Rookie Ryan Klesko had three hits and one of Atlanta's four home runs in a 10-5 victory Thursday over the University of Georgia in the Braves' exhibition opener at their camp in West Palm Beach. Klesko, who is battling rookies Tony Tarasco and Chipper Jones for the leftfield job, hit a 430-foot homer to centerfield. Rookie outfielders Mike Kelly and Troy Hughes and rookie catcher Javier Lopez also homered in the 12-hit attack against seven Georgia pitchers. Rookie second baseman Ramon Caraballo had an RBI double and sacrifice fly.
LOS ANGELES: Outfielder Darryl Strawberry says nothing will disrupt his 1994 season, despite a report that he faces an indictment for alleged income tax evasion. He declined to comment on the investigation by the Internal Revenue Service directly. However, he did say he is not worried about anything derailing his plans for a strong comeback from the back problems that sidelined him for most of the last two seasons. "Things happen," Strawberry said. "There are different ways you deal with them. I've always dealt with them. There is nothing I should be afraid of or run and hide from." According to Wednesday's New York Daily News, government investigators say Strawberry did not report in excess of $300,000 in income derived from signing autographs at baseball card and memorabilia shows when he played for the New York Mets (1983-90). If convicted, Strawberry faces a possible prison term. Tim Wallach hit a three-run home run and Mike Piazza added a two-run homer in an intrasquad game. Pitcher Pedro Astacio was cleared to play after heart tests.
PITTSBURGH: Orlando Merced homered and doubled and Alejandro Pena got a save in his return from a yearlong absence in host Pittsburgh's 7-5 victory over Minnesota at Bradenton. Merced, the subject of off-season trade rumors, hit a three-run homer in the third inning off loser Keith Garagozzo to give Pirates the lead for good at 4-2. He added a two-run double off Rick Aguilera in the fifth, and the Pirates extended their lead to 6-3. Pena, who missed last season after elbow surgery, retired Minnesota in order in the ninth, striking out two. Andy Van Slyke went 3-for-3 for the Pirates and Carlos Garcia added two hits in the exhibition opener for both teams.
_ TIMES WIRES