AROUND THE HORN Spring training news and notes
Phillies: Pitcher Jose Mesa insists he has no intention of harming Cleveland Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel. "I was hurt by remarks by a former teammate," Mesa said in a statement Thursday. "I would never injure anyone." That's not what Mesa told the Bucks County (Pa.) Courier Times this week. "If I face him, I'll hit him," he was quoted in the newspaper. "I won't try to hit him in the head, but I'll hit him. And if he charges me, I'll kill him." Bob Watson, baseball's vice president for on-field operations, is investigating. Last year, Vizquel criticized Mesa in his autobiography, "Omar! My Life On and Off the Field", for failing to hold a 2-1 ninth-inning lead in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. Cleveland lost to Florida 3-2 in 11 innings. Vizquel now says he didn't mean to insult Mesa in print.
Orioles: A coroner blamed ephedra for contributing to the heatstroke death of pitcher Steve Bechler, and the finding renewed debate about the safety of the diet supplement. Toxicology tests confirmed that "significant amounts" of an over-the-counter supplement containing the herb led to Bechler's heatstroke, along with other factors, Broward County medical examiner Dr. Joshua Perper said Thursday.
No Olympics: Commissioner Bud Selig all but ruled out participation of major leaguers in the 2004 Athens Games, saying the sport cannot interrupt its season. "The Olympic situation is quite difficult," Selig said Thursday at the World Congress of Sports. "The ebb and flow of the game is critical, and we can't disturb that." In November, the International Olympic Committee put off until after the 2004 Games any vote on dropping baseball from the 2008 Olympic schedule. International Baseball Federation president Aldo Notari said last year that the sport would be willing to shorten its Olympic schedule from 11 days to five, which could make the games more attractive to the major leagues. But Selig sounded as if any interruption to the regular season was close to impossible.
Hall of Fame: Bob Uecker, the popular Milwaukee Brewers' announcer who parlayed humor about his career as a backup catcher into celebrity that extended way beyond baseball, was chosen Thursday for induction into the broadcasters' wing of the Hall of Fame. Uecker will join former players Eddie Murray and Gary Carter and Dayton Daily News writer Hal McCoy for the festivities in Cooperstown, N.Y., on July 27.
Royals: Carlos Beltran has a strained muscle on his right side and said he will miss one to two weeks. Beltran missed the last three spring training games and an MRI on Thursday revealed a strained oblique muscle.
Yankees: Second baseman Alfonso Soriano has recovered enough from tendinitis in his right shoulder to be the designated hitter today against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Soriano, who has missed the last eight games, might play in the field early next week. Soriano also missed the first three games this spring with a sore shoulder.
Athletics: Barry Zito will pitch the season opener in Japan, and the AL Cy Young winner also might pitch the home opener a week later. Zito, who went 23-5 with a 2.75 ERA last season, got the nod from manager Ken Macha on Thursday after throwing 91 pitches in an intrasquad game on the A's day off.