Twins, Angels begin ALCS
MINNEAPOLIS, Oct. 8 (UPI) -- The Minnesota Twins, who had to twice at Oakland in the American League Division Series, Tuesday night face the Anaheim Angels at the normally-raucous Metrodome in Minneapolis to start the ALCS.
"It's important," said Twins centerfielder Torii Hunter about home-field advantage. "We're all professional players. Anaheim, they're a professional team, we're a professional team, (but) you really don't look at all that, you know. You still got to go out and play a baseball game. They don't know how loud it gets in here. I mean, you got to wear ear plugs. I know to wear ear plugs the next couple days."
The Game One starter for Minnesota is Joe Mays, who was pounded for six runs and nine hits in 3 2/3 innings in a 9-1 loss at Oakland in Game Two of the ALDS. He says he is more comfortable in his home park. The righthander missed three months with inflammation in his pitching elbow and struggled to a 4-8 record and 5.38 ERA in 17 starts after going 17-13 with a 3.16 ERA in 2001.
"You know, I love throwing at the Dome," Mays said. "This is where I wanted to get back to, get an opportunity to throw here in front of the home crowd. Back to the familiar territory. I love going out there, I feel at home out there, even though, you know, it's turf and I throw a lot of ground balls. I know the ball gets through there quick, but I have a lot more confidence out there in the dome."
Mays will be facing a lineup that set a record for a playoff series with a .376 batting average in ousting the vaunted New York Yankees in four games in the Division Series. Darin Erstad, Scott Spiezio, Garret Anderson and Troy Glaus combined to bat .382 (26-for-68) with five homers and 15 RBI.
Kevin Appier will start for the Angels in the opener of the best-of-seven series.
He entered this season with a 4-0 record and 1.77 ERA in five career appearances at the Metrodome, but was reached for four runs and nine hits through 6 2/3 innings in a 4-2 loss on June 1. The veteran righthander was not involved in the decision in Game Two of the ALDS, when he allowed three runs and five hits in five innings.
"You definitely have to keep fields in consideration," Appier said about pitching in the Metrodome. "But not too much. I mean, you still got to work within your game plan. The turf, you really can't put that too much in play. The bounce to home plate, the outfielders have to be more concerned about that."
The NL Championship Series gets underway Wednesday night with the St. Louis Cardinals hosting the San Francisco Giants.
On Monday, the Giants became the fourth underdog to win their Division Series when they dumped the Atlanta Braves, 3-1, to win that best-of-five series, three games to two.
The Cardinals fashioned a three-game sweep of the defending world champion Arizona Diamondbacks.
Phillies re-sign Perez
PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 8 (UPI) -- The Philadelphia Phillies Tuesday re-signed utility infielder Tomas Perez to a two-year contract worth $1.3 million.
The deal includes a $100,000 signing bonus and will pay Perez $500,000 in 2003 and $700,000 in 2004.
Perez, 28, appeared in a career-high 92 games this past season, hitting .250 with five homers and 20 RBI.
"We are very pleased to have Tomas signed for the next two seasons," said Assistant General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. "We believe him to be one of the best defensive utility infielders in the league and he has provided some timely offense when he has been called upon off the bench. We look for Tomas to provide the energy and leadership that solid role players have on championship clubs."
The native of Venezuela played 50 games at second base, 13 at shortstop, 14 at third base and three at first base. He also became the first Phillies position player to pitch in a game since 1987 when he took the mound May 13 at Houston.
Ricciardi gets long-term deal fro Toronto
TORONTO, Oct. 8 (UPI) -- The Toronto Blue Jays Tuesday signed General Manager J.P. Ricciardi to a five-year contract, replacing the three-year deal he received last year.
The new deal ends speculation that the native of Worcester, Mass., would leave Canada to take a job with the Boston Red Sox.
Ricciardi, 43, was named senior vice president of baseball operations and general manager last November after spending six years with the Oakland Athletics as assistant general manager to Billy Beane.
He made a big trade just one month after coming to Toronto, sending closer Billy Koch to the Athletics for third baseman Eric Hinske, who is a leading candidate for American League Rookie of the Year after batting .279 with 24 home runs and 84 RBI in 151 games, and minor league pitcher Justin Miller.
