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Yankees: Derek Jeter wanted to say it loud and clear: He is not a party animal. Just two hours after



Published: Fri, February 21, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Yankees: Derek Jeter wanted to say it loud and clear: He is not a party animal. Just two hours after officially reporting for spring training, the shortstop planted himself in the dugout at Legends Field, and said he wanted to put owner George Steinbrenner's comments behind. The five-time All-Star said he was irritated not at Steinbrenner for questioning his focus in public, but with the New York Daily News for running a "PARTY ON" backpage headline that portrayed him as a king of the night rather than prince of the Bronx. "The No. 1 concern I had is I didn't want Yankee fans to be thinking that I could care less whether we win or lose," he said. "The way it was painted was that I've lost focus and I'm going to continue to indulge in New York City nightlife and things like that, so that's when I felt the need to say something."

Cubs: The Sammy Sosa watch is over. The right fielder, usually late for spring training, told manager Dusty Baker he would arrive at camp on time this year. Sosa was expected to fly into Phoenix today, the day position players are due to report, Baker said. For the past several years, Sosa has made a habit of arriving from his home in the Dominican Republic several days after his teammates reported. Although never technically late for spring training, Sosa's absence was always noticed. The 34-year-old outfielder attributed his tardy arrival to superstition and a fondness for the same routine. Beginning in 1998, he has had seasons of 66, 63, 50, 64 and 49 home runs, winning the NL home run title in 2002 and 2000.

Giants: Closer Robb Nen threw off a mound Monday for the first time since having offseason shoulder surgery. Nen, who had 43 saves and was an All-Star last season, played long toss with trainer Stan Conte and also with roving catching instructor Kirt Manwaring. Nen threw 23 pitches off the bullpen mound at Scottsdale Stadium. Left-hander Jason Christiansen also worked with the group and threw off the mound for the first time since undergoing ligament reconstructive surgery on his left elbow last May 30. The Giants hope he can return to the field June 1.

Marlins: Ace A.J. Burnett will miss the first couple of workouts while his salary arbitration case is resolved. Burnett asked for $3.075 million this season, while the Marlins offered $2.5 million. The hearing was scheduled for today in Tampa. Burnett led the major leagues last year with five shutouts and led the Marlins with 12 wins.

Twins: Pitcher Rick Reed and non-roster invitee Jose Cabrera were missing from the team's first official workout. Reed went home to Ohio to be with a sick child, and Cabrera is having trouble getting the visa he needs to leave his native Dominican Republic.

Expos: Pitcher Javier Vazquez went to arbitration Monday, asking a panel to award him $7.15 million instead of $6 million. Vazquez, a 26-year-old right-hander, made $4,775,000 last year, when he went 10-13 with a 3.91 ERA in 34 starts for the Expos. A decision by arbitrators Elisabeth Neumeier, Dan Brent and Matthew Finkin was expected today or Wednesday.

Dodgers: Pitcher Kevin Brown didn't show up Monday, but the team insisted that wasn't a problem. Brown, who struggled through an injury-plagued 2002 season, reportedly was going to be at the team's spring training facility. When he didn't show, the team said it wasn't concerned. "He doesn't have to be here until the 26th of February. It's the player's option," general manager Dan Evans said. The biggest question is what kind of physical condition Brown is in. He had a pair of stints on the disabled list last year because of a sore elbow and back problems. He was 3-4 with a 4.81 ERA in just 17 games before ending the year in September with a back injury. Reliever Eric Gagne had an ultrasound taken on his right groin Monday, after feeling tightness recently. Gagne, who recorded a team-record 52 saves last season, had a bullpen session in the morning, then went for the test following that. Right-hander Andy Ashby sat out drills for the second consecutive day with stiffness in his lower back.




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