Rookie right-hander Jim Johnson has seamlessly transitioned into a relief role with the Orioles this season.

After starting the season at Triple-A Norfolk, he came up on April 12 and has a 1.13 ERA in 16 Major League appearances, including an 18-inning scoreless streak that ended on May 5.

After having appeared in five of the Orioles' last seven games, however, the tall 25-year-old was unavailable Sunday per manager Dave Trembley. He had been a starter with Norfolk and is still transitioning into his relief role with Baltimore.

"When I'm out there on the mound, I'm not thinking about my arm, I'm not thinking about mechanics," Johnson told The Baltimore Sun. "I'm thinking about trying to execute my pitches. Sometimes, adrenaline plays a part in certain situations. But overall my arm feels fine. Dave's been pretty good on trying to let me know days that he plans on pitching me. It's a long season. I want to be healthy for the whole year and help us win games."

Nieve battles asthma to get back on mound: Fernando Nieve rejoined the Astros and, on Saturday, pitched for the first time in the Major Leagues since the 2006 season. And while he had made 11 starts among his 40 appearances in 2006 and had been considered a starting prospect, Nieve is being used out of the bullpen this time around.

While rehabilitating from ligament replacement surgery and hamstring problems at Triple-A Round Rock, it was discovered that Nieve's asthma was apparently affecting his stamina as a starter, so the club moved him into a relief role this spring.

"I was tired because I couldn't sleep," he told The Houston Chronicle. "I would sleep for an hour and start coughing all night. They said some protein I had in my body was making me cough, plus the asthma made me pretty bad. They moved me to the bullpen because they told me I may be better throwing one or two innings."

4-2 count bedevils Dellucci: David Dellucci worked the count to 4-and-2 against the Reds' Johnny Cueto on Friday night, and he still didn't make it to first.

After getting behind 1-2, Dellucci took three straight pitches for balls. His teammates yelled to him that he'd walked, but he asked the umpire, who told him the count was 3-2.

"To make a long story short," Dellucci told The Cleveland Plain Dealer, "I stepped back into the batter's box with a four-ball, two-strike count and grounded out to first. That's the way my luck has been going."

Aubrey's first hit is a blast: Michael Aubrey was happy that his first Major League hit was a home run and almost as happy that it landed in a spot where his teammates could retrieve the well-hit souvenir.

"I was lucky that I hit it into our bullpen," Aubrey told The Cleveland Plain Dealer. "The guys picked me up and got me the ball."

Hamilton listens to body, takes a day off: With a full season of experience at the Major League level to draw upon, Josh Hamilton is learning to listen to his body.

On Saturday, the Rangers' outfielder asked to be removed from the game after five innings due to soreness in his shoulder, hip and left calf. He was also out of the starting lineup on Sunday, but he did pinch hit and enter the game late in the contest.

"It's about being smart, and I've finally kind of realized that," Hamilton, who was 2-for-3 on Saturday after going 5-for-5 with two homers and five RBIs on Friday, told The Dallas Morning News. "It's about what I think is the best move for the team and what the best move is for my body. I'd like to play as many games as I possibly can."

Giles hot in No. 3 hole: Don't expect Brian Giles to be moved out of the third spot in the batting order anytime soon. Since moving to the spot after hitting leadoff for the San Diego Padres, Giles has hit .429 with two doubles, five walks and two RBIs in eight games through Sunday.

"Wherever he hits in the lineup, he's not going to change his approach," manager Bud Black told The San Diego Union-Tribune of Giles. "He has a selective eye. He's a tough out. We felt over the last year and a quarter that he was our best option at leadoff. Now, with our offense not being where it needs to be, he gives us a better option at No. 3."

For now, no starting plans for Chamberlain: Yankees manager Joe Girardi is leaving open the possibility that Joba Chamberlain may keep his setup role all season rather than transition into the starting rotation.

"If we don't feel it's a need, he could stay in the bullpen," Girardi told Newsday. "That's possible, yes."

Cora to get inserted late at shortstop: The Red Sox plan to use Alex Cora more frequently as a late-inning replacement at shortstop because of his exceptional defensive skills. Manager Terry Francona recently spoke with both shortstop Julio Lugo and Cora about the idea.

