Royals' Gibson returns, dismisses 1-day absence


Outfielder Kirk Gibson, who failed to show up for Saturday's workout, returned to Kansas City Royals spring training camp yesterday, saying his absence was unimportant.

"It doesn't matter," said Gibson, who is unhappy with his role as a backup. "It's not a big deal really. There's nothing to say about it."

Gibson, signed last winter to a two-year, $3.65 million contract, hit .236 with 16 home runs and 55 RBI in 1991. It was intended that he would be the designated hitter, but he was moved to left field when George Brett hurt his knee and returned as the DH.

Brett is back at DH this season. The Royals have a surplus of outfielders, with Keith Miller, Brian McRae and Kevin McReynolds set to start and Jim Eisenreich, Chris Gwynn and Gary Thurman competing with Gibson for the backup positions.

* RANGERS: Outfielder Ruben Sierra has increased his price for a five-year contract from $27.5 million to $30 million.

Texas rejected the $27.5 million proposal last month and went to arbitration, where Sierra was awarded a $5 million, one-year contract, the highest in arbitration.

* RED SOX: Roger Clemens had still not reported to spring training camp, a full week after he was expected. But his teammates continue to build a little shrine to the missing star.

Among the items added to the red carpet leading to his booth in the locker room was a milk carton with a baseball card of Clemens attached, and the caption: "Have you seen this pitcher?"

A "Waldo" book, usually used by kids to search for the title character in drawings dense with people, had Clemens' name taped over the title, thus making it "The Great Roger Search."

A helium balloon was hung that carried the message: "Welcome back. We missed you."

Clemens had said in an interview last week that he was working out and that if he were at camp he would just be standing around spitting out sunflower seeds.

Clemens has said he will report by the Basic Agreement deadline, which is Wednesday. But he has not called to say why he is staying away.

Meanwhile, general manager Lou Gorman said first baseman Carlos Quintana, who broke his left arm in a car accident last week in Venezuela, will be brought to Boston in about a week for examination by team doctor Arthur Pappas.

* ATHLETICS: Third baseman Carney Lansford said he almost retired at the end of last season, but two factors led him to change his mind.

"Actually, had the team done well last year, I might have retired," said Lansford, who missed all but five games last season due to a snowmobile accident on New Year's Eve 1990 that left his left knee mangled and in need of reconstructive surgery.

When his team struggled to an 84-78 record and a fourth-place finish in the American League West, it was a major disappointment for a team that had won the pennant the three previous seasons. So, the 14-year veteran decided to give another year to his game.

"Everybody is back and it's something like a last shot for us," said Lansford, aware that the team will change after this season because it has so many free agents.

* CUBS: All-Star second baseman Ryne Sandberg gave the team a deadline of 12:01 a.m. to reach a deal or end negotiations on a long-term deal. Sandberg is eligible for free agency at the end of the season.

* BREWERS: For the first time since undergoing rotator cuff surgery in August, Teddy Higuera pitched from the mound.

Higuera, 33, a left-hander who missed much of the 1991 season with the injury, threw 50 pitches.

* CARDINALS: Outfielder Felix Jose was coming and Don Baylor was going when they were teammates at Oakland in 1989.

But they're reunited now in St. Louis' training camp. Jose, an All-Star last year, also contended for the batting title, which he could win this season, says Baylor, now the Cardinals' hitting coach.

Jose, 26, wound up 1991 with a .305 average, 40 doubles and 77 RBI.

"Felix is such a natural hitter," Baylor said. "You could see the potential [in Oakland]. It's unlimited."

Jose came to St. Louis in the August 1990 trade for Willie McGee.

"I'll take a .280 average and try to hit for more power," Jose said.

* METS: Manager Jeff Torborg was scheduled to have arthroscopic surgery on his left knee today and miss one day of spring training.

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