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Notebook: Ready or not, Citizens Bank Park to open

| Monday, April 12, 2004

PHILADELPHIA -- Ready or not, Citizens Bank Park opens for real Monday.

The new stadium might finally be set for action, but it doesn't appear that the Philadelphia Phillies were prepared to start the season.

The team widely considered favorites to win the NL East has opened the season with five losses in six games, including a three-game sweep in Florida by the world-champion Marlins.

Perhaps a return home can help the Phillies end their losing skid. The Phillies host the Cincinnati Reds in the first game at Citizens Bank Park on Monday. They played two exhibitions games there against the Indians last weekend, before workers put the finishing touches on the $458 million stadium.

"To me, it's really another start," said All-Star left-hander Randy Wolf, who takes the mound for the Phillies against the Reds' Paul Wilson. "All the enjoyment is mainly for the fans. It's going to be their day with the anticipation they've been waiting for so long for this new ballpark. It's going to be exciting for them.

The Phillies couldn't wait to move into their new ballpark after 33 mostly losing seasons at Veterans Stadium, which opened with a victory over the Montreal Expos on April 10, 1971.

A championship-caliber team just added to the excitement surrounding the new stadium. Expectations were raised after the offseason additions of All-Star closer Billy Wagner, former All-Star left-hander Eric Milton and reliever Tim Worrell.

But so far, the Phillies have played more like the team that finished with a losing record in 14 of the last 17 seasons. Still, it's early, with 156 games remaining.

"We're not playing the kind of baseball we want to play right now," Wolf said. "My focus, and I think our focus, is more what we need to do against the Reds. You enjoy it but there are so many things you've got to do right."

A lineup that includes Jim Thome, Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu should be more formidable than it's been. And, a rotation that consists of Wolf, Milton, Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla and Brett Myers has the potential to be among the best in the majors.

"I know the fans are excited and we're excited, too, about getting in that new stadium," center fielder Marlon Byrd said. "Hopefully, we'll give them some excitement when we get there."

The biggest difference for the players at the new stadium is the surface, with real green grass instead of the concrete-like artificial turf at the Vet. The most unique feature on the field is an angle located between the left-center field power alley and dead center field that could cause havoc for outfielders and produce some wild extra-base hits.

Floyd leaves game

New York Mets left fielder Cliff Floyd left yesterday's game against the Montreal Expos in the first inning with what appeared to be a right leg injury.

Floyd was running to first after hitting a weak infield grounder and started limping before getting to the base.

He immediately grabbed his right thigh and was attended to by the team's trainer and manager Art Howe. He was helped off the field, and replaced by Eric Valente.

Floyd was hit by a pitch in the right leg in Friday's game against the Expos.

Easter Sunday suit

Detroit manager Alan Trammell thought that the Easter Sunday game against the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park was an important one for the Tigers.

Craig Monroe's one-out single in the bottom of the 10th scored pinch-runner Andres Torres from second base for a 6-5 victory -- the Tigers' fifth in their first six games.

Because the Tigers won, Trammell conducted his postgame interview in a gray, pin-striped suit -- his way of saying thanks for the support from always well-dressed Pistons coach Larry Brown. On Friday night, Brown donned a Pudge Rodriguez jersey and a Tigers cap.

"We appreciate that Larry recognized the Tigers like that," Trammell said. "Go Pistons -- and Go Wings!"

Trammell said if the Tigers had lost, he wouldn't have put on the suit.

"We're just having a little fun, and I hope people realize that," Trammell said. "I certainly don't mean any disrespect to the Twins."

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