Tuesday, March 25, 1997 | 11:59 a.m.
Cleveland has permission to place closer Jose Mesa on the restricted list while he is on trial for rape.
Monday's ruling means the Indians will not have to start the season a player short. Mesa can stay on the list indefinitely beginning March 31, the first day of his trial.
AL president Gene Budig recommended that the Indians be allowed to carry a replacement for Mesa, and the commissioner's office granted permission.
If the closer is acquitted, Cleveland would have to option a player to the minor leagues before reinstating Mesa.
Mesa, who has saved 85 games the last two years for the Indians, will go on trial first on one count of rape, two counts of gross sexual imposition and one count of felonious assault. The charges are related to a complaint by two women Mesa met at a Cleveland nightclub Dec. 22.
After the first trial, Mesa will face a concealed weapon charge because police found a gun in his car when they arrested him.
Mesa's lawyer, Gerald Messerman, estimated that the trials will last a total of two weeks.
Mesa spoke about his legal problems for the first time in an interview last week, saying, "God has been getting me through it." The Indians have said Mesa will not comment again until after the trial.
Paul Shuey will be used as the closer while Mesa is in court. The Indians also have Mike Jackson, Eric Plunk and Paul Assenmacher in the bullpen.
* MARINERS 14, PADRES 12: At Peoria, Ariz., Jose Cruz Jr. went 3-for-3 with two homers, and Andy Sheets hit a two-run double in the 10th. Mariners manager Lou Piniella missed the game to undergo surgery for a rectal abscess, his second such operation in two months. Piniella was informed during a follow-up examination last week that he would need the second operation, and physicians told him he could not wait until after the season. Bench coach and hitting instructor Lee Elia took over Piniella's duties.
* CUBS 5, ANGELS 1: At Mesa, Ariz., Jeremi Gonzalez and Dave Swartzbaugh, competing to become Chicago's No. 5 starter, each pitched four strong innings. Rookie Kevin Orie doubled twice and drove in a run for the Cubs, who stopped a five-game losing streak.
* ROCKIES 7, GIANTS 3: At Tucson, Ariz., Andres Galarraga went 2-for-3, including a solo homer, and drove in two runs in a four-run fourth.
* DODGERS 5, ORIOLES 4: At Vero Beach, Fa., Wayne Kirby hit an RBI single off Mike Johnson in the ninth to lead Los Angeles. Dodgers starter Hideo Nomo allowed three runs and five hits in six innings, struck out six and walked one. Cal Ripken connected for a two-run homer off Nomo in the fourth.
* ATHLETICS 10, BREWERS 8: At Chandler, Ariz., Jason Giambi hit a pair of two-run homers in a game marred by a brawl. Milwaukee's Ron Villone, who gave up five hits and three runs in one inning, hit Jose Herrera with a pitch. Athletics right-hander Mark Acre responded by throwing two inside fastballs to Gerald Williams, who walked toward the mound as both benches emptied. Order was quickly restored and Milwaukee rallied for four runs and loaded the bases with two outs.
* YANKEES 6, INDIANS 4: At Winter Haven, Fla., Jorge Posada hit a three-run homer and David Wells struck out seven in five innings. The Indians set a park attendance record for the second straight day as 7,872 watched the World Series champions play the Central Division champions.