George Steinbrenner was said to be furious at the Braves for sending only three members of their 25-man roster to Tampa for last weekend's exhibition game against the Yankees. None of the NL champions' major stars were in the lineup, and not even manager Bobby Cox chose to make the 75-mile bus ride from Kissimmee.
According to members of the organization, Steinbrenner, "went ballistic" when he saw the Braves anonymous lineup. The Yankees went on to a 23-7 rout.
The problem of skeleton-teams showing up for away games is widespread enough to have attracted the attention of the Commissioner's Office. Sandy Alderson has sent a second notice to teams -- emphasizing the message in an early mandate this spring -- that at least four regulars or significant platoon players must be in every starting lineup.
"We reminded clubs of their obligations," Alderson said. ...
The Jim Edmonds rumors are still flowing, but Edmonds is still an Angel. He's exhausted thinking about his situation. Sure, he'd love to play for the Yankees, but he doesn't see that happening.
"Everybody says, `You're getting traded' but our front office says `No,' " Edmonds said. "Who do you believe? I've heard him (Angels GM Bill Stoneman) say I'll be in the opening day lineup but then I hear he's calling everyone about me. I'm not naive. I know what's going on out there." ...
In March, Randy Johnson can laugh about it. Johnson, the Diamondbacks ace and defending NL Cy Young Award winner, was the Big Mess on Wednesday, not the Big Unit. The Anaheim Angels hammered Johnson on their way to a 15-9 victory.
Eight Anaheim batters faced Johnson in the fourth inning, and all eight scored. Troy Glaus' two-run homer finished the damage, handing Johnson this line: three official innings, 12 hits, 11 runs (all earned), two walks, one strikeout, two homers allowed and a hit batter.
"I stunk," Johnson said. "Everything I threw was down the middle of the plate, and they hit it."
Said catcher Damian Miller: "I don't think it was HIM pitching today. His fastball wasn't there. Mentally I don't think he was there either. He wasn't completely into it." ...
The Red Sox have not pitched a perfect game in nearly a century. If spring training games counted, the Sox would have put an end to that streak last week. In a 5-0 victory over the Blue Jays that began with Pedro Martinez and ended with Rod Beck, Boston pitchers retired all 27 hitters they faced in a game at City of Palms Park. Several Red Sox players said they were unaware of the feat until the end of the game, when catcher Joe Siddall ran out to the mound to greet Beck.
"I don't care if it's spring training or not," Siddall said. "We've got a lot of pride, and we're trying to do the best we can. Everybody strives for perfection, and to achieve it is an accomplishment."
Following Martinez, who struck out six in three perfect innings, the Sox got a pair of scoreless innings from right-hander Fernando De La Cruz. Right-hander Dan Smith then pitched a scoreless sixth inning before lefty Rheal Cormier took over for the seventh. Then came Rich Garces and Beck.
As it is, the Red Sox have not laid claim to a perfect game since 1904, when Cy Young accomplished the feat. The Red Sox have not pitch a no-hitter, in fact, since right-hander Dave Morehead did so in 1965. ...
The only good to come from trading Carl Everett from Houston, said Jeff Bagwell, is that at least the Red Sox got him.
"If he had to get traded, the best thing possible was for him to be traded to the Red Sox," said Bagwell, a native New Englander who was traded from the Red Sox in August 1990. "I root for them anyway."
For Red Sox fans who still are unfamiliar with what they are getting in Everett, Bagwell, Houston's star first baseman, simply said: "They are getting a great guy who they are going to love as a center fielder.
"He was the best player I ever saw play all of last year," said Bagwell. "He was just incredible for us last year. He's got everything -- he plays the game as hard as anyone I've seen. He runs hard and he plays hard, every day. I have only positive things to say about him as a player and a person." ...
PLAYING THROUGH PAIN
Mark Grace will spend the next three to five weeks playing while recovering from a broken finger (the middle one) on his right hand. He suffered the injury last Thursday against San Franciso, but stayed in the game long enough to hit a home run.
"I should have done it years ago," Grace said. "I hit a home run with it. If I'd have known that, I would have taken a hammer to it every year."
There's no question about Grace's toughness. He remained as the Cubs' Opening Day first baseman in 1997 after breaking a big toe one day earlier.
"It's going to be like when I broke my toe," Grace said of his latest injury. "It's going to be, `What's your pain threshold and how much can you take?' Well, I grew up with an older brother. I've got some pain threshold." ...
Dr. James Andrews cleared Indians center fielder Kenny Lofton to start a throwing program. He was the DH in a AAA intrasquad game, getting an at-bat every half inning.
"That was the first day of spring training for me," said Lofton. "It's the first time I've faced a live arm since Pedro Martinez in Game 5."
Lofton dislocated his left shoulder and tore his rotator cuff with a head first slide in Game 5 of the Division Series. He stole "four or five bases" in the intrasquad game, sliding feet first every time.