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Longtime All-Star Fernandez joins Reds

The Reds signed free agent Tony Fernandez to a one-year minor-league contract Tuesday, leaving a logjam of players on the left side of the infield. Fernandez, 31, will join the Reds' major-league spring training camp today as a non-roster invitee.

"I think with him being available, it was an opportunity we just could not pass up. He's a man who's certainly capable of giving us some things we are missing," Reds manager Davey Johnson said.

Barry Larkin is a lock for the Reds at shortstop, Fernandez' primary position during his 11-year career. The other option for Fernandez lies at third base, where Willie Greene and Tim Costo have been splitting time.

"I'm going to do everything I can to give him the opportunity to play third base," Johnson said. "As far as I'm concerned, it's his job to lose."

Fernandez, who hit .306 in 94 games last year with World Series champion Toronto after a trade from the New York Mets, is a four-time All-Star and the winner of four Gold Glove awards.

Offense was the key for the Reds Tuesday. Cincinnati batted around in each of the first three innings at Clearwater, scoring 13 runs on 13 hits, and beat Philadelphia 14-13 on Adam Hydzu's pinch-hit homer off Roger Mason in the 10th.

Tim Pugh faces Rene Arocha when St. Louis visits today.


Kruk has surgery

CLEARWATER _ First baseman John Kruk underwent surgery at Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia to correct problems resulting from a groin injury.

The surgery lasted about an hour. Kruk probably will return to camp in Clearwater on Wednesday, and team doctor Phillip Marone said he will "take it easy for a couple of weeks." Marone will re-examine Kruk on Friday.

It was a bad day for pitchers Tuesday at Jack Russell Stadium, as the Phillies and Reds combined for 24 runs on 24 hits in the first three innings. Mariano Duncan had a three-run homer and five RBI for the Phils in the 14-13 loss.


Rookie power pays

ST. PETERSBURG _ Rookie catcher Carlos Del Gado is only two 2-for-10 this spring, but both hits have been home runs _ including an eighth-inning homer that tied the score at 4 in Toronto's 7-4 victory over Baltimore on Tuesday.

Del Gado has four RBI, continuing a trend he began in the minor leagues. The 22-year-old from Puerto Rico had 25 home runs and 102 RBI in 140 games last year at Knoxville of the Class AA Southern League.

Another rookie coming through in the clutch Tuesday was Rick Holifield, who hit 20 home runs in 127 games last year for Dunedin of the Class A Florida State League. Holifield's triple off Lee Smith with the bases loaded in the ninth won it for the visiting Blue Jays.

Dave Stewart pitches today for Toronto against Boston in a 1:05 game at Dunedin. Nate Minchey starts for the Red Sox.


Cards err badly

BRADENTON _ Errors by shortstop Tripp Cromer and leftfielder Gerald Young led to Pittsburgh's final two runs, and non-roster outfielder Darren Reed homered to help the Pirates beat St. Louis 4-3.

Reed, a former outfielder with the Expos and Mets, has missed two of the past four seasons with injuries. Luis Alicea homered in a two-run sixth that put the Cards up 3-2.


Mills regains touch

ST. PETERSBURG _ Alan Mills pitched three innings of hitless ball in the 7-4 loss to Toronto, but Lee Smith continues to disappoint.

Mills struck out two, walked one, and got the one runner with a double play. In his first start, Mills gave up three runs in two innings. Smith gave up two runs in two-thirds of an inning his first time out and three runs in one inning, the ninth, on Tuesday.

The Orioles entered the game as the top hitting team in the spring, at .336, and added 13 hits. Damon Buford, .228 in 53 games last season, went 2-for-4 for a spring mark of .500 (6-for-12).

Arthur Rhodes faces Cleveland's Dennis Martinez at Al Lang Stadium at 1:05 p.m. today.