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Former Royals left-hander Splittorff dies

Thu., May 26, 2011, midnight

Paul Splittorff, the big, blonde left-hander who became the winningest pitcher in Kansas City Royals history and a popular broadcaster for the team, died Wednesday of complications from skin cancer. He was 64.

The Royals said Splittorff died at his home in the Kansas City suburb of Blue Springs, Mo. His family announced 10 days ago that he had been battling melanoma and oral cancer.

“This is a very difficult day for our organization,” Royals owner and CEO David Glass said. “We will not only miss the insight and humor that he injected into every telecast, but most importantly we will miss his friendship. He epitomized class.”Fans noticed on opening day in 2009 that his speech had become slurred, though Splittorff kept his health issues private until his plight was reported by online columnist Greg Hall.

“He didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for him,” Royals broadcaster Ryan Lefebvre said.

Drafted by the expansion Royals in the 25th round in 1968, Splittorff spent his entire 15-year career in Kansas City. A tall, bespectacled lefty with a high leg kick, he often appeared to squint into the catcher’s mitt as though he was having trouble seeing the sign.

This sometimes proved disconcerting to hitters who wondered if they should be ready to bail out if the ball came flying toward their head.

He retired during the 1984 season with a club-record 166 victories.

Rivera hits milestone

Mariano Rivera became the first pitcher in major league history to have appeared in 1,000 games for one team and the 15th to reach the plateau overall when the Yankees closer was called on in the ninth inning against Toronto.

The understated right-hander with a bat-breaking cut fastball started 10 games in 1995, but he’s been a steady presence in the Yankees’ bullpen during their renaissance.

Rivera has helped the franchise to 15 playoff appearances and five World Series titles.

Next up for the 41-year-old Rivera is Goose Gossage with 1,002 games. Jesse Orosco is the all-time leader with 1,252 appearances.

Clearing the bases

The Colorado Rockies placed pitcher Jorge De La Rosa on the disabled list a day after he tore a ligament in his left elbow. To take his place, the Rockies recalled right-handed reliever Bruce Billings from Triple-A Colorado Springs. Billings has never pitched at the major league level. … Yankees setup man Rafael Soriano has an inflamed ligament in his right elbow that could keep the former All-Star out up to two months, depriving manager Joe Girardi of his main bridge to Mariano Rivera.

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