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Indians face another spring of ailing arms

This year, the Cleveland Indians couldn't even get out of camp without a pitching injury muddling their starting rotation.

A year after losing Jack McDowell for the season following "routine" elbow surgery, the Indians learned that Ben McDonald probably won't be ready to pitch until at least June because of an ailing shoulder.Now, general manager John Hart may have to go out and find another pitcher.

"You never know," Hart said, "but I want to see how camp unfolds first."

McDonald, 30, acquired from Milwaukee in December, headed to Los Angeles on Monday for tests on his shoulder. The 6-foot-7 right-hander stalled in his rehab program following rotator cuff surgery in his throwing arm July 29.

After feeling pain during throwing sessions last week, McDonald went to Cleveland to be examined. An MRI showed no new damage.

"He's hit the wall in his rehab program," Hart said. "So something is going on in there."

When pitchers reported to camp, Indians doctors thought there was an 80-85 percent chance McDonald could join the rotation by May.

"Now we're dealing with 15-20 percent," Hart said. "We have to figure out how we're going to address the problem."

That leaves the Indians with a starting rotation of Jaret Wright, Charles Nagy, Chad Ogea and Dwight Gooden. When a fifth starter is needed, the choices within the organization are Bartolo Colon and Steve Karsay, with recently signed veteran Melido Perez a longshot.

One bright spot for the Indians: As part of the trade, the Brewers agreed to pay half of McDonald's $4.5 million salary if he does not pitch 133 innings this season. And if he spends 90 days on the disabled list and needs another operation, insurance will pay a portion of it.

Last year, McDowell was thought to be lost for 4-5 weeks following minor surgery on his elbow. He missed the rest of the year.

The Indians are hoping the similarities between McDowell and McDonald end with the fourth letter in their names.

The usual fun and games of spring training were overshadowed by tragedy on Monday. At least 38 people were killed when Florida was struck by its deadliest swarm of tornadoes on record.

The Houston Astros called off practice after a twister swept by their facility at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee, Fla. After shredding a campground behind the stadium early Monday, killing eight, the tornado dipped beside the Astros clubhouse, smashing a batting cage and ripping up two sections of artificial turf. No players were injured in the storms.

Shane Reynolds, likely the Astros' opening day pitcher, was one of six Astros players staying in homes nearby in Lakeside Estates, along with starting pitchers Mike Hampton and Chris Holt, outfielder Ray Montgomery, and infielders Bill Spiers and Tim Bogar.

"If the tornado had gone a little to the left of its path, I don't think a lot of us would have been here," Holt said. "We would have been pummeled. I've been in and around tornadoes before, but I've never seen anything like this."

In Clearwater, Fla., J.D. Drew's holdout has cost the Phillies' 1997 first-round draft choice more than just money and a year's development.

The outfielder who rejected a multimillion-dollar offer from Philadelphia is losing the respect of his would-be teammates.

"He's in dangerous waters right now," Lenny Dykstra said. "He's a good player, but you make it hard on yourself when you've got people going against you."

"I think a lot of guys resent him. Wouldn't you?" Mark Parent said. "I wouldn't cover his butt."

In Fort Myers, Fla., the Boston Red Sox were talking about taking a chance on Danny Tartabull.

The outfielder got $2.2 million from the Phillies last year, broke his foot on opening day and had seven at-bats the entire season.

So it's hard to believe a team was even considering signing him. Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette appeared to say no Monday.

"I'm not expecting him to call back. I'm not expecting to call him either," said Tartabull's agent, Steve Schneider.

The seven outfielders on Boston's 40-man roster have a total of just 99 career homers. Tartabull, 35, has 262 homers in 14 seasons.

"He's ready," Schneider said. "I think it would be a great fit for him."

At Mesa, Ariz., Sammy Sosa arrived at the Cubs training camp and predicted a reversal for Chicago.

"I think this year it's not going to be 0-14 like it used to be," Sosa said, referring to last year's record-setting losing streak to start the season. "People probably are going to play a different way, and we'll see what happens."

Sosa, who starts a $42.5 million, four-year contract this season, hit .251 with 36 home runs and 119 RBIs last year.

"It was a bad year for me last year with all that happened," Sosa said. "If we play as a family, we can win a lot of games."