Expos 6, Braves 1
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ On their way into Municipal Stadium for the first post-strike exhibition game, fans got a look at how baseball’s labor problems are still an unsettled issue.
On a sidewalk near the parking lot, 11 umpires wearing blue work shirts and ``AL″ and ``NL″ caps walked a picket line to protest being locked out. Replacement umpires worked the game as Montreal beat Atlanta 6-1.
``It’s an informational-type picket. Baseball is back, but it’s not all the way back without the real umpires,″ Eric Gregg said.
Only one confusing call was made by the replacement umpires. In the third inning, Montreal had a runner on third when a slow grounder was hit down the first base line. As the apparent first run of the game scored, the first base umpire signaled the bal was fair; the home plate ump said it was foul. The home plate umpire’s ruling stood.
On balls and strikes, some players felt the strike zone was too low and wide.
``Definitely low, really low. But as far as being consistent, he wasn’t too bad,″ said Mark Grudzelanek, a rookie second baseman who went 2-for-4 with three RBIs.
The replacement umpires refused to be interviewed after the game.
The announced crowd of 2,395 was about twice as large as the one that attended the teams’ first exhibition game with replacement players five weeks ago. Fans were lined up 20 deep at game time to buy tickets.
Braves ace Greg Maddux, 16-6 with a 1.56 ERA last season when he won his third straight Cy Young award, was sharp for two innings before the Expos rallied for three runs in the third.
Grudzielanek had the big hit, a two-run single between third and shortstop.
``That second at-bat, I fought him off and got a hit we needed. I’m glad I got that under my belt,″ Grudzielanek said.
Maddux lasted 2 1-3 innings and allowed four hits, three earned runs and one walk.
``I didn’t feel like I got tired, I just thought that everything I threw was up,″ Maddux said.
Cliff Floyd had a solo homer and a double for Montreal. Marquis Grissom, traded from the Expos to Atlanta week earlier, hit a home run in the sixth inning for the Braves’ only run. Atlanta had just four hits off four Montreal pitchers.
Seven National League umpires and four from the American League paced the picket line carrying signs that read ``Umpires Locked Out.″ Among them were Joe Brinkman, Ken Kaiser, Bruce Froemming and Terry Tata.
Gregg, ready to begin his 19th season in the big leagues, caught a 7 a.m. flight from Philadelphia to be in Florida in time for the game. He said the umpires also planned to picket at Thursday night’s Mets-Yankees game in Fort Lauderdale and at the Cubs’ home game in Peoria, Ariz.
``The owners are waiting and waiting to try to starve us out. They didn’t pay us our bonus last season and haven’t paid us at all since Dec. 31,″ Gregg said.
Of the 65 locked out umpires, Gregg said about 55 had paid their own way to spring training sites to walk picket lines. ``Some of the others couldn’t get from here to there because they don’t have any money,″ he said.
Contract talks between umpires and management have resulted in little progress, with the sides still far apart as opening day approaches April 25.
``We don’t have a strike fund, but what we do have is solidarity, and that goes a long way,″ he said.
Notes: One bright spot for Atlanta was reliever Brad Woodall, who struck out the side in the fourth inning. Tony Tarasco, one of the three players traded for Grissom last Thursday, was 0-for-2 and grounded into two double plays. The other two players aquired by the Expos in the Grissom trade, Roberto Kelly and Esteban Yan, did not play. ... The first pitch of the game was a strike by Greg A. Harris against Grissom. The next pitch was a major league pop up to shortstop. Harris went three innings and allowed a hit and a walk with one strikeout. ... Montreal reliever Carlos Perez worked two hitless innings. Manager Felipe Alou said he was impressed. ... Since the Expos were the home team, the players were announced in both French and English.