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Another step for 'El Duque'

By Times staff writers

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 12, 2002


TAMPA -- A couple of hours after manager Joe Torre said he wasn't close to making any decisions on his Nos. 4 and 5 starters, Orlando Hernandez strengthened his bid.

TAMPA -- A couple of hours after manager Joe Torre said he wasn't close to making any decisions on his Nos. 4 and 5 starters, Orlando Hernandez strengthened his bid.

Hernandez pitched three innings against the Phillies on Monday and allowed his first two runs of the spring and struck out three. In eight innings, Hernandez leads the team with seven strikeouts and has allowed seven hits.

Hernandez is battling David Wells and Sterling Hitchcock for the final two starting positions, although many consider Wells to be a lock.

Hitchcock hasn't done much for his chances. The Armwood High graduate has allowed four runs in each of his past two outings and carries a 10.13 ERA through three games. He leads the team in hits allowed, runs and walks.

"He had one bad inning (Sunday) but he felt good," Torre said of Hitchcock. "He kept the ball down, he just got beat up in the last inning."

CATCHING UP: Andy Pettitte (elbow tightness) and Ramiro Mendoza (stiff neck) played catch, a sign their injuries may be abating slightly.

Pettitte, who would have started Wednesday, will throw in the bullpen Thursday and pitch in a minor-league game Friday. Mendoza said he felt better but has not set a schedule for his return.

TODAY: The Yankees travel to Dunedin for a 1:05 game with the Blue Jays. Right-hander Roger Clemens starts against right-hander Luke Prokopec.

-- MIKE READLING

Rookie shows off varied skills

DUNEDIN -- Monday marked a day of firsts for Eric Hinske.

A rookie third baseman trying to crack the Toronto lineup, Hinske belted his first homer of the spring in his first appearance as designated hitter and first time batting second.

Hinske, traded with pitcher Justin Miller from Oakland for closer Billy Koch in the offseason, also stole his first base in a 3-2 loss to Cleveland.

"He's left-handed, he runs well and he takes a lot of pitches," Blue Jays manager Buck Martinez said of Hinske, who also drew two walks. "Sounds good to me."

LONGEST STINTS: Bartolo Colon became the first Cleveland pitcher to last five innings, and starter Brian Cooper went 32/3 innings, most for a Toronto pitcher this spring.

Cooper, a right-hander acquired from Anaheim for Brad Fullmer in January, left with a 1-0 lead after allowing four hits, striking out three and walking one.

He has yet to allow a run in 92/3 innings.

THREE SENT DOWN: Right-hander Joe Orloski, who lost Monday, was one of three players sent to the minors. Orloski was sent to Double-A Tennessee, and outfielder Reed Johnson and left-handed pitcher Gustavo Chacin were optioned to Triple-A Syracuse.

-- STEVE LEE

Wendell progressing from tendinitis

TAMPA -- Reliever Turk Wendell threw 75 pitches off flat ground as he continues to recover from a bout with elbow tendinitis.

Wendell, who has been off the mound since his elbow flared up Feb. 27, is scheduled for another flat ground session, probably Wednesday. He threw 50 pitches Saturday.

MINOR MATTERS: Cliff Politte and Nelson Figueroa, two pitchers battling for the final starting spot, are scheduled to pitch in a minor-league game Thursday at the Carpenter Complex. Manager Larry Bowa said Politte is "all right" after taking a line drive off of his left shin this weekend.

THRICE BITTEN: Dave Hollins won't play until at least Friday as he recovers from three spider bites on his leg.

Hollins reported the injury four days after they happened and only after they had become infected. Trainers tried to drain the bites but Hollins' leg still was "bothering him big time," Bowa said.

"It's unbelievable he was able to play with them being that infected," Bowa said. "We don't know if they were in his jeans or what. It's ugly."

TODAY: Philadelphia hosts the Reds at 1:05 p.m. Right-hander Robert Person starts for the Phillies against left-hander Lance Davis.

-- MIKE READLING

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