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Burying the hatchet, Gaston says Mussina will pitch in


PITTSBURGH -- It's over. The feud is history. Growing ancient, almost.

Toronto Blue Jays and American League manager Cito Gaston said yesterday that Orioles ace Mike Mussina definitely will pitch in tonight's All-Star Game at Three Rivers Stadium.

"That was last year," Gaston said. "This is this year. Let's just hope we can put that in the past. I'm not one who holds grudges and I hope everyone understands that."

Mussina, 25 and a member of the AL All-Star team for the third consecutive season, certainly appeared to understand.

He was cracking joke after joke about his relationship with Gaston, one year after Gaston left him sitting in the bullpen at Camden Yards and Mussina stood up and warmed up without being asked to do so.

"The sooner it can be taken care of, the better for him and for me," said Mussina.

It will be taken care of tonight, when Gaston backs up New York Yankees left-hander Jimmy Key with Kansas City Royals right-hander David Cone, Mussina and Seattle Mariners left-hander Randy Johnson, the only pitchers Gaston said definitely will appear.

"I would certainly like to get guys in the game who did not pitch last year," Gaston said at the pre-workout news conference, flashing a huge grin.

Said Mussina: "This is the biggest story in baseball for these two days. I'm going to the Hall of Fame because I didn't play. I'm going to be a little plaque that says 'First guy who didn't play in his home park.' "

Minnesota outfielder Kirby Puckett spotted Mussina with a media mob at his locker and said: "Don't cause no trouble this year, man."

If Mussina wears any scars from the mid-summer snub of a year ago, he wears them well. "It was a big deal at the time," he said. "You don't play major-league baseball with the goal of pitching in the All-Star Game at your home park. If it's available it's nice."

Limited by a sore shoulder to 25 starts last season, Mussina had a 6.75 ERA in spring training, which makes it easier to understand why he was so upbeat all day yesterday.

"I didn't take too much for granted," he said.

Unpacking his All-Star goodies bag, Mussina found a pack of golf balls, which reminded him of the five home runs he allowed in his next-to-last start before the break.

"Look Chill," he yelled to California Angels designated hitter Chili Davis. "There are a few balls left over from your game against us."

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