"I'm ready for it," Cora, who entered Game 1 of Saturday's doubleheader against Milwaukee late and then started and played the entire second game, told the Boston Herald. "You want to be the one making plays when it counts. Obviously, coming into a game, a close game, you want to be making a play. It's something you have to ready for, and the ball will find you."

Schumaker drives home a winner on Musial Day: The Cardinals formally dedicated "Musial Plaza" as part of Stan Musial Day festivities in St. Louis on Sunday, but it was Skip Schumaker who sent the fans home smiling.

Schumaker hit a game-winning double in the bottom of the ninth, giving St. Louis a come-from-behind, 5-4 victory over Tampa Bay, but he wasn't sure about the outcome until the last moment. Rays speedsters Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton covered a lot of ground in trying to track his long drive to left.

"You get it up in the air against these guys, Crawford and Upton, and they are going to run it down," Schumaker told MLB.com. "You can never underestimate their speed out there. I just put my head down and ran. I was trying to listen to the fans, hoping they were going to yell."

After long wait, Hoffpauir makes debut with Cubs: After six seasons in the Minor Leagues, Micah Hoffpauir made his debut with the Chicago Cubs on Sunday afternoon.

"I'm living on a high right now," Hoffpauir told The Chicago Tribune. "My first chance to be in the big leagues, especially with the Cubs, is a great feeling."

Playing against old team fires up Phillips: Brandon Phillips concedes that he's extra motivated to beat up on his former team, the Cleveland Indians.

"I ain't going to lie to you," Phillips, who was 4-for-11 with a home run and five RBIs over the weekend, told The Cleveland Plain Dealer. "I was really amped up for this series. I'm playing against a team I used to play for. Of course, you just want to go out there and beat them to the ground. You do that, but the No. 1 thing is I was out there just trying to win."

Francoeur not ready to stop anytime soon: Jeff Francoer isn't ready to end his streak of 369 consecutive games played for the Braves because of a sore foot.

"If I come in here one day and my name's not in the lineup, I'll just roll with it and enjoy my day off," Francoeur told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "But as long as I keep showing up and Bobby [Cox] keeps putting me in the lineup, I'll never pull myself out of the lineup."

Helms uses big bat to end Marlins' streak: Wes Helms helped the Marlins stop a four-game losing streak with a pinch-hit three-run homer on Saturday.

"Four losses in a row is not the end, but it is nice to just stop what could have been bad. Good teams know how to get out of them," Helms told The South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Napoli brings power to catcher's spot: Mike Napoli is giving some power to the Angels' catching tandem, including two homers in the Angels' 10-2 win over the Dodgers on Sunday.

"He's got, what, 70 at-bats and 10 home runs?" Torii Hunter told The Los Angeles Times. "That's crazy power."

Napoli, who shares catching duties with Jeff Mathis, actually has 10 homers in 89 at-bats.

Petit a success in debut with A's: Filling in at second base following injuries to Mark Ellis and Donnie Murphy, Venezuelan prospect Gregorio Petit went 2-for-3 with a double and a walk in his Major League debut for the A's on Sunday.

"I was so proud of myself, making it up here. I've worked so hard. It's really exciting," Petit told The San Francisco Chronicle. "I don't think I could have had a better debut than today. All we needed was a win to make it better."

Rhodes continues dominance in comeback: Arthur Rhodes, who missed all of 2007 with an elbow injury, has not allowed a run in his last nine appearances and has limited batters to a .053 average (1-for-19) in that span.

"I feel great about everything," Rhodes told The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "I'm throwing the ball good, my body is feeling good, my elbow feels great. I'm just happy and trying to stay healthy the whole year."

Byrd gets positive feedback after return from DL: Marlon Byrd was 3-for-4 with a two-run homer in his first start since coming back from a bout of inflammation in his left knee.

"I had good at-bats and that's what I needed," Byrd told The Dallas Morning News.

Iguchi continues to play error-free at second: After a slow start, Tadahito Iguchi is hitting .333 with three doubles, one triple, a home run and 11 RBIs for the Padres so far this month.

"Tadahito's a steady, dependable player," manager Bud Black told The San Diego Union-Tribune. "We're seeing from him what we expected to see. He got into a little bit of a rut there for a while, but he's going better."

Iguchi is one of only two everyday second baseman without an error this season. The last error Iguchi made came on June 15 of last season.

-- Red Line Editorial