It's hard to determine who got a bigger scare yesterday: Barry Bonds or the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Bonds, the Pirates' All-Star left fielder, suffered an abrasion to the cornea of his right eye when he was struck by a batted ball during batting practice. The injury isn't believed serious and Bonds is expected to return to the lineup this week.
The 1990 National League Most Valuable Player and last year's MVP runner-up will wear a patch for a day or two to protect the eye. Bonds probably will be sidelined for two to three days, Pirates trainer Kent Biggerstaff said.
About 90 minutes before the Pirates-Minnesota Twins exhibition game, Bonds was standing behind the batting cage to the right of home plate when Jay Bell lined a pitch into the cage's protective netting, striking Bonds in the eye. Bonds immediately fell to the ground, clutching his face.
Moments before being struck, Bonds was wrestling playfully with ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale, so Pirates players and team officials thought Bonds was joking.
Bonds lay prone for about 20 seconds before manager Jim Leyland and other team personnel realized he was injured.
Meanwhile, Leyland said Kirk Gibson, 35, the oft-injured outfielder acquired this month from the Kansas City Royals, mostly will lead off when he's in the starting lineup.
Using a hitter not necessarily considered the prototype leadoff hitter has been something of a Leyland trademark. He's shown a preference for leadoff hitters with power.
Only in 1990, with Wally Backman, have the Pirates had a traditional leadoff hitter under Leyland.
* METS: Three players involved in a rape investigation failed to meet yesterday's deadline for providing information to police, who said their next move could be to obtain blood samples with search warrants.
"We have not received any calls from any of the attorneys involving the three suspects as of five o'clock today," Lt. Scott Bartal of the Port St. Lucie, Fla., police said. "They will not be volunteering any statements to us."
A 31-year-old Manhattan woman filed an official complaint with police March 3 alleging the three Mets raped her on March 30, 1991, in Port St. Lucie, where the team con
ducts spring training. The three suspects have been identified by their attorneys as pitcher Dwight Gooden and outfielders Vince Coleman and Daryl Boston. Attorneys for Gooden and Boston said they had been unaware of any deadline.
* BRAVES: Three pitchers, including David Nied, one of the stars of this year's camp, were cut. Nied, a right-hander, held opposing hitters to a .128 batting average and just one earned run in 12 innings across four outings, for a 0.75 ERA. He had no decisions.
* PHILLIES: Mickey Morandini is getting a little tired of being left out when a left-hander is on the mound.
Morandini, a left-handed-hitting second baseman, batted .249 in games last season. Of 325 official at-bats, 65 were against left-handers. He got 12 hits against them for a .185 average.
Morandini said he understands why manager Jim Fregosi protects him from the better left-handers, but asks: "How am I going to learn to swing against them unless I go to the plate?
"I always hit left-handers throughout my minor-league career," said Morandini. "I didn't seem to have a problem with them. But, once I got to the majors, all of a sudden I can't hit left-handed pitchers. Part of the reason is that I didn't see them enough."
* REDS: Left-hander Norm Charlton will be the primary closer for the first month of the season while Rob Dibble rehabilitates his right shoulder.
The Reds began shuffling their bullpen to make up for the loss of Dibble, whose shoulder tendinitis was diagnosed the previous night.
Manager Lou Piniella said Dibble likely will remain in Florida to work out when the team heads north. He expects Dibble to rejoin the team around mid-April and return to the bullpen some time around May 1.
"We don't want to rush him," Piniella said. "He's going to be on the disabled list when the season starts."
Charlton, the left-handed set-up man for Dibble, will assume his role. The shift leaves one more bullpen opening and sets up competition among right-handers Ted Power and Dwayne Henry and left-hander Scott Ruskin for the setup and part-time closer roles.