Portland's manager remains optimistic about the new season

Turmoil surrounds the operations at PGE Park, but Portland Beaver Manager Rick Sweet says he and the players are doing their best to remain oblivious to it.

'Obviously, there are problems going on, but I don't know about them,' says Sweet, the Vancouver, Wash., resident who is getting ready for his third season with the Triple-A club. 'And, quite frankly, I don't want to know about them.'

It has yet to be determined whether Portland Family Entertainment will operate the Beavers, who are scheduled to begin play on April 3. PFE officials have deemed their lease with the city unworkable, and they have lost millions since refurbishing the stadium.

Another outfit could swoop in and run the Beavers, or the Pacific Coast League could take control, or the city of Portland could take over while leaving management intact.

For now, tickets are being sold, and Sweet says all necessary purchases are being made for baseball. PFE President Mark Schuster, and special assistant Jack Cain to a lesser extent, continues to run the team Ñ with a scaled-down staff.

'There's going to be a season,' Sweet says. 'If you're asking for a percentage, I'd say it's 97 percent sure it'll be in Portland. If not in Portland, we'd have to play in Calgary. That would be absolutely the last option.'

Calgary doesn't have a PCL team this year.

Sweet will leave for spring training with the parent San Diego Padres in Peoria, Ariz., next Friday. He fully intends to return with 25 players for Portland's home opener against Tucson on April 11 Ñ after the Beavers begin the season with road series at Sacramento and Fresno.

Expect to see the likes of outfielders Xavier Nady and Kory DeHaan, infielders Donaldo Mendez and Alex Pelaez and pitchers Jake Peavy, Dennis Tankersley and J.J. Trujillo in Beaver uniforms again.

The Beavers attracted good crowds last season. They set a franchise record with total attendance of 454,197, or 6,779 per game.

Sweet says the fans he encounters during speaking engagements and camps aren't preoccupied with the financial trouble that has plagued PFE almost from the very beginning.

'They always come up and say they had a good time at the ballpark,' he says. 'With all the problems, the people don't see it, either.'

Unlike with PFE's running of the Portland Timbers soccer team, the Padres pay for Beavers' player and coaching salaries and some of the equipment costs.

'If just for the baseball team,' he says, PFE 'probably made money last year.'

The city has joined the campaign to acquire a major league team, and Sweet endorses Portland as a potential home for the Montreal Expos, even though that would force him to work in another city.

'I think it'll work. Major League Baseball wants to come here,' Sweet says. 'But I know there are problems É more psychological problems than anything else Ñ PIL athletics, taxes, unemployment and the first deal the city did on a smaller scale with PFE didn't go too well.

'If you step back and look at the plan to where they tax the players coming in, it'll work,' he says. 'The last time I was in the major leagues, three states and four cities taxed me. Now you've got guys making $10 million to $20 million over a seven-month period. You're talking a lot of money. The numbers are there for baseball to work here, I just think it scares people.'

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