* BELIEVE ME, I’VE HAD PRACTICE: Kansas City Royal starter David Cone, asked if he was tired when the team arrived at its hotel at 4 a.m. last week in Toronto: “Hey, it’s not the first time I got in at 4 in the morning.”

* WELL, MAYBE FIGURATIVELY SPEAKING: Cincinnati owner Marge Schott posted a note in the Reds’ clubhouse congratulating Barry Larkin and Jose Rijo for making the All-Star team, and included: “ . . . As far as I’m concerned, each and every one of you guys on my team are All-Stars.”

Kevin Mitchell stopped, stared, and said: “If I’m an All-Star, where’s my incentive bonus?”


* AND HOW WAS YOUR MONTH? Everything you wanted to know about the state of pitching was acutely exemplified in the last month by former Dodger Tim Leary.

Leary, 35, quit the triple-A Ottawa team on June 4 because the parent team, the Montreal Expos, wouldn’t promote him. He was suspended June 7, released June 23, told Beverly Hills Sports Council publicist Ken Gurnick over lunch June 24 that he probably would retire, got a tryout with the Texas Rangers on June 26 at Anaheim Stadium, joined them on July 2, and was in the starting rotation July 7.

And the Rangers are a first-place team.

* UH, WOULD YOU MIND COMING BACK? Oakland outfielder Geronimo Berroa, cast off by the Atlanta Braves and Florida Marlins, began the weekend with more RBIs, 52, than David Justice, 45, or Gary Sheffield, 48.

* REVOLUTIONIZING THE GAME: The Rangers are trying to become the first team in history to win with pitching and defense as dreadful as theirs. They began the second half with a 5.51 ERA. No team has ever won a title with an ERA of more than 4.74. And the Rangers rank last in fielding percentage.

“We’ve survived because of our division,” Ranger General Manager Tom Grieve said. “We haven’t survived for any other reason.”

* THE CHEESEHEAD TRIANGLE: Milwaukee shortstop Pat Listach, the 1992 rookie of the year who has not played since April 24 because of tendinitis in his left knee, might be moved to center field when he returns.


He would become the seventh consecutive Brewer shortstop to lose his job because of an injury, joining an elite club: Robin Yount, Ernest Riles, Edgar Diaz, Dale Sveum, Gary Sheffield and Billy Spiers.

* OOPS: Yes, that John Hudek who was pitching in the All-Star game Tuesday was the same guy the Detroit Tigers dropped from their 40-man roster last year to make room for Storm Davis.

* GOING, GOING . . . New York Yankee starter Jim Abbott is telling friends that he wants to play next season for the Detroit Tigers or the Angels, not necessarily in that order. The Yankees know they don’t have a prayer of keeping him.

* WHY NOT GIVE IT A TRY? Cleveland Manager Mike Hargrove on the best way to pitch to White Sox first baseman Frank Thomas: “Throw it 10 feet in front of the plate and hope he doesn’t hit it on the first hop.”

* NICE SCHEDULING: The Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox, the kingpins of the American League Central, are in midst of playing one another eight times in the next 11 days. But after July 24, they won’t see each other again.

“I wish they were in September,” White Sox Manager Gene Lamont said of the games.

* EVERYONE CARES BUT ME: Ken Griffey Jr., asked about the importance of breaking Roger Maris’ home run record: “I’d be proud to break the record, but when fans yell at me, ‘You’ll never break Maris’ record, I’m like, ‘Who cares?’ When I was standing in the outfield in Yankee Stadium, the fans were chanting Marrr-isss, Marrr-isss, Marrr-isss. I just raised my hands as though to say, ‘It’s out of my control.’ ”