Accolades naturally come with the kind of season Cliff Lee had for the Indians in 2008, but it reached the point where enough was enough for the low-key left-hander from Benton, Ark.

"They wanted to do something at home for me, give me a parade," Lee told the Akron Beacon Journal. "But I really didn't want that. They did have a Christmas parade, and I got to be in it, riding in a convertible with the top down in the cold. And that was fine. I just didn't want them to have a special parade for me."

Lee was 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA in 2008 and won the Players Choice Award as the AL's Outstanding Pitcher.

Butler proud of new, slimmer figure: Billy Butler got some attention last week at the Royals FanFest in Kansas City, showing off a new and improved physique that seemed to impress manager Trey Hillman and trainer Nick Swartz.

"I don't really know how much I've lost, but I've lost a lot of body fat and this is the best shape I've ever felt," Butler told "This is the first offseason I could really concentrate on it. I didn't play winter ball or instructional league like I've done every year, so I got to go home and get a completely really good workout program going."

He later acknowledged that he'd probably dropped about 10 pounds.

McClellan remembers his roots: For several years now, Kyle McClellan has spent his offseason working with his father, Terry, at the Fieldhouse Baseball and Softball Training Center, a facility leased and operated by Terry. A year ago, McClellan finished his offseason duties and wound up a major contributor on the 2008 Cardinals. He went right back to work with his dad at the training center in suburban St. Louis where he provides high school kids with tutorials.

"I used to make more money doing this than I did during the season," McClellan, who played at Class A for two years before making his Major League debut Apr. 1, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "But I love doing this. You can make a difference. No way I'd want to stop doing this now."

Richmond plans to use Classic as springboard: Scott Richmond sees the upcoming World Baseball Classic as a chance to advance his career.

With several Canadian pitchers recovering from injuries, Richmond has moved up the depth chart for Team Canada and is expected to be a key member of the pitching staff.

"This is a big opportunity for me," Richmond, of North Vancouver, B.C., told the Toronto Star. "It's a chance for me to put my name on the map with Team Canada. And, when I do well with the national team, it'll look good for the Blue Jays to really give me a chance of making the rotation.

"That's my No. 1 goal."

Blanco to serve as mentor for Hundley: In search of a catcher who will serve as a mentor to youngster Nick Hundley, the San Diego Padres reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with Henry Blanco.

General manager Kevin Towers said Greg Maddux put in a good word for Blanco when Towers called him.

"When you get a strong endorsement from a guy like Maddux, it opens up your eyes," Towers told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Last year, Blanco helped guide Chicago rookie catcher Geovany Soto, who earned the National League Rookie of the Year award.

Blanco played in 45 games last year with Chicago, making 28 starts.

Surgery forces Hurley to miss season: The Texas Rangers will be without the services of Eric Hurley this season. The 23-year-old underwent surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and frayed labrum.

Hurley is expected to be ready to pitch in time for the 2010 season. A first-round selection in 2004, he made five starts for the Rangers last season, going 1-2 with a 5.47 ERA.

"We were hopeful that rehab would allow Eric to avoid surgery," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels told the Dallas Morning News. "Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way. I thought he could have impacted our club this year, but with the proper program, that should be realistic for the following season."

Papelbon signs, aims for longer deal: Jonathan Papelbon and the Boston Red Sox agreed to a one-year deal, allowing the two sides to avoid going to arbitration. Both Papelbon and the Red Sox wanted to avoid a hearing and are now trying to work out a multi-year deal.

"Those discussions are open," assistant general manager Jed Hoyer told the Boston Herald of talks toward a longer pact. "Both sides felt, in the interest of time, the best thing was to agree on a one-year deal today. But we're certainly open to discussing that further moving forward, and I think their side is, too."

Missing Classic hard for Harden: Rich Harden would love to represent his native Canada in the upcoming World Baseball Classic, but uncertainty as to whether or not he'll be fully prepared to play in time has caused him to remove himself from consideration for the squad.

