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AROUND THE AL

ANGELS: The work of starting pitcher Shigetoshi Hasegawa was a bright spot in an 8-1 loss to the Cubs. The Japanese right-hander gave up six hits and three runs _ two earned _ in five innings. He is a candidate to pitch Opening Day in place of injured LHP Chuck Finley.

RHP Mark Gubicza, out for two weeks because of a sore shoulder, will pitch Friday. Closer Troy Percival, who suffered severe back spasms and numbness in his arm last week, will pitch Thursday.

BREWERS: RHP Jose Mercedes, competing for a spot on the big-league roster, retired all 10 batters he faced in a 17-5 win over the Mariners. A bill limiting taxpayer money for a new stadium to the original total of $160-million was passed by a Wisconsin Senate committee despite warnings it could jeopardize the project.

INDIANS: Closer Jose Mesa returned to Cleveland so he can attend today's preliminary hearing on rape and other charges. Manager Mike Hargrove said Mesa will return today after the hearing; the Indians don't know whether Mesa will be available for the start of the season April 2 at Oakland.

Mesa, 30, has pleaded innocent to one count of rape, two counts of gross sexual imposition, one count of felonious assault and one count of carrying a concealed weapon. His lawyers have asked a judge to throw out the pitcher's arrest, alleging police used a ruse to take Mesa into custody and did not advise him of his rights.

ORIOLES: Umpire John Hirschbeck, who was spit upon by 2B Roberto Alomar in September, worked an Orioles game for the first time this spring. But Alomar did not play against the Red Sox at Fort Myers because he has a sprained left ankle.

RANGERS: Veteran RHP Kevin Gross agreed to a minor-league contract contingent upon his passing a physical in the next day or two. Gross, 35, had off-season surgery to repair a torn ligament in his lower back, which kept him off the post-season roster. Because the Rangers did not offer him arbitration, he can't sign a major-league contract with them before May 1. Gross went 11-8 with a 5.22 ERA last season, starting 19 games.

OF Lonell Roberts' contract was transferred from Tulsa of the Texas League to Knoxville of the Southern League, an affiliate of the Blue Jays. Roberts, acquired from the Blue Jays in November for a player to be named, is being returned because the teams couldn't reach agreement on the player to be named.

RED SOX: RHP Tom Gordon will pitch Opening Day, the job abdicated by Roger Clemens when he signed with the Blue Jays. The rest of the rotation will consist of Tim Wakefield, Aaron Sele, Steve Avery and John Wasdin, who came to Boston in an off-season trade for Jose Canseco.

The No.

4 position of Avery, making $4.75-million, was a bit of a surprise. He's lined up to start the home opener April 11, instead of the April 2 opener in Anaheim, likely because his 7.27 ERA this spring didn't compare to Gordon's 0.61.

_ TIMES WIRES

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