McGwire Expects To Be Good As New

By R.B. FALLSTROM, AP Sports Writer

Sunday January 21 - ST. LOUIS (AP) - Mark McGwire expects his repaired right knee to be old news by the time the season starts.

Monday is the three-month anniversary of the surgery for the St. Louis Cardinals first baseman, limited to 32 home runs last year by a severe case of tendinitis, and he's anticipating positive news from team doctors.

``They said the three-month mark is basically when you can go full-bore and start baseball activities, so I'm pretty excited about it,'' McGwire said Sunday at the team's annual Winter Warm-up. ``Everything's really good and I don't foresee any major problems.''

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he'll take it easy at first with McGwire in spring training. Pitchers and catchers report to Jupiter, Fla., on Feb. 15, with the first full-squad workout on Feb. 20.

``The things that happened before the first of the year were really positive,'' La Russa said. ``It's still positive. I think as long as we're careful, he'll be fine. We know he wants to get ready. It's just being smart.''

Teammate Jim Edmonds said he was optimistic McGwire would be fine.

``I'm supposed to be,'' Edmonds said. ``He told me to be.''

McGwire has been rehabbing 21/2 hours a day, five days a week in southern California.

``They hooked me up with a great therapist really close to my house and we've been going at it,'' McGwire said. ``I think my therapist is amazed a 37-year-old guy has that much desire to get back on the field.''

McGwire has no regrets about the procedure, which he had a few days after the Cardinals lost to the New York Mets in the NLCS. He was limited to pinch hitting duties in the playoffs.

``The technology today, it's almost better to have surgery,'' McGwire said. ``People always come back stronger and better. I resisted surgery because of all the times I've been through rehab.''

McGwire has a videotape of the surgery.

``That's the first thing I watched the day I got back from the hospital,'' McGwire said. ``There was some damage in there. Things are A-OK right now.''

McGwire was a huge hit at the final day of the team's three-day offseason event, with fans purchasing 14,000 $5 tickets for a shot at one of 300 autographs. Edmonds signed 400 autographs for $75 a pop and Bob Gibson signatures fetched $50 each, with proceeds going to Cardinal Care, the team's charitable foundation.

Last year, the event raised more than $300,000.

``I forget how crazy it is here, it's truly unbelievable,'' Edmonds said. ``You say it so many times over and over and I don't think anybody appreciates what it's like being here.''

McGwire had 73 RBIs in 89 games last season, batting .305. He hit a major league record 70 homers in 1998 and 65 in 1999 and wants to play at least until he's 40, as long as there's not a protracted work stoppage.

``Ultimately, I would like to get to the age of 40 and I would like to think about things,'' McGwire said. ``I'm at peace with everything right now.

``If I had to walk away from the game next year, I'm at peace with it.''

McGwire has softened his hard-line stance about the labor situation, however. Last year he said several times he would retire if there was a stoppage.

``I'd really have to weigh the situation,'' McGwire said. ``If it does happen, I'd really have to see how long it lasted.

``If something happens and it lasts a couple of days or a week, it's not going to damage the game.''

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