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Tigers Line Up For PFP; Foulke Retires

The Detroit Tigers drew quite a crowd for pitchers' fielding practice on the first day of spring training. After bumbling away the World Series last fall, they weren't surprised.

"Right now, it's one of those things we have to deal with," closer Todd Jones said. "You just laugh at it, take your jokes and come up with some one-liners."

Tigers pitchers made five errors in five games against St. Louis in October, throwing away any chance they had to win the Series and nearly doubling the previous record. That's why about 50 members of the media, some based as far away as California, showed up to watch Detroit take PFP during the team's first workout.

It made for a fun story _ and easy jokes.

"If you're going to make five errors in the World Series, you've got to be able to accept the knock-knock jokes. Like, 'How many Detroit Tigers pitchers does it take to screw up a World Series? Eleven.' You've got to be able to look at it that way," said Jones, one of the pitchers to commit an error against the Cardinals.

Elsewhere, closer Keith Foulke retired from the Cleveland Indians and first baseman Nick Johnson hobbled into Washington Nationals camp with a long way to go in his recovery from a broken leg.

But many eyes were fixed on Tigers pitchers in Lakeland, Fla., as they went through what normally would be one of the dullest drills in spring training.

"It's pretty boring," manager Jim Leyland insisted.

Leyland said earlier that to avoid scrutiny, he wouldn't put his players through PFP on the first day of workouts. But pitching coach Chuck Hernandez advised him against that plan.

"I thought about it, but Chuck made a good point," Leyland said. "He said that might bring more attention to it."

Leyland still might have the grass between the mound and the plate watered down to simulate fielding and throwing in wet conditions later in spring training, an idea he talked about during a World Series news conference.

In Viera, Fla., Johnson arrived at spring training and was asked what he thinks the best-case scenario is for his return. He paused before offering a guess: "June?"

"But I won't know until I start hitting, running, getting on the field. It's hard to make a prediction now," he added. A few minutes later, he referred to the June estimate again: "That's in my head, but I just threw it out there. I don't know."

Johnson's right hip still hurts when he walks. Running? Forget that _ the pain's much too severe. So Washington's cleanup hitter has no idea when he'll be able to play again after a broken right leg ended his career-best 2006 season last September.

Team doctor Ben Shaffer will examine X-rays Monday, and manager Manny Acta and GM Jim Bowden said there's no way to put a timetable on when Johnson could play.

For now, he's limited to rehabilitation work.

"People were being a little overoptimistic when they were talking about him being ready for spring training," Acta said. "We're not going to jeopardize 2008 _ and years beyond 2008 _ just to get Nick Johnson here two or three weeks earlier. Not at all. Nick is not going to be on the field until he's 100 percent ready to go, free of any type of risk of injuring himself out there."

After struggling with elbow, back and knee injuries of his own in Boston the past two seasons, Foulke closed his career before he got a chance to finish another game.

The 34-year-old reliever, whose toss to first base for the final out ended an 86-year World Series title drought for the Red Sox in 2004, retired just as he was about to begin a two-man competition with Joe Borowski to be Cleveland's closer.

"Over the last few weeks, while preparing for the 2007 season, my body has not responded as it has in years past," Foulke said in a statement. "I feel strongly I will not be able to perform at the level where I need to be to help the Indians this season."

The Indias signed Foulke to a one-year, $5 million contract in January, hoping he would help improve a bullpen that was dreadful last season. The club would have had to honor that deal if Foulke had reported to camp and then retired.

"He didn't want to disappoint the organization or his teammates," general manager Mark Shapiro said, praising Foulke's integrity.

Foulke's retirement means Borowski will begin the season as Cleveland's closer. He had 36 saves in 43 chances last season for Florida.

In Sarasota, Fla., Ken Griffey Jr. reported a day early to Cincinnati Reds camp. He said his throwing hand feels fine and he expects to be ready to go in spring training.

The star center fielder broke his left hand in an accident at home in December and said Friday he was waiting for team medical director Dr. Timothy Kremchek to re-evaluate it.

Reds manager Jerry Narron has talked to the 37-year-old Griffey about playing some right field during spring training, giving speedy Ryan Freel more time in center.

"What we decide will be done behind closed doors," Griffey said.

He wouldn't reveal how he broke his hand, however.

In Tampa, Fla., New York Yankees pitchers Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano met to iron out their differences. They emerged from the chat smiling and said they were ready to move forward.

"We had a nice conversation," the oft-injured Pavano said. "I told him I understand his frustration. He's been counting on me for two years and I haven't been there for him, and he's had to carry the load that I should be picking up at times. I totally understand that. But we're both in agreement that we need to be on each other's side, we need to support each other and we need to lead this rotation."