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M’S Set Date For Ace’s Return

From Wire Reports

Spring Training

Grab a pencil and circle March 1.

That’s the date Mariners left-hander Randy Johnson is tentatively scheduled to pitch one inning in a Cactus League game against the San Diego Padres at Peoria Stadium, M’s pitching coach Nardi Contreras said Wednesday.

“He’ll throw a couple of batting practice sessions and that will give us a better indication of where he is,” Contreras said. “But right now, I have him penciled in for March 1.”

Johnson was on top of the bullpen mound again Wednesday and had his best workout of camp.

He threw 55 pain-free pitches with more velocity than the first two times he worked out.

“Awesome,” Contreras said afterward. “I stood off to the side to watch his delivery and mechanics, and he looked fine.”

Belle claims he didn’t bet on baseball

Baseball’s other bad boy, Albert Belle, reported for his first camp with the White Sox and issued a written statement saying he didn’t gamble on his own sport.

“I want to make one thing clear: I have never bet on baseball,” Belle’s statement said.

Belle, who until now had spent his entire big league career with Cleveland, promised to answer baseball-related questions today. He said during a deposition that he lost as much as $40,000 gambling on sports other than baseball.

Players get first arbitration victory

Boston knuckleballer Tim Wakefield became the first player to win in salary arbitration this winter, and owners ensured themselves a winning record when Chicago Cubs infielder Rey Sanchez settled Wednesday.

Wakefield was awarded $2.5 million by arbitrator James Duff, who heard the case Tuesday, rather than the $1.55 million offered by the Red Sox. Wakefield, a 28-year-old right-hander, led Boston in wins last season, going 14-13 with a 5.44 ERA in 32 starts. He made $450,000.

Owners have won three of four cases decided this winter, defeating Tom Goodwin, Aaron Sele and Darryl Kile.

World’s top athlete to help Giants

Olympic decathlon champion Dan O’Brien will join San Francisco for its workout Saturday at Scottsdale, Ariz. The Giants’ new off-season conditioning program was based in part on the system used by U.S. decathletes to prepare for the Atlanta Games.

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