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Monday, March 26
Bird 'explodes' after flying in path of fastball

TUCSON, Ariz. – Randy Johnson does have a killer fastball.

A groundskeeper at Tucson Electric Park picks up what's left of a dove that was hit and killed by a Randy Johnson fastball.

During the seventh inning of the Diamondbacks' split-squad 10-6 victory against the Giants on Saturday, the NL Cy Young winner hit and killed a dove flying in front of home plate.

Johnson's pitch to the Giants' Calvin Murray was about three-fourths of the way to home plate when it struck the bird.

The bird flew over catcher Rod Barajas' head and landed a few feet from the plate amid a sea of feathers.

"I'm sitting there waiting for it, and I'm expecting to catch the thing, and all you see is an explosion," Barajas said. "It's crazy. There's still feathers down there."

Giants second baseman Jeff Kent picked up the dead bird with his bare hands and jokingly pointed toward Johnson before taking it to the dugout.

Johnson was not amused by the incident.

"I didn't think it was all that funny," he said.

On Aug. 4, 1983, Yankees outfielder Dave Winfield killed a seagull in Toronto with a warmup throw. The Ontario police charged him with animal cruelty, although the charge was later dropped.

"This was a little more dramatic," Arizona manager Bob Brenly said. "I can honestly say I have never seen that before."

Depleted Pirates pull team off field in 10th
CLEARWATER, Fla. – Lloyd McClendon must have seen enough.

Pittsburgh's rookie manager pulled his team off the field with no outs in the bottom of the 10th inning Sunday after Erik Plantenberg forced in two runs by walking five straight batters as the Pirates and Philadelphia Phillies played to a 6-6 tie.

"I had to OK it," Phillies manager Larry Bowa said. "I asked if the kid had a bad arm and they said, 'No.' But the way he pitched ..."

McClendon did not explain his decision to have the game stopped. Pittsburgh's pitching staff has been decimated by injuries and McClendon had already used seven pitchers.

Plantenberg, a 32-year-old left-hander, last pitched in the majors for the Phillies in 1997. He walked David Newhan and Brian L. Hunter after loading the bases in the 10th.

The Phillies tied it at 4-4 in the ninth on a sacrifice fly by Tomas Perez off Eric Moody. Enrique Wilson's second homer of the game – a two-run shot in the 10th off Ed Vosberg – gave the Pirates a 6-4 lead.

After the Phillies took a 2-0 lead in the second, John Vander Wal made it 3-2 with a three-run homer in the third off Bruce Chen. Wilson added a solo homer one out later.

"We've been giving up too many homers as a staff," Bowa said. "Except for Omar Daal, our starters have been shaky."

David Williams, a 22-year-old left-hander who suddenly finds himself in position to make Pittsburgh's rotation, allowed two runs and five hits in 3 2-3 innings. Williams struck out three, walked three and threw one wild pitch.

"I knew this was important, getting a chance to start in the majors this late in spring training," said Williams, who grew up in Delaware and was a Phillies fan. "It was a good experience. I thought I held my own."

Larkin returns to Reds' lineup
SARASOTA, Fla. – Barry Larkin, sidelined for two weeks by a groin strain, returned to the lineup and had a single and a stolen base as the Cincinnati Reds beat the Boston Red Sox 3-0 on Sunday.

Larkin, limited to five games this spring because of the injury, went 1-for-3 and stole third base standing up.

Scott Williamson and Chris Reitsma, who are competing for a spot in the Reds' rotation, each pitched four innings. Danny Graves got the final three outs, closing out a three-hitter.

Paxton Crawford gave up six hits and three runs – two earned – in 3 1/3 innings. Afterward, Red Sox manager Jimy Williams informed Crawford that he had won the fifth spot in the rotation.

Crawford, who was 2-1 with a 3.41 ERA in four starts and three relief appearances last season, has a 3.86 ERA in five appearances this spring.

The Reds scored in the second on singles by Sean Casey, Alex Ochoa and Pokey Reese. They added two more in the fourth with the help of throwing errors by Shane Hillenbrand and Darren Lewis.

One of Cincinnati's biggest concerns this spring has been Larkin, who strained his groin in the opener and aggravated it while sliding on March 10. He singled to right field in the third inning, moved up on Ken Griffey Jr.'s groundout and stole third standing up without a throw from the catcher.

