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DODGERS : Players Leave, but Claire Plans to Return


VERO BEACH, Fla. — The Dodger strike replacements played their final Grapefruit League game Wednesday, put on their coats and ties and eagerly boarded their chartered flight back to Los Angeles.

They sat back in their seats, watched their duffel bags and suitcases being loaded, and if anyone looked closely, he would have realized that one bag was missing.

Fred Claire, Dodger executive vice president, never bothered to pack.

Claire's spring wardrobe remains behind in a closet and dresser drawers at his Dodgertown villa.

"I left my clothes here," Claire said, "because I know I'll be back. . . .

"My gut feeling is that there has to be a settlement here very soon. With that in mind, we'll be back here in spring training."

The possibility of a settlement left the Dodger replacement team confused as it boarded vans for its flight. The players spent the last four weeks compiling a 20-7 record in the Grapefruit League, and as each day passed, began believing they would be in the major leagues.

"A week ago, I was convinced we'd be opening the season," said pitcher Tom McCarthy, who already had been informed that he'd be the opening-day starter. "Now, you don't know what will happen."

Said infielder Tony Meilan: "It'd be a pretty big letdown for a lot of guys around here. For a lot of guys, this is the only chance they have to make the big leagues, and to have it taken away this late. . . .

"It'd be like waiting for Christmas, and then, boom, it's gone."

Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda took the microphone before Wednesday's finale at Holman Stadium and thanked the crowd of 2,123 for its support.

"We achieved our purpose," Lasorda said. "We kept the game going and made the best out of a sad situation. We had a lot of fun. These guys played like true champions.

"But now, I want my players back."


Cory Snyder, 32, who batted .235 with six home runs and knocked in 18 runs in 73 games for the Dodgers last season, signed a minor league contract with the San Diego Padres.

He decided he'd rather play at Las Vegas now than wait to sign a major league deal.

"There's only so many errands you can do around the house," Snyder said.


The Dodgers drew an average of 2,141 this spring at Holman Stadium compared to a 5,845 average last season. . . . Dodger pitcher Darren Dreifort, who underwent major arm surgery earlier this month, said he'll return to Wichita State and try to complete his degree while he spends this year recuperating. He's managing to keep in good spirits, he said, "Although come July, I might be a little bitter. It seems like everybody has this done one time or another in their career, so I might as well get mine done early." . . . Japanese pitcher Hideo Nomo will pitch his first game of the spring Friday when he starts for Vero Beach against the Atlanta Braves' Class-A team.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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