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© St. Petersburg Times, published April 6, 2001


Emotional Hart says he will step down as Cleveland GM

CLEVELAND -- In 10 years, John Hart built the Indians from a punch line into a power. And now that the club is on top, Hart wants to enjoy the view.

Hart, who inherited a team that lost 105 games in 1991, announced Thursday that he will step down as general manager on Nov. 1 and be replaced by his assistant, Mark Shapiro.

"I wanted to make sure this was the right time for the organization," Hart said during an emotional news conference at Jacobs Field. "There are no hidden agendas here. It's just the right time. We've had a pretty good run. This organization is in great shape."

Hart, 52, can be credited for much of Cleveland's success. He is under contract to remain with the club as a special consultant through 2005.

Hart said he had been thinking about moving on two years ago.

"Everyone knows about the great teams we have put together in Cleveland," Hart said. "We have developed very strong front office people, and Mark is one of those people. This is not a blow up at all, but it's an ongoing continuation of something that has been very special."

Hart, who choked up several times, said burnout is not a factor: "I've got a passion for what I do. I'm energized. It's just the right time."

Hart would not rule out returning with another team.

"You never say never," said Hart, who lives in Florida during the off-season.

JAPANESE PRIDE IN NOMO: Pride in Hideo Nomo swelled in Japan after his no-hitter against the Orioles on Wednesday. One sports newspaper printed extra editions, and the game was on the front page of all other major evening papers. "Seeing this, I realize my country isn't ready for the garbage heap just yet," said Tokyo cook Hiroyuki Miyazaki, 28. "He makes me proud to be Japanese."

BREWERS: President Bush will throw out the first pitch as Miller Park formally opens tonight with a game against the Reds. Rain is forecast for the first evening opener in the Brewers' 31-year history, but fans don't have to worry about the weather. The crowning feature of the nearly $400-million stadium is a seven-paneled roof that will be closed when the doors open. On Thursday, statues of Hank Aaron and Robin Yount were unveiled on the home plate plaza out front.

EXPOS: Former stars Rusty Staub and Gary Carter each will throw out a first pitch at tonight's home opener.

METS: At the suggestion of Darryl Hamilton and other veterans, players will cover the costs of the funeral and burial of Brian Cole, the 22-year-old minor-league outfielder who was killed Saturday in a highway accident in Florida. General manager Steve Phillips said as much after he returned from the Meridian, Miss., home of Cole's parents. Phillips visited them, presenting them the uniform their son wore during spring training and his minor-league uniform. His uniform number, 6, is being retired by the St. Lucie Mets, and his initials are being added to Mets minor-league uniforms. A scholarship fund is being created in Cole's name, and there are plans for moments of silence at home openers throughout the organization.

PIRATES: Left-hander Terry Mulholland went on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained ligament in his left knee. Mulholland sprained his medial collateral ligament Wednesday when he landed awkwardly while pitching. The top three starters -- Kris Benson, Francisco Cordova and Jason Schmidt -- will miss at least a few more weeks with spring training injuries. Right-hander Bill Taylor, who went 1-3 with an 8.56 ERA for Tampa Bay last season, was recalled from Triple A.

RED SOX: Catcher Jason Varitek agreed to a three-year, $14.9-million extension through 2004. "We have our superstars," Varitek said, "but somebody has to do the dirty work."

TIGERS: Catcher Mitch Meluskey had shoulder surgery and will miss the season.

YANKEES: Shortstop Derek Jeter is one workout away from returning to the team for Saturday's game against Toronto. Playing in a six-inning intersquad game at the Tampa minor-league complex Thursday, Jeter went 2-for-4 and scored three runs. He had no errors and participated in two double plays. "No problems," he said of his strained right quad muscle. Ramiro Mendoza, on the DL after arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder, pitched two shutout innings, allowing two hits and striking out two on 23 pitches, 19 of them strikes. Outfielder Shane Spencer, recovering from right knee surgery, didn't play. He is scheduled to play today.

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