TEMPE, ARIZ. — In the Dominican Republic, a proven source of baseball talent, major league teams operate individual academies. In Colombia, where teams seldom dare to tread, Orlando Cabrera runs his own academy.
He pays for it all -- uniforms, equipment, coaches, English lessons. It is a small price, the Angels' shortstop says, to accelerate the development of baseball in his homeland.
Cabrera imagined the sport would take off after the 2004 World Series, in which each team featured a Colombian shortstop -- Edgar Renteria for the St. Louis Cardinals, Cabrera for the Boston Red Sox. But interest never did surge, so Cabrera opened his academy, for boys 15-17.
In three years, he said, 56 academy prospects have signed with major league organizations.
"I'm just doing this to give back to the community," Cabrera said. "I don't want to give back with things I don't know how to do."
One week ago, Commissioner Bud Selig urged Gary Matthews Jr. to discuss allegations he ordered human growth hormone and said he would defer comment about how baseball might respond.
"Why don't we let him make the statement?" Selig said then.
Matthews has since made his statement, denying he used HGH but failing to address whether he ordered any. On Saturday, Selig would not say whether the statement satisfied his concerns or whether the outfielder would be subject to suspension, citing the New York investigation in which Matthews' name surfaced.
"I really don't want to get involved until I have all the facts," Selig said. "Then I can make a judgment."
Matthews has not failed a drug test, and the prosecutor has said he would not charge Matthews, so a suspension under baseball's drug policy is highly unlikely. But Selig is wary of publicly clearing Matthews, two sources said, while investigators continue to review evidence.
The Angels' training camp took on an international flair Saturday, when the Chinese national team visited for an exhibition game against some of the Angels' Class-A players. China, preparing for the 2008 Beijing Olympics under the direction of former major league manager Jim Lefebvre, is training in Arizona for two months.
A medal would be a miracle. In last year's World Baseball Classic, China went 0-3 and was outscored, 40-6. The sport is relatively new there, and the best athletes play other sports.
But Yao Ming has popularized basketball in China, and Selig and Co. would love to develop a Chinese major leaguer to popularize baseball.
"Every time Yao laces his shoes, it's on TV," Lefebvre said. "If we can catch lightning in a bottle and find that one guy, we could have the same effect."
Around the horn
Howie Kendrick, Casey Kotchman and Robb Quinlan hit home runs as the Angels beat the Chicago White Sox, 4-3, in Tucson. Kotchman and Quinlan homered on consecutive pitches in the sixth inning, and Kendrick's homer broke a 3-3 tie in the eighth.... Jered Weaver (biceps tendinitis) threw eight minutes of batting practice, his first time facing live hitters. He still hasn't thrown a breaking ball. The Angels hope he can pitch in a Cactus League game next weekend and rejoin the rotation April 11 or 12.