White Sox Players Almost Refused Drug Test

From Associated Press

Sixteen members of the Chicago White Sox were ready to refuse a drug test Tuesday in hopes of making steroid testing mandatory.

The players ultimately decided to take the test after consulting with Gene Orza, the No. 2 official of the players' union.

"There were some ideas floating around that got shelved quickly. It wouldn't be fair to the union," Kelly Wunsch, Chicago's player representative, said in Tucson. "If we do anything to subvert that process then we would be unfair to the union, and what was agreed upon in the agreement.

"I made a few calls to clarify a couple of things, and then I came back and said, 'Let's take the test.' "

Under the new collective bargaining agreement, all players on 40-man rosters are given two announced tests for illegal steroids as part of a survey. If more than 5% test positive for steroids, "program" testing starts the following year and continues until less than 2.5% test positive in two consecutive years combined.

Players who refuse a test are automatically counted as having tested positive for steroids. By refusing to take the test, the White Sox apparently were trying to force more extensive testing.

"I think some of them were saying that they would like an equal playing field," said Wunsch, who refused to name the 16 players. "But no one turned in an essay on why they weren't going to take it."

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Philadelphia closer Jose Mesa is angry at former Cleveland teammate Omar Vizquel.

"If I face him, I'll hit him," Mesa said for a story published in Tuesday's edition of the Bucks County (Pa.) Courier Times. "I won't try to hit him in the head, but I'll hit him. And if he charges me, I'll kill him.

"If I face him 10 more times, I'll hit him 10 times. Every time."

The two were teammates on the Indians from 1992 to 1998. The teams are not scheduled to play during the regular season. Last year, Vizquel criticized Mesa in his autobiography, saying the reliever blew Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. Vizquel now says he didn't mean to insult Mesa in print.

"I didn't mean to do anything bad," Vizquel said. "I just wanted to let the fans know a little about what's going on out on the field."

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The widow of Baltimore pitcher Steve Bechler will be paid $450,000 in life insurance, Major League Baseball's pension committee decided.

Bechler died on Feb. 17 from heatstroke a day after collapsing during training camp. Bechler pitched in three games for the Orioles last September.

Under the old collective bargaining agreement, Bechler would have not have been covered by the life insurance because he had only 27 days of major league service. But under the deal agreed to last August, all players on 40-man rosters are covered.

The payment will be made to Kiley Bechler, the pitcher's widow, who is eight months pregnant.

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San Diego slugger Phil Nevin had arthroscopic surgery to repair his dislocated left shoulder and will likely be sidelined for the season.

Team doctors Dan Fronek and Heinz Hoenecke tightened the shoulder capsule and repaired the labrum, the cartilage that provides stability to the joint.

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Cleveland reliever Mark Wohlers was scheduled for exploratory elbow surgery Tuesday and will miss the start of the season.... Cincinnati pitcher Jose Rijo was scheduled for surgery Tuesday to remove bone spurs, the sixth elbow operation of his career. He should be able to pitch again in four weeks.... The New York Yankees optioned third baseman Drew Henson to triple-A Columbus.

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