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Pals try to cheer McGraw

By Times staff writer, Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 16, 2003

BRADENTON -- Tug McGraw was moved from Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater to the Moffitt Clinic at Tampa General Hospital on Friday night and doctors continued to evaluate the former relief pitcher's condition Saturday.

Several sources reported Friday that McGraw has brain cancer and may be facing surgery.

Neither the hospital nor the Phillies released further information.

Before changing hospitals, McGraw received a visit from three former Phillies teammates as well as Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas.

Former pitchers Larry Christenson, Warren Brusstar and Dickie Noles joined Kalas and McGraw in a "hushed version" of High Hopes, the signature song of the Phillies broadcaster.

Through glassy eyes, Kalas talked about his 20-minute visit with McGraw.

"As soon as I walked in, I said, 'Here's the 1-2 pitch to Willie Wilson ... , ' " Kalas said.

That's a reference to McGraw's final pitch of the 1980 World Series, which clinched the Phillies' only world championship.

"That brought a smile to his face," Kalas said. "But then he'd fall into a depression and start to cry. It was very difficult to see him like that. This is just mind-boggling that this could happen."

ROA TAKES LEAD: With 15 days until opening day, manager Larry Bowa said right-hander Joe Roa is leading left-hander Hector Mercado in what figures to be the battle for the final rotation spot.

"Obviously spring training is not over, but Roa is ahead of Mercado right now just by performance," Bowa said after a 5-4 loss to the Pirates on Saturday at McKechnie Field. "Mercado is having problems with left-handers. He can't get them out. It's something we have to try to find a way to correct."

Roa has stepped up with consecutive strong performances. He started Saturday because Brandon Duckworth is recovering from mild elbow tendinitis. Reports were good on Duckworth after he threw in the bullpen at Jack Russell Stadium.


Yanks GM expects Mondesi to start

DUNEDIN -- Despite months of trade speculation, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman expects Raul Mondesi to be the opening day rightfielder.

"My expectation is, and has been, that he will be our everyday rightfielder," Cashman said Saturday. "It doesn't mean that we can't listen to any ideas. I don't anticipate us moving him."

Mondesi, acquired from the Blue Jays last season, hit .232 with 26 homers and 88 RBIs overall. He is in the last year of a contract that paid $11-million last season, and he could make as much as $13-million this year.

RELIEVERS HEALING: Left-hander Chris Hammond, slowed by discomfort behind his left shoulder, is scheduled to throw off a bullpen mound today.

Hammond was scratched from his relief appearance Friday and had an MRI, which was negative. He is taking anti-inflammatory medication.

"I feel much better," Hammond said. "It might just be inflammation."

Right-hander Steve Karsay, who hasn't pitched since March 3 because of right shoulder soreness, reported no problems one day after a bullpen session. He is scheduled to pitch one inning today against the Astros.


Blue Jays hide their ace

KISSIMMEE -- It may be more than two weeks to opening day, but Blue Jays manager Carlos Tosca doesn't want the Yankees to get a peek at the dress rehearsals.

To that end, Tosca decided to scratch his opening day starter, Roy Halladay, from Saturday's matchup against New York. The right-hander started a minor-league game while veteran Doug Linton faced the Yankees.

Linton allowed three runs, all on a Bernie Williams homer, and four hits in three innings of Toronto's 4-3 win. He threw 44 pitches, 29 for strikes, in his first spring start.

"Halladay will see the Yankees four times in April," Tosca said. "Driving in this morning I was thinking, we haven't seen (Roger) Clemens (the Yankees scheduled opening day starter)."

Halladay threw 75 pitches in his simulated game.

COCO GONE: Right-hander Pasqual Coco was released for violation of his contract by breaking team rules. General manager J.P. Ricciardi refused to specify.

"It was a contractual thing and there are rules about being a good citizen and being a good teammate, and he violated some of those," Ricciardi said.

"He's a good kid; people won't believe what the club is accusing him of doing," Dominic Torres, Coco's agent, said.


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