"I missed the last WBC too [in 2006], because I was coming off surgery, and that just killed me to be in the stands watching ... and this time it will be just as difficult to watch because I want to play and represent Canada," Harden told the Victoria Times Colonist.

Gregg plans to be at home at Wrigley: Newly acquired Kevin Gregg saved 62 games over the past two years with the Florida Marlins and is set to compete with Carlos Marmol for the same opportunity with the Chicago Cubs. But no matter what role he's in, one thing is for certain -- Gregg enjoys pitching in Wrigley Field.

"It's an exciting place to pitch. To be here and play on a team that's going to win ... this is a great ballclub with the makeup to be champions," he told the Chicago Tribune.

Bell agrees to one-year deal with Padres: Heath Bell agreed to a one-year deal with San Diego. Bell is expected to assume to the closer's role due to the departure of Trevor Hoffman. Bell and his agent are now reportedly working on a possible multi-year deal in order to avoid arbitration next season.

"It's something we're probably open to," general manager Kevin Towers told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "We said, 'Let's at least agree on one year so we can avoid the arbitration process.'"

Bell pitched in 74 games last season to lead the staff, going 6-6 with a 3.58 ERA.

Johnson progressing after injury: Nick Johnson is pleased with the progress he's making in his recovery from a torn right wrist ligament, and the Nationals first baseman is aiming for a healthy Spring Training.

"It's not affecting how I'm swinging," Johnson told the Washington Post. "I haven't gotten outside, but I've been hitting live in a cage. Next week, I'll go out on a field. Pretty much I'll just deal with what I've got and get ready for the next year and come into the spring healthy and hopefully be on the field."

Kent retires as second base homer king: Jeff Kent announced his retirement in an emotional press conference on Thursday.

"I leave this game proud that I have treated this game with the utmost respect," Kent said. "But my time's over. Thank you."

The Los Angeles Times notes that Kent, the National League MVP in 2000 as a member of the Giants, hit 355 of his 377 home runs as a second baseman, 74 more than Ryne Sandberg, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2005.

Brian Wilson brings 'crazy streak': Brian Wilson met new setup man Jeremy Affeldt at a meet-and-greet with season ticket holders Thursday. Wilson showed up to the event with a mohawk haircut and a jacket with a fur collar.

"He's a closer-mentality guy. You can see he's got a crazy streak in him," Affeldt told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Wilson, he said, "has personality. I hope he keeps everything lively down there. Usually bullpen guys over the course of time are going to be crazy. We pitch a lot of games. We've got to keep the game fun."

Crosby turns to McGwire for batting tips: Bobby Crosby joined newly-acquired Matt Holliday in working out and hitting with Mark McGwire. McGwire was known for his extra-wide stance at the plate, and Crosby is adopting a slightly wider stance now.

"It helps with contact, with consistency and with power," Crosby told the San Francisco Chronicle, "everything I'm looking for."

Marmol brings experience as closer: It's yet to be determined whether Carlos Marmol or newly acquired Kevin Gregg -- or a combination of the two -- will close for the Chicago Cubs in 2009. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild is confident that Marmol is more than capable of doing the job, though.

"Marmol has proved he can do it," Rothschild told the Chicago Tribune. "He has closed games. Over the last two years out of our bullpen, he has probably pitched the biggest innings we've had pitched. I don't think it's going to be that dramatic of a change.

"We could run into some bumps in the road, but you could look at the other side of it and say it's actually going to be a little easier for him because he's not going to be up and down as much. He's not going to pitch as many multiple innings, so he should stay fresher and maybe be a little bit better."

Lester brings new light to Hutch Award: Jon Lester, who overcame a battle with cancer, was this year's winner of the Hutch Award. Lester became the first of the 48 Hutch winners to actually be treated for cancer by a doctor from the renowned institution named for Seattle baseball legend Fred Hutchinson.

"At first, I just wanted to come back and play, and don't ask me about it," Lester told the Seattle Times. "I got frustrated at times, because it seemed like that's all I talked about, instead of baseball. Now it's to the point I'm talking about baseball more, and it's a little easier to answer those questions."

-- Red Line Editorial