Baseball

MLB notes: Former Royals great Splittorff dies at 64

This is a 2011 photo of pitcher Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees baseball team.  This image reflects the Yankees active roster as of Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011, when this image was taken. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
This is a 2011 photo of pitcher Mariano Rivera of the New York Yankees baseball team. This image reflects the Yankees active roster as of Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011, when this image was taken. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall) ASSOCIATED PRESS

Paul Splittorff, the big, blonde left-hander who became the winningest pitcher in Royals history and a popular broadcaster for the team, died Wednesday of complications from skin cancer. He was 64. The Royals said Mr. Splittorff died at his home in the Kansas City suburb of Blue Springs, Mo. His family announced 10 days ago that he had been battling melanoma and oral cancer.

The Royals said the team will wear a memorial patch on the sleeve of their jerseys the rest of the season. Fans noticed on opening day in 2009 that his speech had become slurred, though Mr. Splittorff kept his health problems private until his plight was reported by online columnist Greg Hall.

"He didn't want anyone to feel sorry for him," Royals broadcaster Ryan Lefebvre said.

Drafted by the expansion Royals in the 25th round in 1968, Mr. Splittorff spent his entire 15-year career in Kansas City. A tall lefty with a high leg kick, he often appeared to squint into the catcher's mitt as though he was having trouble seeing the sign. Hitters sometimes wondered whether they should be ready to bail out if the ball came flying toward their heads. He retired during the 1984 season with a club-record 166 victories. His best year was 1973 when he went 20-11, the Royals' first 20-game winner. In 15 seasons, he was 166-143 with a 3.81 ERA.

The sky isn't falling, Mets GM says

Mets GM Sandy Alderson said Wednesday he expects the team's payroll to be cut next season, just not as drastically as some media reports have projected. Alderson tried to make light of the controversy swirling around the team in recent days thanks to two magazine articles that quoted owner Fred Wilpon.

"I was thinking, if the world had ended on Saturday, we wouldn't have to deal with these things," Alderson said.

Sports Illustrated quoted Wilpon as saying the team is "bleeding cash" and could lose up to $70 million this year. He also told the magazine the club might slash payroll next year. Alderson said something in the $120 million range for his 2012 budget sounded reasonable. The Mets current payroll is about $140 million.

Short hops

Mariano Rivera became the first pitcher in major-league history to appear in 1,000 games for one team and the 15th to reach the plateau overall when the Yankees closer was called on in the ninth inning against Toronto on Wednesday. Next up for Rivera, 41, is Goose Gossage with 1,002 games. Jesse Orosco is the all-time leader with 1,252 appearances. Trevor Hoffman is second for most appearances with one team. He had 902 of his 1,035 games with San Diego, according to STATS LLC.

■ Yankees setup man Rafael Soriano has an inflamed ligament in his right elbow that could keep the former All-Star out up to two months, GM Brian Cashman said Wednesday.

■ The Rockies placed LHP Jorge De La Rosa on the DL Wednesday, a day after he tore a ligament in his left elbow. They recalled right-handed reliever Bruce Billings from Triple-A Colorado Springs. De La Rosa will have tendon-replacement surgery, possibly next week. With All-Star Ubaldo Jimenez struggling this season, De La Rosa established himself as the backbone of the staff. He was 5-2 with a 3.51 ERA.

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