BASEBALL / DAILY REPORT : DODGERS : Piazza Says He Is More Mature

Mike Piazza hits the ball so hard and so high that it is sometimes difficult to remember that at 25, he is still a kid. The thing is, he was hitting the ball nearly as well when he was 15. His strength notwithstanding, Piazza has matured, both as a hitter and as a person. He still beats up his batting helmet, but sometimes this season when he finds himself reaching for it in disgust, he thinks for a moment and says, "Nah . . ."

"Maturity encompasses so many areas of life both on and off the field, then there is dealing with the ups and down of the game . . . dealing with the media, " said Piazza, who heads to the All-Star game batting .325 with 76 runs batted in and 21 home runs.

"Then you have a little slide and it's such big news. In the minors, it's like, so what? But here, you are under a microscope. I'm not complaining, it's just an observation. You have to separate yourself from it or mentally it could get to you. I can see how it can affect somebody."

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Manager Tom Lasorda removed Pedro Astacio from the game for pinch-hitter Chris Gwynn in the seventh inning with two out, none on and the Dodgers trailing, 2-1. Gwynn struck out against the Mets' Bret Saberhagen.

"Astacio threw a great game, and made one bad pitch," Saberhagen said, referring to Rico Brogna's two-run homer in the second inning. "He was probably better than I was. He didn't have as many guys on base and he only gave up two hits. He had a lot of strikeouts (10) keeping everybody off balance. So it was kind of nice to get him out of there after seven."

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Left-handed reliever Brian Barnes was optioned to triple-A Albuquerque to make room for Jim Gott, who is expected to return to the bullpen when the team begins the second half in Philadelphia on Thursday. The move leaves Omar Daal as the only left-hander on the Dodger staff.

Barnes, who was obtained from the Cleveland Indians on June 16 for minor leaguer Eddie Lantigua, gave up four runs and 10 hits in five innings for a 7.20 earned-run average.

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