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Players go own ways, avoid looking too ready

While the immediate future of baseball continues to be batted across negotiating tables in New York, players are finding different ways to spend their time. Many have stayed north during the lockout, opting to exercise in health clubs, take batting practice in high school gyms, and do their running in the snow. Others have come anyway to Florida and Arizona, joining the players who live in the sunshine for some light hitting, pitching, and conditioning drills. Some have taken union chief Don Fehr's advice to "go fishing and play golf."

One thing the players won't do is conduct organized workouts.

"The way we're approaching it is to treat it just like an extended off-season," Toronto pitcher and player representative John Cerutti said. "We'll keep ourselves in shape like we've been doing the past three months. There might be two, three guys getting together, but I won't be calling any team workouts. In fact, I've suggested against that."

Their reasoning is that organized workouts would send the wrong message to the owners: that the players would be ready at a moment's notice to report to camp and start the season.

"I don't think we need to have 10 guys together having batting practice, running mini-camps," Cerutti said. "We're locked out of spring training. We'll just keep ourselves in shape and be ready for the time when they open the camps."

"This way the owners can't see the ballplayers working out, so they can't keep messing with them," said pitcher Danny Cox, St. Louis' player representative.

Some players said they learned from the 1987 NFL strike, when football teams staged full-squad workouts in nearby facilities while the owners used replacement players to continue the season.

"We do not want to make the huge mistake the NFL players did. We won't be working out together, wearing matching attire," Cardinals outfielder John Morris said. "To show the owners how anxious we are to play would be a mistake."

Cox said the players are determined to get a full month of spring training before opening the season, no matter when the labor dispute is settled, meaning that the April 2 opening day could be in jeopardy if the dispute drags on.

"You can get ready on your own," Cox said, "but you still need time to get ready as a team, to work on relays, bunt plays, fundamentals. That's what spring training is for."

Get serious: A few Minnesota Twins apparently found it tough to keep their minds on baseball during a recent workout at an indoor sports facility in Minnetonka, Minn. After taking a few turns in the batting cage, Kirby Puckett picked up a basketball and started dunking _ through an 8{-foot-high basket. Tim Laudner grabbed a hockey stick and faced off with teammate/goalie Kent Hrbek.

Unarmed: The security men hired to monitor the spring training camps for compliance with the lockout are actually more like monitors than true guards, baseball spokesman Rich Levin said. "We told them to leave their Uzis at the gate."

Buddies: Pitchers Danny Cox and John Tudor, both recovering from arm injuries, are sharing a St. Petersburg apartment and working out together. Said Cox: "We're the tendon twins."

One solution: Bobby Owen, supposedly the premier whittler in Lynchburg, Tenn., has a suggestion. Claiming there is nothing like whittling wood for "calming your nerves and inducing straight thinking," Owen is planning to send whittling kits to owners negotiator Chuck O'Connor and players union chief Fehr. Owen, a tour guide at the Jack Daniel Distillery, is shipping them a knife, a piece of cedar wood, and his guide to whittling. Owen plans to send the same set to commissioner Fay Vincent.

Big swinger: Milwaukee's Robin Yount won the pro-am long-drive competition at the recent Phoenix Open with a blast of 315 yards. Kansas City's Mark Davis was second at 292. "This is not as easy at it looks," Yount said of his 8-handicap golf game. "Give me the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth."

Still working: Bucky Dent was on the field Friday, wearing his Yankees uniform and instructing players on the techniques of infield play. But instead of addressing the Yankees as manager, Dent was teaching youngsters at his baseball school in Delray Beach. "It's the same game, same things," Dent said. "Just different talent."

Miscellany: Minnesota Vikings running back D.J. Dozier, who worked out last spring in the New York Mets' camp, is considering a minor-league contract from the Twins. The Seattle Mariners are in the process of selecting a mascot for the first time. The five finalists: a mongoose, a moose, a sea serpent, a baseball, and a seal.