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Reds, Pirates Release Portugal and Schourek

From Staff and Wire Reports

The Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates found their fifth starters Wednesday, forcing Mark Portugal and Pete Schourek to look for new jobs.

Three days after announcing that Portugal was their fifth starter, the Reds changed their minds and released him.

The Pirates did the same with Schourek, who thought he had earned the No. 5 spot in Pittsburgh’s rotation with a strong outing a day before.

The about-face stunned Portugal, rotation replacement Rob Bell and a clubhouse full of teammates who thought the pitching staff was set. Portugal’s rough outing Tuesday prompted General Manager Jim Bowden to change his mind.

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Portugal had a 4.50 earned-run average when Bowden announced he’d won the fifth starter’s job. His Tuesday outing raised his ERA to 6.00, still the second-lowest in a rotation that has struggled this spring.

“They didn’t really get into some of the reasons, but I just think the timing [is] kind of weird,” Portugal said.

The Pirates, convinced that Schourek was no longer the pitcher who won 18 games for the Reds in 1995, released the left-hander and gave rookie left-hander Jimmy Anderson the job.

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Doctors told Bret Saberhagen after his off-season shoulder surgery he wouldn’t be pitching for the Boston Red Sox until July at the earliest.

The timetable has been adjusted.

The 35-year-old right-hander says he’ll be back by May 15, and he insists his projection isn’t the product of wishful thinking, or a foolish acceleration of his rehabilitation from surgery on a torn rotator cuff.

He says his shoulder feels stronger now than before the operation.

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Manager Jimy Williams, however, said the team will be cautious about Saberhagen’s return.

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Colorado closer Jerry Dipoto, who has a bulging disk below his neck, threw comfortably from about 180 feet and could be ready to pitch for the Rockies by their home opener April 10.

The Rockies originally planned to be without Dipoto until at least May 1.

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The Atlanta Braves, looking for help for their starting rotation, signed veteran right-hander John Burkett.

Burkett had spent most of the spring with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who had signed him to a minor league contract. He pitched for Tampa Bay on Tuesday, giving up two runs in four innings, then was released.

The Braves are set with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Kevin Millwood as their top three starters, but are without John Smoltz, one of their stalwarts for the past decade, who is sidelined for the season after undergoing elbow surgery.

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Recently acquired right-hander Rodney Myers was put on the 15-day disabled list after an MRI exam showed the San Diego Padre reliever has a partially torn right rotator cuff.

The move comes a day after the Padres announced they were trying to rework their trade with the Chicago Cubs because of Myers’ injury.

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Yorkis Perez was acquired by the Houston Astros from the Philadelphia Phillies for Trever Miller in a swap of left-handed relievers.

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Key lawmakers in Minnesota expressed dismay that former Gov. Arne Carlson and top aides admit in a new book they concocted a phony threat to move the Twins to force a legislative vote on a publicly funded stadium.

The disclosure--which legislators said confirmed long-held suspicions about a deal to move the Twins to North Carolina--comes in “Stadium Games: Fifty Years of Big League Greed and Bush League Boondoggles” by Jay Weiner, a reporter for the Star Tribune of Minneapolis. It says the idea for the ruse came from Carlson’s chief of staff, Bernie Omann.

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