With negotiations on a new contract under way and his third MVP Award imminent, Alex Rodriguez conducted a clinic for kids at the Southwest Miami Boys & Girls Club, where he spent much of his youth.

Rodriguez told yankees.com that the club was "sort of a third parent for me, because my parents were so busy working. I spent hundreds of thousands of hours here -- seven days a week."

Rodriguez spent time with the children teaching them the basics of baseball. But he also talked about how important it is to dream and hope for a better life through education and hard work.

"You can do whatever you want with baseball," he told the youngsters. "I also want you to think a lot about education, about the SAT. The SAT will be one of the most important things you take in your life, because it can influence what college you go to, maybe what opportunities you get along the way. I am passionate about education.

"I always wanted to be better, but I didn't really think it would be baseball for me. I really didn't think I had the ability to be what I am today. But with time and hard work and confidence, I've become that person."

Rodriguez also had a strong message about alcohol and drugs.

"A bunch of garbage," he said, noting that he is proudest that he has never touched a drug.

Torrealba not a member of the Mets after all: The Colorado Rockies may still be in the hunt for free agent catcher Yorvit Torrealba after all. Torrealba, who helped the Rockies reach the World Series in 2007, appeared set to sign a three-year deal with the New York Mets.

The deal, however, has fallen through and agent Melvin Roman has contacted Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd about reopening negotiations.

"I told him I'd get back to him," O'Dowd told the Rocky Mountain News.

It appears there is no chance of Torrealba signing any kind of deal with the Mets.

"The Mets did not reach an agreement with Yorvit Torrealba," Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz said, "and there are no current negotiations."

Mulder could be throwing in January: Mark Mulder, bothered over the past two seasons with rotator cuff problems, appears to be on schedule to throw off of the mound by Spring Training -- though nothing is written in stone as far as a return date.

"Definitely in this type of process, every step is important," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "We are trying to qualify where he is and get the best prediction possible for what he will be able to contribute. At this point, I think it's best that (a timetable) is still vague. ... Everything so far is positive."

Last season, after the team put him on multiple "return dates," they have been careful not to do that this time around. That being said, after meeting with Mozeliak, team doctor George Paletta and trainer Barry Weinberg the team believes he will be throwing in January -- then throwing off the mound by March.

Sabathia intent on Reviving Baseball in Inner cities: When it was announced last week that Indians pitcher C.C. Sabathia had won the American League's Cy Young award, he became the first Indians pitcher to win it since Gaylord Perry did so back in 1972. He is also the first African-American to win it since Dwight Gooden in 1985, and the first in the AL since Vida Blue in 1971.

Bart Swain, who heads up the Indians' PR department, "told me about Vida Blue earlier," Sabathia told the Akron Beacon Journal. "That's awesome."

Something Sabathia prides himself in is helping to revive interest in baseball in the African-American youth communities.

"There's about 35 of us who are going to have a meeting in New York to talk about that," he said. "Maybe we can expand the RBI (inner-city) academies or hold more clinics. Something like that might be able to help."

Sabathia, who hails from Vallejo, Calif., sponsors multiple youth leagues back home.

Rollins wowed 'em as a high schooler: Philadelphia Phillies scout Bob Poole knew as soon as he saw Jimmy Rollins -- on the high school field back in 1993 -- that he was a special player. Sure, Rollins was small (he even had to list the 5-foot-6 Rollins at 5-foot-9 just to get higher-up scouts to come watch him, but Poole couldn't stop coming to watch the dynamic shortstop go about his business.

"As soon as they saw him play, his size didn't matter," Poole told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "I still remember one of the big guys came out from Philadelphia. We stood under an umbrella because it was pouring rain. A ball was hit up the middle and Jimmy went to his left, behind second base, and made this amazing play -- in the mud! Then he hit a triple lefthanded."

The scout Poole was talking about was Marti Wolever.

"That game lasted only three innings," said Wolever, "but that was enough to see everything you needed to see."

All this time later, Poole still keeps a close eye on Rollins -- who now has a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger award under his belt.

"Gee whiz, I always believed he could be this kind of a player," said Poole. "How could you not believe in Jimmy Rollins? He played big. He was tenacious. He was just a tough little son of a gun. He was the type of player you hated to play against and loved when he was on your side. He could hurt you offensively and defensively. I watch him on TV now and he's the same kind of player.

"I hope he wins the MVP. When it comes to Jimmy Rollins, I'm his biggest fan."

Sweeney honored as winner of Hutch Award: Veteran first baseman/designated hitter Mike Sweeney, who is currently a free agent but has spent his entire career with the Kansas City Royals, has been named as this year's recipient of the Hutch Award -- an award named for Fred Hutchinson, a former player and manager who died from cancer at age 45 in 1964.

The award is given in recognition of "the fighting spirit and competitive desire" of Hutchinson and is scheduled to be presented on Jan. 23 in Seattle after Sweeney visits children at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center's Hutch School.

