Thu, Feb 17, 2005 - Page 20 News List

Spring training in US has rough start

AMERICAN BASEBALL The Nationals, Yankees and Reds opened camp while the topic of steroids remained uppermost on the minds of MLB players

AP , TAMPA, FLORIDA

Not even the first day of pitchers and catchers could supplant the talk of steroids and syringes in baseball.

Steroids were the No. 1 topic Tuesday, when the new Washington Nationals, the New York Yankees and the Cincinnati Reds opened camp.

"It doesn't go away, unfortunately," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.

Seven more teams were to report to spring training Wednesday, and workouts begin Thursday -- 45 days before the World Series champion Boston Red Sox and Yankees play the major league opener April 3. The Minnesota Twins will be the last team to report, on Sunday.

Ken Griffey Jr. ran for the Reds' medical staff in Sarasota, showing how far he has recovered from surgery on his torn right hamstring. Pedro Martinez, an early arrival at the New York Mets' camp, worked out in Port St. Lucie. And Trot Nixon kept up the Yankees-Red Sox sniping, saying of Alex Rodriguez: "He can't stand up to [Derek] Jeter in my book or Bernie Williams or [Jorge] Posada."

The Nationals had the most complicated journey to spring training. After 36 seasons as the Montreal Expos, the team morphed into Washington's first major league team since the expansion Senators became the Texas Rangers after the 1971 season.

Owned by major league baseball since early 2002, the team was uncertain of its fate for three seasons before the move to the nation's capital was finalized in December.

As camps opened, there was a new steroid report. The New York Daily News said Tuesday that an FBI agent in Ann Arbor, Michigan, told baseball security head Kevin Hallinan about 10 years ago that Jose Canseco and other players were using illegal anabolic steroids.

"I alerted Major League Baseball back in the time when we had a case, that Canseco was a heavy user and that they should be aware of it," Special Agent Greg Stejskal was quoted as saying. "I spoke to the people in their security office, Hallinan was one of the people I spoke to."

Calls to Stejskal's office in Ann Arbor and to FBI headquarters in Washington were referred to the Detroit FBI office, where spokeswoman Agent Dawn Clenney said Stejskal and the agency would have nothing to say.

"I don't think I was off-base with anything I said," Stejskal told the Daily News in Wednesday's editions.

Hallinan was traveling and didn't return telephone calls seeking comment. He told the News he never was contacted then about steroid use.

"I have absolute confidence in his integrity," Sandy Alderson, executive vice president for baseball operations in the commissioner's office, said of Hallinan. "We are looking into the situation described by the agent to see if we can figure out what exactly took place. There may have been someone else he talked to. There are a number of possibilities. We want to see if there is some reasonable view of his explanation and Kevin's."

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