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By MARK DIDTLER and JOHN SCHWARB

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 3, 2001


Rodriguez says he didn't mean to malign Jeter

TAMPA -- Shortstop Derek Jeter planned to talk Friday night with his friend, Alex Rodriguez, about comments the Texas Rangers shortstop made in an interview for the April edition of Esquire.

"He's never had to lead," said Rodriguez in the magazine article. "He can just go out and play and have fun. You go into New York, you wanna stop Bernie (Williams) and (Paul) O'Neill. You never say "Don't let Derek beat you. He's never your concern.' "

Said Jeter: "The only thing you can ask him is what his intentions were. Do I think his intentions were bad? No."

Jeter already had departed before Rodriguez clarified his comments at the Rangers camp in Port Charlotte. He insisted his comments were taken out of context from a 90-minute interview in December.

"How can I ever dog Derek Jeter? It's impossible," Rodriguez told the Associated Press. "There is nothing to knock. He's a great defensive player. He's a great offensive player. He's one of the top three players in the game, for the greatest team of my era.

"It's my mistake because I said it. It's not the journalist's fault," Rodriguez said. "It's been my fault for just talking the game and being too general. I guess you have to be very specific."

POTENT PITCHING: Roger Clemens and five relievers limited the Blue Jays to three hits as the Yankees beat Toronto 4-0 in their exhibition opener at Legends Field.

Tampa's Tino Martinez went 3-for-3, including an RBI single in a two-run first inning.

Andy Pettitte is scheduled to start today's game at Legends Field against Kansas City. Brian Meadows is scheduled to start for the Royals.

Other scheduled pitchers for the Yankees are Christian Parker, Damaso Marte, Kevin Lovingier, Mike Bertotti and Domingo Jean.

NOTES: Jeter's ailing right shoulder has improved and he could return next week. ... Left-hander Sid Fernandez is expected to make his first game appearance in four years in the next two days. ... Leftfielder Shane Spencer is day to day after a medical examination determined he has tendinitis in his right knee. -- MARK DIDTLER

Selig holds off on Sirotka decision

Commissioner Bud Selig will not rule on the disputed Mike Sirotka trade until next week at the earliest, spokesman Rich Levin said Friday.

Sirotka was acquired from the Chicago White Sox in a six-player deal that included pitcher David Wells. The Blue Jays are seeking compensation because of Sirotka's injured left shoulder.

"I believe I will pitch this season," Sirotka said. "I'm happy here and look forward to playing with these guys."

There is no timetable for when he can pitch.

BATS ARE BLAH: The Blue Jays were hitless in Friday's 4-0 loss to the Yankees until Vernon Wells doubled with two outs in the sixth inning. Toronto finished with three hits off six pitchers.

Blue Jays starter Joey Hamilton gave up two runs and three hits over two innings.

The Blue Jays host the Phillies at Grant Field this afternoon. Chris Carpenter gets the start against Randy Wolf. -- MARK DIDTLER

Daal adds good start to good finish

CLEARWATER -- For Omar Daal, 2001 surely could not have gotten here quickly enough.

And, so far, so good.

Daal, a 19-game loser a year ago with Philadelphia and Arizona, pitched two perfect innings with two strikeouts in the Phillies' spring training opener, an 11-1 win over Kansas City.

Last year Daal was given the option to sit out after reaching 19 losses but pressed on, earning a no-decision and a win in his final two starts -- and respect from new manager Larry Bowa.

"This kid showed me something," Bowa said. "He could very easily have folded up shop and said, "I had a tough year, I'm not losing 20.' "

IN THE ZONE: Robert Person started against the Royals and turned in two scoreless innings. The right-handed power pitcher may be one of the few in the league who could take advantage of the new higher strike zone, but Bowa would not want to see him try it all the time.

"Person out of our rotation is probably the only guy that we would advocate to go up there with two strikes, he's got a little extra on it," Bowa said. "But I'd still like to see him pitch down."

NOTES: Phillies batters also got off to a good start as Bobby Abreu, Scott Rolen and Brian R. Hunter all homered. ... Former Tarpon Springs High pitcher Kris Wilson pitched two perfect innings for Kansas City. ... Randy Wolf will start today for the Phillies in a 1:05 game against Toronto at Dunedin. -- JOHN SCHWARB

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