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Thursday, February 24, 2005; Page D08

Cleveland slugger Juan Gonzalez became the latest player to refute allegations made by Jose Canseco in his book, saying he has never used performance-enhancing drugs and that Canseco lied about introducing the two-time American League most valuable player to steroids in the early 1990s when they were teammates in Texas.

"It's not true. . . . The only guys who have put needles in my body are doctors," Gonzalez said. . . .

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Phillies third baseman David Bell remained sidelined with back spasms and could miss up to a week. "I'm not concerned about it," he said. "It's frustrating, but I'm relieved there's a long time before the first game." . . .

White Sox outfielder Aaron Rowand got a rude awakening in "live" batting practice against lanky 6-foot-7 Brandon McCarthy, a non-roster invitee and a top prospect. On one of his first pitches, McCarthy drilled Rowand in the middle of the back. Rowand bent over at the plate in pain but was not seriously injured. . . .

National League champion St. Louis held its first workout yesterday with a different look up the middle. Shortstop David Eckstein replaces Edgar Renteria, and second baseman Mark Grudzielanek replaces Tony Womack.

"You really want to get on the field and start playing with the guys," Eckstein said. "It's great to see everybody."

Almost everybody. Outfielder Larry Walker sat out due to muscle spasms in his back.

-- From News Services

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