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Alou returns but wants to lead

By KEVIN KELLY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 21, 2002

Hungry for an inkling of the past in an already tumultuous season, Sparky Anderson's name frequented conversations involving the Tigers last week in Detroit.

The Tigers, who fired their manager and general manager six games into the season and won their first game last week, hired a similarly respected presence eight days ago to serve as Luis Pujols' bench coach.

"I feel good in a uniform," Felipe Alou said.

It has been a little more than a year since the Expos fired Alou with a .511 winning percentage in nine seasons.

He went 691-662 there and was named National League manager of the year in 1994, when the Expos went 74-40 and led the East by six games when a strike ended the season.

"He did a hell of a job with those teams in Montreal," Rays manager Hal McRae said. "The way they competed and the spirit and fight they had each year after losing players, good players, every year, he always seemed to put a competitive group on the field. And they were tough to beat."

Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski hopes to hire Pujols or someone else to manage the Tigers next season and expects either to make a five- to 10-year commitment to the organization.

That likely eliminates the 67-year-old Alou, who signed a one-year contract like Pujols, who took over for Phil Garner. Dombrowski offered Alou a three-year deal that included being a special assistant to him if Pujols were not retained.

Alou would like to manage again.

And those familiar with Alou believe his calmness and knowledge can help any team.

"When things went tough (in Montreal), and if everybody else was shaking, he was stable," said White Sox manager Jerry Manuel, who was on Alou's staff in Montreal. "That's Felipe. We'd all be upset. "We're losing. We lost. Oh, man. Blah blah blah.' Felipe would say, "Everything is going to be all right."'

ROLLING ALONG: The Mariners started 13-4 en route to a record 116-win season in 2001.

Who says it can't be done again?

Seattle had the same record entering Saturday's game, aided by a 10-0 road trip. The trip produced four-game sweeps of the Angels and Rangers and a two-game sweep of the A's.

"It was an exceptional road trip for us," manager Lou Piniella said. "We feel our division is tough, and it says something for our guys."

WAR OF WORDS: A St. Louis media guide made the rounds in the Houston clubhouse last week because some Astros were less than thrilled about its proclamation of the Cardinals as the 2001 NL Central co-champions.

Houston players scratched out part of the phrase so that it read: "2001 N.L. Central Wild Card."

Both teams finished 93-69 last season, but Houston won the title because it won nine of 16 games against the Cardinals.

"Ridiculous," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. "You've got to be kidding. Who do they think we are? If you want to be champions outright, then win one more game. All it was was seeding for the playoffs."

ITCHY GRIFFEY: Forget three to six weeks.

Eight days after injuring a tendon in his right knee, Ken Griffey took about 20 minutes of batting practice last week.

"I want to get back soon," he said. "I'm at the clubhouse at 9:30 every morning and leave at 4 doing rehab work. But you know how doctors are. They are going to be on the cautious side to protect themselves no matter what I say."

ANNIVERSARY: It was 51 years ago Wednesday when Bob Sheppard's voice first was heard at Yankee Stadium. The starting lineup that day: Jackie Jensen, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle in the outfield, Johnny Mize, Jerry Coleman, Phil Rizzuto, Billy Johnson and Yogi Berra in the infield and Vic Raschi pitching.

ODDS AND ENDS: Of the 14 runners who have tried to steal on Boston catcher Jason Varitek, he has thrown out one. ... The Marlins are the only team with three Cuban defectors not only on their roster, but in the bullpen: Vladimir Nunez, Michael Tejera and Hansel Izquierdo. ... Angels ace Aaron Sele is 0-2 with a 7.65 ERA after three starts. In his first three starts with Seattle last season, he was 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA. He starts today against Oakland.

THE LAST WORD: "It is not going to happen overnight. And I don't care who you put in this seat. You can put Joe Torre in this seat. You can put Dusty Baker in this seat. It doesn't matter. You are going to get the same results. I have no doubt about it." -- Davey Lopes days before the Brewers fired him after a 3-12 start; he went 144-195 as Milwaukee's manager.

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