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WSI News - News Watch

Thomas forsees labor problems

March 25, By Paul Sullivan; Chicago Tribune

TUCSON, Ariz. - While the owners and players union argue about revenue sharing, competitive balance and the amateur draft, the players are trying to put the labor dispute out of their minds.

But there's no getting around the fact that at least one side has to give some concessions to avoid another work stoppage.

"I've been through two strikes," Frank Thomas said, referring to a lockout in 1990 and a strike in 1994. "And it looks like we're headed for another one. That would be very unfortunate for the game. I just hope we can come together and solve this thing before that happens again. We don't need to push the fans away again."

Thomas is the only remaining Sox player from the talented '94 team that never got a chance to prove itself due to the season-ending strike in August. He also knows that in a post-Sept. 11 America, the notion of wealthy businessmen and athletes fighting for a bigger share of the pie may be difficult for fans to swallow.

"I don't think we can afford [to strike]," Thomas said. "But they've had many, and the game has continued to go on. Sometimes you continue to play with fire until you get burned. We have plenty of time to resolve things and I hope we can do that. ... I've seen it turn pretty ugly two times before. We've just got to stick together and hold on.

Radar love - Jim Parque complained last week that he's not getting an opportunity to prove himself because the Sox keep pitching him in B games. He'll finally get that chance Wednesday when he gets his third Cactus League start. Parque is slated to throw six innings against Milwaukee in Maryvale, Ariz.

In two brief starts earlier this spring, Parque posted a 3.60 ERA in only five innings.

He's still slated to go to Triple-A Charlotte when the season begins because the Sox don't want to risk him pitching without his normal velocity. In his last outing in a B game, the Sox didn't bring a radar gun. Even if the Sox don't bring one to Maryvale, there should be plenty of scouts on hand with their own radar guns, so Parque doesn't have to worry.

How long does Parque figure to stay in Charlotte?

"I don't have enough history on those situations to make a favorable prediction one way or the other," Sox manager Jerry Manuel said. "Optimistically, we hope it's a start or two, but it wouldn't be fair for me to have to guess."

Mark Buehrle, who was on schedule to start against Milwaukee, will now pitch against Triple-A hitters in Tucson on Wednesday, trying to find the changeup and cut fastball that have eluded him in his last two starts. Buehrle, normally a control pitcher, has issued eight walks to only eight strikeouts in 19 innings.

"I think I'll be fine," Buehrle said. "I just need to work on my changeup. I'm not worried. I think it's going to come around. I just have problems throwing a couple pitches once in a while."

Manuel confirmed earlier reports that Dan Wright is on schedule to pitch in the third game of the season in Seattle, with Jon Garland pitching the next game in Kansas City. Garland was 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA against the Royals last year, while Wright threw seven innings of one-run ball against the Mariners in Seattle last August.

The tentative opening series matchups are Buehrle vs. Freddy Garcia, Todd Ritchie vs. Jamie Moyer and Wright vs. Paul Abbott.

Sox files - The Sox set a record Saturday with 54,000 tickets sold on the first day they were on sale. Opening Day (April 10) and the June 28 game against the Cubs were nearly sold out as of Sunday.

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