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Posted: Sunday, April 27, 2003 12:31 am | Updated: 1:37 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

WHO'S HOT

Cleveland starters: Indians rotation went into weekend series at Oakland with a 3.82 ERA, fifth-best in the AL.

Seattle: Have to deal with injury to closer Kazuhiro Sasaki.

Jason Jennings: Last year's NL Rookie of the Year is 1-3 with a 7.92 ERA for Colorado.

Toronto: Blew two 3-0 leads at Tampa Bay last week.

OVERHEARD

White Sox right-hander Esteban Loaiza (4-0 with a 1.24 ERA): “I can't even say that I have a favorite pitch right now, because all of them are getting people out.”

Detroit's Dean Palmer, who is off to a .145 start after missing the second half of 2001 and virtually all of last season: “It's a lot harder than I thought it would be.”

Seattle left-hander Jamie Moyer, who recently struck out Anaheim's David Eckstein on a 65 mph curve: “I've seen catchers throw the ball back to the pitchers at 55, 60 mph. I don't see why, in the right situation, that couldn't be enough.”

Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi: “It's like a machine we've got going. As soon as some of the other guys get cold, I'm going to get hot. And then (Derek) Jeter is going to be back. That's what a machine does — it never stops. That's us. This could go on all year.”

UNDERSTOOD

Former Diamondbacks prospect Nick Bierbrodt has lost his spot in Tampa Bay's rotation after compiling a 13.19 ERA. And to think the Devil Rays traded Albie Lopez for this guy.

The Yankees have beaten the Twins 13 straight times since a loss on May 10, 2001. In the streak — the longest for one team over the other in 101 years of play — New York has out-homered Minnesota 31-3.

Los Angeles is finally tired of not seeing third baseman Adrian Beltre realize his potential, benching him at times. The Dodgers might be willing to deal Beltre, but he is still only 24 and could eventually blossom.

Cincinnati has moved Aaron Boone from second base back to third, where he played before this year. But Boone could shift again when Russell Branyan comes off the disabled list — or could stay put and Felipe Lopez or Juan Castro could claim an infield spot.

MLB tells teams it's OK to go to Toronto

No baseball player has won the Nobel Prize for medicine. That streak should continue.

Baseball's penchant for overreaction — What? A tie in the All-Star game? That problem must be fixed! — has extended to clubhouses in relation to SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome).

The World Health Organization issued a travel advisory, warning against all non-essential travel to Toronto. Officials there, worried about the impact on the local economy, protested vehemently. In fact, Saturday's editions of The (Toronto) Globe and Mail reported that the only new cases of SARS in the area since April 9 have been in health-care workers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is telling Americans that it is OK to travel to Toronto and simply to avoid health-care facilities and wash one's hands often.

There have been 19 SARS deaths in the Toronto area, which has a population of 5 million.

Yet baseball players always believe they can overcome such long odds. Blue Jays pitcher Cory Lidle sent his wife back to their Las Vegas home, with no plans for her to return to Toronto.

“There are a lot of guys in this clubhouse who don't want to go there,” Pittsburgh catcher Jason Kendall said.

“Short and simple, I want to stay here,” Pirates pitcher Scott Sauerbeck said. “I have two kids at home that I have to see right after that trip. I'm not going to risk infecting them.”

Boston does not go to Toronto again until May 30, but Red Sox players are already saying they plan not to leave their hotel rooms except for the games.

“I don't want to go to Toronto,” right fielder Trot Nixon said. “That's no offense to the people of Toronto, but this thing is scary. All you can do is pray that the Centers for Disease Control and the health organizations can come up with something to eliminate it.”

Seems to me that many a ballplayer visits places after hours on the road much more dangerous than Toronto, SARS or no SARS.

“Toronto is not quarantined,” Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Godfrey said. “As a city, it's OK. It's business as usual. We're still open for business.”

Major League Baseball did take some steps to combat the ignorance. MLB held conference calls to advise officials from teams scheduled to visit Toronto. The message to players was to refrain from signing autographs, riding Toronto's transit system or visiting Ontario hospitals.

“The best thing to do is separate fact from fiction,” Texas trainer Jamie Reed said. “My job is to put the guys in the healthiest atmosphere possible and protect them from danger. That's why we're doing this conference call, to give them the best information we can.''

SPRINGER FORWARD

Russ Springer, a Diamondbacks expansion draft pick who returned for an injury-plagued second stint with the team, has made a comeback with St. Louis.

Springer signed a two-year, $3.9 million contract with Arizona before the 2000 season. After 52 appearances in 2000, his 2001 season ended in late May.

D-Backs team physician Michael Lee eventually repaired a torn rotator cuff and torn labrum, tightened the shoulder capsule, removed a bone spur, shaved off some bone and removed a bursa sac.

“He did a great job,” Springer said.

Springer wound up sitting out all of last year, driving 60 miles round trip from his rural Louisiana home for rehabilitation five days a week for 13 months. After a strong showing in winter ball in Puerto Rico (2.12 ERA, six saves in 17 games), Springer signed a minor-league deal with the Cardinals and pitched his way onto the team in spring training.

“This (St. Louis) is where I wanted to play,” he said. “As a visitor I always liked coming here. It's pretty close to home. I can see my family more. And I thought this had the makings of a winning team.

“It was all worth it. My body was telling me I wasn't finished.”

In eight games (through Friday), Springer, 34, has a 4.66 ERA. All five runs he has allowed have come on home runs; he has held hitters to a .194 average.

WASTED ON THE YOUNG

Home runs are almost as rare as wins for the Detroit Tigers. So when Dmitri Young homered off Oakland's Tim Hudson on Wednesday, Young threw a bit of a party.

“He acted like it was a game-winner,” Hudson complained. “He's hitting, what, .067? He needs to get a couple more hits before he does that.”

Young had little sympathy for Hudson, whose team is among the AL favorites.

“What's he worried about?” Young said. “He's one of the best.

“We've been struggling all year, I'm trying to get this team pumped up. . . . He's fortunate he's on a team that's going to win 100 games, not lose.”

PHICKLE PHANS

Andrew Deffley, a 19-year-old Temple University student, serves as the batboy for visiting teams in Philadelphia. While working with Colorado on Wednesday, Deffley was being heckled by fans, so he faked tossing a ball into the crowd.

Of course, the boos grew louder and louder. So in the seventh inning, Deffley gave the fans a ball. Then another. Then another. Then came a standing ovation. And two curtain calls.

“I never thought,” Deffley said, “I'd get a standing ovation at a major sporting venue.”

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