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Yankees start slow again

Posted: Friday, March 02, 2001

The New York Yankees started spring training the same way they did last year.

Dwight Gooden gave up a leadoff home run, Chuck Knoblauch made a throwing error as the Yankees lost to the Toronto Blue Jays 6-4 Thursday in their exhibition opener.

Last year, the Yankees started the spring season 0-6, getting outscored 56-21. They won't mind if they finish the way they did last season, winning their third straight World Series title.

''I told them in our meeting that we were 0-6 and you made my life miserable,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said prior to the first pitch at Dunedin, Fla. ''It really cut into my enjoyment of spring training.''

Toronto scored four times in the sixth off losing pitcher Darrell Einertson, giving new manager Buck Martinez a win in his first game.

In other news, Mark McGwire and St. Louis agreed to a $30 million, two-year contract extension.

''I was telling my son the other day that I was going to sign this deal ... basically averaging $15 million a year and people are going to talk about how I'm going to be underpaid. That's pretty ridiculous,'' he said in Jupiter, Fla.

Eight days after Boston Red Sox manager Jimy Williams said he would switch Manny Ramirez from right field to left, he announced Ramirez was uncomfortable there and moved him back to right -- before the outfielder played a single inning this year.

Diamondbacks 6, Rockies 5

At Tucson, Ariz., Randy Johnson allowed four hits and one run in two innings. Arizona exercised his $12 million option before the game.

Denny Neagle, one of two high-priced left-handers signed by Colorado during the offseason, also went two innings, allowing two hits and one run -- on Reggie Sanders' first-inning homer.

Padres 4, Mariners 3

At Peoria, Ariz., Ichiro Suzuki, the first Japanese position player in major league baseball, was 1-for-3 in his American debut, a charity game that doesn't count in the spring stats. Tony Gwynn, an eight-time NL batting champ, was 0-for-2.

Reds 3, Indians 3, tie

At Winter Haven, Fla., Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Larkin each homered in their first at-bats of the spring.

Pirates 6, Tigers 3

At Bradenton, Fla., Detroit's Shane Heams walked in two runs as Pittsburgh scored four runs in a go-ahead eighth inning. Aramis Ramirez was 2-for-3 and hit a solo homer in the Pirates' sixth off Matt Perisho.

Braves 18, Georgia Tech 4

At Kissimmee, Fla., Chan Perry, a long shot to make the Atlanta roster, homered and drove in five runs as the Braves banged out 22 hits against the nation's No. 1 ranked college team.

Marlins 7, Florida St. 0

At Melbourne, Fla., six prospects combined on a five-hitter. Gary Knotts, Wes Anderson and Michael Tejera worked two innings apiece. Hector Almonte, Geoff Goetz and Blaine Neal each worked one inning.

Devil Rays 17, Notre Dame 4

At Tampa, Fla., the Devil Rays scored five runs in the second and seven in the fifth when Ron Wright hit a solo homer and Derrick Gibson followed with a three-shot. Tampa Bay had 20 hits.

Brewers 7, Athletics 6

At Phoenix, just days after signing multimillion-dollar contract extensions, Richie Sexson and Geoff Jenkins homered.

Cubs 6, Giants 5

At Scottsdale, Ariz., Korean first-base prospect Hee Seop Choi hit a towering three-run homer off Mark Gardner and Chris Snopek homered moments in a five-run sixth.

Twins 12, Red Sox 5

At Fort Myers, Fla., Boston made seven errors -- four by replacements for injured shortstop Nomar Garciaparra. The Twins' first 11 runs were unearned, and they outhit the Red Sox 11-10. Olympic star Doug Mientkiewicz hit two homers and Brian Buchanan hit an inside-the-park homer over center fielder Carl Everett's head.

Expos 5, Mets 4

At Port St. Lucie, Fla., Steve Trachsel made his Mets debut and allowed two homers in two innings. His first pitch was hit for a homer by Jose Vidro leading off the third, and Fernando Tatis added another homer in the inning to put Montreal ahead 4-2.

