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Arizona feeling deserted over absences

PHOENIX -- There were two primary questions being asked when the Red Sox got ready to play the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first of two exhibition games at the BOB last night:

1. Why were the Red Sox playing here?

2. Where were all the Sox stars?

The popular theory as to why the Sox flew across the country for two exhibitions is that it was part of the deal that delivered Curt Schilling from Arizona in November 2003.

"I'm sure it's because of Schilling," manager Terry Francona answered when asked why the Sox made the trip.

Arizona general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. disputed the theory. "It wasn't part of the deal," he said. (Arizona will play the Yankees at home next spring, perhaps as Randy Johnson compensation.)

The Diamondbacks were disappointed that the Sox left half of their team in Florida for a split-squad game against the Twins. Manny Ramirez, Johnny Damon, Edgar Renteria, Jason Varitek, Kevin Millar, and Schilling were among those who did not make the trip.

"I think our fans will notice the absence of some people they saw on television during the World Series last fall," said Garagiola. "It's fair to say we've had some conversations with the Red Sox the last few days."

The Sox dropped their Florida finale to the Twins, 4-2, in Fort Myers. This cost them possession of the coveted Mayor's Cup, awarded annually to the winner of the spring series between the cross-town rivals.

"I think we'll survive," said Francona.

Tim Wakefield starts today's spring finale at the BOB. Sox players in Florida will work out at 1 p.m., then charter to New York. The Arizona unit should arrive in Gotham around 1 a.m. tomorrow. The full Sox squad will work out at Yankee Stadium tomorrow at 3 p.m., a final practice before Sunday night's much-hyped opener.

Payton in place
Outfielder Jay Payton played his second straight game since coming back from a bruised right hand. He's expected to start in right field Sunday night against Johnson . . . Diamondbacks righthander Russ Ortiz, who signed a $33 million, four-year deal this offseason, had a hideous outing. After getting leadoff hitter Payton to fly out, he surrendered a single to Trot Nixon, walked four consecutive batters, gave up back-to-back doubles to Doug Mirabelli and Dave McCarty, and a single to Ramon Vazquez. Trailing, 6-0, he was lifted before getting a second out. This led to a baseball oddity as Payton lined into a double play. It's not very often you see a batter make all three outs in an inning . . . Troy Glaus, Arizona's other high-priced free agent, crushed a two-run homer off Bronson Arroyo in the bottom of the first, and another one in the third, but the Sox hung on for a 10-9 win. Arroyo allowed seven runs (six earned) and eight hits in four innings . . . Schilling and Wade Miller will oppose one another in a minor league game in Fort Myers tomorrow. Sox pitching coach Dave Wallace and assistant trainer Chris Correnti will observe, then fly to New York with Schilling and Miller for the opener. Schilling is scheduled to pitch for Pawtucket Thursday and is eligible to come off the disabled list April 10. Francona has ruled him out of the home opener (April 11) but Schilling could pitch against the Yankees at Fenway April 13 or 14. Miller will throw a side session in New York, then return to Florida for a rehab assignment . . . Asked if the Sox might start the season with a "hangover" from the success of last fall, the manager said, "Our guys are fine with hangovers. It doesn't bother them a bit." . . . At least 10 of the Red Sox will be reading the Top Ten list for David Letterman Monday night.

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