who batted .297 with 24 homers and 84 RBIs in 2008, was runner-up to Cubs catcher Geovany Soto in voting for the NL Outstanding Rookie in the Players Choice Awards.

Samardzija honors late mother with scholarship: Jeff Samardzija was just a senior in high school when his mother passed away. He's now created the Debora Samardzija Memorial Scholarship, which will be awarded each year to a Notre Dame student who has suffered the loss of a loved one while continuing to strive for academic excellence. Samardzija played baseball and football at Notre Dame.

"Obviously, Notre Dame is a pretty expensive school to attend, so we'll do anything we can to help out," Samardzija told MLB.com last week in announcing the scholarship. "We feel that someone in that situation would be very appreciative of it."

He believes his mother would be pleased with the tribute.

"She was the most unselfish person of all time and I just try, as much as I can, to adapt that to what I do," he said. "Giving back to Notre Dame, giving back to the students or maybe it's an athlete that has the same situation -- it just seems like a perfect situation, and she would just be really happy with that."

Loewen switches from mound to field: Former pitcher Adam Loewen hopes he can restart his baseball career as a position player with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Loewen, a native of Surrey, British Columbia, started his career with Baltimore and pitched for three seasons before suffering a series of elbow injuries.

"Wherever he starts the season is not necessarily where he's going to finish," Blue Jays assistant general manager Alex Anthopoulos told the Toronto Globe and Mail about Loewen and his expected start in Class A this season. "We're looking for him to start becoming a better player and to see improvement, and he certainly should be better at the end of the season than he is at the beginning.

"Hopefully by 2010, his real potential and ability will start to emerge."

Chase Wright to get new start with Brewers: The Milwaukee Brewers acquired Chase Wright from the Yankees for Minor Leaguer Eric Fryer in an effort to add pitching depth.

Wright had been taken off New York's 40-man roster after the Yankees signed Andy Pettitte. The team's choices at that point were to trade him or release him if he declined a Minor League assignment.

"[Yankees general manager] Brian [Cashman] didn't have to put him on waivers," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, who is on a scouting trip in the Dominican Republic, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "He had enough interest from other teams to get a player back. We had to step up and trade Fryer to get him."

Wright will be invited to Spring Training and given a shot to compete for a starting spot in the rotation. Wright was 8-2 with a 2.96 ERA at Double-A Trenton last year and then went 2-1 with a 2.41 ERA at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Atkins puts agent's long hours to rest: Garrett Atkins has agreed to a one-year deal with the Rockies.

"I was working 20-hour days, finalizing our arbitration exhibits, and we were ready to go," Jeff Blank, Atkins' agent, told the Rocky Mountain News. "At the end, Garrett made a decision to sign and focus on the team and get ready for Spring Training."

Atkins is currently slated to play third base this season but will also fill in at first base at times to spell Todd Helton.

Parrish has sights set on starting for Orioles: John Parrish, who spent his first six years as a pro as a member of the Orioles, has signed a Minor League deal with Baltimore that he hopes will allow him to compete for a job in its starting rotation.

"In John's mind, he'd like to come in and compete as a starter," his agent, Joe Longo, told the Baltimore Sun. "I don't think he has a problem if he moves to the bullpen. But in his mind, he started something in Toronto as a starter and he wants to continue that."

Sanchez making progress with rehab: After having all winter to rest his ailing shoulder, Freddy Sanchez is ready for the beginning of Spring Training.

"I have had no setbacks in my throwing program, and I feel as strong as I've ever felt," Sanchez told MLB.com. "We are hitting it hard in rehab. Now I'm trying to stretch it out throwing-wise."

Schumaker may have added value as utility player: Skip Shumaker may be considered for a utility role with the Cardinals' crowded outfield depth chart.

"They just kind of mentioned it to me, threw it out there a little bit," Schumaker told MLB.com. "[T]hey told me to be ready and take ground balls there. If it's a utility thing, where I take some balls here and there and also play the outfield, it's more valuable to the team."

Lowry back to old self after surgery: It's been a rough year-and-a-half for Noah Lowry, but the Giants' pitcher can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Lowry has resumed throwing after being out of action since experiencing tingling in his arm in 2007 and having nerve surgery last March.

"He's like a normal guy, pretty much," Giants trainer Dave Groeschner told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I think he'll be pretty much like everybody else."

Groeschner said Lowry has thrown primarily fastballs but is ready to mix in changeups and should be ready to go at the start of Spring Training.

Johnson impressive after year layoff: Tyler Johnson, who missed last year with bursitis in his shoulder and ensuing surgery, has resumed throwing and impressed Mariners scouts during a workout.

"He's coming off surgery, but his numbers are very good," Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "He's got a really, really good curveball. He'll have the chance to prove he's the guy. [He] fits a real need for us."

Trade sees Murton land in Oakland: The Colorado Rockies added some outfield depth by trading Minor Leaguer Corey Wimberly to Oakland for Matt Murton.

Murton, who has played for the Cubs as well as the Athletics, has 28 home runs and 104 RBIs in 308 career games. In the Venezuelan League this winter, Murton hit .321 with two home runs and seven RBIs in 53 at-bats.

"We saw him this winter and liked him, but we've liked him all the way back to his days at Georgia Tech," Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd told MLB.com. "The A's added [Jason] Giambi and Matt Holliday [in another trade with the Rockies] but needed someone for the middle infield. We gave up a good player to get Murton, but he gives us a right-handed corner bat for our organization."

Rabelo happy to ring in healthy new year: Mike Rabelo, who has a chance to become the Marlins backup catcher, is hoping for better luck this year than last when a home plate collision in Spring Training and a fractured wrist in June made it a season to forget.

"When 2009 struck at 12 a.m., I was the happiest man on the face of the planet," Rabelo, limited to 34 games and 109 at-bats in the Majors last season, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "You have to be healthy. Bottom line, I'm excited. It's nice they didn't bring in a catcher, but my focus and the only thing I worry about is my knee. With that healthy, everything else will fall into place."

The 28-year-old catcher, a former fourth-round pick by the Tigers, batted .202 with three home runs and 10 RBIs in 103 at-bats.

-- Red Line Editorial