MLB notebook: Francona downplays reunion

2013-04-16T00:00:00Z MLB notebook: Francona downplays reunionThe Associated Press The Associated Press
April 16, 2013 12:00 am  • 

CLEVELAND - Manager Terry Francona, who helped end the Bambino's Curse and a World Series title drought in Boston before his tenure ended awkwardly in 2011 after eight seasons, will face his former team for the first time when the Red Sox start a three-game series against the Indians today.

With Cleveland off to a 5-6 start, the former Arizona Wildcat is trying not to get caught up in the reunion, unselfishly hoping he won't be a distraction to his players.

"To be honest, I'm an Indian," Francona said, dismissing any hype about the series. "I'm aware of the questions and everything. I have a lot of great memories. I don't think it's fair to the players. This game's hard enough to play. They don't need to be worrying about me having nostalgia week."

Some Boston players spent years getting to know the man affectionately called "Tito."

"It'll be different because we were so close," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia.

Ex-ballboy honors No. 42

MIAMI - A Brooklyn Dodgers ballboy during Jackie Robinson's rookie season helped honor the baseball pioneer Monday by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at the Miami Marlins-Washington Nationals game.

Norman Berman, 84, a Marlins fan who lives in West Palm Beach, was a 19-year-old ballboy in 1947, the year Robinson broke the sport's color barrier. Berman said he saw the challenges Robinson overcame as depicted in the new movie "42," with opponents taunting the Dodgers rookie.

"That movie was very close to what he had to go through," Berman said before the Marlins game. "They threw at him, they stepped on his feet ... and he never said anything to them. He never tried to fight them. He walked away with a smile on his face."

Baseball celebrated its annual Jackie Robinson Day on Monday, with players at all major league games wearing the late Hall of Famer's No. 42.

Inside pitch

• Cincinnati lost top starter Johnny Cueto for at least a few weeks because of a strained muscle in his back. The Reds are likely to call up left-hander Tony Cingrani to start Thursday for Cueto, who was placed on the 15-day DL.

• Toronto shortstop Jose Reyes won't need surgery on his sprained left ankle, but he's still expected to miss three months, general manager Alex Anthopoulos says. Reyes was injured sliding into second Friday at Kansas City.

• The Cubs unveiled details of their $500 million plan to renovate the 99-year-old ballpark. It calls for more night games, a new hotel, a new clubhouse, extended beer sales, various upgrades for fans - and a massive electronic video screen that could spark a legal battle with rooftop owners who would be blocked from viewing games across the street.

• Seattle placed right-handed reliever Stephen Pryor on the 15-day disabled list after he suffered a tear in a muscle in his back.

• Pittsburgh optioned right-handed pitcher Phil Irwin to Triple-A Indianapolis and called up outfielder Alex Presley.

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