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AROUND THE AL

WHITE SOX: 3B Robin Ventura broke his leg and severely dislocated his right ankle sliding into home plate against Boston. He will be sidelined at least three months. Ventura tried to score from second base on Ray Durham's single to left, but was thrown out to end the fourth inning. After catcher Bill Haselman applied the tag, Ventura did not get up, holding his leg in the air with his ankle gruesomely twisted. "I saw guys wave to the dugout, but I didn't want to see it," said shortstop Ozzie Guillen, Ventura's best friend on the team. "I didn't have the guts to see it." Ventura's wife, visibly shaken, came onto the field but was escorted away by White Sox personnel while medics attended to the 29-year-old player. After an attempt to realign Ventura's leg on the field, he was taken off on a stretcher. James Boscardin, the senior team physician, realigned Ventura's leg and hooked him to an intravenous tube inside the clubhouse. Ventura was scheduled to have surgery today for a compound fracture of the tibula and fibula.

MARINERS: Randy Johnson won't be ready Opening Day, but he's scheduled to start the third game, against Boston on April 4. "Every time I go out there and I get deeper into the game, it's encouraging," Johnson said. "To not have any aches or pains that evening or the next day that don't go away, it's been encouraging." Johnson, returning from back surgery, threw 69 pitches in 4 innings against the Cubs on Thursday. "As long as I take steps like this, I'll be fine," said Johnson, whose fastball was clocked at 98 mph. "Trying to push myself might not be a good idea right now."

INDIANS: Charles Nagy, who started the All-Star Game last season, will start on Opening Day at Oakland. "He was our No.

1 guy last year," manager Mike Hargrove said. "He deserves it." Nagy will be followed in the rotation by Orel Hershiser, Jack McDowell and Chad Ogea. Shortstop Omar Vizquel, slowed by tendinitis in his right rotator cuff, might return Sunday. "Omar is progressing nicely," general manager John Hart said. 2B Tony Fernandez has been bothered by tendinitis in his left rotator cuff. "Hopefully by Sunday, you'll see a semblance of the Indians," Hart said. "We would like to get the team together for a few days before the season starts."

ORIOLES: General manager Pat Gillick doesn't expect to sign pitcher Mike Mussina to a contract extension before Opening Day. That means Mussina likely will be a free agent next winter, since both sides have vowed to cut off contract negotiations when the regular season begins April 1. "I'm disappointed because it wasn't like I was asking for that much," Mussina said. "I thought I was being completely reasonable." Mussina is seeking a four-year contract with a present-day value of $28-million.

ATHLETICS: Geronimo Berroa had three hits, including his fourth homer, and three RBI as Oakland pounded five Seattle pitchers for 23 hits in a 14-4 win. LHP Matt Dunbar and RHPs Jay Witasick and Steve Montgomery were optioned to Triple-A Edmonton.

ROYALS: Starter Jamie Brewington allowed one run and four hits in three innings in a 3-2 win over the Indians.

_ TIMES WIRES

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