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AROUND THE AL // AROUND THE NL

Published Jul. 6, 2006

ANGELS: In a gloomy spring for the Anaheim mound staff, RHP Jason Dickson has provided a bright spot. Dickson, 1-4 after making his major-league debut for the Angels last season, is 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA on a staff that has been ripped for an average of about eight runs this spring. Although he has made just seven major-league appearances, Dickson will fill in the No. 2 spot in the rotation until Chuck Finley comes back from an injury, possibly in mid-April.

"I got some experience last year, and I've had a pretty decent spring and I feel pretty confident," Dickson said. "I think I'm ready to go."

OF Kevin Bass, trying to return to the majors after a season away, was sent to the minor-league camp. Bass, 37, batted .176 with a home run and three RBI in eight games. LHP Jim Abbott may be considering a buyout of the remaining two years and $5.6-million on his contract. If he refuses a minor-league assignment, Anaheim will release him and be required to pay him the balance.

MARINERS: A line drive left LHP Randy Johnson with a swollen left triceps, but he was happy after going five innings, his longest spring start. "I feel better," said Johnson, who had back surgery. "Physically, it was better than my other games."

Jose Cruz Jr., the team's top minor-league prospect, will start the season at Triple-A Tacoma. Seattle also optioned LHP Tim Davis to Tacoma and released RHP Rusty Meacham ane OF Lou Frazier. Lee Tinsley and Rich Amaral will open the season platooning in leftfield, and LHP Greg McCarthy will be in the bullpen.

ORIOLES: Jeff Reboulet, signed as a free agent in the off-season, will start at second base on Opening Day in place of Roberto Alomar, who will begin the season serving a five-game suspension for spitting at umpire John Hirschbeck in September. Reboulet entered camp in a battle with Kelly Gruber and Manny Alexander for the right to start Tuesday against the Royals at Camden Yards. Alexander was traded; Gruber, who struggled in the early going, likely will start the season at Triple-A Rochester.

C Tim Laker was claimed off waivers from the Expos. He missed last season while undergoing three elbow operations. "I feel like I've recovered 100 percent, or close to it," he said. RHP Hector Ramirez was sent to Rochester, RHP Brian Williams was assigned to the minor-league camp and INF Danny Magee, a Rule V draft selection, was returned to the Braves organization.

RED SOX: CEO John Harrington, who also is the head of baseball's realignment and expansion committee, said he would "have an open mind" about leaving the AL if the leagues realign after the 1998 season. "The fans wouldn't like it and I can understand that, but for the good of the game I could be convinced," Harrington said, adding it isn't likely to happen. No team can be forced to change leagues.

Harrington also said he was bothered by the emergence of statistical consultant Michael Gimbel, a computer guru and New York water bureau worker who claimed he was behind many of the team's recent acquisitions. "Some things have to change," Harrington said. RHP Carlos Valdez was purchased from the Giants.

ROYALS: Bob Hamelin, who hit 24 home runs in 1994 and was named AL Rookie of the Year, was released. Today is the last day teams can waive players without being responsible for the entire 1997 salaries; the Royals must pay Hamelin $174,000 instead of the full $700,000 he signed. Kansas City also released RHP Bob Scanlan, outrighted LHP Doug Johns to Triple A and sent LHP Derek Lilliquist to minor-league camp.

WHITE SOX: Red Sox Hall of Famer Ted Williams offered advice to Albert Belle: "He should try to make a fan out of everyone. It'll not only help him, but it will help baseball." Williams spoke to reporters in a conference call promoting an hourlong retrospective of his life, airing at 3 p.m. Sunday on Ch. 28.

Walking on crutches, 3B Robin Ventura visited his teammates in Sarasota and vowed to return as soon as possible from his broken left leg and dislocated ankle, suffered last week as he slid into home plate against the Red Sox. "I'm bummed out because I was really excited about playing this year," he said. "That's the way it goes. I just have to do whatever I can to rehabilitate it and get back on the field."

_ TIMES WIRES

CUBS: Kevin Tapani, expected to be the No.

2 starter, had his injured pitching hand examined in New York but "we're still trying to gather all the data," Chicago GM Ed Lynch said. "When we know everything, we'll sit down with Kevin and decide how to proceed." Tapani has a sprained ligament between his right index and middle fingers; options to correct it include rest and surgery.

DODGERS: Starter Ismael Valdes gave up 13 hits and 12 earned runs in 3 innings of a 20-7 loss to the Mets at Vero Beach, where a stiff wind blew out all afternoon. "I couldn't throw strikes," he said. "My slider, breaking ball, changeup and fastball were all wild. It was like they took a vacation."

EXPOS: LHP Carlos Perez, who missed last season because of shoulder surgery, held the Braves to one run on four hits in five innings, striking out four. "I feel like I did in 1995," he said, referring to his rookie season, when he was an All-Star. "I threw hard and used all my pitches. I'm not worried anymore about throwing hard."

METS: LHP Bill Pulsipher allowed a run in six innings in a Triple-A exhibition game, giving up five hits, walking none and striking out four. His mechanics, which the Mets want him to change to protect his surgically repaired elbow, improved dramatically from the first inning to his last, pitching coach Ray Rippelmeyer said.

GIANTS: 1B J.T. Snow, cleared to resume playing, had four hits in 11 at-bats in a simulated game at the minor-league camp. The at-bats were his first against live pitching since a March 11 beaning by Mariners LHP Randy Johnson left him with a fractured left eye socket. Snow wore clear plastic goggles for protection but showed no other signs of the injury. He said he hopes to be in the lineup on Opening Day against the Pirates, and team officials did not rule him out.

ROCKIES: RHP Jamey Wright was tagged for seven runs on seven hits in four innings against the Athletics. He gave up nine hits and five runs in five innings Thursday against the Giants after not allowing a run in his first six innings of work this spring.

Reliever Curtis Leskanic, who has not recovered fully from off-season shoulder surgery, will start the season on the disabled list. Pitcher Garvin Alston also was placed on the disabled list with an inflamed right elbow.

_ TIMES WIRES