"To receive the Hutch Award is an amazing honor for me," Sweeney told the Kansas City Star. "If I can bring a glimpse of hope or an ounce of strength to a child fighting adversity, to me that's more enjoyable than hitting home runs."

Relief pitcher Villarreal traded to Astros: The Houston Astros continue to tweak the roster as the club traded outfield prospect Josh Anderson to Atlanta for relief pitcher Oscar Villarreal. Villarreal, a right-hander, is only 26 but has already pitched in 223 games in his career after reaching the Majors at the age of 21 with Arizona.

Last season with the Braves, he was 2-2 with a 4.24 ERA and one save in 76 innings of work. For his career, he is 23-12 with a 3.71 ERA.

"Our reports on (Villarreal) indicate that he's capable of pitching the seventh and eight innings," Astros general manager Ed Wade told the Houston Chronicle. "And he's also able to pitch back-to-back days and also multiple innings. ... He's a durable arm and has an ability to pitch late in games."

The deal was completed when the Astros signed six-year minor league free agent Yordany Ramirez. With the acquisition of Michael Bourn earlier this month and the signing the Ramirez, the Astros felt they had enough outfield depth to trade Anderson.

"They were both linked," Wade said of the trade and Ramirez' signing. "We had begun the discussions on the 13th with Ramirez and his agent. At that point, I contacted Frank Wren and started asking him about Villarreal."

Rivera expected to sign three-year deal with Yankees: Closer Mariano Rivera appears to be close to returning to the New York Yankees as he is expected to agree to a three-year deal with the club, the New York Post reported. Rivera, who has pitched in the Yankees organization since 1990, has 443 career saves, ranking third all-time.

Rivera, 38, has been seeking a fourth year to a contract, but the lure of pitching for the Yankees looks to be more important than getting the fourth year added to any contract offer.

Rivera would join Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada as three New York free agents who have decided to return to the Yankees.

"It feels great," Hank Steinbrenner told the New York Post of the chances of retaining the trio. "There was never any question we wanted to keep all of them. Obviously, they are being paid very well. Alex was the thing nobody expected, and he came through."

Hunter, Jones, Rowand interest Dodgers: The Dodgers are interested in adding a power bat to the lineup and are targeting the three free agent center fielders available this off-season: Torii Hunter, Andruw Jones and Aaron Rowand. Both Hunter and Rowand have expressed interest in the Dodgers.

"If we were not interested in a club, we would not look forward to having discussions with them," Hunter's agent, Larry Reynolds, told the Los Angeles Times. "We would entertain any discussions with the Dodgers."

However, of the three prime center fielders, Rowand is the one with local ties who would seem to have a vested interest in playing for the Dodgers. He grew up in Southern California and played college ball at Cal State Fullerton.

"The Dodgers would be one of the teams Aaron would be most interested in playing for," said Rowand's agent, Craig Landis.

Mariners prospect Clement won't need surgery: Top prospect Jeff Clement had his season end early in the Arizona Fall League due to a sore left elbow, but he will not need surgery. Clement underwent an MRI and was diagnosed by Dr. Edward Khalfayan, the Mariners' medical director.

"Everything checked out," Greg Hunter, the Mariners' director of player development, told the Seattle Times. "He's going to rest and get on with his winter conditioning after a short break. It's not going to be anything major. From Dr. Khalfayan's perspective, he's fine."

Clement hit .275 with 20 HRs and 80 RBIs at Triple-A this season. He earned a September call-up and hit two home runs the final week of the season for the Mariners. A catcher throughout his career, Clement's position in the Majors is still up in the air.

"We still like him as a catcher, but we have [Kenji] Johjima there," Hunter said. "I don't know how that will all play out."

Astros sign ex-Padres prospect Ramirez: Wanting to add outfield depth to their organization, the Houston Astros signed six-year Minor League free agent Yordany Ramirez and added him to the 40-man roster. Formerly in the San Diego organization, Ramirez, 23, hit .269 with four home runs, 43 RBIs and 22 steals last season at Class A Lake Elsinore. He then joined Triple-A Portland and hit .315 with four home runs, 18 RBIs and stole six bases.

"Yordany Ramirez ranks as one of the top defensive outfielders at the higher Minor League levels, and we think that he will continue to make significant progress with the bat," general manager Ed Wade told Astros.com. "Felix Francisco, our recently hired director of Latin American scouting, originally signed Yordany while working for the San Diego Padres, and he thinks that Yordany will develop into a front-line big league player. There were several teams pursuing Ramirez, and we thought enough of his ability to sign him to a Major League contract."

Ramirez is currently playing for Licey in the Dominican Winter League, hitting .344 (11-for-32) with five RBIs in his first 12 games. In Baseball America's 2007 Best Tools Survey, Ramirez was tabbed as being the best defensive outfielder and the player with the best outfield arm in the San Diego organization.

-- Red Line Editorial