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Johnson's a hit as he homers for Colorado

On the first pitch he saw in his first game as a Rockies player, Howard Johnson hit a three-run homer. Johnson also had a sacrifice fly in Thursday's intrasquad game. "I really wasn't going to swing at the first pitch," Johnson said. "I wanted to take a couple pitches and see the ball. But in that situation, with a man on third base and nobody out, I wasn't going to let a good ball to hit go by. So I just jumped on it." Johnson, a Clearwater native who played the past nine seasons for the New York Mets and signed with Colorado as a free agent in November, led the National League in homers (38) and RBI (117) in 1991 but was injured and slumped the past two seasons. He hasn't played since breaking his thumb July 22. Manager Don Baylor said Johnson "swung the bat real well today. I'm sure it was exciting for him, even though it was just an intrasquad game. The first pitch he saw he hit out of the ballpark. I hope that happens April 4 (Opening Day)." The Rockies open their exhibition season today against the California Angels in Tempe, Ariz.

CHICAGO: Mike Morgan, who reported a week late because of his mother's serious illness, was to return to Las Vegas this week to be with her, but he is still scheduled to be the Cubs' opening-day pitcher. Morgan also was cut above the eye this week during bunting drills.

FLORIDA: Darrell Whitmore and Nigel Wilson hit back-to-back homers, and Gary Sheffield was 2-for-3 with two doubles and an RBI, in an intrasquad game. Charlie Hough started for the winning side, pitching two innings and giving up one hit and no runs.

HOUSTON: Heavy rains around Kissimmee chased the team indoors this week, but Wednesday's workout was going to be shortened anyway for a charity golf tournament.

MONTREAL: Manager Felipe Alou is toying with the idea of moving outfielder Marquis Grissom into the third slot in the batting order, with Mike Lansing ready to assume Grissom's leadoff spot _ as well as the second base position vacated by Delino DeShields, now with Los Angeles.

NEW YORK: Bret Saberhagen missed a scheduled start because of mild stiffness in his right shoulder. Saberhagen was set to pitch two innings of an intrasquad game but David Dines, a team physician, suggested he skip the contest. Saberhagen said he will throw again Saturday before pitching in a "B" game Monday against Los Angeles. Saberhagen, 29, is coming off two injury-plagued seasons. He had surgery on his left knee and right elbow last year and has started just 34 games with New York.

SAN DIEGO: Derek Bell, who criticized management last season for getting rid of stars such as Gary Sheffield, Fred McGriff and Bruce Hurst, says his unhappiness is behind him. "I don't want to get traded," he said. "I love San Diego."

SAN FRANCISCO: Mike Jackson will be the Giants' fourth pitcher in today's Cactus League opener against the Cubs. In last year's spring opener, Jackson put Cubs' star Ryne Sandberg on the sidelines for two months when he broke his hand with a pitch. "That was last year," Giants manager Dusty Baker said. "Sandberg probably won't be in there anyway so late in the game."

_ TIMES WIRES

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