Astros: Greg Swindell, who attended high school in Houston, solved his ticket dilemma by leasing a 16-seat sky box at the Astrodome. . . . Jeff Juden, a starting pitcher in the minor leagues and the first pick in the 1989 amateur draft, says he is willing to be a reliever if it means making the team. There are six candidates for the No. 5 spot in the rotation: right-handers

Juden, Darryl Kile, Brian Williams, Jason Grimsley and Shane Reynolds and left-hander Dean Hartgraves.

Braves: Catcher Francisco Cabrera was a no-show for the second straight day. . . . The club has offered two-sport star Deion Sanders a three-year deal worth about $8 million. If Sanders doesn't agree to a multi-year deal, he must accept whatever the club offers him in salary for this season because he has fewer than three years of major-league experience.

Cardinals: Rookie pitcher Rene Arocha, considered a strong candidate to make the roster, became the first training camp casualty. Arocha was struck on the right hand while practicing bunting. Precautionary X-rays were taken. . . . Catcher Hector Villanueva was the Caribbean World Series Most Valuable Player in in Mazatlan, Mexico.

Cubs: Shortstop Shawon Dunston isn't sure if back pain will keep him on the bench on Opening Day. "I can't tell you if I'm ready to go. I'm not going to lie to myself anymore. I'm not going to lie to the Cubs anymore," he said. "You have to tell the truth. This [herniated disk] is not an ordinary injury." . . . Greg Hibbard, resting a minor groin pull, didn't throw Saturday.

Dodgers: Pitching coach Ron Perranoski said Ramon Martinez's mechanics are back to normal. "Last season we would get Ramon straightened out and then he would get out of kilter again," he said. "Last season his fastball would not react the same way; he would be over here and over there. Now, his fastball is moving the same way."

Giants: Right-hander Bill Swift, who finished the season in the bullpen, likely will be the Opening Day starter, manager Dusty Baker said. Trevor Wilson would follow Swift. . . . Right-hander Dave Burba (7-0 in the Venezuelan Winter League) was the first spring casualty, developing soreness in his left leg. "I don't think it's serious," Baker said. "He has to curtail some running and drills." Burba will throw and ride a stationary bike. He reported to camp at 230 pounds, 20 lighter than last year. . . . Outfielder Calvin Murray, the club's No. 1 draft pick last year out of the University of Texas, is working out as a non-roster player.

Marlins: Four position players came in Saturday: shortstop Walt Weiss, second baseman Bret Barberie, third baseman Gary Scott and outfielder Monty Fariss.

Mets: Bret Saberhagen's agent, Dennis Gilbert, is scheduled to arrive in camp this week to begin negotiating a contract extension. Already, GM Al Harazin contacted Gilbert to discuss length of term: The Mets offered three, Saberhagen asked for five. The money issue will be raised later.

Padres: Manager Jim Riggleman has narrowed his search for a closer to Roger Mason, Jeremy Hernandez, Tim Scott and Gene Harris. All are right-handers. Only Mason, who saved eight games for the Pirates last season, has had extended time in the major leagues. . . . Center fielder Darrin Jackson remains on the trading block. General manager Joe McIlvaine says his $2.1 million salary is an obstacle.

Phillies: Jose DeJesus, recuperating from rotator-cuff surgery, hasn't pitched since a minor-league game last March. "Last year I felt some pain on the third day of camp and I rushed, trying to get back," he said. "I probably shouldn't have done that."

Pirates: Zane Smith, expected to be the club's top left-handed starter, can't throw longer than 30 feet without pain. He's recovering from arthroscopic surgery Nov. 10 to repair a slight tear in his rotator cuff and probably won't throw off a mound for another couple of weeks.

Reds: Starter Tom Browning, who is wearing a bulky brace on the left knee he tore up in a July 1 home-plate crash last year, needed baggier pants to allow room for the brace. Rick Stowe, an assistant manager of the team's equipment, solved the problem by finding pants that muscular outfielder Glenn Braggs wore when he was with the Reds last year. "Braggs' legs were as big around as a tree trunk," Stowe said.

Rockies: Ex-Brewer Darren Holmes, projected as the team's closer, has been ordered to rest until back spasms disappear. . . . Colorado leads the majors with 63 players in camp, including 36 pitchers. It has 37 exhibition games scheduled, including seven days of split-squad games. "We've got a lot of decisions to make," general manager Bob Gebhard said. "We're not looking at one or two positions."


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