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Cubs Give Top Prospect a Shot

<i> Associated Press</i>

Kerry Wood, the top pitching prospect in the Chicago Cubs’ minor league system, was called up from the minors to start Sunday’s game in Montreal.

Wood, 20, was the Cubs’ top selection and the fourth overall pick in the 1995 draft.

In his season debut this week with triple-A Iowa, Wood struck out 11 in five scoreless innings, giving up only one hit and two walks in a 7-2 win over Nashville.

Wood, with a fastball in the 95-mph range, was 21-11 in 55 minor league starts and had 340 strikeouts in 278 1/3 innings, an average of 11 strikeouts per nine innings.

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The Atlanta Braves will be without infielder Rafael Belliard for at least two months after putting the valuable backup on the 60-day disabled list because of a torn left quadriceps muscle.

The Braves purchased the contract of infielder Ray Holbert from triple-A Richmond to replace Belliard on the roster.

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Illness is forcing Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner to take an indefinite leave from his broadcasting job with the New York Mets.

Kiner’s wife, DiAnn, is undergoing bone marrow therapy for cancer, and he is having trouble with his speech.

The speech problem became apparent in November, and Kiner said he is improving. Earlier, the 75-year-old Kiner traced the problem to Bell’s palsy, but now he says it might also be the result of a slight stroke.

Kiner hit 369 home runs, most of them for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He has been broadcasting for the Mets on television and radio for 36 seasons.

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