KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, April 4 (UPI) -- Growing concerns over the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome virus has caused Asian soccer authorities to postpone two Olympic qualifiers Friday.
The Asian Football Confederation postponed home and away qualifiers for the 2004 Athens Olympics involving Hong Kong against Sri Lanka and Taiwan against Singapore, citing concern over the SARS disease, which has killed more than 80 people in Asia and Canada.
"It is the responsibility of the AFC to protect the players and officials from any exposure to the SARS outbreak and this decision is also made in the interest of the football fans and communities," said AFC General Secretary Peter Velappan.
Taiwan and Singapore were to meet at Taipei on Saturday and in a return match at Singapore on April 19. Hong Kong was to host Sri Lanka on April 12 and travel to Colombo on April 19. No reschedule dates have been announced.
The Asian qualifying series for the women's World Cup in Bangkok, scheduled from April 17-30, may also be affected.
The AFC had earlier postponed Saturday's Iraq-Vietnam qualifier because of the United States-led war in Iraq.
The World Health Authority has issued travel warnings in the Asia region, and authorities are on high alert for air travelers suspected of having SARS.
Lebanon refused to send its tennis team to Hong Kong for a Davis Cup match scheduled for Friday, giving Hong Kong a walkover in the Asia-Oceania Group II Davis Cup promotion round.
The International Rugby Board postponed the Singapore Sevens tournament on Friday. The Beijing event had already been canceled. The Hong Kong Sevens started last weekend, with some players being monitored for possible symptoms of the SARS.
The Asian snooker championship in Calcutta, slated for April 18-26, was also postponed on Friday.
The women's ice hockey world championships in Beijing also was canceled last week.
Twins to honor U.S. troops before game
MINNEAPOLIS, April 4 (UPI) -- The Minnesota Twins will salute the American troops overseas in their home opener Friday night.
The first pitch for the game between the Twins and Toronto Blue Jays at the Metrodome will be thrown in Kuwait City.
Two Minnesotans in the army reserve stationed in the Persian Gulf, Josh Tverberg and Greta Lind, will do the honors live via satellite shortly after 4 a.m. Kuwait time. The event will be shown on the center field scoreboard. The Cable News Network is providing the satellite feed.
Tverberg and Lind will serve as pitcher and catcher, respectively. They will be joined by other army reservists from Minnesota, all wearing Twins cap and jerseys.
In addition, the troops' family members will be brought to the mound and introduced to the Metrodome crowd before the pitch.
Minnesota Vice President of Marketing Patrick Klinger said the idea was hatched in late January when it appeared a United States-led war in Iraq was inevitable.
"Every day there seemed to be a story about some service people from Minnesota shipping off to the Middle East," Klinger said. "We took it to another level by trying to do this live in the Middle East, and it has taken on a life of its own."
Former Twin pitching great Mudcat Grant will be singing the National Anthem, and a giant United States flag will be unfurled for the anthem in center field.
Cleveland puts Bere on DL
CLEVELAND, April 4 (UPI) -- Oft-injured Jason Bere of Cleveland has been placed on the Indians' 15-day disabled list because of a tender shoulder.
The move, which was made Friday, is retroactive to March 27. He felt pain in the shoulder since throwing a simulated game in Baltimore on Monday.
This marks the eighth career trip to the disabled list for Bere, who was limited to just 16 games while playing for the Chicago Cubs last season because of a right knee injury and a strained groin. He made just one second-half start, and finished 1-10 with a 5.67 ERA.
The veteran righthander, signed to a one-year contract in the offseason, went 2-2 with a 5.68 ERA in five spring starts for the Indians.
His place on the Indians' 25-man roster was taken by righthander Chad Paronto, who was recalled from Triple-A Buffalo of the International League.
Paronto was optioned to Buffalo on March 26 after going 0-0 with a 6.00 ERA in seven outings in spring training.
Blazers suspend Randolph
PORTLAND, Ore., April 4 (UPI) -- Forward Zach Randolph of Portland was suspended for two games Thursday, one day after he reportedly threw a punch at teammate Ruben Patterson during practice.
Randolph also was fined $100,000, and sat out Thursday night's 93-88 loss to Utah. He will miss Friday's game at Golden State.
"While these types of disagreements happen in practice during the course of a season due to the physical and competitive nature of basketball, this instance crossed the line, and this type of behavior will not be tolerated by our organization without the individuals being held accountable for their actions," said General Manager Bob Whitsitt in a statement.
Randolph apparently got involved in an argument between Patterson and rookie Qyntel Woods, slugging the 6-5, 224-pound Patterson in the face. Randolph stands 6-9 and weighs 253 pounds.
Randolph would not address the incident following Thursday's loss, but Coach Maurice Cheeks said, "We kind of put things aside, and went out on the court and tried to play. We have to somehow put it in perspective and move on. We have to keep things in the right category. This is not easy, and it's certainly not easy for the guys in the locker room."
This was the latest in a series of incidents involving the Trail Blazers.
Just a week ago, Woods was charged with marijuana possession following a traffic stop. Rasheed Wallace and Damon Stoudamire faced similar charges last November, the same month Patterson was arrested on a suspicion of domestic assault charge.
In January, Wallace was suspended seven games by the NBA for threatening a referee outside the Rose Garden after a game.
The team suspended Bonzi Wells one game for arguing with Cheeks during practice last month. Ironically, Wells was ejected Thursday night after picking up his second technical foul.
Nuggets sign two
DENVER, April 4 (UPI) -- The Denver Nuggets have signed guard Jeff Trepagnier to a second 10-day contract, and Adam Harrington for the remainder of the season.
Both players signed 10-day contracts with the Nuggets on March 23.
In addition, the Nuggets placed Harrington on the injured list because of a left knee contusion, and activated guard-forward Vincent Yarbrough from the injured list.
The 6-4, 200-pound Trepagnier has averaged 4.0 points, 1.0 rebound, and 9.3 minutes per contest in three games with the Nuggets. He joined them from Asheville of the NBDL, where he averaged 17.7 points, four points, and 2.31 steals in 48 contests.
He led the league in steals, and ranked second in scoring. He was originally drafted by Cleveland with the 36th overall pick of the 2001 NBA Draft out of Southern California, and averaged 1.5 points and 1.0 rebound in 6.4 minutes in 12 games for the Cavs as a rookie last season.
Harrington, a 6-5, 200-pounder, has averaged 1.3 points, 1.8 assists, and 9.8 minutes in four games with Denver. He appeared in 13 games for the Mavericks earlier this season before being waived on Jan. 7.
Harrington, also a guard, signed with the Mavericks an undrafted rookie free agent from Auburn. He averaged 0.8 points in 2.8 minutes. He played one season at N.C. State and two at Auburn during his college career, and averaged 12.9 points per game.
Yarbrough suffered a sprained right ankle in a game at the L.A. Clippers on March 19, and was placed on the injured list March 21, and missed seven games over that span.
He has averaged 7.0 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.2 assists while appearing in 52 games, with 37 starts. He joins Ryan Bowen, who has a sternum/abdominal muscle contusion, on the injured list.