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La Russa sets rest of rotation

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa decided the rest of his rotation after RHP Todd Stottlemyre, his Opening Day starter.

RHP Mark Petkovsek will start on April 2 at Montreal and RHP Alan Benes will start there April 3. At Houston, LHP Donovan Osborne will pitch April 4 and RHP Matt Morris on April 5.

"There were a lot of different formulas that we could have used, but this is the one we came up with," La Russa said. "It really doesn't matter who's the No.

1 starter, No.

2 and so on, because whoever's on the mound is king for that day."

Osborne was 3-0 against the Astros last year in four starts and didn't seem to mind his assignment at No.

4.

"Whenever it's my turn, I'm going," Osborne said. "It doesn't matter if I'm first or fifth, we all get our chance.

Morris, who was 12-12 at Double-A Arkansas last season, is likely the fifth starter while RHP Andy Benes and LHP Danny Jackson are on the disabled list. Both are expected back after the first two weeks of the season.

"He's a better pitcher this year," La Russa said of Morris. "This is a good opportunity for him. You have to get out there and take your best shot."

Osborne looked impressive in the Cardinals' 8-3 win over the Yankees. He pitched six innings, giving up three hits and one run.

"I still have to work on the curveball," Osborne said. "It kind of left me today. I got some pitches too far inside, but other than that it wasn't too bad."

Most of the Cardinals spent Wednesday's off day playing golf or enjoying the weather. La Russa spent it with his family in Oakland. He flew there after Tuesday's game and arrived back in St. Petersburg at 6:30 a.m. Thursday.

Morris will start against Phillies RHP Tyler Green today at Clearwater.

_ RODNEY PAGE, TIMES WIRES

Gooden goes cold for a day

ST. PETERSBURG _ Yankees RHP Dwight Gooden had four impressive outings this spring, but his fifth start, against the Cardinals Thursday, was not memorable.

Gooden, who had a 1.06 ERA in 17 innings, gave up five earned runs and 10 hits in six innings.

"It was bound to happen," Gooden said. "You hate to have a day like today. Things weren't in synch for me. I just didn't want to be the first one to take a beating." The full rotation has been solid.

Unlike last season, Gooden is a lock for the rotation. Because of that, he said, he's able to relax this spring.

"It's a good feeling to have," he said. "Things aren't under the microscope like they were last year. I can do my work and know that no matter what, I'm in the rotation."

New York manager Joe Torre said he will name his Opening Day starter today.

1B Cecil Fielder took Thursday off, but Torre said it wasn't because of an injury. "I like to give a different guy a day off each day," Torre said.

LHP Kenny Rogers faces Tigers RHP Omar Olivares today at Legends Field.

_ RODNEY PAGE

Sierra's numbers hardly cleaning up

The last two teams that had OF Ruben Sierra gave up on him. With less than 10 days left in training camp, he has done little to impress his latest employer.

Projected as the Reds' leftfielder and cleanup hitter, Sierra was batting only .163 with a pair of homers and six RBI in 16 games through Wednesday. Although the Reds insist he will come around, manager Ray Knight quietly dropped him in the batting order to see how others fare in the No.

4 spot.

Knight paused to find the right words when asked about Sierra's performance. "I guess I would have to say fairly that there's still some question there with Ruben, just based upon what we've seen this spring," he said. "My gut feeling tells me he's going to be fine."

Sierra's output has declined the past few years. He bottomed out in 1996, when he hit .258 with the Yankees and .222 for the Tigers. Overall he had 12 homers in 142 games last season.

Sierra, 31, says he usually struggles in spring training, so there's no reason for alarm. "When the season starts, things are going to be different," he said.

_ TIMES WIRES

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