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Turmoil in home nation keeps Abreu grounded

By Times staff writers

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 20, 2003


CLEARWATER -- Phillies rightfielder Bobby Abreu was the only player absent from the first full-squad workout Wednesday at the Carpenter Complex.

Abreu, through agent Peter Greenberg, informed the team Tuesday that he missed his flight out of Caracas, Venezuela. The Phillies said Abreu did not want to drive through angry demonstrators who were protesting the recent execution-style killings of four people opposed to Hugo Chavez, the controversial president.

"With things as volatile as they are down there right now, I'm glad he didn't go through that," assistant GM Ruben Amaro said.

Manager Larry Bowa said he was not concerned about Abreu's late arrival.

BOWA'S SPEECH: Bowa, as always, gave his team an emotional speech before the first full-squad workout. "I thought it was outstanding," pitcher Joe Roa said. "Everything he said is what everybody in this clubhouse believes. We all think we have a chance to be a really good team. What I got out of it is that he wants us to work hard, do the right things and it'll all show up at the end."

-- BOB BROOKOVER

Pair pay respects to former teammate

DUNEDIN -- Jayson Werth and Josh Towers had to be there.

Werth, an outfielder, and Towers, a pitcher and nonroster invitee, flew to Fort Lauderdale to attend the memorial service of their former teammate, Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler. Bechler died Monday from multiorgan failure caused by heatstroke.

Towers came up through the Orioles system with Bechler. Werth, a former No. 1 pick, and Bechler were teammates in 2000 at Class A Frederick.

EXTRA DOUGH: The Blue Jays, who are roughly $1.5-million under budget, are interested in free-agent left-hander Kenny Rogers. The Plant City resident turned down an incentive-laden offer from the White Sox. The Red Sox also are interested.

ON THE AIR: Right-hander Jason Arnold is scheduled to appear on the ESPN Club at Walt Disney World 7 p.m. Monday.

-- BOB ELLIOTT

Soriano entrenched atop lineup

TAMPA -- Yankees manager Joe Torre doesn't plan to move Alfonso Soriano from the top of his batting order.

Soriano hit .300 with 39 homers, 41 steals and 102 RBIs in his second full major-league season.

"Just thinking about this right now, you look at him or (Derek) Jeter as a leadoff hitter," Torre said. "I don't anticipate any change. It doesn't mean we won't. But that's not one of my projects going in."

-- ASSOCIATED PRESS

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