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Far off, Cards' Jordan can see the end

Now that he's mastered another professional sport, Brian Jordan is contemplating walking away again.

The Cardinals centerfielder, who started his professional athletic career as a safety for the NFL Falcons, turns 30 this month and is thinking about retirement.

"I'm hoping to get four or five more years in and be there for my kids," he said. "I played three years in the NFL and that pain took a lot out of my body, so I don't want to be around too long."

Jordan played for the Falcons from 1989-91 and in his last NFL season he was a Pro Bowl alternate. But he has been injured much more in baseball, where he wears no padding to soften the blows; he has played in more than 100 games in only the past two seasons. He missed the first two weeks of last season with a wrist injury incurred trying to make a diving catch in spring training, and it affected his power.

"The wrist is bothering me, but I've made the adjustment and I'm dealing with the pain," Jordan said. "It's probably as good as it's going to get."

Jordan was as good as the Cardinals got last year. He batted cleanup, hitting .310 with 17 home runs and a career-best 104 RBI. He had several big hits in the playoffs, with two game-winning home runs and 10 hits.

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Larkin gets cortisone shot in heel

Reds SS Barry Larkin was given a cortisone shot in his sore left heel and told to rest for a few days.

Larkin has missed the past week of games because of swelling at the base of the Achilles' tendon and in a bursa sac in the heel. The injury was diagnosed as tendinitis.

Doctors "did think there was a chance he'd be ready for Opening Day," GM Jim Bowden said.

Cincinnati sent minor-league INF Ray Brown to the Padres to complete the trade for reliever Joey Eischen.

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Amaro adds three hits to hot run

WINTER HAVEN _ OF Ruben Amaro raised his average to .385 with three hits in four at-bats as the Phillies routed the Indians 9-3.

Amaro hit a two-run homer off Danny Graves in the seventh to give the Phillies a 5-1 lead.

Last season Amaro appeared in 61 games for Philadelphia, hitting .316.

C Bobby Estalella and OF Brent Bowers were sent to the minors, leaving 36 players in camp.

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Gaston senses inequity in regard

DUNEDIN _ Although the Blue Jays' Cito Gaston and the Cardinals' Tony La Russa are among the most successful managers in the game, Toronto outfielder Joe Carter doubts they'll ever be seen as equals.

La Russa has won the World Series and six division championships in his 18 years with three teams. Gaston has won the World Series twice and the AL East four times in his eight seasons.

La Russa has three Manager of the Year Awards. Gaston has none.

Carter, who has played for Gaston since 1991, said he knows why: "Cito doesn't get the respect he deserves and it's all because he's black."

Gaston said that's a significant reason he's never won any post-season honors. "You'd swear we'd never won anything," he said. "I don't think I've gotten enough credit."

The Cardinals media guide says La Russa is "regarded by his peers as one of the game's top managers." La Russa said the description could apply just as easily to Gaston. "He's an outstanding manager and anybody in a uniform knows that," La Russa said. "Cito didn't stumble into two world championships."

Baseball's only other minority managers have been recognized. The Giants' Dusty Baker and Rockies' Don Baylor, who are black, have won NL Manager of the Year awards. So has the Expos' Felipe Alou, who is Dominican.

La Russa said all minority managers _ not just Gaston _ command respect. "You can walk up to anybody right now and ask them how well do Dusty, Cito and Don manage," he said. "And they'd all tell you they're as good as anybody."

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Pitchers maintain hope for bullpen

TAMPA _ The Yankees won't miss bullpen anchor John Wetteland, several of the team's pitchers say.

"I think the bullpen is stronger this year than it was last year," starter Andy Pettitte said.

The formula for success was simple last season: Manager Joe Torre counted on getting six innings from his starter, then three outs from anyone available before turning the ball over to setup man Mariano Rivera and Wetteland. Wetteland led the league in saves with 43.

Wetteland signed with the Rangers in the off-season. Replacing him is not expected to be the problem; Rivera had a 2.09 ERA in 107 innings last season.

Middle relief, though, could be tricky. Jeff Nelson, late-season acquisitions Graeme Lloyd and David Weathers and newcomer Mike Stanton will set up by committee.

Lloyd was awful down the stretch. Pitching with an elbow problem, he went 0-2 with a 17.47 ERA, allowing 12 runs in 5 innings. Healthy, the 6-foot-7 Australian shined in the World Series, allowing one hit in five innings. The confidence he gained will help entering this season, he said.

Weathers also struggled during the regular season, going 0-2 with a 9.35 ERA. Like Lloyd, he reversed his fortunes in the World Series, going 2-0 with a 0.84 ERA in 10 innings.

So far, so good in spring training, said Nelson, who has his eyes set on a second straight championship. "With what I've seen, there's no reason why we shouldn't win it again," he said.

_ TIMES WIRES

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