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AROUND THE MAJORS

New Strike Zone Brings Changes

May 02, 2001|From Associated Press

David Justice kept flailing away at the plate, striking out four times against the Boston Red Sox before hitting a game-winning home run.

After 11 years in the major leagues, he was trying to adjust to a new strike zone.

"That's not easy," said the New York Yankees' designated hitter, who had struck out four times in a game only once before in his career. "As soon as you see a ball's high, you swing. If you don't approach it right, you pop up."

One month after baseball started to enforce its new strike zone, strikeouts are up, while walks, home runs, batting average and earned-run average are all down.

This is what Commissioner Bud Selig envisioned when he told his aides to demand that umpires move the strike zone up and narrow it. For 20 years, it had gotten lower and wider, umpires ignoring the definition that had been in the Official Baseball Rules for more than a century.

"I think the strike zone is a little higher, generally," Houston Astro Manager Larry Dierker said. "We have a couple of guys calling it the way it used to be, but I think they're trying to follow the rule."

There was an average of 2.34 home runs a game in April, down 8.6% from the record average of 2.54 in the first month of last season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, baseball's statistician.

Still, the decrease wasn't that dramatic, with the 2001 average remaining 5.4% above the 1999 average of 2.22.

Walks decreased 13.3%, from 7.82 a game to 6.78, and strikeouts increased 5.4%, from 12.91 to 13.61.

That shows the strike zone really is getting larger.

"I've been happy with the consistency in the five games I pitched," Curt Schilling of the Arizona Diamondbacks said. "I didn't think it would be that easy for them to make that adjustment, but I think so far they've done a good job."

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The price of the best tickets for baseball's All-Star game is increasing $10 to $160.

Only 5,000 tickets for the July 10 game at Safeco Field in Seattle will be available to the public, the commissioner's office said. Tickets will go on sale by telephone and the Internet on May 22.

Safeco Field's capacity is about 47,000.

Reserved seats for the game will cost $100, the same as for last year's game at Turner Field in Atlanta.

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Reliever Tom Gordon was activated by the Chicago Cubs, who optioned rookie relief pitcher Courtney Duncan to triple-A Iowa.

Gordon, 33, was signed as a free agent Dec. 14 to be the Cubs' closer, but instead was placed on the disabled list in spring training after suffering a strained right triceps while lifting weights.

His replacement, Jeff Fassero, has had nine saves in 11 chances.

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