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Baseball

Book won't close on feud

By Times wires and staff reports
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 12, 2003

CLEARWATER -- Another baseball book stirred spring-training controversy Tuesday when Phillies closer Jose Mesa continued to carry a grudge against Omar Vizquel for something the Cleveland shortstop wrote in his 2002 book, My Life On and Off the Field.

Mesa told two newspapers that he wanted to "kill" Vizquel, his former teammate in Cleveland whom he drilled in the back in June at Jacobs Field. Mesa also said he would hit Vizquel every time he faced him for the rest of their careers.

The Indians were concerned enough about Mesa's remarks that they informed Sandy Alderson, executive vice president of baseball operations. Nevertheless, Vizquel made the trip to Jack Russell Stadium on Tuesday and was in the starting lineup.

The Phillies would not have allowed Mesa to make his scheduled appearance if Vizquel had not been removed from the game. With Vizquel safely in the visiting clubhouse, Mesa did come on and pitched a scoreless eighth inning during Cleveland's 9-8 victory.

"I don't want to see a volatile issue become a team issue, and Jose understands that," Phillies general manager Ed Wade said. "These things don't end with the initial incident."

In his book, Vizquel suggested Mesa was responsible for the Indians' gut-wrenching Game 7 loss to the Florida Marlins in the 1997 World Series.

An excerpt: "The eyes of the world were focused on every move we made. Unfortunately, Jose's own eyes were vacant. Completely empty. Nobody home. You could almost see right through him. Not long after I looked into his vacant eyes, he blew the save and the Marlins tied the game."

Like David Wells, whose controversial book about the New York Yankees has dominated headlines this spring, Vizquel has some regrets about his venture into the literary world.

"I feel bad," Vizquel said. "He was one of my best friends in the game. We would not have been in the World Series without Jose Mesa. He got us there. In the book, I was just talking about that particular game. Sometimes when you say something, it comes out in a different way. When you write a book about baseball, there's a lot of people involved and you never know when you're going to hurt somebody's feelings."

Vizquel said he'd be willing to apologize to Mesa, but he doesn't think his former teammate would accept.

"I don't think he's the type of man to take an apology," Vizquel said.

He's not.

"That's impossible," Mesa said.

-- BOB BROOKOVER

Yanks bumble to ninth loss

TAMPA -- The Yankees continued to struggle, though manager Joe Torre wouldn't exactly call it a struggle, per se. After all, it is spring training.

Still, the team dropped to a league-worst 3-9 after committing four errors and losing 3-2 to the Tigers on Tuesday.

Roger Clemens was solid in his third outing, striking out four and allowing two unearned runs in four innings. He gave up two walks and two hits, though he hit a batter and threw a wild pitch, both of which led to runs in the third.

Torre said the errors aren't a concern.

"It's not like we don't know what we're doing, we're just not doing it right, as far as making the throws," he said. "But that's what you do when you work on something is you put the plays on and you practice them. I'd rather throw the ball away here than during the season."

MATSUI'S FIRST SCRATCH: Japanese leftfielder Hideki Matsui was held out after showing up to the morning practice with a stiff neck. Matsui took batting practice, but Torre decided to keep him out so as not to make the problem worse or cause Matsui to change his swing. The stiffness was suspected to be from sleeping on his neck wrong.

CUTS: The Yankees optioned third baseman Drew Henson to Triple-A Columbus, and first baseman Fernando Seguignol and outfielder Nigel Wilson were reassigned to minor-league camp.

-- EMILY NIPPS

Lidle sterling for Jays

DUNEDIN -- Former Rays pitcher Cory Lidle, acquired from the Athletics in the offseason to stabilize the rotation, allowed four hits in four innings in Toronto's 5-0 over the Astros 5-0 Tuesday.

The right-hander and three relievers extending the Blue Jays' shutout streak to 20 innings.

"I was trying to get ahead with the fastball and then go off-speed later in the count," said Lidle, 21-16 with a 3.74 ERA the past two seasons with Oakland.

SIGNINGS: Right-hander Bob File and outfielder Alexis Rios agreed to one-year deals.

-- Times wires

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