"It was no problem," Larkin said. "I didn't feel anything at any time. It felt good, but I'll still take it easy. I probably won't steal from first base for a while."

Piazza leaves game after getting hit by pitch
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – Mike Piazza left the game after being hit by a pitch in the left arm and the New York Mets rallied to beat the Florida Marlins 6-5 Sunday.

Piazza was hit by Brad Penny in the upper left arm in the fourth inning, prompting manager Bobby Valentine to take him out of the game as a precaution.

"That's at least a warning during the season," Valentine said. "I wasn't happy."

Mets starter Kevin Appier then hit Mike Lowell with a pitch in the fifth inning. Lowell had homered twice off Appier.

"He did it in good taste, he hit me low and if you're going to do it that's the way to do it," Lowell said.

Valentine said he didn't know if Appier's pitch was intentional, but admitted it wouldn't hurt Appier's reputation with his new teammates.

Appier allowed five runs and six hits in five innings.

Knoblauch has busy afternoon in left field
TAMPA, Fla. – Chuck Knoblauch got cheers in his first game as a left fielder in front of Yankees' fans.

Eight days before he'll take his position in front of Monument Park in Yankee Stadium, the former second baseman had a busy afternoon Sunday as New York lost to the Minnesota Twins 6-4.

"Today was great because I got to see a lot of balls hit off left-handed batters, off right-hand batters, balls off the fence, balls over my head," he said.

Knoblauch, whose first two games in the outfield were on the road, was cheered when he was announced and when he ran out to left for the start of the game.

He cleanly fielded Torii Hunter's second-inning single, then had to turn around to get Jason Maxwell's double off the fence.

In the third, he made a backhanded running catch on Jacque Jones' liner toward the foul line. An inning later, he broke in on Brian Buchanan's double over his head, but wouldn't have had a play even if he had immediately gone back.

While there were some jeers, Yankees manager Joe Torre said Knoblauch wasn't to blame.

"I could see why. The batter reached (out) on the ball," Torre said.

Knoblauch also caught a sacrifice fly by Jones in the fifth and didn't have a chance for a play at the plate.

Chipper Jones might play in game early this week
KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said Sunday his sprained left thumb was slightly more tender than the previous day, but he said it felt fine after taking soft-toss batting practice.

Jones said he will hit against live pitching Monday and could play as early as Tuesday.

Jones, who jammed his thumb eight days ago swinging at a pitch from Houston's Octavio Dotel, missed his fourth straight game Sunday.

"It's worse today than it was yesterday. It's more sore," Jones said before the game against the Cleveland Indians.

After taking soft-toss BP, Jones said the thumb felt good. He reassessed his thinking, saying he expected to start as early as Tuesday rather than later in the week.

Lopez won't play until he's 'completely healed'
Catcher Javy Lopez, who fractured the ring finger on his left hand blocking a pitch March 13, still hopes to be ready to start in two weeks.

That means he would miss the first five or six games of the regular season.

Lopez said Sunday he started swinging a bat – not hitting – Saturday and felt pretty good. He will begin hitting soft-toss pitches Tuesday.

"I'll do that for a couple of days, go to Atlanta and keep hitting until I'm 100 percent. I'll wait until I'm completely healed," he said.

He doesn't know exactly when he'll be able to catch, but said it would be at least 1½ weeks, "two weeks at the most."

"There's no rush. I want to play the whole year," said Lopez, who said if he feels any pain he won't push it until he's ready.

Cone tries acupuncture as remedy for shoulder pain
Red Sox pitcher David Cone said Saturday he is receiving care from an acupuncturist in his bid to recover from shoulder pain.

"I'll try anything from Eastern to Western philosophies," Cone said. "Acupuncture to cortisone."

Cone traveled from Fort Myers, Fla., to Tampa to see an acupuncturist who treated him following his shoulder surgery in 1998, with positive results.

"I'm still a little reluctant to talk about anything I do to try and heal myself," Cone said. "Not everyone accepts acupuncture and different types of treatments and remedies."

Cone would not confirm he had a cortisone shot, a more conventional approach to reducing inflammation.

"I think you can surmise that, I'm sure," he said. "I'm not leaving any stone unturned."

Cone threw for the fifth straight day Saturday, tossing from about 60 feet, and said it was the best he's felt so far. But he added he's not quite ready for mound work.

