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Baseball briefs

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 18, 2001


Strained calf slows Hampton

TUCSON, Ariz. -- It didn't take very long for baseball's wealthiest pitcher to get hurt.

Colorado's Mike Hampton has a strained left calf muscle that might affect his first start in the exhibition season.

Hampton, 28, injured his leg two weeks ago during a workout near his Houston home, and he tweaked the muscle again on Friday during the first workout of spring training.

Hampton, who in December signed a $121-million, eight-year contract, threw about 40 pitches off a mound on Saturday -- as scheduled -- but he skipped most of the other fundamental drills.

While he plans to continue throwing, he was expected to be held out of the other drills for the next two weeks. The left-hander from Crystal River has been scheduled to make his exhibition debut on March 3 against San Francisco.

Hampton called the cutback in his schedule "just a precautionary move, but I think it's going to be beneficial."

"If we were playing a game tomorrow and I had to pitch, I'd be there," he said. "I understand what the real deal is, and that's the start of the season. I'm not scared or concerned about not being ready to go."

CARDINALS: Mark McGwire arrived at camp, four days ahead of the team's schedule but right on his timetable.

McGwire, sidelined by a knee injury for most of the second half of last season, was greeted warmly by teammates but generally declined to answer questions. He has said he knows what he needs to do to get ready and usually likes to arrive early.

CUBS: Jeremi Gonzalez will miss his third straight season because of injuries. The right-hander, who hasn't pitched in the major leagues since July 1998, has a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and will need reconstructive surgery.

GIANTS: Pitcher Livan Hernandez might be heavier than when he reported to camp last spring, but the team is not ready to enroll him in Weight Watchers.

Hernandez weighed 248 pounds at the end of last season, and whether he has added winter poundage is debatable. He had yet to step on a scale Saturday, when pitchers and catchers had their first workout.

"I didn't make a big deal about it last year and I'm not going to make a big deal about it this year," trainer Stan Conte said. "I'll make a big issue of it if he doesn't do his running or his conditioning. Right now it's not a big deal."

ORIOLES: The team hired former White Sox and Cubs general manager Larry Himes as a special assistant to vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift, further addressing a major-league scouting staff that Thrift promised would be a priority during his administration. Himes becomes the team's eighth major-league scout compared with the two Thrift inherited in October 1999. ... Albert Belle was among the players who arrived early.

PADRES: Right-hander Woody Williams, who made a comeback from surgery for an aneurysm last year, will be the opening-day starter.

"This is an obvious decision," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's earned it."

PIRATES: Manager Lloyd McClendon is downplaying a rift between rightfielder John Vander Wal and his replacement, newcomer Derek Bell. "They had a private conversation during yesterday's workout," McClendon said. "They're getting along just fine." Both participated in voluntary workouts.

BUHL DIES: Former pitcher Bob Buhl died at 72 in Winter Haven. Buhl spent the majority of his 15-year career in Milwaukee with the Braves, starting behind Warren Spahn and Lew Burdette. His major league record was 166-132, with a 3.55 ERA. Buhl's last appearance in Milwaukee was Sept. 28, when he attended the closing ceremonies for County Stadium.

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