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Jeter says he, Boss are peachy

By Times staff writers, Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 18, 2003

TAMPA -- For the past couple of months, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and shortstop Derek Jeter have been caught up in a he-said, he-said of sorts.

The New York media has been quick to fan the flames, beginning with a Steinbrenner quote in the New York Daily News questioning Jeter's late-night activities and focus and carrying on through a series of deflections and denials from Jeter, including a teasing back-page headline shouting, "Party On."

Monday, Jeter entered his first day of the Yankees spring training camp with a new message for the media: Enough is enough.

"We (Steinbrenner and Jeter) sat down and talked," Jeter said. "It really wasn't that big of a deal. Ten to 15 minutes, and then he started bragging about Ohio State winning a championship."

Jeter, a four-time All-Star, hit .297 with 18 homers, 75 RBIs and 14 errors, a performance below his standards and apparently Steinbrenner's. Not winning enough games last season had everyone "irritated," including himself, Jeter said.

MATSUI MANIA: An estimated 60-70 members of the Japanese media flocked to the first arranged appearance of outfielder Hideki Matsui after Monday's practice, and the numbers are supposed to multiply by the start of the regular season.


Gaston may return

DUNEDIN -- The Jays are in the midst of talks to bring back former manager Cito Gaston, an offseason resident of Dunedin, in some capacity. The two-time World Series manager was a special assistant to Blue Jays president Paul Godfrey in 2002.

Gaston managed the Jays from 1989-97 before he was fired by then-GM Gord Ash the final week of the season. He returned to the Jays as a hitting coach in 2000-01.

In 1999, Gaston's name was added to the Jays level of excellence atop the SkyDome's 500 level.


Bombs away for Thome

CLEARWATER -- Jim Thome has taken little time to make an impression.

He hit the first home run of Philadelphia's spring camp Friday at Robin Roberts Field. In his batting practice round Monday, he hit a shot to rival those of former Phillies sluggers Greg Luzinski and Mike Schmidt.

"That was the furthest ball I've ever seen hit since I've been coming down here," said manager Larry Bowa, who has served up all of Thome's home runs. "It landed on a street. I know the wind was blowing out, but it was a long way."

The ball soared over the rightfield fence quickly, then bounced on the top of a tree-lined hill and rolled onto U.S. 19. No glass was heard shattering.

"That was wind-aided," Thome said. "I didn't even see it. That's the truth. Bowa kind of quick pitches you, so you can't watch them."

The owner of 334 career blasts, Thome smoked a 511-footer at Jacobs Field in July against the Royals. He didn't see that one, either.


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