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CUBAN DEFECTORS RESCUED FROM ISLAND BY FISHING BOAT

Four Cuban baseball players and a coach who defected from the communist island more than a week ago were found alive on a small Bahamian island by the crew of a fishing vessel, a baseball agent said Saturday.

Joe Cubas, an agent who has helped several Cuban baseball players flee the island, said the five were spotted by a Bahamian fishing boat on Ragged Island. They were taken aboard the boat Saturday afternoon and turned over to the Bahamian Coast Guard, said Cubas, who said he has talked to two of the players by phone.

In addition to the four players and the coach, four other Cubans were stranded on the island, and also were rescued, Cubas said.

The players are first baseman Jorge Luis Toca, 23, catcher Angel Lopez, 25; second baseman Jorge Diaz, 23; and Michael Jova, a 17-year-old shortstop from Cuba's junior Olympic team. Pitching coach Enrique Chinea, 41, was with them.

The defectors left Cuba on March 10.

All five were banned from baseball on the Caribbean island in July because Cuban authorities suspected they were planning to defect.

The group had been falsely reported Friday to have landed in the Dominican Republic.

Another Cuban defector, Orlando Hernandez, walked into the New York Yankees' clubhouse in Tampa Saturday and saw a table filled with food. The pitcher was puzzled. He wondered who the buffet was for, and wanted to know whether he had to pay for it.

From the plentiful spread to the players alongside him, it was all new for "El Duque."

"The first day of workouts with the New York Yankees and being next to so many stars is what I'll always remember," Hernandez said. "This what I always wanted to do."

Hernandez, 28, got a nice reception from fans as he went through his first workout.

Hernandez, half-brother of Florida Marlins ace Livan Hernandez, was part of a group that fled Cuba by boat Dec. 26. He signed a $6.6 million, four-year contract on March 7.

Later in the day, Chili Davis hit two homers, including a shot during a 10-run third inning that sent the Yankees over the Kansas City Royals, 17-1.

Bisons tie Mud Hens

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Jason Jacome, one of five players sent by the parent Cleveland Indians to the Buffalo Bisons on Saturday, threw five strong innings as the Herd played to a 2-2 exhibition tie with the Toledo Mud Hens.

Jacome allowed no runs and three hits. Catcher Michael Moyle delivered an RBI double and Bruce Aven and Jolbert Cabrera each had a hit for the Herd.

The other four players assigned to the Bisons on Saturday were outfielder David Miller and pitchers Marcus Moore, Melido Perez and Rich Batchelor.

The Herd will face New Orleans at 1 p.m. today in Kissimmee, Fla.

Knight drops in for a visit

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Indiana Hoosiers coach Bob Knight didn't have a basketball game to keep him occupied, so he dropped in on an old friend at an exhibition game between the Baltimore Orioles and St. Louis Cardinals.

Knight came to see St. Louis manager Tony La Russa, who allowed the outspoken coach to bring the Cardinals' lineup card to the home plate umpire.

Knight is done with basketball for the season. His Hoosiers lost to Connecticut in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last weekend.

Red Sox fail to sign Lemke

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Boston Red Sox have abandoned attempts to sign Mark Lemke, general manager Dan Duquette said, and they will most likely start someone in camp at second base.

"We've made another offer and he rejected it," Duquette said. "It doesn't look like things are going to come together for him and the Red Sox. So we're going to work with what we have."

For the Red Sox, that means second base is a competition between 13-year veteran Mike Gallego and prospects Donnie Sadler and Lou Merloni. Mike Benjamin is the likely backup.

The Red Sox have been looking for a second baseman since Jeff Frye suffered a season-ending knee injury early in camp.

Cordero situation unresolved

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Chicago White Sox general manager Ron Schueler said he'd like to know within the next couple of days whether the team will sign troubled outfielder Wil Cordero.

The White Sox have tested and interviewed Cordero, who pleaded guilty in November to beating and threatening his wife last June. He received a 90-day suspended sentence and was ordered to attend regular counseling sessions.

Cordero hit .281 with 18 homers and 72 RBIs last season for Boston, which released him after the season.

"I'd like to have something done in the next two days one way or the other so we can go on. We're having a meeting tomorrow about our club and want to get down to our traveling squad for Las Vegas," Schueler said.

Stieb pitches two innings

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Dave Stieb, trying to make a comeback at age 40, pitched two innings and allowed two unearned runs in a Triple-A exhibition game for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Stieb allowed one hit, walked two and struck out one for Syracuse in a 6-3 win over Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, Philadelphia's top minor-league team. His best fastball was clocked at 87 mph.

Stieb, whose 174 wins are the most in Toronto history, has not pitched in the majors since 1993.

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