Love for Fenway unconditional

By wire services
Published March 24, 2005

BOSTON - The Red Sox's decision to stay long term at 93-year-old Fenway Park comes without conditions, though the team would like to see improvements in the surrounding neighborhood.

"This is a no-strings-attached commitment," team president Larry Lucchino said Wednesday at a Fenway news conference.

As for the local area, there were some suggestions.

"Transit improvements would be good for the neighborhood. Parking improvements would be good for the neighborhood. People have been talking about those for a long time," Lucchino said.

Mayor Thomas M. Menino met Tuesday with Lucchino and the team's major owners, John Henry and Tom Werner, but said the city wouldn't provide public assistance because it's not in the financial position to do so.

Since buying the Red Sox in February 2002, the team's owners have made several stadium upgrades and seat additions.

The team reportedly would like to see improved streets and sidewalks around the stadium and one or more parking garages and a new train station at Yawkey Way.

The Red Sox won the World Series last year for the first time since 1918, six years after Fenway Park opened. Last year, Boston sold out each of its 81 regular-season home games.

Meanwhile, Red Sox centerfielder Johnny Damon left the game against the Orioles with cramps in his calves and probably will be the DH today.

CLEMENS LOOKS STRONG: Roger Clemens tested his strained right hamstring in a simulated game and impressed his Astros teammates.

Clemens threw 90 pitches before the game against the Phillies. He didn't speak with the media after his first outing since injuring his hamstring Friday against Detroit, but catcher Brad Ausmus said Clemens looked ready for game action.

"I think he actually could have pitched (against Philadelphia)," Ausmus said. "But I'm not on the medical staff. I think they decided to err on the side of caution and just have him throw the simulated game, but he's fine."

Outfielder Lance Berkman, who is recovering from surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right knee, faced Clemens.

"Even when I'm perfectly healthy, it's hard to get around him," said Berkman, scheduled to return around the end of April. "His stuff looks really good."

Berkman said he felt good swinging the bat, though his timing was a bit off.

BONDS BACK TO WORK: Giants leftfielder Barry Bonds met with team trainer Stan Conte and rehabilitated his right knee a day after returning to spring training and declaring he might not be ready to play until midseason, if at all.

Manager Felipe Alou, who spoke briefly with Bonds, said he believes the seven-time NL MVP will be back sooner than he anticipates. "I saw him kind of upbeat a day after he felt so bad," Alou said. "My gut feeling is he's not going to be out that long."

Also, first baseman J.T. Snow, who tweaked his lower back Monday, is ready to begin some baseball activities today.

EX-GM PUTS BURDEN ON UNION: Former Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette says management had long wanted to get tough on steroid use. Putting a system in place, he said, always rested with the players themselves.

"The reform needed to come from within the ranks of the players' association," Duquette said. "It looks like Major League Baseball is making some progress."

Union head Donald Fehr said Tuesday he expects players will soon ratify a new agreement on performance-enhancing drugs that includes stricter penalties for steroids. The policy calls for random testing; first-time offenders would be punished by a 10-day suspension without pay.

METS EYE URBINA: The Mets are waiting for the Tigers to lower their price on right-handed reliever Ugueth Urbina, but it might not happen, according to the Sporting News. Detroit wants New York to pay $3-million of Urbina's $4-million salary and part with a promising young player. The Mets, who are looking for bullpen help, are willing to meet one of those conditions but not both.

CUBS: Right-hander Kerry Wood, who has been out two weeks with shoulder bursitis, is scheduled to start today against the A's. Starter Mark Prior and closer candidate Joe Borowski also have gotten hurt since Wood's injury March 9.

PIRATES: Former Devil Rays right-hander Albie Lopez pulled himself out of the running for a job by leaving camp and was subsequently released. Lopez hadn't pitched since March 11 because of a right calf injury. ... The team's 1979 World Series trophy, now on loan to a sports museum, could be sold at auction because its owner is bankrupt. The Allegheny HYP Club declared bankruptcy in 2002 and its memorabilia collection, including the trophy, could be sold to pay its debts.

ROYALS: Third baseman Darren Finster hurt his right knee during the ninth inning, writhing in pain after Mariners catcher Ryan Christianson's grounder bounced over his head. Team officials had no immediate word on the injury.