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BASEBALL; Fresh approach to an old problem

In Chicago, the collapse of the Cubs is as expected as the next lake breeze. The city's National League franchise is famous for contending in spring and early summer, then hitting the skids with a June swoon or a post All-Star Game tail-spin. Like so many managers before him, Preston Gomez is determined to break this saddening tradition, and, believe it or not, he may have unlocked the secret.

And what might it be? Simple. More rest for the players.

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A little extra time off helped the Cubs break out of homerun drought in May, and Gomez plans to cut down on the time spent in batting practice beginning in July. In fact, he will eventually eliminate it every other day during home stands.

What Gomez learned from talking to former Cub players like Ron Santo and Randy Hundley is that all the team's daytime games are wearying. Wrigley Field has never had lights for night play, so the Cubs consequently play all their home games in the afternoon. Gomez's strategy, then, is to keep his players out of Chicago's midday sun as much as possible.

This season, the Cubs have already broken with tradition by starting slowly. If they should finish fast, though, people will be a lot more surprised.

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