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Lofton Could Be Ready for Season

Associated Press

Kenny Lofton, who originally was expected to be sidelined until the All-Star break after undergoing off-season shoulder surgery, was back in the Cleveland Indians’ lineup for the first time this spring on Saturday.

And if his remarkable recuperative powers continue, he may be back in center field on opening day in Baltimore on April 3.

“I’d like to,” he said. “But it’s tough to say. I don’t want to have a setback between now and then.”

Batting in his familiar leadoff spot as the Indians’ designated hitter, Lofton went one for three with two walks and scored twice in Cleveland’s 7-3 exhibition victory over the Detroit Tigers at Winter Haven, Fla.

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Facing C.J. Nitkowski, Lofton blooped a single to left field in his first at-bat and scored when Omar Vizquel doubled into the left-field corner.

“It was good to be back on the big field,” said Lofton, who had been limited to a designated hitter role in some minor league games.

Lofton, who is signed with the Indians through 2000 with a club option for next year, tore a rotator cuff while diving headfirst into first base during Game 5 of the American League division series against Boston last October.

“I’m feeling good physically,” he said. “But it’s still a day-to-day thing. I can’t say I’m surprised that I came back this quickly because I’ve never had any kind of surgery like this before.”

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San Diego Padre outfielder Al Martin, charged with hitting and threatening an Arizona woman who claims to be his wife, also is accused of being the father of a Kansas woman’s two children.

In documents filed in Allegheny County (Pa.) Common Pleas Court in December, Shelly Y. Dillard, 29, of Overland Park, Kan., says Martin is the father of her 3-year-old son and 19-month-old daughter.

Martin was ordered to appear in the court’s Family Division on April 3--the day the Padres open the season in New York--to respond to Dillard’s child support request.

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However, since Martin no longer lives in Pittsburgh, the case probably will not proceed in the Allegheny County court system. About six weeks after the documents were filed, Martin was traded by the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Padres.

In the documents, Dillard contends Martin sent her $5,000 to $7,500 every month to six weeks in 1998 and 1999 to pay for the children’s clothing, food and other needs. The affidavit does not say if those payments have stopped.

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Sammy Sosa stepped off the bus and into another world.

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Old men bowed when he walked into the hotel lobby. Young women in flowery kimonos asked for his autograph.

Bleary-eyed after an 18-hour trip from the Chicago Cubs’ spring training camp in Mesa, Ariz., to Tokyo, the slugger still managed a smile after his team arrived Saturday afternoon.

“I’ll wake up now,” he said. “I feel happy here.”

He’s already a huge star in Japan--his picture is plastered all over television commercials, subway posters and convenience store signs. A customs agent at Narita airport struck the pose of a hitter at the mere mention of his name.

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Sellout crowds are expected Wednesday and Thursday nights at the Tokyo Dome when the Cubs and New York Mets open the major league season, and Sosa is the main reason. He was the most valuable player of an all-star team that toured Japan in 1998, right after his home-run race with Mark McGwire attracted worldwide attention.

Met left-hander Mike Hampton will throw the first pitch of the 2000 season on Wednesday (2 a.m. PST). Before then, he planned to see the shrines and perhaps go shopping in the famous Ginza district.

“I’m going to experience the city and culture, and embrace it,” he said.

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Jim Edmonds went one for three in his first game for St. Louis as the Cardinals fell to the Baltimore Orioles, 5-3, at Jupiter, Fla.

Edmonds, acquired from the Angels on Thursday for Kent Bottenfield and Adam Kennedy, batted second and had a run-scoring single in the second inning.

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Orlando Hernandez will start for the New York Yankees in their opener April 3 against the Angels at Edison Field. Roger Clemens and David Cone will start the other games against the Angels.

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