Dreifort, three others combine for two-hitter
VERO BEACH, Fla. – Darren Dreifort and three Los Angeles relievers combined on a two-hitter as the Dodgers beat the St. Louis Cardinals 10-0 Sunday.

The Dodgers broke open the game with six runs on three home runs in the fifth inning off Andy Benes, who allowed seven earned runs on eight hits in five innings.

Despite all the offense, it was Dreifort's dominating effort that stood out. He struck out six and walked just one while allowing two hits in six innings of work.

"The results were better," said Dreifort, who was 8-2 with a 3.14 ERA after the All-Star break last season. "I wouldn't say it was the best I felt this spring. I felt pretty good. I've still got one more outing before we get going. I'll keep working on things."

Dodgers catcher Chad Kreuter said Dreifort's strong spring – he's 4-0 with six earned runs in 21 innings – is a sign that he has built on last year's success.

"That's what you're going to see out of Darren Dreifort most of the time," Kreuter said. "He has that type of potential. He's gone into a zone and has realized what he needs to do to get guys out."

Terry Adams and Jose Nunez finished the job started by Dreifort over the last three innings. Jesse Orosco also made an appearance but left after walking a batter.

Gary Sheffield hit a solo homer in the first inning for his third home run of the spring. Two weeks after dropping his trade request, Sheffield still gets scattered boos each time he walks to the plate, but there were only cheers after his homer.

Ponson pitches seven scoreless innings
JUPITER, Fla. – Sidney Ponson pitched seven scoreless innings for his first win in five spring starts as the Baltimore Orioles beat the Montreal Expos 7-1 Sunday.

Mike Bordick hit a two-run homer in the first inning to give Ponson an early lead. Cal Ripken, starting only his second game of the spring because of a rib injury, went 0-for-4.

"I felt pretty good today with no soreness from yesterday," Ripken said. "My timing was a little off at the plate but I was seeing the ball good."

Eugene Kingsale had four hits and two RBI and Greg Myers went 3-for-4 with a homer for Baltimore.

Expos starter Tony Armas allowed six runs and 10 hits in five innings.

"I?m not concerned about Armas," Alou said. "His numbers are high on the chart right now but when the season starts we'll turn them back to zero and he'll be fine."

Andy Tracy homered and Peter Bergeron who had a pair of doubles for Montreal.

Schilling strikes out eight in strong outing
TUCSON, Ariz. – Luis Gonzalez homered twice and Curt Schilling earned his first victory of the spring as the Arizona Diamondbacks defeated the San Diego Padres 8-1 Sunday.

Arizona has won four straight, outscoring the opposition 31-14.

Gonzalez homered in the fifth and sixth innings off lefty Dave Maurer. In his past four games, Gonzalez is 11-for-16 with seven RBI.

Schilling struck out eight in six innings and gave up six hits, none over his final 3 2-3 innings. The right-hander has 25 strikeouts in 18 2-3 innings this spring.

Padres right-hander Matt Clement was making his second start since missing two outings because of blood tests that revealed an inflamed liver condition. Clement allowed four runs and eight hits in four innings, striking out five.

Arizona scored twice in the second inning on four singles, the last a drag bunt by Schilling.

David Dellucci singled home Craig Counsell in the third inning to put the Diamondbacks up 3-1.

Danny Klassen, one of three middle infielders battling for one or two roster spots, homered for the second time in three days to make it 4-1.

San Diego is 16-9 this spring despite being outscored 148-130. All nine Padres losses have been by four runs or more.

Wood earns his third win of spring
TEMPE, Ariz. – Kerry Wood allowed seven hits in six innings to win for the third time in four spring decisions as the Chicago Cubs beat the Anaheim Angels 9-6 Sunday.

"My last three or four starts I was trying to throw too hard," Wood said. "So, I slowed everything down. Then my curveball came and my change-up was there. I think I had four quality pitches working for me."

Wood allowed one run over five innings, but tried to get a fastball past Anaheim's Jeff Davanon in the fifth. Davanon drove the ball over the 420-foot mark in center field for a two-run homer.

Rookie Corey Patterson had three of Chicago's 12 hits. His two-run double off of Anaheim starter Pat Rapp (2-2) gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead. Ron Coomer followed with his third spring homer, a two-run shot to left.

Rapp allowed eight hits and six runs in five innings. Augie Ojeda also homered for the Cubs.

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