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WSI News - News Watch

Durham adjusting to second spot in lineup

March 30, 2002

By Joe Goddard, Chicago-Sun Times

MILWAUKEE-- Ray Durham's batting-order switch has been as easy as 1-2-3. He has adjusted to being behind new leadoff man Kenny Lofton and setting up in front of Frank Thomas after batting first the last four years.

''The only real adjustment is having to keep an eye on Kenny when he's on first to see if he's going, because I'm certainly not going to swing if he is,'' Durham said.

He could try hitting through the vacated shortstop hole.

''Yes, but Kenny's going to steal anyway, so why take a chance I might hit it at someone,'' Durham said.

''There aren't many pitchers who can keep him on. It takes someone who can [pitch] home in 1.2 seconds, and there aren't a whole lot of those. The guys who make slip-slide moves are toughest to go on.''

ARMED TO PLAY: Lofton's throwing arm is healed from a year ago, when the center fielder had a subpar season with the Cleveland Indians [.261 average, .322 on-base percentage, 16 stolen bases].

''I was afraid to let go of the ball, and it hurt when I swung the bat because I like to hit to the opposite field [left] and I couldn't do it,'' Lofton said.

Lofton spent the offseason performing yoga and practicing karate to maintain strength in his body. He will turn 35 in May.

IN THE STARS: Comiskey Park groundskeeper Roger Bossard thought he had heard it all until a meteorologist explained that wind and stars, as much as lack of rain in Tucson during spring training, made the main and practice fields tough on the players' feet and legs.

''They like a soft field, so that's what I tried to give them, but there was no moisture in the ground there,'' Bossard said. ''I watered and watered and watered the big field before games, but by the end of five innings it was hard again.

A meteorologist told Bossard that the excessive winds and clear nights this spring helped to remove moisture from the fields.

PAUL'S PAL: Josh Paul, ticketed for Class AAA Charlotte, is helping set up a memorial fund for good friend and former Vanderbilt teammate Mark Hindy, a pitcher who was killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York.

''I talked with his mother today in Brooklyn to tell her Frank Thomas and some others with be sending items to be auctioned,'' said Paul, a native of Buffalo Grove who starred while playing at Vanderbilt in 1996.

''She seems to be handling it OK. There supposedly are stages you go through: disbelief, anger, denial, grief. I must have gone through mine pretty fast, because now, when I think of him, I smile and laugh at all the funny things we used to do.''

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