Joe Mauer had a minor operation late in December to eliminate a kidney obstruction, but Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire says his catcher should be ready by Opening Day.

"Obviously, we are going to take it easy with him," Gardenhire told MLB.com during the team's annual media luncheon on Friday afternoon. "The goal is Opening Day. Catchers get a lot of work in Spring Training, and we're going to have to protect him early with all the bullpen sessions and all of those things. We'll just take it easy on him and see how he feels. Hopefully, by mid-Spring Training, we'll get him in there playing and go from there."

Wilson follows Zito's culinary training: Barry Zito and Brian Wilson have been working out together in the offseason. Zito has already had one effect on Wilson -- he's gotten him to change his diet. Wilson is now ordering the same prepared food that Zito orders from a nutritional consultant Zito has used the past two seasons.

"He would just have to remove his already-made dinner from the refrigerator, and I would have to take all the ingredients and make it from scratch," Wilson told the San Francisco Chronicle. "While he's warming it up and eating it, I'm still boiling rice, still thawing out chicken that I forgot to take out in the morning. He's just giggling, eating his meal and reading the paper while I'm just frustrated.

"I decided to treat myself. No more cooking. I thought, 'This is ridiculous, Brian -- get the meals, too.'"

Newhan could be back with Astros: David Newhan may rejoin the Houston Astros, the team with whom he hit .260 in 64 games last season. General manager Ed Wade said the club may invite Newhan to Spring Training on a Minor League contract with the chance to compete for a backup infield spot.

"He's looking for the best opportunity to get playing time," Wade told the Houston Chronicle. "He's got great makeup, and you never know what could take place in Spring Training. We'd like to get him back if we could."

Sheets getting interest from Rangers: The Texas Rangers and Ben Sheets had a face-to-face meeting last week. Sheets also had a long-toss session with Texas pitching coach Mike Maddux, who was Sheets' pitching coach for six seasons in Milwaukee.

Team president Nolan Ryan told the Dallas Morning News that no offer was made to the 30-year-old, but that one is possible "if things progress and everything comes together."

"For an organization that is trying to improve their pitching, and a pitcher of that magnitude is available, and if he's healthy, you'd obviously have an interest," Ryan said.

Fielder relieved after signing two-year deal: Prince Fielder and the Milwaukee Brewers have agreed to a two-year contract.

"It's a load off of me because my family is taken care of," Fielder told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Everybody says, 'You're going to make money soon,' but it's different. You still have a little stress, because you never know what's going to happen and you won't be able to take care of your family."

Baldelli bids farewell with newspaper ad: Rocco Baldelli is now a member of the Boston Red Sox, but last week he decided to say 'thank you' to his former club, the Tampa Bay Rays, by taking out a half-page add in the St. Petersburg Times.

"Nine years ago, you welcomed me into your community. You greeted me as a name and embraced me as a person, and I leave you now as a friend," the sixth player selected in the 2000 amateur draft said in the handwritten ad, the Boston Herald reported. "Giving thanks is a difficult thing to do as I have crossed paths with so many extraordinary people, but I will try."

Baldelli agreed to a one-year deal with the Red Sox earlier this month. He grew up in Rhode Island cheering for the Red Sox but admits that the Tampa area will also be considered a second home to him.

At first base or DH, Jacobs ready to play: Newly acquired Mike Jacobs smacked 32 home runs last year for the Florida Marlins, primarily as their first baseman. But with the Kansas City Royals, Jacobs may see some time as the team's designated hitter due to an influx of first basemen.

"We've got a ton," Jacobs told MLB.com. "Obviously, only one guy can be out there [at first] and there's a DH in this league, so I guess you can assume there's going to be two of us out there. But it's going to work itself out. I don't have any inside knowledge of what's going on. I haven't really talked to anybody about that. Injuries happen, all kinds of things happen, so who knows? Obviously, I want to be out there every day, and whether it's first or DH, it's fine with me."

Greene ready to start anew with Cardinals: Khalil Greene is ready to show what he can do in 2009 with the St. Louis Cardinals.

"To show up at the park when you've been playing poorly and the team's been playing poorly, I think it's easy to get into a negative mindset sometimes because it's connected to different things in different ways," Greene told the Belleville News-Democrat. "Breaking free of that a little bit and being able to start new is something I'm looking forward to.

"I'm excited. This is a place I've always looked at as being one of the more fun places to play in terms of atmosphere and support. It was a blessing to come to a place I always felt like would be a place I wanted to play."

Markakis doesn't have any big changes in store: Nick Markakis' approach won't change very much now that he's agreed to a contract that takes him through the 2014 season.

"I don't think I have anything that is going to change except working harder and getting better at things," Markakis told the Baltimore Sun. "I'm just going to continue the way I've been playing. I've learned a lot since I've been up here. I will build on that and try to take roles on the team to help the younger guys so we can get better, just like the older guys did for me."

Werth has big plans for two-year deal: After the experiencing a World Series championship, Jayson Werth knew exactly where he wanted to spend the next two seasons.

"The way I looked at it, I wanted to stay here with these [teammates] and win two more championships," Werth told the Philadelphia Daily News. "I really like the guys here and I really like the organization. I signed here [before the 2007 season] because I wanted to win. I could have signed with Oakland or Washington or San Diego and played more, but I came here to win and I'm staying to win."

Utley on track for Opening Day return: Chase Utley, who had surgery on his right hip in November, says his rehab is coming along but that he has no intention of rushing himself back.

"It's not trying to find a way, it's listening to my body," Utley told MLB.com. "Right now, we are listening, and it's responding well. If that continues to happen, then I don't see why I won't be ready for Opening Day. But if there are some setbacks -- which could be a possibility -- I'm not going to be dumb about it. I'm not going to move through that. I'm going to listen to my body, and when it's ready, it will be ready. Hopefully, that will be Opening Day."

Lowe signs four-year deal with Atlanta: After signing a four-year deal with Atlanta, Derek Lowe figures to be a staple in any pitching success the team has.

"Clearly, Atlanta was the wild-card team that I didn't know that much about," Lowe said. "But when you sit down and talk to them and see where they're going -- understand the change that they wanted to make -- it's a place you feel happy to be a part of, to try to be part of getting back to where they want to be."

Zimmerman wants to be a longtime Nat: Ryan Zimmerman remains involved in contract talks with the Nationals.

"There's always risk-reward," the arbitration-eligible Zimmerman told the Washington Post about signing a long-term contract, "but for me, the way I feel around here, me being so close to home and just what I've done in my career here so far, I think it would be nice to stay here for a long time."

"Numbers have to work both ways," team president Stan Kasten said. "But nobody could love Ryan Zimmerman more than [we] do."

-- Red Line Editorial