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AROUND THE NL

CUBS: RHP Kevin Tapani will have his ailing pitching hand evaluated by a specialist today in New York. Tapani, who hasn't pitched this spring because of a sprained ligament in his right index finger, will meet with Dr. Richard Eaton. He is expected to rejoin the team for Wednesday's workout.

EXPOS: RHP Jeff Juden allowed one run and four hits in five innings, and INF Andy Stankiewicz had a run-scoring triple in a three-run fifth in a 6-4 win over the visiting Red Sox.

MARLINS: Visiting Florida increased its record to 22-4, the best this exhibition season, with a 7-6 come-from-behind win over the Astros. Free-agent acquisition RHP Alex Fernandez (2-1) allowed seven hits and two earned runs to pick up the victory.

METS: Former replacement RHP Rick Reed has been told he will start the season. Reed, a replacement player for the Reds during spring training in 1995, is scheduled to start New York's fifth game of the regular season on April 5 in San Francisco.

PADRES: OFs Phil Plantier and Mark Smith were reassigned to Triple-A Las Vegas. . Plantier, 27, batted .323 with one home run and 10 RBI in 15 games this spring. Japanese baseball officials have told major-league officials they intend to write to several independent-league teams and tell them they can't sign Hideki Irabu because the Chiba Lotte Marines have reserved his rights. The Padres obtained Irabu's rights from the Marines in January, but Irabu repeatedly has said he will sign only with the Yankees. Irabu returned to Japan on Wednesday after the Padres failed to trade his rights to the Yankees. Japanese officials said even if Irabu sits out 1997, Chiba Lotte will retain his rights. LHP Sterling Hitchcock left after four innings with a slight groin pull.

_ TIMES WIRES

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