Smarting Nomar surprised he's still a Red Sox

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 25 2004 12:00 a.m. MST

Nomar Garciaparra was hurt by Boston's attempt to trade him during the offseason and was a little surprised to be back with the Red Sox for 2004.

"Can you believe after these three months I'm still here?" he said with a smile Tuesday after reporting to spring training in Fort Myers, Fla.

At times, Garciaparra didn't think he would be back. If the Red Sox had acquired Alex Rodriguez from Texas for Manny Ramirez, they planned to deal their longtime shortstop to the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Magglio Ordonez. The White Sox, in turn, might have sent Garciaparra to Los Angeles.

"I was definitely hurt by a lot of it. I probably feel like anyone else would feel after spending their whole career in one organization," said Garciaparra, a five-time All-Star who can become a free agent after this season.

"I was gone. Basically, I was gone. So I dealt with that already because, as far as I was concerned, I was traded."

Pedro Martinez, Sammy Sosa and Ordonez all wanted to think ahead and forget about the past.

Martinez wants to forget his contract flap, his Game 7 flop and his Don Zimmer flip. He's concentrating on helping the Red Sox try to win their first World Series since 1918.

"I hope it is that we are the team to beat," Martinez said, "but I don't want to say it. I want to do it."

He considers the Yankees the favorite because they went to the World Series, losing to Florida, after defeating Boston in seven games during the AL championship series. In Game 3, Martinez tossed Zimmer, then a New York coach, to the ground during a melee. And in Game 7, Martinez gave up three runs in the eighth, allowing the Yankees to tie the score.

He, too, can be a free agent after the season.

"If they don't want to sign me, that's fine," the three-time Cy Young winner said. "I'm pretty sure I'll probably get a job with somebody else, but if they do, I'll be more than happy to stay here."

In Tampa, Fla., the picture was just too perfect, even for people who forecast a stormy relationship between Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter.

All smiles, Rodriguez was relaxing after his first full workout with the Yankees. Surrounded by All-Star players and adoring fans, it had been a wonderful day.

That's when Jeter joined him at a picnic area right outside Legends Field for a media session. And within a minute of them sitting together, the fair skies turned foul, the wind whipped and a wicked rain started to fall.

Coincidence or correlation? Who knows?

"I'm sure you'll make it a good story," Jeter said.

About 2,500 fans watched Rodriguez work out at third and Jeter at shortstop.

"That's the largest crowd I've ever practiced in front of at spring training, and this is my 10th year," Rodriguez said.

New York made another move, reaching a preliminary agreement on a $2.25 million, one-year contract with Travis Lee, who will back up Jason Giambi at first base.

In Mesa, Ariz., Sosa brushed aside questions about steroid use in baseball, saying he doesn't know what other players are doing and can't control anyone but himself. His only concern is getting the Chicago Cubs to the World Series.

"I really don't want to make a comment about that because we've got a beautiful team here," he said when asked about steroids following his first spring training workout. "We've got something else in mind, to come here and play baseball. I don't want to make a comment because I don't have anything to talk about."

Cubs manager Dusty Baker thinks suspicions about which baseball players are using steroids smacks of a McCarthy witch hunt.

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