There was no question Brian Moehler would be prepared for his first start since Sept. 29, 2006.

The veteran right-hander, who had been serving in a long-relief role for Houston, threw 65 pitches in a simulated game on Saturday and 40 more during a two-inning simulated game on Wednesday.

He then declared himself fit for a scheduled start in the Astros' weekend series opener against the Dodgers on Friday. He's taking the rotation spot of Wandy Rodriguez, who has a strained groin.

"I told them I would start or relieve or whatever," Moehler told the Houston Chronicle. "I've been playing for 11 years now and have never been in the playoffs, so I'll do whatever it takes."

For his career, Moehler has made 189 starts in 257 Major League appearances.

"He's prepared every day," manager Cecil Cooper said. "I know last year he sat for a lot, but, every time we called upon him to pitch, he threw strikes. I know he'll do it and do a good job."

Lee dominant once again, improves to 6-0: Cliff Lee did it again on Wednesday night, completely dominating the New York Yankees over seven scoreless innings in the Indians' 3-0 victory. Now 6-0 on the year with an ERA of 0.81, two walks allowed and 39 strikeouts, Lee earned the praises of New York manager Joe Girardi.

"He pitched exactly the way he's pitched all season," Girardi told The Cleveland Plain Dealer. "He never let us get in a hitter's count. It's hard to have a plan when you're 0-2 all the time."

Gwynn Jr., Kapler practice football techniques: Tony Gwynn Jr. and Gabe Kapler decided to make use of the football stadium they were playing in. Facing the Florida Marlins, who play in Dolphins Stadium, Gwynn and Kapler ran pass patterns during pregame warm-ups with conditioning specialist Chris Joyner throwing passes. Both players worked on their backpedaling like they were defensive backs.

While the two may have been having a little fun, the drills were used to help with their conditioning and agility.

"It gives you a different look at it," Gwynn told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "We're here every day doing baseball stuff, so it's fun to do something different and pretend you're somebody else for 35 minutes in a football stadium. It keeps you fresh. It keeps you more wide-eyed. Honestly, you can get bored, doing the same things over and over."

Rollins inches closer to return to lineup: Reigning NL MVP Jimmy Rollins is nearing a return to the Phillies as he recovers from an ankle injury, and manager Charlie Manuel says the team will be glad to have him back.

"The fact that Jimmy's a switch-hitter, and the fact that he's our basestealer -- Jimmy makes our offense go," Manuel told MLB.com. "He had 30 homers and 20 triples and almost 40 doubles last year. He's got a big bat. He's a big part of our offense."

First win hits a mark with Dumatrait: There's nothing quite like earning your first Major League victory, and Phil Dumatrait was able to experience that on Wednesday night when the Pirates knocked off the Giants, 3-1, after he worked 5 2/3 scoreless innings.

"It's unbelievable," Dumatrait told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It's a great feeling. I can't even describe it. As long as I live, I'll never forget this great night."

Votto 'goes with the flow,' smacks three homers: Joey Votto, who smacked three of the Reds' seven home runs in a 9-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday, had a chance for his fourth in the eighth inning.

"I'm not going to lie. It was in the back of my head," Votto, who was the first Red with a three-homer game since Aaron Boone in 2003, told MLB.com. "I just thought, if I put a really good swing on a good pitch, I would have a chance to do some good. It's weird. Sometimes, you have games like this and you don't know why things go so well. You kind of go with the flow. That last at-bat, I tried to go with the flow."

Verlander stays off emotional rollercoaster: Justin Verlander isn't off to a very strong start this season, but he's not letting that bother him. He's maintaining a good attitude, noting that he's having no problem keeping his swagger.

"You don't let your highs get too high or your lows get too low. But when we've talked about that before, it's always been the highs. Now here we are at the other end of the spectrum right now," Verlander told the Detroit News. "If you can stay in the middle, though, no matter what the stats show, you're still the same person. If you get too high in good times, you set yourself up for failure, then maybe start to panic or what-not, I don't know. But I feel I went about it the right way then, and I feel like I'm going about it the right way now. I'm always confident in myself and my ability."

Marcum continues strikeout surge in win: Shaun Marcum posted nine more strikeouts over 8 2/3 innings in a 6-2 win over Tampa Bay on Wednesday night. While he ranks second in the AL with 44 strikeouts, he still doesn't consider himself a strikeout pitcher.

"Absolutely not," he told Bluejays.com. "I don't know what's going on. I have no idea. It's just locating pitches or just keeping them off balance and keeping them guessing."

Marcum is now 4-2 with a 2.59 ERA. Marcum has fanned 18 batters in his last 15 1/3 innings. Since becoming a starter for the Jays last May, he is 15-6.

Maine's outing a welcome sight for bullpen: John Maine fell two outs short of earning a complete-game in the Mets' 12-1 win over the Dodgers on Wednesday afternoon.

