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ANGEL REPORT

Pressler Dismisses Talk

April 01, 2002|Bill Shaikin

If major league owners insist upon eliminating two teams after the season, the Montreal Expos will be one. If Minnesota lawmakers enact proposed legislation to finance a new stadium, that would remove the Twins from the endangered list and force owners to find another contraction partner for the Expos.

With Commissioner Bud Selig reluctant to eliminate a team whose owner wants to remain in the sport, Disney's willingness to sell the Angels has prompted speculation that the company might accept a hefty payment from major league owners--say, $250 million--and disband the team. Paul Pressler, the Disney executive who oversees the Angels, says the company would not volunteer the team for contraction.

"The Angels have never been discussed for contraction," Pressler said. "It's not something we would be in favor of."

Disney would be willing to sell the Angels to the owner of a team targeted for contraction. When owners targeted the Expos and Twins for contraction last winter, Selig tried to broker a deal in which Montreal owner Jeffrey Loria would buy the Florida Marlins and Florida owner John Henry would buy the Angels. Loria did buy the Marlins, but negotiations between Henry and Disney broke down, and Henry then joined the group that won the bidding for the Boston Red Sox.

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Shawn Wooten, who underwent surgery last month to repair a damaged joint in his right thumb, said Sunday he hopes to return long before the All-Star break, the estimate originally provided by team officials.

"I'm going for early June," Wooten said.

Dr. Lewis Yocum, the Angels' medical director, confirmed that Wooten could return sooner if he heals quickly. He said the rehabilitation period ranges from two to four months.

As the Angels constructed their team last winter, they planned for Wooten and Scott Spiezio to split time at first base. With Wooten injured and Spiezio suspended, Benji Gil started at first base Sunday and batted eighth.

Spiezio started at first base and batted eighth on opening day last year. In the first 40 years of franchise history, the opening day first baseman never had batted below the seventh spot in the lineup.

With Spiezio suspended for five games, Manager Mike Scioscia said Gil will play first base, backed up by Jose Nieves and, if necessary, Darin Erstad. The Angels would not be inclined to play designated hitter Brad Fullmer there because they might have to replace him for defensive purposes and do not want to remove his bat from the lineup.

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The Angels sold out their opener by selling 10,000 tickets in the three days before the game. The Angels said they sold slightly fewer than 13,000 season tickets by opening day, down from more than 13,000 last year, but team executives said they hope the enthusiasm that generated Sunday's sellout will also generate additional season-ticket sales this month.

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