HEAD:Yankees start slow -- again

HEAD:Baseball gets a close-up view of new strike zone as exhibition season begins

HEAD:Pitchers stop hitting below the belt

BYLINE1:By BEN WALKER

BYLINE2:AP Baseball Writer

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Raul Mondesi watched the fastball whiz past the Blue Jays emblem on his chest, and kept the bat on his shoulder.

He expected to hear the hiss of the heater. It was the other sound that surprised him.

''Strike three!'' plate umpire Dan Iassogna shouted.

The Toronto star blinked and asked: ''Is that what you guys are calling?''

After months of talk and a week of demonstrations in camps, the start of the exhibition season Thursday provided the first real look at the strike zone baseball intends to enforce this season. At Scottsdale, Ariz., there was even a light-hearted moment.

The first pitch of the game was a very high strike thrown by San Francisco's Livan Hernandez to Eric Young of the Cubs. Umpire Kerwin Danley called a strike, then took off his mask for a good-natured argument with Young, with both laughing.

''He was just asking, 'Is that really where the strike zone is?''' Chicago manager Don Baylor said.

At Peoria, Ariz., seven-time Japanese batting champion Ichiro Suzuki made his American debut and complained about umpire Rob Drake's calls.

''The third at-bat, the second pitch, was not a strike,'' he said through a translator. ''The first at-bat, second pitch, was outside by eight inches. If they're going to call what they came out here and taught us, then both those pitches should have been balls.''

Seattle teammate David Bell was ejected for arguing an outside strike in the game against San Diego.

Umps have been told to take away the couple of extra inches the pitchers often got on the outside and inside of the 17-inch plate.

At Bradenton, Fla., Pittsburgh star Jason Kendall also was not impressed.

In the first inning, Kendall was called out by big league umpire Marty Foster on a decidedly high pitch from Detroit knuckleballer Steve Sparks.

Some fans at McKechnie Field jeered, and Kendall and Foster talked about the pitch between innings. The Pirates catcher did not seem angry -- rather, he appeared to be getting a further explanation.

''That was pretty ridiculous. It was by my chest. It was a ball,'' Kendall said. ''But it shows they're really going to do it. I'll take striking out if our pitchers get that pitch.''

''That pitch'' is the one above the belt, which had been called a ball for as long as most major leaguers can remember.

Now, though, umpires in the majors and minors have been instructed to stick with the rulebook definition, which puts the strike zone between the knee and the midpoint of the belt and shoulders -- as in, across the letters.

Foster's work was under careful watch. Umpiring supervisor Marty Springstead was on hand, and a camera recorded pitches for later review.

''I didn't see too many high strikes called. There was the one to Kendall and another one I saw,'' Springstead said. ''It will take some adjustments, and we'll have a better feel for it later in the spring.''

Iassogna thought he followed the instructions.

''I felt I called a lot of them today,'' he said after working the game between the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays. ''I wouldn't say it's harder or easier, it was just different.''

''After the first one, I was like, 'Whoa, I can do this,''' he said.

Later, Glenallen Hill of the Yankees had a question for Iassogna after a strike call.

''That's the new one, right?'' Hill said.

Yankees third baseman Scott Brosius saw a difference, especially when Matt Karchner caught Mondesi looking in the third inning.

''It was just how they diagrammed it,'' Brosius said.

At Winter Haven, Fla., neither the Cincinnati Reds nor Cleveland Indians saw a big change.

''Until somebody strikes out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, I don't think guys will have much to say about it,'' Cleveland catcher Eddie Taubensee said.

Most pitchers, in fact, say they intend to stay away from testing the new strike zone, fearful that higher pitches will get hit.

Dwight Gooden's second fastball of the spring was high, and got whacked out of the park by Toronto's Shannon Stewart.

''That's what happens when you go up there,'' Gooden said.

Many players are certain that only the hardest throwers will benefit from the extra 6-9 inches -- about the size of three baseballs stacked on top of each other -- at the top of the zone. Strikeout king Randy Johnson got his first-hand look when he started for Arizona against Colorado at Tucson, Ariz.

''I don't think I threw that many pitches to really notice the difference,'' Johnson said.



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