The Texas Rangers' hopes for a fast start were hurt somewhat yesterday when American League batting champion Julio Franco was placed on the 15-day disabled list.
Franco, bothered by patella tendinitis in his right knee, was put on the disabled list retroactive to last Friday. He is eligible to return on April 12.
Franco hit .341 last season, and was part of the most potent offense in the majors. The second baseman played sparingly in spring training, and it is expected that he still will need to take time off each week once he rejoins the team.
The Rangers reacted to Franco's injury by signing free agent Al Newman. The utility infielder, who played last year for the Minnesota Twins, was cut by the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday.
Texas readied its roster for Monday's opening-night game in Seattle by releasing outfielder Gary Pettis.
Pettis was placed on irrevocable waivers. He was scheduled to make slightly more than $1 million this season.
Pettis hit .156 in 19 spring games. He is a career .237 hitter in 10 major-league seasons. He has five Gold Gloves.
* RED SOX: Manager Butch Hobson has decided to take rookie shortstop John Valentin with the team to Washington for today's game against the Orioles in case Luis Rivera's back and Tim Naehring's groin tendon strain act up.
"He won't be staying with us after Washington," Hobson said. "But he's had one heck of a spring." Valentin will join Triple-A Pawtucket.
Meanwhile, third-base coach Don Zimmer, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery Tuesday, was back, hobbling around the clubhouse with a bandage on his left knee. Asked when he'd be back on the coaching line, Zimmer said: "I'm hoping for Tuesday in New York."
* YANKEES: Kevin Maas, unhappy about being a bench player, had a 40-minute meeting with manager Buck Showalter.
"I know nothing more now than when I went in," Maas said. "I just
wanted to hear it from the horse's mouth."
* MARINERS: The Japanese-led investors attempting to purchase the Seattle Mariners signed a sale agreement yesterday with current owner Jeff Smulyan.
The deal, worth slightly more than $100 million, must be ratified by 11 of the 14 American League owners and seven of the 12 National League owners. Baseball's 10-man ownership committee is to meet Wednesday to consider the proposal. The next scheduled meeting of all owners is in June.
* TIGERS: Detroit signed pitcher Les Lancaster, who had been cut by the Cubs on Thursday. He was 9-7 with a 3.52 ERA in 64 games last season, 11 as a starter.