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Baseball

Phils get visit from Alstott

By Times wires and staff reports
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 21, 2003

CLEARWATER -- The most popular hitter at the Carpenter Complex on Thursday wasn't Pat Burrell or Jim Thome. That distinction belonged to Buccaneers running back Mike Alstott, who was invited by Burrell and the Phillies to take part in batting practice.

It turned into an entertaining sideshow. Manager Larry Bowa said before the workout that he wanted Alstott to face Vicente Padilla, an All-Star right-hander whose fastball is tough on big-league hitters.

"I always hear football players saying this is an easy sport," Bowa said. "I wanted (Alstott) to hit off Padilla, but I was vetoed."

Alstott instead faced Clemente Alvarez, the team's bullpen catcher whose batting practice fastballs are inviting.

As the bruising fullback stepped into the cage, a Bucs fan encouraged him to "make a touchdown."

Under orders from Bowa, the first pitch from Alvarez sailed behind Alstott's back.

"That's for (Eagles coach) Andy Reid," said Bowa, who predicted his favorite team would crush Tampa Bay in the NFC Championship Game.

"I was ready to charge the mound," Alstott said. "See how that would have felt."

Two pitches into his first round, Alstott hit a line drive up the middle.

"That's for you," he said to Bowa, who was impressed by Alstott's homer over the leftfield wall to end his second of three rounds in the cage.

"He's got a nice swing," Bowa said. "It's obvious he has played before. I'd like to have him in case the benches ever empty."

Alstott, who said he hadn't swung a bat since he was a catcher in high school 11 years ago, obviously enjoyed the experience.

"It was great to be out there," he said. "(But) I know football is my sport. I love playing it and we're the world champs."

THE WHIRLING BIRD: Chairman Bill Giles will drop a baseball out of a helicopter and ex-Phillies Tug McGraw will try to catch it during practice today at 2 the Carpenter Complex. Why? That's how the Phillies plan to deliver their first ball before their final home opener at Veterans Stadium on April 4.

-- BOB BROOKOVER

Yankees' Posada returns after his son's surgery

Jorge Posada IV, born in November 1999, has craniosynostosis, which occurs when the bones in a baby's skull fuse before the brain has stopped growing. It can be corrected through surgery.

The younger Posada had a 10-hour procedure Tuesday and could be released by early next week. It was his third operation.

BOSS-JETER UPDATE: George Steinbrenner was trying to motivate All-Star shortstop Derek Jeter with his offseason comments.

"I was trying to get him completely focused," the owner said. "I said I need that for this year. For us to prevail, we need him completely focused. He's that important to the team."

Steinbrenner said he thought Jeter was getting the message that was intended.

"I think Joe Torre will get that across to him," Steinbrenner said. "I think he's going to be fine. He always gives 100 percent. But I need 110 percent. Let's put it that way."

-- ASSOCIATED PRESS

Blue Jays mourn Bechler

"We were running late and got to the counter 15 minutes before the flight, but they had already released the seats," Werth said. "They tried to rebook us through West Palm Beach, but we wouldn't have made it in time."

Werth spent Wednesday night on the phone with ex-teammates.

"They all said it was a very emotional day, people got to say goodbye to Steve," Werth said.

-- BOB ELLIOTT

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