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PUJOLS' ELBOW CONCERNS CARDINALS

Manager Tony La Russa and the Cardinals' medical staff will keep a close eye on Albert Pujols' right elbow. The first baseman, who opted not to have surgery to repair a strained ligament after meeting with specialists, is less concerned.

"If it blows out, it's going to blow out," Pujols said. "You can't control that."

The Cardinals, though, will try.

Pujols arrived Friday, went through his first workout that afternoon and was in the batting cage Saturday morning. The injury has bothered Pujols since 2003, and it flared up last season.

"It didn't make sense having the surgery, and just clean it up when cleaning it up wasn't going to make it good," Pujols said. "It had to do (with) something in the ligament."

Pujols hit .327 with 32 home runs and 103 RBIs, but La Russa said he noticed something different with his swing.

"We'll definitely monitor it," La Russa said Saturday. "One of the biggest issues will be throwing, so we'll be on the careful side of really firing it.

"He could make a swing that could tweak it, too."

Lo Duca apologizes but doesn't elaborate

VIERA - Addressing his inclusion in the Mitchell report for the first time, Nationals catcher Paul Lo Duca acknowledged "a mistake" but didn't say what he was apologizing for.

The four-time All-Star's name appears 37 times in the report, which says he received shipments of human growth hormone. He issued a statement through the team Saturday morning that said: "In regards to Senator Mitchell's Report, I apologize ... for mistakes in judgment I made in the past."

Asked at a news conference Saturday afternoon if the Mitchell report was accurate about him, Lo Duca said: "I'm not going to comment on that."

When another reporter asked what he was apologizing for, Lo Duca replied, "Come on, bro, next question."

More drugs: The Rev. Al Sharpton thinks the government has pursued black athletes more aggressively than whites. He said Congressmen questioned Roger Clemens on Wednesday's as if "they were at a fan club meeting" while Barry Bonds was indicted for perjury related to grand jury steroids investigation.

Dodgers: Jason Schmidt, limited to six starts last season, had a pain-free bullpen session. Schmidt, who signed a $47-million, three-year deal, had surgery June 20 to repair an inflamed bursa, torn labrum and frayed biceps tendon in his right shoulder. Manager Joe Torre said he hopes Schmidt can be ready soon after opening day.

White Sox: Third baseman Joe Crede, limited to 47 games last season by back surgery, reported early but said he doesn't know how long he will be around. Josh Fields hit 23 homers in replacing him last season. Crede and general manager Ken Williams talked briefly, but Crede said there are no plans to discuss a long-term deal.

Obituary: Thomas Roberts, a prominent labor arbitrator, died in Palos Verdes Peninsula, Calif. He was 84. Mr. Roberts was best known for making Dodgers pitcher Fernando Valenzuela the first to earn a $1-million salary through arbitration in 1983 and in 1988 finding the owners guilty of colluding to prevent the movement of free-agents after the 1985 season. The owners agreed in 1990 to settle the cases for $280-million.

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