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Denney eludes bullet injury

Cleveland Indians pitcher Kyle Denney shrugged off being hit in the leg by a bullet and said yesterday he was grateful he may have been protected by white cheerleaders boots he was wearing as part of a hazing ritual.

Denney was shot Wednesday night when a bullet pierced the team’s bus as it drove to the Kansas City International Airport after a game with the Kansas City Royals.

Team trainers removed the bullet from Denney’s right calf. He stayed overnight at a Kansas City hotel after being treated at a hospital and arrived in Minneapolis a few hours after his teammates for a series with the Twins that begins today.

“As soon as the skin heals, it should be fine,” Denney said at a news conference, where he wore a suit and walked without a noticeable limp.

As part of a rookie hazing ritual, Denney was wearing a USC cheerleader’s outfit, including the high white boots, on the trip to the airport.

“Our trainers said the boots may have saved Kyle from further injury,” team spokesman Bart Swain said.

An Oklahoma native, Denney said his teammates chose the outfit because the Sooners are ranked second behind Southern California in the AP’s college football poll.

“I’ve never been so glad to have a USC thing on,” he said.

Swain said the shot was fired into the side of one of the Indians’ two buses while it was on a ramp between Interstate 435 and I-70. Outfielder Ryan Ludwick was hit by debris when the bullet entered the bus.

“At first, there was a little bit of panic,” Swain said. “Once we realized Kyle was OK, fears were subsided.”

Police said yesterday they have no suspects in the case.

“It’s disturbing,” Royals general manager Allard Baird said. “Whether it’s a bus full of major league baseball players and their staff members or one person driving down the road, it’s very disturbing that something like this could happen. Why anybody would just take a random shot like that is amazing to me. Thank heavens no one was hurt seriously.”

Denney said his teammates ribbed him after realizing he wasn’t seriously hurt but said he hopes the shooter realizes the consequences of his action could have been much worse.

Even before the shooting, Wednesday night’s start was expected to be Denney’s last of the season.

After getting called up from Triple-A Buffalo on Sept. 14, the 27-year-old Denney is 1-2 with a 9.56 ERA in four starts with Cleveland. He beat Kansas City 8-3 on Sept. 19 for his first major league win.

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