Roberto Alomar retired yesterday, ending a career in which he became one of baseball's best second basemen and, for a time, its most scorned...

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Roberto Alomar retired yesterday, ending a career in which he became one of baseball’s best second basemen and, for a time, its most scorned player.

The 12-time All-Star called it quits with Tampa Bay, finishing 276 hits shy of 3,000. He led Toronto to consecutive World Series titles in 1992-93 and was considered by many a lock for the Hall of Fame until a swift decline the past three seasons as he drifted from team to team.

Alomar’s legacy was tarnished when he spit in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck in 1996 while with Baltimore. The messy confrontation made front-page news all over the country and turned Alomar into a target for angry fans throughout the majors.

Alomar’s announcement came one day after he committed two errors in one inning of a spring-training game with the Devil Rays, who signed him to a $600,000, one-year contract in January.

“I played a lot of games and I said I would never embarrass myself on the field,” Alomar said. “I had a long career, but I can’t play at the level I want to play, so it’s time to retire. I just can’t go anymore. My back, legs and eyes aren’t the same.”

Alomar also played for San Diego, Cleveland, the New York Mets, Arizona, and the Chicago White Sox during 17 seasons in the major leagues. In his prime, he was one of the best all-around players in the game, blessed with speed, smarts and extra-base power.

A 10-time Gold Glove winner and career .300 hitter, Alomar was an All-Star for 12 consecutive seasons from 1990 to 2001, but struggled while batting .266, .258 and .263 the past three years.

More talk on steroids

MESA, Ariz. — Commissioner Bud Selig rejected the notion that baseball officials knew steroids were a problem 10 years ago but did nothing about it.

“It’s easy to look back and rewrite history,” Selig said. “People can say that we knew, but I’d like to know on what basis. There certainly is no medical evidence. There was no testing.”

Selig admitted that he wished he “knew in 1995 what I know now,” but also defended baseball’s current drug-testing policy. The sport banned steroids in September 2002 and began testing for them with penalties in 2004.

Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling also spoke yesterday on the topic. He said he believes Jose Canseco told the truth in parts of his book and that the slugger’s career was “a sham” because he used steroids.

Schilling spoke publicly for the first time since testifying Thursday at a congressional hearing on steroids.

“He admitted to being a cheater. His whole career was a sham,” Schilling said of Canseco. “It makes me appreciate the fact that Alex Rodriguez is more of a genetic freak than we ever thought because he’s truly the only 40-40 guy to ever play the game.”


• Schilling will miss Boston’s opening day, setting up David Wells to start against his former team, the New York Yankees. Boston manager Terry Francona said Schilling, who is coming back from ankle surgery last November, may sit out the first two weeks of the regular season.

• Outfielder Lance Berkman agreed to a six-year, $85 million contract with the Astros, keeping the three-time All-Star from becoming a free agent after the 2005 season. Berkman is expected to miss the start of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

• Tampa Bay outfielder Danny Bautista, in the major leagues for parts of 12 seasons with Detroit, Atlanta, Florida and the Diamondbacks, retired. He hit .272 in 895 career games. The Devil Rays signed speedy outfielder Alex Sanchez, released by Detroit on Tuesday.

Ken Griffey Jr. made his first defensive appearance of the year, and the Reds beat the Twins 4-1 in Sarasota, Fla. Griffey played center field for the first five innings, catching a shallow fly and chasing a double into the gap in right center.

• Houston’s Roger Clemens is day-to-day after straining his right hamstring. Clemens is still slated to pitch Wednesday.