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Published: Friday, 3/25/2005

Tigers' opening-day pitcher hammered again

LAKELAND, Fla. - Detroit manager Alan Trammell may want to reconsider his pick for opening day starter.

Right-hander Jason Johnson, Trammell's choice to start on opening day, had yet another disappointing outing last night. Johnson, who entered with a 6.00 ERA, was pounded for eight runs on 10 hits in 31/3 innings as the Houston Astros beat a split squad of Tigers 8-7.

"I don't have anything to say," Johnson said as reporters approached in the clubhouse.

Astros starter Brandon Backe had his troubles, too, giving up seven runs on six hits and five walks in 42/3 innings.

But three relievers held the Tigers in check.

Jose Vizcaino had a two-run double in the second and red-hot prospect Luke Scott hit his fifth homer of the spring, a three-run shot off Johnson for an 8-6 lead in the fourth.

Carlos Guillen closed the gap to 8-7 with a solo homer in the fourth, his first of the spring.

Bobby Higginson, who complained before the game about not knowing his status with the Tigers, had one hit in three at-bats.

Higginson, batting with the bases loaded and one out in the third, ran the count to full, fouled off two pitches, then walked.

One out later, Vance Wilson tripled in three runs giving Detroit a 6-5 lead.

"If they're going to do something, I hope it's sooner rather than later," said Higginson, a 10-year veteran coming off two sub-par seasons.

"You shouldn't have to read stuff in the papers. You would hope they'd be more professional and come to you."

Higginson, who went into the game batting .129, singled in the fifth, just his fifth hit of the spring.

DETROIT 4, CARDINALS 4

JUPITER, Fla. - Judging by his performance this spring, the nerve injury that kept Chris Carpenter out of the World Series is fully healed.

Carpenter pitched five solid innings giving up three runs and six hits while striking out eight, and the Cardinals tied the Tigers.

The right-hander was 15-5 with a 3.46 ERA in his comeback season of 2004 after two lost years following shoulder surgery.

Then, just weeks before the playoffs, he sustained nerve damage in his right biceps, forcing him to miss the postseason.

All three runs allowed by Carpenter came on Magglio Ordonez's three-run homer in the third inning.

The Cardinals trailed 4-1 with two outs in the ninth when first baseman Chris Duncan hit a three-run homer to tie it.

Duncan, the son of pitching coach Dave Duncan, has already been assigned to the minor leagues.

Albert Pujols also homered for St. Louis, his fifth of the spring.

Alex Gomez had three hits for the Tigers.



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