Vazquez could miss Expos' opener with bad calf

Posted: Sunday, March 23, 2003

Montreal ace Javier Vazquez could miss the team's season opener because of a strained calf muscle.

Vazquez was hurt in Friday's start against Florida, and the Expos estimated Saturday he will be sidelined for five-to-14 days. Montreal already figured to start the season without No. 2 starter Orlando Hernandez, who has tendinitis in his right rotator cuff.

''It's something I didn't want to hear,'' manager Frank Robinson said. ''There not much you can do about it now. Hopefully, it's not as severe as 14 days. Hopefully, he'll be all right.''

Also Saturday, Tampa Bay released Greg Vaughn, giving up on it highest-paid player. If Vaughn isn't claimed off waivers by Wednesday, and there's virtually no chance he will be, the Devil Rays must pay his guaranteed $9.25 million salary this season.

Vaughn, 37, was in the final season of a $34 million, four-year contract. He missed part of last season with an injured shoulder, hitting .163 with eight homers and 29 RBIs.

''We gave him a lot of opportunity here this spring,'' manager Lou Piniella said. ''If he wants to still play, I hope he catches on with somebody else.''

Finally, Six-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens was officially picked Saturday to start the New York Yankees' opener at Toronto on March 31.

Clemens, who has said this likely will be his final season, is seven wins from becoming the 21st pitcher to reach 300 wins. It will be his third straight opening-day start and his fourth in five seasons with the Yankees. Clemens will be starting his 13th opener overall.

''Roger, I'm sure, is thrilled by it,'' Yankees manager Joe Torre said Saturday. ''Especially being his last year, I think it's a heck of a way to tip your hat to what he's meant.''

Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina will follow against the Blue Jays. Torre doesn't plan to skip a starter the first time through the rotation, which lines up Pettitte to start the home opener April 7 against Minnesota.

''They're all capable of pitching one, two, three,'' Torre said. ''We have to line them up some way.''

David Wells is the Yankees' fourth starter and while No. 5 hasn't been announced, Jeff Weaver appears to be ahead of Jose Contreras.

Contreras will pitch in a minor league game Monday. Weaver will start the for the Yankees that night against Detroit.

Wells will start Tuesday night's game with Philadelphia and is to be followed by Sterling Hitchcock, the seventh starter on the roster. If the Yankees don't trade him by opening day, Hitchcock would pitch out of the bullpen.

''I talked to Hitchie today and told him he's not going to be considered one of the starters,'' Torre said. ''His innings will be out of the bullpen.''

Hitchcock is 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA in four games, including three starts. He also allowed six runs in 5 2-3 innings of a minor league start Thursday.

Notes: RHP Steve Karsay, who has bursitis in his throwing shoulder, played catch for the second straight day. He is expected to start the season on the disabled list. ''All I'm doing is seeing how I feel when I wake up every day,'' Karsay said. ''If I feel good, I'll play catch. If I don't, I'll keep getting treatment. It's getting better, but it's not where I want it to be.'' ... Clemens will pitch against Tampa Bay on Wednesday night instead of throwing in a minor league game. Clemens faces the Devil Rays in his second scheduled start of the regular season.

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