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Notebook: Astros will drop Lugo

| Monday, May 5, 2003

HOUSTON -- Houston Astros general manager Gerry Hunsicker said Sunday the team either will trade shortstop Julio Lugo or place him on waivers in the coming days.

Lugo was arrested Wednesday night after a game against the Atlanta Braves, charged with misdemeanor assault for allegedly attacking his wife at Minute Maid Park before the game.

He was designated for assignment Thursday, giving the Astros 10 days to trade him, demote him to the minors or place him on waivers.

Hunsicker, speaking on his weekly radio show on KTRH, said the team has "pretty much eliminated" the possibility of sending Lugo to the minors.

"We'll either trade his contract or put him on waivers at some point," Hunsicker said. "If we reach that point and still haven't been able to dispose of his contract, the final alternative would be to release him."

Lugo, who had been a starter at shortstop, spent Wednesday night in jail before being released on bond. He denies striking his wife, and his lawyer has said he believes Lugo has a good case.

The infielder is in his fourth season with the Astros, batting .246 with two RBI in 22 games. Adam Everett has assumed Lugo's role as Houston's starting shortstop.

Lugo is signed to a one-year, $1.58 million contract.

Australian prime minister visits Yankee Stadium

Once he found out that New York Yankees manager Joe Torre would visit Australia next offseason, Prime Minister John Howard came up with a grand plan.

"Please contact me," Howard told him yesterday. "I might even take you to a cricket match."

"I'd love it," Torre said.

Howard stopped by Yankee Stadium to watch New York play the Oakland Athletics, and talked to Torre outside the manager's office before the game.

A big sports fan Down Under -- he refers to himself as a "cricket tragic" because he follows the game so closely -- Howard told Torre he was excited about seeing "your famous team" in such a setting.

Torre likened the historic ballpark to a museum, and said Howard was in for a real treat: future Hall of Famer Roger Clemens vs. Barry Zito in a pitching matchup of Cy Young Award winners.

"Any time you get to see such a sporting event in this kind of setting, it's special," Howard said.

Responded Torre: "Hopefully, you'll bring us luck. Then we'll have to bring you back."

However, the Yankees lost 2-0.

Baker's 4-year-old son sings 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game'

Darren Baker is more than just a cute bat boy. He can sing, too.

The 4-year-old son of Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker sang "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" at yesterday's game against Colorado, drawing loud cheers from a standing crowd.

"Hi, everybody!" he said while Dad watched from the dugout.

Darren sang at the Cubs' convention this winter, and team officials asked if he'd do it again yesterday as part of "Dusty Baker Beanie Baby Day."

And Darren fared much better than some of the adults who've been guest conductors during the seventh inning stretch. Wearing a Cubs cap and a red sweatshirt, he said he wasn't nervous at all. He said he's been practicing "a long, long time," and he knew all the words to the song.

His mom, Melissa, held him as he stood on a countertop so fans could see him, and she sang along with the rest of the fans. Dad was singing, too, and he waved to Darren in the pressbox when his son finished.

"That was a lot of fun," Darren said after. "That was pretty cool."

He's become a celebrity of sorts since the World Series, when he was a bat boy for Dad's previous employer, the San Francisco Giants. Even non-baseball fans fell in love with him as he scurried to pick up players' bats, wobbling as he struggled to get them back to the dugout.

And fans all over the country gasped when he was nearly run over at home plate in Game 5 trying to grab the bat of his favorite player, Kenny Lofton. San Francisco first baseman J.T. Snow scored, then scooped up the boy before David Bell came charging across the plate.

Baseball has since adopted a minimum age of 14 for bat boys, so Darren isn't in the dugout with his dad this year. But he's still a big baseball fan. He has his first T-ball practice Friday -- His team• Cubs, of course -- and he plays at home.

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