Hargrove impressed with 'El Presidente'

By Ken Berger Associated Press Published:

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. _ The way Dennis Martinez is pitching, he should have no trouble passing Juan Marichal to become baseball's winningest Latin pitcher.

In fact, Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox says Martinez could contribute to an even sweeter goal.

"You know what Dennis Martinez can do for us?" Cox asked after Martinez pitched five shutout innings against his former teammates in the Braves' 2-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Sunday. "He can help us win the damn championship, that's what. ... I mean, right out of the shoot, he's ready for the season to begin."

Martinez, bidding for a spot in baseball's best starting rotation at 42, allowed two hits, walked none and struck out two.

Martinez has 241 career wins, two shy of tying Marichal. Martinez won 32 in three seasons with the Indians, beating them once last year before Seattle released him in May. He has pitched well in three of his four spring outings.

"I am absolutely astonished," Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove said. "Here's a guy who's 42 years old and had ligament damage in his elbow. The last time we saw him, the ligament was completely detached from the bone.

"Dennis is a good man. He's done a lot of good for baseball. It's nice to see him do that, it really is."

Martinez has blasted the Indians for failing to bring him back after the 1996 season. Usually extremely talkative, "El Presidente" declined interview requests after the game.

Travis Fryman hit a game-winning sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth to send the Indians past Martinez's Braves.

Richie Sexson led off the ninth with a double off left-hander John Rocker (0-1). Sean Casey singled him to third and Fryman ended the game with a fly ball that was deep enough to score Sexson.

Cleveland starter Steve Karsay, competing for the fourth or fifth spot in the rotation, allowed no runs and two hits in five innings, walking one and striking out four.

The game between teams linked by the 1995 World Series and the Kenny Lofton trade drew a park-record 8,206 to Chain O' Lakes Park.

Lofton, traded to Atlanta last spring and re-signed by the Indians after the season, was 0-for-3.

"I went (to Atlanta), I made the adjustments," Lofton said. "It's just a case where over there, they were more concerned about pitching more so than offense like it was over here.

"Over here, definitely, it's offense. You score as many runs as you can and keep on scoring. That's what I was used to and like to do. Over there it was a different atmosphere."

Enrique Wilson gave the Indians a 1-0 lead with an RBI infield single in the eighth against 19-year-old left-hander Odaliz Perez. The Braves tied it in the bottom of the inning on Randall Simon's RBI single off closer Jose Mesa (2-0), who blew his second save in as many chances this spring.

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