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GRAPEFRUIT DIARY: Weaver making a statement

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.

FOXSports.com contributing baseball writer Bryan Hoch is in Florida this week to check out the action of the Grapefruit League. He will be filing daily reports from the Sunshine State:
  • had better make the New York ¿ starting rotation. That¿s the general consensus here at Disney¿s Wide World of Sports Complex, where Weaver pitched five scoreless innings and retired the last thirteen batters to face him as the trounced the Atlanta , 8-1. After being acquired from the Detroit during last season, Weaver quickly found himself banished to the Bombers¿ bullpen, a far cry from the ace title he had previously held in Motown. Manager Joe Torre quieted Weaver¿s concerns by assuring him that he would be in the starting rotation come 2003, but like a woman window-shopping in Beverly Hills, the just had to have the latest new thing in . Now, instead of preparing for thirty or so starts in pinstripes, Weaver finds himself embroiled in a battle just to crack the ¿ top five. That¿s what makes a game like today¿s so important for the sandy blond-haired righthander. Game Story: With Weaver needing every ounce of a good outing to stay golden in Torre¿s eyes, he received plenty of insurance courtesy of Atlanta¿s and unbelievably shoddy defense. The have always prided themselves on exceptional pitching and strong glovework, but neither of those qualities proved to be present today. Atlanta committed two errors in the opening inning (first baseman dropped a throw and right fielder booted a ball off his shoe top) that put the in a quick 3-0 hole, and the would add two more in the second by capitalizing on two more errors (another by Fick and one by third baseman , who failed to get in front of Weaver¿s chopped ground ball). In all, the had committed four errors before they could even record four outs, and it became clear that this was going to be one long afternoon. Given a 5-0 lead through two innings, Weaver settled in and dominated. and smacked back-to-back singles with two out in the first, but Castilla bounced into a 5-4-3 double play that began a string of 13 outs in a row. The showed their own solid defense along the way to help Weaver out ¿ left fielder , campaigning for playing time in the shadow of , robbed of a home run in the fourth inning with a leaping catch, while took a base hit away from in the sixth with a jumping snare. Hodges didn¿t look impressive at all for the , although he was understandably undermined by all of the errors his defense committed. He lasted just two innings, allowing five runs (one earned) on five hits. Ballpark Ambience: Cracker Jack Stadium is a relatively new part of the stunning Disney World complex, and as would be expected from the Mickey company, it¿s a nice place to watch a game. Its layout reminds a little of both Turner Field and Camden Yards, and offers a fun seating option in the ¿Lawn¿ area, which is essentially a sloped incline of outfield-style turf that extends past third base and hooks all the way around left field. It¿s not nearly as cartoonish as I¿d expected, having spent the last two afternoons on a park hopper pass touring the four Disney parks, but the impact was clearly there. Every foul ball was accentuated by sound effects of shattering grass, a horror-movie scream or Homer Simpson¿s famous ¿D¿oh!,¿ while good play by the (not much to speak of today) was rewarded with Homer¿s ¿Woo-hoo!¿ One nice touch the do is the pre-game fireworks, beginning with flares that are shot into the air during the ¿Rocket¿s Red Glare¿ part of the National Anthem. I¿m a big fan of organ music at the ballpark instead of recorded Top-40 hits in between innings, so that was also a pleasant surprise, as was the absence of parking charges for fans. Ohhh, now I get it: second baseman is announced to the plate with the walk-up music of rapper 50 Cent¿s ¿In Da House.¿ It didn¿t seem like much of a fit, until you listen to the lyrics: ¿Go shorty, it¿s your birthday.¿ Giles is generously listed in the ¿ media guide at 5¿8¿. Speaking of In Da House: Today¿s ceremonial first pitch was thrown out by the NFL¿s Defensive Player of the Year, Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Derrick Brooks. The pitch was caught by the ¿ . And no, he didn¿t drop it. Bryan Hoch is a contributing writer to FOXSports.com. He can be contacted at bryanhoch@yahoo.com.

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