He also acquired righthander Luke Prokopec from the Los Angeles Dodgers at last year's winter meetings, even though the native of Australia struggled with a 2-9 record and 6.78 ERA in 22 appearances.
Ricciardi fired Buck Martinez as manager in June after the Blue Jays got off to a 20-33 start. He was replaced by Carlos Tosca and the team finished with a 78-84 record.
Ricciardi reportedly was sought by the Red Sox. He was a high school teammate of former Red Sox catcher Rich Gedman, and spent two seasons in the minor leagues for the New York Mets. He became New England area scout for the A's in 1986 and also served as minor league instructor and East Coast scouting supervisor.
Report: Olajuwon to retire
NEW YORK, Oct. 8 (UPI) -- The New York Post reported Tuesday that former All-Star center Hakeem Olajuwon, who helped the Houston Rockets win to back-to-back NBA titles but struggled last season with Toronto, plans to officially announce his retirement when the Raptors meet Houston in their home opener on Nov. 2.
Olajuwon, 39, continues to be bothered by a lower back injury, and the Raptors excused him from training camp.
Last season, he missed 21 games with a right quadriceps strain and an infected toe, his first with the Raptors, after a brilliant 17-year career with the Rockets. He averaged 7.1 points and 6.0 rebounds in 22.6 minutes per contest for Toronto.
The Raptors acquired Olajuwon from Houston in August 2001 for draft picks. They signed him to a three-year, $17 million deal.
One of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players and the league's all-time leader in blocked shots led the Rockets to back-to-back titles in 1994 and '95. His production has seriously diminished the past five seasons.
The 7-foot native of Nigeria played only 58 games in 2000-01, averaging 11.0 points and 7.4 rebounds for the Rockets before being shipped to Toronto.
In 17 seasons with the Rockets, Olajuwon averaged 22.5 points and 11.4 rebounds per game while amassing an NBA-record 3,740 blocks.
In 1994, he became the only player to win MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and NBA Finals MVP honors in the same season.
Bears lose Tucker for season
CHICAGO, Oct. 8 (UPI) -- The Chicago Bears Tuesday learned that guard Rex Tucker is lost for the balance of the 2002 campaign. He was carted off the field early in the third quarter of Monday night's costly 34-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers with a dislocated left ankle.
Tucker, a 6-5, 315-pounder, was injured when Packers linebacker Nate Wayne fell on the back of his leg while tackling running back Anthony Thomas.
"That was a big blow," said Bears quarterback Jim Miller. "He's worked so hard, he's been so solid for us. That was a very severe injury that he sustained. It was not pretty out there. That hurts to lose that leadership. He protects the inside of our O-line."
Meanwhile, wide receiver David Terrell also was injured against Green Bay. The second-year pro from Michigan suffered a stress fracture in his right foot and is out indefinitely.
Tucker is the second starter the Bears have lost for the season in as many weeks. Linebacker Warrick Holdman had surgery last Monday to repair a torn ACL in last weekend's overtime loss in Buffalo.
In all, six Bears' starters have been sidelined this season, including defensive tackle Ted Washington, who remains out indefinitely with foot and ankle injuries.
Mike Gandy, a third-round draft pick in 2002 from Notre Dame, replaced Tucker against the Packers, and likely will assume his starting job. There's also a chance the Bears could move Bernard Robertson from left tackle to guard and install first-round pick Marc Colombo as the starter at left tackle.
"Rex is one of those people on the line that we depend on, and to have him gone, somebody's just going to have to step up," said right tackle James "Big Cat" Williams. "We've had a lot of injuries this year. You can't blame any of the losses on losing people. Our young fellas are going to have to step up and older guys are going to have to step up too. We're all going to have to pull (at least) our weight."
The Bears have an open date Sunday. Their next game is Oct. 20 at Detroit.
Browns lose Holcomb to leg injury
CLEVELAND, Oct. 8 (UPI) -- Officials of the Cleveland Browns learned late Monday that backup quarterback Kerry Holcomb, who has been the starter twice this season because of an injury to Tim Couch, himself has been grounded for some time with a hairline shin fracture.