"Anytime you can give your bullpen a physical and a mental day [off], you can relax and just take a deep breath," closer Billy Wagner told the New York Daily News. "I think we have 115 appearances [as a bullpen] in, what, 32 games? Even though we have an off-day [today], for him to step up and pitch a big game, it will go volumes down the road."

Maine, who turned 27 on Thursday, has now won three straight games. He also helped himself at the plate. Only a .067 liftime hitter, and hitless in his last 23 at-bats dating to last Aug. 26, he hit a two-out, two-run single to center field in the fifth inning to boost the Mets' lead to 6-0.

Padilla keeping runners at bay: Vicente Padilla threw seven shutout innings and allowed only two hits in the Rangers' 2-0 win over the Mariners on Wednesday. In his last 21 2/3 innings of work over three starts, Padilla has allowed only one earned run.

"I was fortunate to have good run support in one [of the starts]," Padilla told The Dallas Morning News through a translator. "And the bullpen has done a great job in the others. I know I have to work hard to keep the score low and keep us in the game."

Navarro turns to line drives for success: Dioner Navarro has continued to come through in the clutch for the Rays this season since coming off the disabled list. He's hitting .316 with runners in scoring position, and, since returning from the DL, he is hitting .357 (15-for-42) in 12 games.

Rays manager Joe Maddon said the reason for Navarro's success is that the catcher is keeping the ball out of the air. It is an approach Navarro has bought into.

"Line drive," Navarro told the Tampa Tribune of his approach at the plate. "Try to shoot the gaps, try to hit the ball the other way. I think that's one thing that helps me tremendously is to hit the ball the other way. When I hit a home run, it's going to come by itself -- I didn't try to do it. I just want to keep doing what I've been doing."

Villone still relishes pitching's competitive aspect: Ron Villone is in his 14th Major League season, giving him enough experience to know what it takes to make it in the league. One of the most important things, he says, is to keep that desire to compete.

"You want the ball," Villone told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "It doesn't matter what time you get it. Knowing I go out there from the first inning on and I'm ready. I let them know I'm ready. If I can do anything to keep this team in the game, so be it."

Manager Tony La Russa likes the fire in Villone.

"One of his assets is his competitiveness," said La Russa. "He's not out there showcasing his stuff. He gets into the competition."

Smoltz set to resume throwing: John Smoltz is hoping his stay on the disabled list is a short run. He has experienced no additional pain in his shoulder and is set to resume throwing on Sunday, when he'll start off with a simple game of catch. Eventually, he'll do a Minor League rehab and he hopes to return to the Majors in the third week of May.

"Something starting with a '2'," Smoltz told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution of his expected return date in May. "One of those days."

The Braves begin a three-game series against the Mets on May 20th at Turner Field.

Treanor's blast off foul pole propels Marlins: Matt Treanor broke a 2-2 tie with a three-run home run that hit the foul pole in Florida's 7-2 win over the Brewers on Thursday. The win vaulted the Marlins into first place in the National League East and marked the earliest the club had ever reached the 20-win plateau, tying the mark set by the 2004 team.

"I was keeping an eye on the umpire and let him decide," Treanor told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "I thought it would most likely stay fair, but you never know the way the wind swirls. It was nice to put some distance between us and [the Brewers]."

Lannan makes flight home a little easier: In his last start against Pittsburgh, rookie John Lannan had his shortest outing of his career, as he went just three innings and gave up six runs. Thursday's outing against the Astros got off to a rough start, as he walked the leadoff man on four pitches. But Lannan settled down and pitched the Nationals to an 8-3 win, which evened his record at 3-3.

"My goal today was: get a win for us, and get on the plane -- the long, long plane back home -- and have it be a little more enjoyable," Lannan told The Washington Post.

Garland finds gold medal no match for ring: Jon Garland has a World Series ring, which he won while a member of the White Sox in 2005, but it may not be the most impressive piece of jewelry in his current relationship. Garland's longtime girlfriend Lovieanne Jung won a gold medal in softball at the Athens Games.

"I personally feel winning the World Series is tougher," Garland told the Los Angeles Times, "only because there's more teams and the competition's better."

Jung has a different take. "What's more important? My gold medal," she said.

Suzuki bringing comfort to pitchers: Kurt Suzuki, a catcher known more for his offensive ability when he first came up last June, is quickly gaining the confidence of the A's pitchers.

It was evident when Suzuki called for a changeup from Andrew Brown, a power pitcher, on a 3-2 count to fastball hitter Jarrod Saltalamacchia in last Saturday's 6-3 loss to the Rangers. Without missing a beat, Brown struck him out.

"Andrew didn't shake him off, he just went right into his windup," Mark Sweeney told the San Francisco Chronicle. "Our pitchers are starting to believe in Kurt."

Suzuki leads the Majors in games started (32) and innings (290) by a catcher in 2008.

-- Red Line Editorial