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Tuesday, March 11
Feud gets nasty as Mesa vows revenge against Vizquel

Associated Press

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Philadelphia Phillies closer Jose Mesa is angry at former Cleveland teammate Omar Vizquel.

Omar Vizquel

Jose Mesa

''If I face him, I'll hit him,'' Mesa said for a story published Tuesday in the Bucks County (Pa.) Courier Times. ''I won't try to hit him in the head, but I'll hit him. And if he charges me, I'll kill him.

''If I face him 10 more times, I'll hit him 10 times. Every time,'' Mesa said.

The two were teammates on the Indians from 1992 to 1998, and on Tuesday they were on the same field for the first time in 2003. The teams are not scheduled to play during the regular season,

''The best way to stop this is to not provide a setting where something can happen,'' Phillies general manager Ed Wade said Tuesday.

Wade discussed the issue with Mesa but did not issue disciplinary action. Mesa refused comment Tuesday.

Mesa pitched to Vizquel once last June, and hit him in the middle of the back during a game in Cleveland, getting a $500 fine from the commissioner's office. He also hit Vizquel while pitching for Seattle in 1999, triggering an on-field shouting match.

Last year, Vizquel criticized Mesa in his autobiography, saying the reliever blew Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. Vizquel now says he didn't mean to insult Mesa in print.

''I didn't mean to do anything bad,'' Vizquel said. ''I just wanted to let the fans know a little about what's going on out on the field.''

Mesa says he'll never forgive Vizquel.

''If he comes to apologize, I will punch him right in the face,'' Mesa said. ''And then I'll kill him.''

Mesa is 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds. Vizquel is 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds.

''If that would make him happy, I will fight him,'' Vizquel said of Mesa. ''Anything can happen. Everybody says I have soft hands, so I don't know. It would be flyweight vs. heavyweight.''

Mesa's threats shouldn't be taken at face value, Phillies manager Larry Bowa told the Courier Times.

''Jose doesn't mean what he says,'' Bowa was quoted as saying. ''He just had his pride hurt and he's a very proud man. When Jose says something about Omar, it's just out of anger.''

Bowa declined comment Tuesday.

For several years, Mesa and Vizquel were close friends.

''We were tight,'' Mesa said. ''He took my kids to school. We talked on the phone.''

Strains began during spring training 1998, when Vizquel celebrated an intrasquad homer against Mesa by doing a cartwheel while crossing home plate. Enraged at being shown up, Mesa vowed revenge. A year later, Mesa, then with Seattle, threw at Vizquel during a game, and the players had words.

Last June, ''Omar! My Life On and Off the Field'', was released and Vizquel criticized Mesa for failing to hold a 2-1 ninth-inning lead in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. Cleveland lost to Florida 3-2 in 11 innings.

''The eyes of the world were focused on every move we made,'' Vizquel wrote. ''Unfortunately, Jose's own eyes were vacant. Completely empty. Nobody home. You could almost see right through him. Jose's first pitch bounced five feet in front of the plate, and as every Cleveland Indians' fan knows, things got worse from there. Not long after I looked into his vacant eyes, he blew the save and the Marlins tied the game.''

Mesa is still angry about the book.

''Anybody who watched knows I was trying to do my job,'' he said. ''I was giving 100 percent. Coming out of him, that hurt me because he knows how hard I work.''

Vizquel admits he went too far.

''It did come out a little bit harsh, but it's too late now,'' he said. ''I guess you really shouldn't write a book until after you retire.''

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