His agent, Frank Bauer, told the Akron Beacon Journal that Holcomb also has a knee strain. He is expected to miss 2-3 weeks.
Holcomb relieved Couch Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens and almost guided the Browns to a come-from-behind win. The Ravens held on to win, 26-21.
"Kelly told me (Monday) his leg was hurting like a dog, but he said, 'I couldn't come out of that game,'" Bauer told the paper.
Meanwhile, Holcomb's injury added to the turmoil surrounding the team, which began after the game when Couch went into an expletive-related tirade because fans started cheering when he was injured in the fourth quarter. He was booed throughout the contest.
"(The fans) have the right if they don't like the way I'm playing to boo us or me, but to cheer when I got hurt, I don't agree with that on any level," said a stunned Couch. "Even if (Baltimore star linebacker) Ray Lewis were to get hurt out there, I don't believe that's right. I stand behind what I said."
"I think booing is one thing," said center Dave Wohlabaugh, whose broken left arm is in a cast. "But to cheer and be happy because someone is down or to cheer and be happy because he's not going back in because of injury, that's too much I think. That's common sense I think."
Cleveland (2-3) plays at Tampa Bay next weekend and Couch will be the starting quarterback.
Holy Cross coach takes leave of absence
WORCESTER, Mass., Oct. 8 (UPI) -- Dan Allen, the head football coach at Holy Cross, has begun what has been called a temporary medical leave of absence.
Recently, Allen has been dealing with a medical condition and works with his physicians to fully diagnose and treat his condition. School officials say it was necessary that he take some time off in order to receive necessary medical treatments.
The Boston Globe reported that friends of Allen said his right hip has been bothering him since the start of the season and, because he has developed a more noticeable limp each day, he decided to have the condition checked out.
Offensive coordinator Bob Griffin is running the team in Allen's absence.
"We knew something was bothering him," Griffin told the paper. "But he's such a good delegator that we think we're in pretty good shape as far as game preparation goes. Today was an example. I was working on the offense, Leo was working on the defense. It's really not that much different than it has been. Our staff works pretty well together. Hopefully there won't be that many problems. If Dan had not been such a good delegator of authority, that might not be the case."
School officials did not make any comment about the reason for the absence other than to say that it was in the best interest of Allen and his family.
"It's a medical leave of absence and we'll leave it at that," said Athletic Director Dick Regan.
Coach Allen expects to return later this month.
Capitals re-sign Zubrus
Financial terms were not disclosed.
Zubrus, 24, had a career-high 17 goals and 26 assists for the Capitals last season.
Predominantly a left wing since breaking into the NHL in 1996-97, Zubrus was moved to center on a line with Jaromir Jagr after the Capitals traded Adam Oates to Philadelphia at last season's trading deadline.
"He finished strong last year, and if he plays at that level start to finish this season, he'll be an extremely effective player," McPhee said.
The Caps also signed free agent Robert Lang in the offseason, and he will center the top line with Jagr in 2002-03.
The Capitals acquired Zubrus from the Montreal Canadiens in March 2001. In 422 career NHL games, he has 66 goals and 155 assists, including 18 goals and 27 assists in 83 games for Washington.
The 6-4, 231-pound native of Lithuania placed second on the team with a plus-5 rating last season.
Sabres re-sign Varada
BUFFALO, Oct. 8 (UPI) -- Two days before their season opener, the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday re-signed restricted free agent right wing Vaclav Varada.
Terms were not disclosed.
"Vaclav has been a tremendous contributor to the success of our hockey team over the past five seasons," said General Manager Darcy Regier. "His checking ability and grit add to the toughness of our team."
Varada, 26, appeared in 76 games during the 2001-02 season and recorded seven goals, 16 assists, and 23 points.
The Czech native has totaled 39 goals and 94 assists in 332 career games.
He was originally selected in the fourth round, 89th overall, in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft by San Jose before being traded to Buffalo in November 1995.
Buffalo opens its season Thursday at Stanley Cup champion Detroit.