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Ashby throws 40 pitches

The Associated Press

Andy Ashby hadn’t faced a batter since injuring his elbow last April, so it took awhile to get in a groove when he threw batting practice for the first time.

Monday, February 25, 2002

Andy Ashby hadn’t faced a batter since injuring his elbow last April, so it took awhile to get in a groove when he threw batting practice for the first time.

The Los Angeles Dodgers’ right-hander made just two starts last season, which was cut short by a torn muscle in his pitching elbow that required surgery.

”This was the first time facing a hitter in the box, and it seems like five years,” Ashby said. ”Overall, I’m happy with it. Early on, I was a little too fine, but as it went on, it got a lot better.”

The 34-year-old Ashby threw 40 pitches Sunday, mixing fastballs, curves and sinkers. Though his control was not as sharp as he would have liked, the probable No. 2 starter for the Dodgers said he felt fine and was pleased with his rehabilitation.

”For a guy coming off surgery, he looked good,” Dodgers pitching coach Jim Colborn said. ”For Andy Ashby, he’s a ways away with his timing and location.”

Danys Baez is dealing with different adjustments with the Cleveland Indians.

Baez defected from Cuba in 1999 and signed a $14.5 million, four-year contract with the Indians that November. After adjusting to his new country, Baez excelled as a rookie last year, going 5-3 with a 2.50 ERA in 43 relief appearances.

”Defecting was very scary, but it was my dream when I was a boy before I ever played baseball to come to America,” Baez said Sunday. ”Baseball gave me that chance.”

Baez has some big baseball dreams, too.

”I want to pitch like Roger Clemens,” Baez said, referring to the six-time Cy Young Award winner of the New York Yankees. ”I know that sounds like a big goal. Right now, I am just Danys Baez. I am learning, but I want to be the best.”

Cleveland manager Charlie Manuel believes Baez’s dream is not far-fetched.

”Danys has a big upside to him,” Manuel said. ”He wants to learn and has a fire to him. He’s smart and he’s a fighter, too. He’ll knock somebody down. I like his toughness.”

The 24-year-old right-hander became one of the best relievers in the American League after the All-Star break, relying on a 95- to 97-mph fastball and an 88- to 91-mph split-finger.

”I need to mix in a curveball and changeup,” he said. ”Last year, it was fastball, fastball, fastball. That is OK for one inning, but a starter must throw all pitches. I did that when I was a starter in Cuba.”

Two players – Julian Tavarez of the Cubs and Jose Cabrera of the Braves – made belated appearances at spring training Sunday after experiencing visa problems in the Dominican Republic.

”They were doing some investigation,” Tavarez said after arriving in Mesa, Ariz. ”Every case is different. It wasn’t my choice to come here this late. The reason was because they were handling my visa and I wasn’t able to get it until they were done.”

Sept. 11 has prompted tighter security for everyone traveling to the United States. Checks of several players have revealed age discrepancies.

The Cubs were affected when paperwork revealed that pitcher Juan Cruz is two years older than he was listed last season. He’s now listed at 23.

Tavarez, 28, said his age is correct. What took so long, he said, was an extensive investigation by American consulate officials in the Dominican.

”They got the birth certificate, but it takes 13 or 15 days for them to send out private investigators,” Tavarez said. ”They have to find the truth on everybody. They are not going to be able to give you the visa until they are sure about it.”

Cabrera, who arrived Saturday night in Kissimmee, Fla., was one of the first to show up for Sunday’s workout and began to make up for lost time. Braves pitchers and catchers have been in camp 10 days.

The problem, finally resolved on Thursday, involved Cabrera’s inoculation records, which apparently don’t exist.

”I was born at home in a small, poor town in the Dominican, not in a hospital,” said Cabrera, who said he had the medical shots as a baby, but does not know if a record was kept of them.