White Sox 13, Pirates 3
BRADENTON, Fla. (AP) _ The Pittsburgh Pirates still had a replacement player in the ballpark Thursday _ in the stands, that is, watching the regular major leaguers.
With fill-in shortstop Wayne Busby sitting directly behind their dugout, the Pirates pitched and played like a replacement team as newly signed Chris Sabo’s homer and two doubles led the Chicago White Sox to a 13-3 victory in an exhibition opener.
``I’m out here because I love baseball,″ said Busby, a Bradenton bakery worker attending his first real major league game. ``I just wanted to come out and see a game.″
As Pirates shortstop Jay Bell made a nice defensive play, Busby said, ``I really admire him. I’m a big fan of his. I was just keeping shortstop warm for him.″
There was little discernible post-strike reaction from a crowd of 2,450, the Pirates’ largest at McKechnie Field this spring.
But as the White Sox bolted to an 8-0 lead by pounding knuckleballer Tim Wakefield for 10 hits and seven earned runs in 2 2-3 innings, Busby smiled and said, ``At least we probably would have had a hit before the sixth inning.″
White Sox starter Alex Fernandez retired all nine batters he faced and Steve Schrenk followed with two hitless innings before Rich Aude beat out an infield single off non-roster reliever Rob Dibble in the sixth.
Mike Devereaux, signed out of the free-agent camp in Homestead, Fla., along with Sabo earlier this week, added a run-scoring triple as the White Sox totaled 18 hits.
Like any normal spring, fans crowded around both dugouts for autographs that players willingly gave.
``The players have been great,″ said Mike Flynn, a mortgage broker and Pirates fan from Wexford, Pa. ``They’ve been cooperative and receptive, and very gracious to us.″
The biggest fan reaction came when Pirates rookie right fielder Midre Cummings dropped a routine fly ball for a two-base error. Several fans yelled that a replacement would have made the catch.
But even Busby, a former minor leaguer, was an admiring spectator,
``These guys are the show,″ he said. ``They’re the reason the fans come out.″
Wakefield, the out-of-nowhere star of the Pirates’ 1992 stretch drive but ineffective in the majors and minors ever since, is a longshot to make the opening-day roster. He was 5-15 with a 5.84 ERA at Triple-A Buffalo last season and his bad outing likely hastened his return to the minors.
Sabo, who signed a one-year contract worth $550,000, greeted Wakefield and the knuckleballer’s restyled, slowed-down pitching motion in the third with a solo homer.
Wakefield, who replaced starter Rick White, was lifted in a five-run White Sox fifth following RBI singles by Robin Ventura and Jerry Wolak, Warren Newsom’s two-run double and Sabo’s second RBI double in as many innings.
The White Sox added five runs in the ninth off newly re-signed reliever Jim Gott.