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BASEBALL Ex-Marlin pitcher upset over book



Published: Mon, February 21, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Tony Saunders said if he hadn't broken his arm he wouldn't have been in it.

KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Former Florida Marlins pitcher Tony Saunders, who hasn't pitched in the major leagues in five years, found himself discussing steroid accusations Sunday rather than talking about his potential comeback with the Baltimore Orioles.

In a tell-all book, Jose Canseco suggests that steroid use was the reason Saunders broke his arm during a game in 1999.

"I talked to every specialist possible," said Saunders, who broke the same bone in his left, throwing arm in a minor league game in 2000, then retired. "Nobody can tell me why my arm broke, but I guess [Canseco] can.

"When my agent told me about the book, I thought that he was joking. When he read me the paragraph, I wasn't happy." That same day, Saunders had to face parents of his daughter's soccer team and players on the AAU baseball team he coaches and offer explanations.

Were never friends

Saunders said his locker was next to Canseco's for about six weeks with Tampa Bay in 1999, but he emphasized that they were not friends.

"[Canseco] says he'll challenge anybody to a polygraph test," Saunders said. "I'll take one anytime, anyplace and anywhere. I've got no reason to hide from anything. My reputation is on the line, and I'll challenge him any way possible to show how full of it he is.

"Then I heard that he would only do a polygraph if it's pay-per-view. That shows what his motives are to say something about anybody. If it didn't benefit Jose, he didn't mess with it. It's just a shame."

If he hadn't suffered the broken arm, Saunders is convinced his name wouldn't be in the book.

"My life went away," said Saunders. "I guarantee you if I never had that injury, I'm nowhere near the book. It is something everybody remembers, so he used a career-ending injury as a punch line for his book."

Wants to focus on comeback

Saunders said he expects the questions about the book to disappear soon, and he can focus on pitching again.

In December, after throwing with the AAU team he coaches in Tampa, Saunders, 30, decided his baseball life could be reborn. He signed a minor league contract with Baltimore.

"I said, 'Tony, you have done this before. Just be honest with me, and I'll watch and help you,' " pitching coach Ray Miller said after Sunday's first workout. "We'll see where he is and if he can help us."

Saunders said he felt strange being in a major league clubhouse. He showed up with a mustache and goatee. Miller told him the whiskers had to go. A few minutes later, his face was shaved clean.

"I'm further along than I thought I would be," Saunders said. "I have no timetable. I'll be ready when I'm ready.

Rushed first rehab

During his first rehabilitation, Saunders, then 26, was in a hurry to regain his spot in the majors. He rushed and didn't give the bone proper time to heal.

"It was the worst pain ever," Saunders said. "The bone has healed this time. I don't wonder 'why me?' or if it will happen again."

Saunders knows his days of throwing in the 90s, as he did with the Marlins, are past, but if he can pitch in the majors again, the whole ordeal will be easier to accept.

"Every organization talks about throwing in the 90s," Saunders said, "but a radar gun has never gotten a hitter out. I'm somewhere in the 80s, but I will depend on movement and location."

Saunders, the first pick in the 1998 expansion draft, keeps his 1997 Marlins World Series ring at home and wears it occasionally.

"I loved the organization," he said.




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